Skip to main content

1916 Crane-Simplex Model 5 news, pictures, specifications, and information
Torpedo Runabout
Coachwork: Don Lee
Chassis Num: 2231
High bid of $160,000 at 2006 RM Auctions. (did not sell)
In 1916, two brothers named J.H. and H.X. Baxter purchased two Crane-Simplex automobiles. They were self-made industrialists who had made their fortune in the lumber and wood preservatives business. The company is still in business today and continues to deal with wood and timber products.

The Model 5 example shown with chassis number 2231 was believed to have been designed by Harley Earl with coachwork by Earl Automotive Works of Los Angeles, California. It is powered by a 564 cubic-inch side-valve six-cylinder engine, cast in triples, capable of producing 11 horsepower. The 144 inch wheelbase was suspended in place by leaf springs and beam axle in the front and a rear suspension via leaf spring and live axle. Braking was provided by rear-wheel drum brakes with a driveshaft mounted handbrake.

It is believed that the boat-tail design and nautical theme was inspired by the brother's love of the sea and the company's fleet of schooners.

The car was kept by H.X. Baxter until 1936 when it was purchased by Douglas Gardner of California. Mr. Gardner was Mr. Baxter's chauffeur. The car was later sold to Mr. Coffee, also of California. In 1966 the car was sold to Mr. Hopkins and in 2001 it was sold to Mr. Dale Johnson.

The coachwork is by Don Lee Custom Coachworks, or so it is believed. This would mean that the body was built by Earl Automobile Works, which had been founded by J. W. Earl. In 1919, J.W.Earl sold the business to Don Lee, a Cadillac dealer. The name of the company was changed to Don Lee Custom Coachwork. It is not known if Harley Earl had a part in designing or creating this vehicle, but he was 23 in 1916 and working in his fathers company.

This car was auctioned at the 2006 RM Auction at Meadow Brook and a high bid of $160,000 was achieved. This was not enough to settle the reserve which left the car unsold. The car had been estimated to sell for $220,000 - $260,000.

By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2007
Brewster Berline
Coachwork: Brewster
Chassis Num: 2445
This 1916 Simplex-Crane Model 5 Berline with chassis number 2445 is powered by a six-cylinder 564 cubic-inch engine and mated to a four-speed gearbox. The Brewster coachwork body sits atop a 143.5-inch wheelbase and was constructed from the finest materials available at the time. The odometer reads just 22,000 miles since new and the livery is Brewster Green with complementary original upholstery in the passenger compartment. Located just in front of the windshield are dual spotlights and a bulb horn. The carburetor is original; as is the Kellogg air pump and complete set of tools. It has factory-fitted luggage and the original trunk.

It has earned awards at both the Amelia Island and Greenwich Concours. The Brewster Custom Coachwork makes this vehicle unique and the company's low production figures makes this a very exclusive automobile. It was offered for sale at the 2006 Gooding & Company Auction held in Pebble Beach where it was estimated to sell between $150,000-$200,000. Considering the rarity of these vehicles, the social elite who have owned them, and the excellent coachwork and engineering that went into creating these vehicles, it is a wonder that they do not fetch more at auction. This car was offered with a reserve which was not met; the car was left unsold.

By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2007
Coachwork: Frederick R. Wood & Sons
Chassis Num: 2381
Engine Num: 2404
Sold for $176,000 at 2007 Gooding & Company.
This 1916 Simplex Crane Model 5 has Phaeton coachwork by Frederick R. Wood. It is fitted with a six-cylinder L-head engine that displaces 564 cubic-inches and produces 110 horsepower. There is a four-speed gearbox and a 12-volt electrical system. It has worn the same seven-passenger aluminum custom body all of its existence and has driven a mere 16,000 miles since new.

Arthur Homan became this cars second owner; the first owner was from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. After the Second World War, from 1946 to 1950, it was jointly owned by Malcolm Thompson and Roger Cutting. While in their care it was driven on its first Glidden Tour revival in 1946. It traveled from Massachusetts to Detroit and back to Canada.

