Cars of the 1920s
See also : Mercedes-Benz Bugatti French cars Duesenberg
Chronology : 1924 1928 1929
1924 Hispano-Suiza Tulipwood Torpedo
2022 SOLD for $ 9.2M by RM Sotheby's
As early as 1921, Dubonnet won the first edition of the Coupe des voiturettes Georges Boillot with a Hispano-Suiza 6 cylinder 7 liter Spéciale prepared by himself.
Dubonnet commissioned in 1924 to Nieuport Aviation his unprecedented masterpiece, a featherweight tapered and lowered torpedo body suitable for both racing and touring assembled on a newly developed Hispano-Suiza H6C sport chassis with a new 6 cylinder 8 liter engine.
The frame of wooden ribs by Nieuport were covered with strips of mahogany of uneven thickness and length riveted to the veneer. The torpedo tail enclosed a 52-gallon gas tank for long distance racing. The car was nicknamed the Tulipwood Torpedo.
The body was then sealed, sanded and varnished. Dubonnet with his Tulipwood Torpedo finished 6th in the 1924 Targa Florio.
This one off car conceived and driven by an aperitif heir soon went into the ownership of the son of a famous perfumer and then to a Scottish marmalade heir. Largely retaining its original woodwork, it was sold for $ 9.2M by RM Sotheby's on August 18, 2022, lot 141.
It is narrated and operated in the video shared by the auction house. The images are shared by Wikimedia with attribution to Bill Abbott, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, (first image below) and to Chris Hunkeler from El Cerrito, California, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0> (second image below), via Wikimedia Commons.
Dubonnet switched in 1925 from Hispano-Suiza to a Bugatti Type 35. This man ahead of his time also competed in bobsleigh in the 1928 Olympics.
The high-end was offered since 1924 by the models 24/100/140 and 15/70/100. A sports variant 24/110/160 was introduced in 1926. This denomination which may now seem odd indicates successively the fiscal power and the real power in hp without and with compression.
Pushed by the prestige of the competitions, the power is gradually increased. The new Mercedes-Benz company introduces the Typ S (Sportwagen) in 1927 as the successor to the Mercedes Model K. A specialty of Daimler had been to equip their Mercedes cars with a Roots supercharger.
For the new brand, the chief engineer Ferdinand Porsche designed in 1927 the most powerful sports car of that time, the Mercedes-Benz 680S with a huge supercharged 6.8 liter engine. The supercharger was only engaged when the pedal was depressed.
In terms of bodywork the Sindelfingen factory offers the high-end but the customer may also buy the chassis and have the body realized by a craftsman.
1927 by Sindelfingen
2011 SOLD for $ 5M by Gooding
This highly authentic Sportwagen is in matching number configuration and retains its original Sindelfingen body.
1928 by Saoutchik
2013 SOLD for $ 8.3M by RM Auctions
Its mechanics are German but the elegance is French. It is an early masterpiece by Jacques Saoutchik, a former cabinetmaker inspired by the Parisian Art Déco who knew to combine style and innovation. Made on order for an American businessman who failed to take it after a reversal of fortunes, it was exhibited at the New York Auto Salon in 1929.
After a stunning restoration, this car was awarded the highest honors : perfect with 100 points and Best of Show at the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Restoration of the Year at the 2012 International Historic Motoring Awards and First in Class at the 2013 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. This car was sold for $ 8.3M by RM Auctions on August 17, 2013, lot 216, and passed at RM on May 27, 2017, lot 144.
1928 by Gläser
2021 SOLD for $ 5.4M by Bonhams
It is believed that its body has never been changed. The records of the brand state that the chassis has been shipped to Gläser. This coachbuilder was based in Dresden.
On January 19, 2017, Bonhams sold at lot 54 for $ 4.8M a Mercedes-Benz 680S 26/120/180 made in 1928 still fitted with its original engine. It was coachworked as a sports tourer in Berlin by Erdmann und Rossi.
1929 Mercedes-Benz SSK
2004 SOLD for £ 4.2M by Bonhams
On September 3, 2004, Bonhams sold for £ 4.2M a Mercedes-Benz SSK 38/250 made in 1929, lot 144. It is fitted with a 7.1 liter engine and bodied as a two seat tourer by Carlton. It is not supercharged.
