Monterey

19-20 August 2016

Sam & Emily Mann: A Collection by Design

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Lot 231

1908 American Underslung 50 HP Roadster

  • Chassis no. 1427
  • Engine no. 1448

$1,400,000 - $1,750,000


Please note that Internet bidding is not available for this lot. Interested parties that are unable to attend the sale may register to bid by telephone or place a commission bid online at rmsothebys.com.

50 rated hp, 476.5 cu. in. T-head inline four-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, front and rear underslung leaf spring suspension, transmission brake, and rear-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 124 in.

  • Offered from the Collection of Sam & Emily Mann
  • A big-horsepower early American sports car with superb proportions
  • Formerly of the Lindley Bothwell and D. Cameron Peck collections
  • Highly authentic, including original bodywork and sporting wonderful patina
  • A performance contemporary of the Mercer Raceabout and the Stutz Bearcat


The American Underslung, a factory-bestowed nickname of sorts, not a model name, was one of the foremost automobiles built in Indianapolis during an era when the Crown City was one of the Midwest’s centers of motor car production. Designed by Fred Tone, it featured a highly advanced chassis design that ran under and dipped between the axles, lowering the car’s body closer to the ground and, therefore, also its center of gravity. This resulted not only in beautiful, slinky styling – the E-Type of its era – but in superb handling to match the performance of brutal T-head four-cylinder engines.

The American was expensive, and it was worth it. It was a beautifully constructed performance automobile that represented the height of performance at the time, as the Ford GT does today. By virtue of its combination of the most powerful available engine with one of the first American chassis to be designed with performance and handling in mind, and with lightweight bodywork, it can justifiably be considered the United States’ earliest sports car – introduced several years before its nearest competitors, the Mercer and Stutz.

A LIFE SPENT IN WONDERFUL COLLECTIONS

The known ownership history of Sam and Emily Mann’s American Underslung begins amidst orange groves in Southern California as part of the pioneer collection assembled by Lindley Bothwell. Mr. Bothwell was one of the West Coast’s earliest appreciators of fine automobiles; his collection appeared frequently in early hobbyist magazines, and today many of his great cars are still maintained by the third generation of Bothwells on the family ranch.

In the late 1940s, Mr. Bothwell passed his American Underslung to his Midwestern contemporary, D. Cameron Peck, heir to an industrial dairy fortune, who had gathered hundreds of great automobiles in Chicago warehouses during this period. Reportedly Mr. Peck occasionally exercised this particular car in early events of the “hobby.”

Between 1949 and 1952, the bulk of the Peck collection was liquidated at what has become a legendary series of auctions, representing the first “private collection sales.” Such was already the wide-ranged fame of the Peck hoard that fellow enthusiasts traveled from around the country to pick up a car for themselves – or, in the case of John Wallerich, a collector from the Pacific Northwest, five, including a McFarlan, a Rolls-Royce, and this American Underslung. It would remain with the Wallerich family for over 30 years before joining the well-known collection of beloved enthusiast Richie Clyne, known for loving and enthusiastically driving the biggest and fastest automobiles of the Brass Era. Mr. Clyne enjoyed the car frequently and displayed it selectively at concours d’elegance, including at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in 2014.

Acquired by the Manns from Mr. Clyne, the car is now in only its fourth ownership since the 1940s, and every owner has taken wonderful care of it. It remains very much as it was known by Peck and Bothwell, including the original roadster coachwork, and has a wonderfully authentic appearance and patina throughout, down to the decorated headlight lenses and the large wooden wheels, so often chopped down during the Second World War to fit more readily available tires. The original serial number tag is even still intact!

Work performed by the Mann Collection includes fabrication of a set of six new wooden wheels along with some electrical sorting. Chassis 1427 remains in fine running and driving order, and as one of the earliest extant American Underslungs, it is one of the fewer still with authentic original roadster coachwork, and one of even fewer with the largest and hottest 50 horsepower engine. Sam describes his acquisition of this car as the end of a long search for a Brass Era car with aesthetics that are “just right.” Sam muses, “The more I look at this car, the more I get obsessed with it, the design just catches a spirit of speed, youth, and exuberance – and that is what is most appealing to me about this car.” Having recently completed a restoration on their 1914 Underslung, the Manns are affording a new enthusiastic caretaker the opportunity to add their name to its notable roster of owners.

The Underslung is robustly strong and powerful, and genuinely fast, enough so to enable easily running in HCCA and other Brass Era tours. To take position behind the wheel to drive it is to understand the evocative appeal of these road-going locomotives, and to appreciate why they figure into the renowned collections of those who have followed Peck, Bothwell, and Wallerich: Nethercutt, Simeone, and, of course, Mann.

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

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+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

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+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

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+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

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+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

drose@rmsothebys.com

+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

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+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

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+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

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+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

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+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

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+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

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+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

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+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

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+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

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+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

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+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

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+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

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+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