19-20 January 2012

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Lot 238

1901 Duryea Four-Wheel Phaeton

  • Chassis no. 262

Sold for $96,250

10 hp, three-cylinder engine, two-speed transmission, leaf-spring suspension. Wheelbase: 66"

• Offered from the Estate of John O’Quinn

• Early four-wheeled horseless carriage

• Former AACA award-winner

In automotive circles, the Duryea name is revered for its creation in 1893 of what is generally considered the first successful gasoline-powered car built in the United States. Credit for its initial conception goes to Charles Duryea, who was inspired by H.K. Sanks’ gasoline engine at the Ohio State Fair. In the early 1890s, his brother Frank completed assembly of their first single-cylinder engine. Producing just four horsepower, it was cloaked by a buggy-type body, with the cylinder head extending rearward over the axle. The water-cooled engine featured make-and-break electric ignition and was mated to a transmission comprised of bevel and spur gears operated by vertical movement of the steering tiller.

After a successful first test in Springfield, Massachusetts and with its subsequent racing victories at home and abroad, the newly founded Duryea Motor Wagon Company became the first American car company to move beyond “one-off” vehicles into more substantial production. The brothers went their separate ways in the late 1890s, and in March 1900, Charles Duryea relocated to Pennsylvania, where he joined with Herbert Sternbergh, “son of the richest man in town, an iron-master of the highest character and ability,” and organized the Duryea Power Company of Reading.

The restored 1901 Duryea Four-Wheeled Phaeton offered here fittingly represents both the company’s geographic transition from Peoria to Reading and its abandonment of three-wheeled vehicles, if not its continued insistence on the tiller steering arrangement. Its prior owners were George and Arlene Cairns, who won the AACA’s W. Emmet Swigart Memorial Cup with it in 1994. In August 2006, the vehicle joined the private automobile collection from which it is now offered, where it has enjoyed proper, climate-controlled storage. By virtue of its model year, it could be eligible for London-to-Brighton Veteran Car Run participation and is certainly a handsome example of the earliest days of American motoring.


Please note based on knowledge of comparable Duryeas, their chassis numbers corresponding model years it is believed this car is a 1904 not a 1901.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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

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

Michael Squire

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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

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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

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

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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

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

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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

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