Chassis Num: 17212
Engine Num: 12490
Sold for $176,000 at 2013 Gooding & Company
There are some cars, even the old stately machines like the Locomobile, that have the ability to turn heads and conjure up old memories or thoughts of fantasy. In the case of the 1920 Locomobile 48 Sportif, chassis number 17212, this imposing automobile can be enjoyed again and again just by watching Robert Downey Jr's 1992 film Chaplin.
Locomobile, at one point in time, would be considered the 'Best Built Car in America'. The company would certainly build the most expensive. Beginning in Watertown, Massachusetts, Locomobile would be founded by John Brisben Walker and Amzi Lorenzo Barber in 1899.
The company's beginnings would actually come about as a result of what was considered an impossible deal. Walker had shown up at the Stanley brothers' shop intent on buying a stake in the brothers' business. Walker would persist and the brother would take a moment to ponder what was presented them. The Stanley brothers never really took Walker seriously and came back offering the automotive division of their business for the unheard of sum of $250,000. The Stanley's believed this would scare Walker off. It wouldn't and he would put the initial deposit down promising to get the rest in short order. Trying every contact he knew, Walker was coming up empty, but then he would approach his neighbor, Amzi Lorenzo Barber. Barber would agree to put up the money, the two would agree on the name Locomobile, and the rest, as they say, would be history.
Walker and Barber would find about the only thing they could agree to would be the Locomobile name. It wouldn't be too long before the partnership would break up and Barber would be left to get Locomobile up and running, but, he would take serious what he was about to do. Production would begin immediately and, by 1902, Locomobile was the largest producer of automobiles in the United States.
By 1904, the market for steam cars was practically evaporated and Samuel Davis, who had been hired as the company's manager, would make the move into gas powered motor cars. Still, the company was bankrupt and Barber would sell to his brother-in-law J.J. Albright. At the same time Albright would come to hold a majority in the company Davis would ascend to president and would hire a talented engineer by the name of Andrew Riker. Riker was the first president of the Society of Automotive Engineers and was well-known for his brilliance as an engineer.
Riker's abilities as an engineer and designer would lead to Locomobile's first gas-powered automobile, but he would also transform the company from being the largest producer in America to being the 'Best Built Car in America'.
Locomobile's reputation would grow quickly as a result of success in the Vanderbilt Cup race on Long Island. In 1908, and against such competition as Fiat, Isotta and Mercedes, one of Riker's Locomobiles would win the race causing the popularity of the brand to soar.
While at one time Locomobile would be the largest producer of automobiles in the United States, under Riker that mindset would change from quantity to quality. The workers within the company would take great pride in what they did even going so far as stamping their initials in components they manufactured for each automobile. The intention was fine automobiles and such finery could not, and would not, be rushed.
Locomobile would build the fine quality chassis but they would not build their own coaches. In 1911, Riker and Davis would approach J. Frank de Causse of the French coachbuilder Kellne et ses Fils to design a new four-passenger phaeton. De Causse would design an example that would become known as the 48 Sportif. De Kausse's work with Locomobile would result to him being offered the head of a design department within the company, one of the very first to have such a department.
The Sportif would remain in production from 1911 all the way up until 1929 and would barely change over the course of those nearly two decades. One example of those would be chassis 17212.
Produced in 1920, the Locomobile 48 Sportif's early history would be something of a mystery. However, by 1940 D. Cameron Peek would be in the picture. The Sportif would then end up the property of Lindley Bothwell for almost 60 years.
While its early history would be something of a mystery and not all that well-known, it would find it would forever live on in celluloid when it starred as Charlie Chaplin's car in the film Chaplin.
Complete in black with an all-black leather interior, the 1920 Locomobile 48 Sportif remains highly original. Boasting of a large inline six-cylinder engine producing a respectable 95bhp, the 1920 Locomobile Sportif is as imposing in real life as it does on film. Not only is the car a real piece of filmmaking history but it remains a fine piece of Locomobile and early automotive history as well.
