Motor City

30 July 2016

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Lot 119

1920 Detroit Electric Model 82 Brougham

  • Serial no. 12578

Sold for $66,000

Please note that this lot is offered on a Bill of Sale.

Model 82. 4.3 hp, 84-volt DC motor, direct shaft drive, solid front and live rear axles with semi-elliptical leaf spring suspension, and rear-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 100 in.

  • Known ownership history since new
  • Originally delivered to a prominent Canadian automotive family
  • Formerly of the John Gambs and James Cousens collections
  • One of about 95 late-production Model 82s built
  • A well-known and respected Detroit Electric, fully restored

Over the course of its 30-year lifespan, the Anderson Electric Car Company, builders of the Detroit Electric, produced more electric automobiles than any other American passenger car manufacturer. Somewhat in vain, they tried to keep up with modern fashions and by 1920 had updated their charmingly upright bodies with a dummy front hood and a false radiator, resembling that of a Franklin or Fiat. The bodies were built by H&M Body Corporation of Racine, Wisconsin.

This particular car is one of the few of these later Detroit Electrics known to survive, and it is perhaps the only one with a known ownership history since new. Originally built as serial number 12678, it was reassigned its current number, 12578, shortly before being shipped to the Gray-Dort Motor Company, a short distance over the Detroit River in the southwestern Ontario railroad and agricultural town of Chatham, Ontario.

More specifically, the car was for Margaret Gray, matriarch of the wealthy Gray Family in Chatham; her husband, Robert Gray, was a successful manufacturer, first of carriages and subsequently of the Gray-Dort, a Canadian-licensed variant of the Flint, Michigan-based Dort automobile, manufactured in Chatham between 1915 and 1925. Much like Clara Ford, Mrs. Gray preferred the silent and easy-to-operate electric cars to her husband’s products. Oral history in Chatham indicates that hers was the first electric car in town. It remained well-maintained in the family’s ownership until 1952, when, still in “perfect shape” thanks to years of good care, it was sold to Joe Gest, its original owner having given up driving at 90 years of age.

The car subsequently passed in 1967 to Louis J.M. Gravel, a renowned early enthusiast from Montréal. It was sold with the balance of Mr. Gravel’s collection in 1994 to the well-known Indiana collector John Gambs, known for his eye for excellent original and well-documented automobiles. Mr. Gambs eventually sold the Detroit Electric to James Cousens, the Michigan collector whose Cedar Crossing Collection was one of the finest assemblages of early electric automobiles. While in Mr. Cousens’s ownership, the Detroit Electric underwent a painstaking, concours-quality nut-and-bolt restoration to the highest of standards.

Following a short tenure of several years in a Southwestern collection, the car was purchased by its current owner, who resides in the restored Gray home in Chatham, where the Detroit Electric was stabled for over three decades—thus bringing the “Chatham electric” home. In his ownership the restored car, finished in beige with an elegantly upholstered interior, has continued to be well-maintained in running order while also being displayed at select local events and car shows.

One of a believed 95 Detroit Electric Model 82s made, and one of very few that remain extant, this car boasts a fascinating and well-known ownership history that is second to none, as well as a high-quality restoration for one of the foremost electric car collectors. Known among connoisseurs of the marque, it is deserving of another excellent home to continue its rich heritage.

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