Amelia Island

8 March 2014

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Lot 129

1909 Locomobile Model 30-L Speedster

  • Chassis no. 2730

Sold for $126,500

30 rated-hp, 286.3 cu. in. T-head four-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, solid front axle and live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and two-wheel mechanical brakes. Wheelbase: 120 in.

  • Sporty speedster bodywork
  • Long history in the old car community
  • Participant in Vanderbilt Cup anniversary events

Surely the most famous Locomobile on earth is “Old 16,” the first U.S.-built car to win a race of world renown with its victory in the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup contest on Long Island. It was originally built for the 1906 Vanderbilt race, where it was piloted, as #12, by Joe Tracy. It won the elimination race and had the fastest lap time of any entry, but, in the main race, tire trouble and a muddy course consigned Tracy and the Locomobile to finish 10th. French driver Louis Wagner took the sport’s first checkered flag in a Darracq.

There was no Vanderbilt Cup race in 1907, as a melee broke out in the crowds at the 1906 event, resulting in the death of a spectator. For 1908, race promoter William “Willie K.” Vanderbilt II had completed a private highway, the Long Island Motor Parkway, which provided a safer course for the race and also opened up Long Island to greater development. The two-year-old Locomobile was brought out of retirement and re-numbered as 16. This time George Robertson took the wheel, setting a furious pace and winning the race with a new record average speed of 64.3 mph. Old 16 spent much of its later life with renowned artist Peter Helck, and it is currently in the collection of The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan.

Unlike Stutz and Mercer, whose Bearcats and Raceabouts became legends in their own time, Locomobile never offered a speedster to the public. However, the lore of Old 16 inspired many to create their own, particularly in the 1930s and ’40s, when cars with derelict bodywork were fairly plentiful. Faced with fabricating new wood for a limousine or touring car, many an enthusiast opted for a pair of bucket seats and a round fuel tank instead, with the wind in one’s face being a free accessory.

This car has been known in the hobby for some 60 years. It bears a Second Prize brass plaque on the dashboard, from the 50th anniversary celebration of that famous 1908 Vanderbilt race, which was held on October 25, 1958, at Old Westbury, Long Island. Photos taken around that time show it in its current configuration. It is not known who did the skillful and sympathetic speedster conversion, but it owes much to the Bearcat and Raceabout meme, as it has a monocle windshield, brass lighting, a center-mounted Rushmore spotlight, gas headlights, and kerosene side-lamps. The leather upholstery is removable and in excellent order. A Warner Auto Meter odometer-speedometer combination is fitted to the dashboard, which also carries a Warner Chelsea clock with a second hand, and the ignition is of a Bosch dual-coil system.

The chassis is original and highly correct. Even the original muffler is in place and in good order. It rides on Firestone Non-Skid tires, with dual spares at the rear. The car has recently been detailed, with its bright brass giving a visual highlight to the dark blue paint, which is accented with white pinstriping.

In the owner’s words, “It is unusual to find a speedster on such a high-quality chassis with a long-established history.” This car, which is eligible for vintage racing and vintage touring, will turn eyes on any highway and provide an immense helping of fun. It is, as the early company slogan boasted, “Easily the best-built car in America.”

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more