1917 Locomobile Model 48 Healey

Gunboat Cabriolet
Coachwork: Healey & Co
Designer: deCausse
This automobile was owned by the Day Family for 59 years. Commissioned by Mr. Day as a gift for his sister, it was designed by J. Frank deCausse and built by Healey & Co of New York City in 1916. The tapered rear end of this distinctive car gets its name from the streamlined shape of a World War I battleship. The price tag was $7,353, roughly equaling about $137,000 today. Mrs. Day-Boyce was shy about being chauffeur-driven around Wallace, Idaho, so the car accumulated a mere 2,400 miles during the family's ownership. After Mrs. Day's death, the car was stored in her silver mine until it was purchased in 1975 by The Harrah Collection in Reno, Nevada. It has been in a private collection since 1981.
Gunboat Cabriolet
Coachwork: Healey & Co
Designer: deCausse
The Locomobile Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut built some of the finest automobiles during the first part of the twentieth century. Unlike most companies that built cars in all price ranges, the Locomobile Company produced only high-priced luxury cars. Interestingly, the company garnered much of its earliest publicity from racing. In 1908, a specially built racecar, which would become known as Old 16, was the first American racecar to win the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup Race.

The earliest Locomobiles were powered by two and four cylinder engines. In 1912, a new model, the Model 48, was introduced, with a large, six-cylinder engine. The engine was built with a bronze crankcase on which three 2-cylinder engine blocks would be mounted. Locomobile continued building the Model 48 until 1926 with very few changes.

While most Locomobiles were touring cars and limousines, a few Locomobiles were fitted with sportier roadster and speedster bodies. This example, called the Gunboat Roadster, has a body built by the Healey Company. It is the only known example in existence.
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.


By Jessica Donaldson
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