This car had been the lifelong cherished property of the British enthusiast who had acquired it in 1941. Due to the impossibility to find German spare parts in England during the war, he had joined to it in his garage a Mercedes-Benz Typ SS 38/250 from 1930.
This new model is known as the Bentley Blower. In addition to five works prototypes, fifty supercharged units are commissioned for complying with Le Mans homologation requirement.
The Bentley brand had a special relationship with Vanden Plas, an English coach maker of Belgian origin whose creation dates back to horse-drawn time. Between 1924 and 1931, Vanden Plas equipped about 700 Bentley chassis. That co-operation between a maker and a coachbuilder provides some homogeneity, rare at that time, between the different models of the brand.
1928 4 1/2 Bobtail
2012 SOLD for $ 6M by Gooding
In 1928 Bentley prepares three 4 1/2 coachworked by Vanden Plas in Le Mans configuration for its factory team. The shortened shape of its engine cowling is one of the modifications necessary to meet the rules of the competition and brings to this rare variant the nickname of Bobtail. Impressive in its speed, the Bobtail # 2 leads the race for several hours before being forced to abandon by overheating.
The development continues with the Speed Six, direct successor to the 6 1/2 liter, and with the supercharged version of the 4 1/2 designated as the Bentley Blower which becomes a formidable competitor to the Mercedes-Benz which were using a similar improvement of the engine.
The 1929 edition of Le Mans is a triumph for Bentley. The competition is won by a Speed Six followed by three 4 1/2. The Bobtail # 2 of the previous year, renumbered # 10, is in the third place.
This car which is still being presented with its # 10 was sold for $ 6M by Gooding in August 2012. It passed at RM Sotheby's on March 11, 2017, lot 266.
Its image is shared By Sémhur (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons :
2012 SOLD for £ 5M by Bonhams
For sport and specially to win at Le Mans, two concepts were clashing. The founder W.O. Bentley is in favor of huge engines like his 6 1/2 liter model to get more power by an extension of the mechanical movements.
Pushed by the flamboyant team of the Bentley Boys, Barnato prefers supercharging the engine of the 4 1/2 liter model. This new model is known as the Blower Bentley. It had to overcome the reliability problems rightly predicted by W.O. The single seater version nevertheless met some racing success.
In addition to five works prototypes, fifty supercharged cars had been commissioned for complying with Le Mans homologation requirement.
Barnato had also founded a scuderia of champions symbolizing the daring of British sportsmen, the Bentley Boys. Prepared for racing, the heavy single-seater with a very long chassis is fast, strong and spectacular. Its main competitors, the Bugattis, were frail and light compared to this new monster of the circuits.
Made in 1929, a prestigious example was sold for £ 5M by Bonhams on June 29, 2012.
In 1931, this car had broken the lap speed record of Brooklands at 215 km/h (134 mph), driven by the most charismatic of the Bentley Boys, proudly wearing a military mustache, "Tiger Tim" Birkin.
Please watch the video shared by Bonhams, which includes extracts from silent films to remind the extraordinary speed, at that time, of this successful car.
Its image is shared by Wikimedia with attribution | El Caganer / Craig Howell [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
1928 Bugatti 35C
2020 SOLD for £ 3.9M by Gooding
Automobile meetings, often organized by newspapers, are very popular. They consist of a wide variety of events, including feminine elegance contests that appeal the starlets. In 1929, commissioned by a fashion magazine, Tamara de Lempicka paints her imaginary self-portrait driving a green Bugatti.
Eliska Junkova, racing under the pseudonym Elisabeth Junek, is the first woman capable of competing with men in major races. With a Bugatti 35 B, she finishes 5th in the 1928 Targa Florio after having led the race during the second lap.
Janine Jennky was a performer in Pigalle vaudevilles. In 1927, she bought a Bugatti 35 C with which she won the hill climb race at Gaillon.
In 1928 she sold her first Bugatti and bought another 35 C which had been entered in the works team in the Targa Florio. With this second car, she wins the Coupe de Bourgogne. She thus becomes the first lady to win a Grand Prix, and will remain the only one to ever achieve this feat. Wikimedia shares an image published by Le Sport Universel Illustré featuring Mme Jennky in action during this competition, ahead of the Bugatti 37 A of Mme Schell..
