1915 Van Blerck 17-Liter news, pictures, specifications, and information
Speedster
Chassis Num: 2188
High bid of $160,000 at 2008 Leake. (did not sell)
Sold for $142,500 at 2009 Leake.
Dutch immigrant Joseph Van Blerck was born on August 17th of 1876. He was a very skillful and innovative engineer who came to the United States in 1904 and worked for Henry Ford in Detroit. Around in 1906 he formed the Van Blerck motor company which would become on of the prominent producers of marine engines during the late 1910s. Their engines would capture some very early records in powerboat racing and would be used to power many of the Gold Cuppers in the teens and early twenties.

By 1916, the Van Blerck Motor Company had a diverse line-up of engines, ranging in power from 40-500 horsepower. The prices ranged from the low $1,000 to over $6,000 for the V-12 unit.

Automotive enthusiast, craftsman, and Pebble Beach awarded winner, Gary Wales constructed this massive Van Blerck Speedster. It has a wheelbase that measures nearly fourteen feet, a length of almost eighteen feet, and a staggering height of over seven feet. With all of this real-estate, it seats only two individuals. Most of the space is reserved for the engine, which - in honor of the Van Blerck Motor Company - is enormous. It is a six-cylinder, T-head unit that displaces 17 liters and produces 200 horsepower. In other words, its cubic-inch displacement is in the 1000 region. Each of the combustion chambers require three spark plugs to ignite all the fuel and air it digests with each stroke. During the Van Blerck era, this engine would probably have been hidden in the hull of racing boat. In modern times, it is mated to a three-speed transmission, and uses massive double chains to drive the gigantic rear wheels or a road-going Speedster.

The sheer size and sound of this behemoth attracts a crowd wherever it travels. When not in motion, there are plenty of details to admire. The down-draft carburetor is situated outside of the hood panel which allows for better fuel cooling. The rear of the vehicle features a brass fin positioned on top of the rounded tail. Brass ornamentation can be seen throughout the vehicle, with the largest collection found in the front. Two headlights flank the pointed and angular grille. Inside, the driver is positioned on the right, behind a very large steering wheel. There are plenty of gauges to inform about temperature, fuel, volts, oil, oil temperature, speed, and more.

This Gary Wales built Van Blerck Speedster is the only example ever created. In 2008 it was sold at the Huston Classic Auction presented by Worldwide Group Auctioneers where it was sold for $288,200 including buyer's premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | May 2008
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