Sold for $118,250 at 2014 RM Auctions - Hershey.
Established in Elmira, New York around 1873, the American LaFrance Fire Engine Company would soon become a leader in the industry building all types of fire engines. From hand-drawn to horse and steam-powered fire engines, American LaFrance would become one of the oldest manufacturers in the United States building equipment for the fighting of fires. In an industry where response and speed are of utmost importance it would be little surprise their automobiles would be fire-breathers.
American LaFrance would start out as LaFrance Manufacturing Company and would focus on building and selling hand-powered fire equipment. Then, in the early 20th century, the company would be building fire equipment utilizing steam for its power.
The success of the company would lead to the American LaFrance Fire Engine Company being established in Elmira, New York in 1903. At this time, the internal combustion engine was gaining popularity and usefulness within a number of industries. American LaFrance would keep an eye on the new engine while it continued to produce its steam, horse-drawn and hand-powered fire equipment. However, it wouldn't be long before the benefits of the new engine would become apparent.
This would lead the company into building engine-driven fire equipment. A natural progression from this would be the construction and assembly of automobiles. The company was already involved in the production of automobiles, just big apparatuses intended for fighting fires. But, what if one could manage to harness such a tremendous blaze? It would be entirely likely the resulting automobile would be nothing short of wild.
The company would begin to invest in the building of automobiles and it would start out around 1908 with some roadster-style passenger cars. However, American LaFrance would have an advantage that many would come to recognize.
Building equipment capable of fighting fires meant a focus on larger vehicles with a great deal of capability. However, to have such capabilities the engine would have to be massive to sustain a reliable vehicle. This would attract the attention of many early gentleman racers.
One of the most powerful cars of its day, the American LaFrance Speedster was nothing short of remarkable. Sitting behind a massive, 855 cu.in. T-head six-cylinder engine producing a whopping 100bhp, the pilot of an American LaFrance Speedster had a weapon in which few could contend.
Such an example is this one. Sporting engine numbered 4287, the Speedster would be built in 1916 at the American LaFrance facility in Elmira. Utilizing a three-speed manual transmission and a chain-drive rear axle the Speedster was, in a word, fast.
Sadly, the early history of this particular example is relatively unknown. However, this does not diminish, or take away from, the beautiful brown leather seat and cream finish with red pinstripes. Displaying a family crest on the cylindrical fuel tank and featuring other intriguing details like the wood dashboard, large pipe exhausts, a moto-meter and plated headlights, the American LaFrance Speedster would be as elegant as it is imposing.
Offered through RM Auctions' Hershey happening in 2014, the 1916 Speedster would garner a sale price of $118,250.By Jeremy McMullen