Reverend Austin Guiles of Newton, Massachusetts owned it for a short time in the early 1950s before selling it in late 1952 to the grandfather of the present owner. The father inherited it in 1983 and in 1985 it was given a professional restoration by Ralph Buckley. It was put into storage in the mid-1990s and brought to the Gooding & Company auction held in Pebble Beach, Ca in 2007. It was estimated to sell for $175,000 - $225,000. As bidding concluded, the lot had been sold for $176,000 including buyers premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | May 2008
Touring Car
Chassis Num: 2178
Engine Num: 2233
Sold for $198,000 at 2007 Gooding & Company.
In 1949 this Simple Crane Model 5 Seven-Passenger Touring Car was sold to an Ohio collector. He kept it for over two decades, selling in 1960 to the Late Benny X Goldflies. It was sold in 1990 to its present owner where it has been apart of a well-known California collection since that time.

The car has a large tonneau, dual spare tires mounted in the rear, wooden artillery-style wheels, orange painted undercarriage and accents, and a white painted body.

In 2007 it was offered for sale at the Gooding & Company auction where it was estimated to sell for $240,000 - $275,000. The car has had only four owners from new, is in great condition, is simple and elegant, and benefits from impeccable engineering and construction. At auction, the lot was sold for $198,000.

In 2009, the car returned to Gooding & Company's auction at Pebble Beach carrying an estimated value of $160,000 - $225,000. It would leave the auction unsold.

By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2010
Coachwork: Frederick R. Wood & Sons
In 1914 the Crane Motor Car Company merged with the Simplex Automobile Company to produce the Crane-Simplex Model 3. In 1916 the Crane-Simplex Model 5 was among the most expensive, largest and most powerful well-built luxury cars in America in the early 20th century. They were owned by only the wealthiest socialites and entrepreneurs of the time, including the Rockefeller family. The chassis along cost more than $8,000. They were built at the Simplex Automobile Company in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and had a 6-cylinder engine of 46 horsepower; the cylinders were arranged in two pairs of three much like those for the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost.
By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2009
Touring Car
Coachwork: Farnham-Nelson
This car was built by Crane Simplex of New Brunswick, NJ and Long Island, NY in 1916 with a special Farnham-Nelson body. The six-cylinder, 560 cubic-inch engine produced 110 horsepower. The chassis were sold for approximately $10,000. Mr. White of Kendal Green, MA had the Farnham-Nelson built for the special chassis. Crane-Simplex automobiles were very expensive in 1916 and their ultimate cost was probably the company's downfall.

This 1916 7-passenger Touring was owned by Mr. White and then Mr. John Teborg of California before landing in the current owner's collection in 2005. The automobile has less than 60,000 miles and is mostly original.
Coachwork: C.P. Kimball & Co
This Simplex-Crane Model 5 Touring Car wears coachwork by C.R. Kimball & Co of Chicago, IL. Power is from an L-Head six-cylinder engine displacing 563.7 cubic-inches and offers 46 horsepower.

Formed from the merger of the sporty Simplex and the Crane Motor Car Co., the Simplex Crane Model 5 is a high quality automobile that was extremely expensive for its time. Using a long-stroke six-cylinder engine and shaft drive, this car was a total departure in concept and design from the chain drive and T-head of earlier Simplex models.
In 1904 Smith & Mabley Manufacturing Company of New York City built their first car. To date, this remains one of the few companies to produce vehicles in New York City. The vehicles they produced were called the S&M Simplex. Noted for their quality, the company was positioned to perform well in the new and evolving automotive industry. Production continued until the company went bankrupt in 1906 partly because of a mounting recession. The following year, the assets were absorbed into the Simplex Automobile Company and purchased by Herman Broesel. Broesel was a wealthy textile manufacturer who was responsible for inspiring some large and fast Simplex models, such as the 50 and 90. Broesel died in 1912 which meant the company was now in the hands of his sons. The following year sales slumped and the brothers decided to abandon the company. Simplex was purchased by Goodrich, Lockhart and Smith who moved the company to New Brunswick, New Jersey. A year later they acquired Crane, resulting in the Crane-Simplex. Later, the company was purchased by Mercer Automobile Company.

The merger between Crane and Simplex was suitable; both produced high priced and high quality automobiles. Their vehicles were built to order. The Crane Company had been founded by Middleton Crane and had built a reputation for creating some of the nicest, most expensive automobiles in all of America. No expense was spared on the creation of their automobiles. The chassis, engine, and assembly was very detailed and every effort was made to create quality and insure durability.

Thus, the Crane-Simplexes were built in very low numbers. Their clientele included the wealthy and powerful, including the Rockefeller family.

The Crane Motor Car Company was purchased by the Simplex Automobile Company in 1914. Part of the acquisition included the services of its founder and chief engineer, Henry Crane. Up to this point in history, the Crane Motor Company produced vehicles in limited quantities; after the merger, production increased.

