Sold for $176,000 at 2013 Gooding and Company - Pebble Beach.
Chassis #: 17212
Engine # 12490
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