The 1920 Locomobile 48 Sportif, chassis 17212, would be offered for sale at the 2013 Gooding & Company Pebble Beach auction and garner estimates from between $175,000 and $225,000.Sources:
'Lot No. 14: 1920 Locomobile 48 Sportif', (http://www.goodingco.com/vehicle/1920-locomobile-48-sportif/#tab2). Gooding & Company. http://www.goodingco.com/vehicle/1920-locomobile-48-sportif/#tab2. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
'1923 Locomobile 48 Series VIII News, Pictures and Information', (http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z9061/Locomobile-48-Series-VIII.aspx). Conceptcarz.com: From Concept to Production. http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z9061/Locomobile-48-Series-VIII.aspx. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
'The History of the Best Built Car in America', (http://www.locomobilesociety.com/history.cfm). The Locomobile Society of America. http://www.locomobilesociety.com/history.cfm. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
'Lot No. 620: 1919 Locomobile Type 48 Series V Sportif', (http://www.rmauctions.com/lots/lot.cfm?lot_id=401218). RM Auctions. http://www.rmauctions.com/lots/lot.cfm?lot_id=401218. Retrieved 14 August 2013.By Jeremy McMullen
The name '48' was used by the Locomobile Company to signify their six-cylinder engines that were originally rated at 48 horsepower. The first Model 48 was introduced in 1911 and remained in production until 1924. At this point, horsepower had skyrocketed to just over 100. When it was first introduced it was a marvel both aesthetically and mechanically. By the mid-1920s it had begun to show its age. Sales reflected and as a result the company was forced to increase their price.
During the mid-1910s, the Company experimented with custom coachwork to appeal to their wealthy clients. The vehicles were built to customer specifications and created to satisfy their needs and desires. The use of accessories by Tiffany Studios was not uncommon for the Locomobile Company at this time.
By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2007
Owned by elite members of upper East Coast aristocracy like Vanderbilt, Wanamaker, Melon, Gould and Governor Cox of Massachusetts, and prestigious members of the West like Tom Mix, Charlie Chaplin and Cecil B. DeMille, the Locomobile Model 48 was one of the most expensive and elegant automobiles ever manufactured in the United States. Weighing 3 tons, the six-cylinder Model 48 came arrived on the scene in 1911 and became known as the 'Best Built Car in America'. During its eight-year production run the most famous Locomobile was originally priced at $4,800, which would eventually rise to $9,600. By 1923 the Model 48, advertised as the 'The Exclusive Car for Exclusive People' was in such demand that the automobile was produced at a rate of two per day.
Locomobile began is story as a manufacture of inexpensive light steam carriages before they began building gasoline-powered automobiles. By 1904 the company had transformed itself into a luxury brand and experimented with custom coachwork in an attempt at appealing to wealthy clientele. The automobiles were built to exact customer specification and accessories came from Tiffany Studios.
Locomobile found itself trying to reinstate itself in the premier auto market once again in 1921 after a new board of directors seated themselves at the helm. At the Bridgeport plant using overstocked parts, the Model 48 was assembled with engineer Andrew Lawrence Riker making mechanical improvements. Unfortunately for the Locomobile Company, Riker left the company in 1921.
The Locomobile Company named the Series 8, Model '48' to signify their six-cylinder engines that were originally rated at 48 horsepower. Introduced in 1911, the '48' would continued in production until 1924 and was constructed of magnesium bronze, aluminum and steel. The wheelbase of the Model 48 was nearly 30 inches longer than that of a modern Chevy Suburban. Many of the powertrain components were cast in bronze, while the chassis was constructed of chrome-nickel steel. The Model 48 would be one of the few luxury automobiles whose production period would span the brass, nickel and chrome eras. It was an expensive, old-fashioned vehicle for wealthy, conservative, old-fashioned people.
Featuring balloon tires, the 48 sported Buffalo wire wheels and nickel-plated or brass trim. Most Locomobiles features two spares, and the option of two-wheel drum brakes or four-wheel brakes. Demarest was responsible for the body of the Model 48, and was something not often seen – a six-fendered car with the fifth and six fenders sit just in front of the rear passenger compartment. At first the Model 48 was met with fanfare and popularity, but before long the basic design of the car, even with numerous mechanical improvements, was an outdated design. Horsepower dwindled down to just over 100, and sales of the basically unchanged Model 48 continued through 1932 and 1924, still using 1919 parts. Late in 1924 the new Model 48 was debuted; the 19,000 Series. Though it was basically the same car, 19000 Series sold for $2,000 less.
The following year the Model 48 was officially discontinued and replaced with the Model 90, a new luxury automobile. Unfortunately many coachbuilt bodied Locomobiles were made into scrap metal during World War II. Today there are approximately 167 Model 48's known to exist and are considered wonderful historic examples of a by-gone era. Valuable and extremely collectable, the Locomobile Model 48 was a truly exceptional automobile. A 1923 Model 48 recently sold at auction for $176,000.Sources:
By Jessica Donaldson