Henry M. Crane graduated from M.I.T. with degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering. His first employer was the American Bell Telephone Company, followed by Western Electric. He began the Crane and Whitman Company of Bayonne, New Jersey in 1906 which became the Crane Motor Car Company around 1910.

The first model produced by Crane was the Model 3 which made its debut in 1912. The rolling chassis cost a staggering $8,000 with custom coachwork costing additional. Between the years of 1912 through 1914, around 40 example of the Crane were produced. These cars would become the basis for the Simplex Crane when the merger occurred in 1914.

The Model 50 chain-drive Simplex had impressive power, speed, and endurance. It was an attractive car that lacked some of the refinements the American luxury-car buyer had grown to expect in the pre-WWI era.

The Simplex models prior to the merger had been powered by a four-cylinder, T-head unit. After the merger, the newly introduced Model 50 was fitted with a six-cylinder Crane-designed unit that offered 110 horsepower from the 564 cubic-inch unit. In similar design to the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts, the engine was built in two blocks of three cylinders each. With side valves the engine operated very quietly from idle upwards. The engines were so well built and engineered, they were produced without change during their production span. A new shaft drive setup replaced the old chain drive mechanisms. The wheelbase of the Model 5 Crane measured 144-inches.

In February of 1920, Simplex became part of the Hare's Motors, which included Mercer and Locombile. This dream-team lasted for only a short time, until 1922, when ownership passed to Henry Crane. He had hopes of reviving the marque but it would never come to fruition.

Henry Crane became a consulting engineer to GM Chairman Alfred P. Sloan. Crane later became famous in the boating field for his engines that powered the Dixie speedboats, which won the Harmsworth Trophy four times.

By Daniel Vaughan | May 2008
For more information and related vehicles, click here

'Hot rod of World War II' a key piece of 'Arsenal of Democracy' DETROIT – Buick production lines have been rolling for 110 consecutive years but for a short period during World War II, the vehicles produced looked decidedly different. In February of 1942, the last civilian car left a Buick facility before full attention was placed on engineering and producing aircraft engines, ammunition and the M18 tank destroyer, better known as the Hellcat. The M18 originated in the design studio...[Read more...]
Duesenberg Model SJ Sells For $4.51 Million and Records Tumble At RM'S Amelia Island Sale
• RM Auctions continues strong track record at Amelia Island, Florida posting more than $26.8 million in sales with 92 percent of all lots sold • Top seller: stunning 1935 Duesenberg Model SJ Walker-LaGrande Convertible Coupe realizes a spectacular $4,510,000 to claim the title as the most valuable automobile sold during this year's Amelia Island weekend • Five lots achieve individual million-dollar-plus results • Packed auction room sees bidders hail from 14 countries around the world [...[Read more...]
Legendary Tucker 48 Joins RM'S Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance Sale
• Just announced: RM Auctions secures rare Tucker 48, previously owned by film legend George Lucas, for its Amelia Island, Florida sale, March 9 • The official auction of the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, single-day sale features a superb roster of more than 80 blue-chip collector cars • Additional sale highlights include a 1952 Ferrari 225 Sport Vignale Berlinetta, a 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster and a 1929 Isotta Fraschini 8A Convertible Sedan • Digital catalogue now available onli...[Read more...]
There are limited production cars, there are rare cars and there are concept cars that never find their way to the showroom. A fleet of Cadillac's rare and mythic Motorama and Detroit Auto Show Concept Cars will take to the field at the 18th Annual Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance on Sunday March 10, 2013. Created under the supervision of GM's legendary styling chief, Harley Earl, the Cadillac Concept cars of the 'Fifties were created as the stars of GM's Motorama shows. All are blood anc...[Read more...]
The world-renowned ‘Old Bill' Comes to Market
The world-renowned 'Old Bill', which has featured in every book ever written about the incomparable Brough marque, ticks all the above boxes and just about every other one too. It has been consigned by H&H for auction as part of the Roger Allen Collection at the company's Duxford sale on October 4. However, it can be viewed as early as April 28/29 at the International Classic Motorcycle Show, Stafford. It carries an estimate of £250,000-270,000. The motorcycle originally known as 'Spit & Pol...[Read more...]

Crane Model 5
Model 50

Image Left 1915 Model 51917 Model 5 Image Right
© 1998-2014. All rights reserved. The material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.