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A $200 American Dream

Auburn Auction offers Americas Finest

Auctions are wonderful opportunities to dream, and we all need our dreams. We must believe that dreams can come true and so when deciding which one car to buy at the 7th annual Auburn Auction held by Worldwide Auctioneers on Saturday August 30th in Auburn, Indiana (Labor Day weekend) we are faced with a difficult decision.

One man whose dream came true is Virgil Sciolaro who always admired his brother’s Auburn and so one day in 1945, he took out a chattel mortgage for $200 and bought a 1935 Auburn 851 SC Boattail Speedster. He was only 18, but he had eyes for a girl called Delores Sayers and his new car helped his courting. Whether it was the throaty burble of the 4.5 litre supercharged Lycoming straight 8, or the oh-so-stylish body lines, or Virgil’s own charm which won Delores but they married in 1948 and went on honeymoon in the Auburn thus naming it the ‘Honeymoon Auburn’.

Lot 38 is a 1938 Talbot-Lago T-23 Sport Cabriolet with rare and fabulous coachwork by Figoni & Falaschi. The race-bred four-litre inline six transmits its 140 horsepower through a Wilson competition pre-selector gearbox offering you just over 120 mph. We confess our preference for the Talbot, but if we are out-bid we will have missed the chance to buy the Auburn in Lot 17. But enough dreaming – there are plenty of other exquisite cars on offer. Lot 55 is a 1934 Packard Twelve 1108 Convertible Sedan sporting aristocratic custom coachwork by Dietrich in vivid two-tone green and black canvas top.

The catalogue entry describes its 7 litre 160 H.P. V12 engine, three-speed selective synchromesh gearbox with vacuum-assisted clutch and brakes. In 1934 America was in the throes of the great depression but Packard threw caution to the wind and offered a dazzling choice of 55 different models and the select models designed by Dietrich had price tags double those of standard models. If this one is too expensive, the auction offers 17 other Packards.

There are just two Cords however, a 1929 Cord L-29 Town Car and a 1931 Cord L-29 Convertible Sedan. They both have 4.8 litre straight eight Lycomings, three-speed gearboxes and hydraulic brakes but the surprise is their front wheel drive – a remarkable feat of engineering for a car of its day. The town car’s 1929 owner transferred the body from his Minerva and it has retained its wonderful patina to this day.

There are 189 lots of automobilia offered before the cars including a Circa 1948 Schwinn Whizzer Gasoline Motorbike – it’s all in the name, as we found out with the owners of the Honeymoon Auburn.

(Text Robin Batchelor, picture courtesy Worldwide Auctions.)

Tuesday, 26 August 2014 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail

A long weekend Mystery (Update: 1918-19 De Dion Bouton v8? 1913-20 FN? Minerva? Vauxhall?)

Recherche marque du véhicule

Alain Legrand sends this photo that was shot in Belgium around 1920-1925. It seems the couple depicted just has returned from a long weekend or similar. There's still some luggage waiting in the gravel behind the automobile. A lady passenger is bringing in her luggage to the big house. The car seems nearly new and of american making if we're correct. An interesting detail is the nearly total absence of brightwork except for the headlight rims. Also the closed spare tire cover is drawing our attention. Dodge Brothers?

Monday, 25 August 2014 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail

Killing the AV Monocar gremlins

Taming the 1919 AV Monocar.

Back in 1919, a new British Cyclecar appeared on the market. The AV was manufactured by Ward and Avey in Middlesex between 1919 and 1924. One of the more successful cyclecars, it was based on a design bought from Carden and built in the factory they had previously occupied. The first model produced was a mono-car and I was recently invited to drive the only road going example.

The V-twin JAP engine is rear mounted and exposed at the back of the car with a two-speed epicyclic gearbox attached. Steering is by wire and bobbin via a centre pivot axle which also incorporates a coil spring for suspension. The front axle is only 30 inches wide with the main body akin to a streamlined coffin only a cigar shop owner would commission. Built of plywood and apparently even compressed paper, it feels remarkably comfortable and you feel like an Edwardian fighter pilot when seated. After being towed to the scrutineer, I tried to familiarise myself with all the controls. Starting the beast requires a doctorate in cyclecarology, with the throttle and choke levers needing to be in a precise position and the oil feed set, otherwise all attempts at starting will be in vain.

Firing up the car involves pulling a handle directly upwards which in turn is connected to a chain which is wrapped around a simple ratcheted pulley on the end of the crank of the engine. Each failed attempt requires the ratchet to be reset.

Now, after several attempts, the engine fired into life and I hastily locate the starting handle into its holder and jump into the cockpit behind the wheel. With a certain amount of stabbing in the dark, I discover the right-hand foot pedal operates the epicyclic gear and I slowly move forward. A hand brake lever on the outside of the car is linked to the only other foot pedal and I make note of this as a trundle off down the little roads of the showground. Still in first gear, I approach a bend in the road. I put my foot on what I assume is the clutch and this engages 2nd gear, finding myself hurtling towards the bend at three times the desired speed. Panic set in and not knowing where to put my hands and feet, I pull on the hand brake and the car jumps to a halt, stalling the engine. After removal of my heart from my mouth, I gather my thoughts and try to think rationally about how to tame the AV.

I get the car started again and then practice using the clutch and gear system along the interlocking roads within the showground while at the same time finding the right spot for the throttle and choke. After a while, I pluck up courage to select the devil 2nd gear. The revs of the engine drop and the car accelerates swiftly like a coiled spring to about 30 mph. With the lack of engine noise and the combination of the suspension, I feel like I am floating down the road. This momentary lapse of concentration is erased as I am aware of another bend rapidly approaching. Just then my previous practice pays off and I somehow find 1st gear and slow down to take the corner. After several more practice runs, I drive back to our meeting point ready to be the pace car for the afternoon selection of cyclecar friendly driving tests.

I can see why the AV monocar was so popular in its day. Like me, the owners must have felt like a WW1 fighter pilot. However, I’m sure if you look back through old copies of ‘The Cyclecar’ magazine, it is full of stories of crashed AV’s and lucky escapes with the owners wiping sweat from their brows.  

Text by Tim Gunn.

Images courtesy of: Geoff Gray – Nick Harrop – Peter Allen.

Thanks go to Roland Duce. Micky Hudson, Bob Jones and Peter Allen.

Sunday, 24 August 2014 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail

What is it? Quiz #377

what-is-it 377_470

This beautiful Brooklands rocket is a racer of ill fame. Developed for the 1100 cc class with complicated twin cam engineering ahead of it's time it wasn't very successful. Twin overhead cams and tubular conrods were some of the features of the car that was partially based on the equally complex production car with Italian genes.

In order to have a chance of winning the infamous PreWarCar T-shirt tell us what you know about the car which is pictured here.  

Saturday, 23 August 2014 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail

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1950 Riley RMC Roadster only 507 build
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