She failed to return to competition in 1929, probably for health reasons. She disappears from history after having sold her second 35 C to Jean de Maleplane who will win in 1930 the Grand Prix d'Oran.
This 35 C is a typical example of the legendary robustness of the Bugattis. Despite significant use in competition by its first three private owners, it is still in perfect working condition with its original engine, chassis, bodywork and pieces of equipment.
It was sold for £ 3.9M by Gooding on September 5, 2020, lot 10. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1929 Bugatti 35B
2021 SOLD for $ 5.6M by Gooding
Nevertheless the 35C remains the most successful in racing with its top speed of 202 km/h quite comparable with the 210 km/h of the 35B.
The day of fame of the 35B went on June 30, 1929 at Le Mans when a newly built works car driven by William Grover-Williams won the Grand Prix Automobile de France after leading from start the 37 lap 4:30 hour race. Its image with its driver is shared by Wikimedia from a press agency photo.
That competition was managed by the Automobile Club de France which had some specific rules concerning the fuel consumption. Back from Le Mans, the winning car was fitted with the usual pointed tailed body of the Type-35 Grand Prix. It was sold to Louis Chiron who drove it to victory in the Spanish Grand Prix at San Sebastian a few days later, on July 25, 1929.
Returned in 2006 to a period appropriate appearance using much of its Molsheim Grand Prix bodywork, this twice Grand Prix winner is still fitted with its original engine, chassis frame, supercharger, gearbox, rear and front axles. It is painted in French blue.
It was sold for $ 5.6M from a lower estimate of $ 3.5M by Gooding on August 14, 2021, lot 133. It is illustrated in second position in the press release shared by the auction house.
Sporting a powerful 2.3-liter, eight-cylinder engine fitted with a Roots-type supercharger, this 1929 #Bugatti Type 35B was the winner of the 1929 French and Spanish Grand Prix with Williams and Chiron. #PebbleBeachAuctions— Gooding & Company (@goodingandco) July 8, 2021
Learn More: https://t.co/9KpoRDWITw pic.twitter.com/UIke7oE95p
1929 Duesenberg Model J Lightweight
2021 SOLD for $ 5.7M by RM Sotheby's
1929 is a breakthrough year for many reasons. The creation of Cord Corporation streamlines the legal structure of the group. Released in December 1928, the Duesenberg Model J chassis emerges as the best in its class. The Lycoming 420 cubic inch straight-eight engine is producing 265 hp at 4,200 rpm. The dual cowl phaeton bodywork is a spectacular novelty.
The Model J rolling chassis was based on a sturdy ladder frame in alloy steel designed for top performance. Conceived as a competitor to Rolls Royce and Isotta Fraschini, it targeted the wealthy US customers from Hollywood and elsewhere.
Various leading coach builders including Murphy in California, LeBaron in New York and Derham in Philadelphia prepared open bodied cars suitable for enjoying the roads under the American sun and for being better visible by the public.
Various body types were offered by the Walter M. Murphy Company, located in Pasadena in the vicinity of Hollywood. The bodies were handcrafted and no two were exactly alike.
A 1929 Convertible coupe was sold for $ 2.53M by Morphy on October 11, 2015, lot 37. From the same year and maker, a Disappearing top convertible coupe was sold for $ 1.9M by RM Auctions on August 18, 2012, lot 229, a Dual cowl phaeton for $ 1.65M on Octoner 12, 2007, also by RM, lot 259, and a Cabriolet for € 1.04M by Artcurial on February 8, 2013, lot 381.
The pinnacle of the 1929 Model J by Murphy is the Disappearing top torpedo convertible coupe, different from the basic coupe by its tapered speedster boattail. Only two were fitted with a lightweight coachwork in polished bare aluminum.
One of them is in beautiful condition, featuring much of the original aluminum carefully restored for a maximum saving. Its chassis is original but the engine has been replaced by a period correct Duesenberg engine. It was sold for $ 5.7M from a lower estimate of $ 3.5M by RM Sotheby's on May 22, 2021, lot 156. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.