A Rare One / The 1919 Locomobile Model 48 Sportif

It's common knowledge that the first cars during the late 1890's and the first years on the nineteenth century looked a lot like horse drawn carriages without the horse. It's somewhat understandable since many of the very first automakers had been in the horse drawn carriage business. Then came Locomobile. The Locomobile had the distinction of being the first car not designed to look like a "horse and buggy."

1919 locomobile

1919 Locomobile Sportif

Some referred to Locomobile, which first came out in 1899 with a steam powered vehicle, as being the best built car in America. Much of this fame came from the racing successes the company enjoyed during the first decade of the 1900's. Locomobile won the Vanderbilt Cup in 1908.

Locomobile was founded by Amzi Barber and John Walker and as mentioned above the company originally made steam cars under license from Stanley Steamer.

Featured in this article is a 1919 Locomobile Sportif which was their Model 48 Series 5 which was manufactured by the Locomobile Company of America.The Model 48 signified the company's six cylinder engine. The Model 48 came out in 1911 and continued being produced until 1924. This was a 525 cubic inch engine delivering 85 horsepower.

The company was located in Bridgeport Connecticut and built Locomobiles from 1899 to 1929. The Locomobile was the best selling automobile in America by 1902. Four thousand vehicles had been manufactured by that time.

locomobile sportif

Locomobile Model 48 Sportif

In many ways the Locomobile was the opposite of the Model T that would debut some years later. The Locomobile Company of America wanted to produce fewer cars for fewer people but at higher prices. The company said that it was building "uncommon cars" whereas Henry Ford started to built cars for the common man. Ford's Universal Car was one name for the Model T.

By the year 1919 the Locomobile was the most powerful luxury automobile available.

The Locomobile Sportif

The Locomobile Sportif is arguably the most noted car of the line. The Sportif model came out in 1916 and was built specifically for department store owner Rodman Wannamaker. The Sportif is considered to be the first dual cowl phaeton.

locomobile dashboard and interior

1919 Locomobile Model 48 dashboard and interior

The Coach Builders for Locomobile

Locomobile coach bodies were built to customers specifications.

The Locomobile Company of America utilized two coach builders who were also located in Bridgeport Connecticut. They were the Bridgeport Body Company who also built for a few other manufacturers but Locomobile was their primary client and the Blue Ribbon Body Company which had Locomobile as a client from the teens to the mid 1920's. Blue Ribbon had been a horse drawn hearse manufacturer and they continued with hearse bodies into the automotive age.

Locomobile's Financial Problems

By 1921 the company was experiencing serious financial difficulties. By 1922 the company was acquired by Durant Motors. Durant Motors was operated by William Durant who previously had been CEO of General Motors. When Durant was ousted from GM he started his own automobile company with a group of investors.

Durant placed the Locomobile at the top of their car line and continued to produce a new Locomobile Model 48 until the Locomobile went out out of business in 1929 and Durant Motors itself in 1931. Under Durant's ownership Locomobile developed a few eight cylinder models. Certainly the onset of the Great Depression spelled doom for Durant Motors.

1919 locomobile dashboard

Another dashboard and control pedals view

Locomobiles have been seen in several motion pictures from the 40's to the 60's as well as noted in a few novels. While some today may have never heard of the Locomobile brand, the name was quite big during the mid teens through the twenties.

Many Locomobiles were scrapped during the World War Two scrap drives. The Locomobiles that escaped that event and are around today will no doubt be preserved. All of these automobiles are now recognized as historic examples of a by-gone era.

locomobile t-head six cylinder engine

Locomobile T-Head six cylinder engine

1919 Locomobile Sportif Specifications

As mentioned above the 1919 Locomobile Model 48 Sportif came with a 525 cubic inch T-Head six cylinder engine delivering 85 horsepower. The transmission was sliding selective.

The 1919 Model 48 Sportif as a large automobile. It's wheelbase was 142.0 inches.

The car had an emergency hand brake and a four wheel foot brake.

Wheels were wood with either cord or balloon tires with the balloons costing more.

New car prices for the 1919 Locomobile ranged anywhere from about $6,500 to a over $10,000. The custom made $10,000 1919 Model 48 Sportif was in sharp contrast to the $300 Ford Model T selling that year.

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Two books of note regarding the Locomobile include...The Locomobile Book: The Car of 1911 by the Locomobile Company of America and The Car of 1912 -The Locomobile  by the Locomobile Company of America.

1919 locomobile model 48 sportif

Locomobile Model 48 1919 Sportif

The Rare Locomobile Sportif Collector Car

The Locomobile Sportif is a rare collector automobile by any measure. The Sportif Model 48 was discontinued in 1924 with a new Model produced by Durant until 1929.

The Locomobile Sportif was not a mass production automobile. The company was originally set up to build four cars per day. A lot of information about the Locomobile can be found from the Locomobile Society. The Locomobile Society of America was established as a non-profit organization by a group of serious automobile enthusiasts who appreciate and value the Locomobile as one of the finest motor cars built in the last century. See website www.locomobilesociety.com

As of this writing, asking prices for surviving Locomobile Model 48's from the late 1910's are over $100,000 and approaching $200,000.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline)

A Restored 1953 Studebaker Champion

The Studebaker Champion was the economy offering in the marquee's line. Studebaker was the fastest to market during the post World War Two years. Their new post war Champion model was introduced in 1945 which in itself is pretty incredible. The first Champion hit the scene in 1939 and the first post war Studebaker Champion was essentially a partly disguised 1942 model.

1953 studebaker champion

1953 Studebaker Champion

Studebaker Military Production

Studebaker was also receiving orders from France and Holland for three ton trucks during 1039 as the clouds of war were moving over Europe. Studebaker later was awarded a U.S. military contract to build their M series trucks. It wasn't long after that Pearl Harbor was attacked and a few months after that all civilian automobile production was halted.

An interesting historical note about Studebaker and military production is that the company built vehicles (wagons or cars and trucks) from the American Civil War, through World War One and World War Two. This in itself is quite a historical feat.

The Popular Studebaker Champion

The persons responsible for the Studebaker Champions design were the legendary Virgil Exner and the Raymond Lowry Studios. The design was futuristic, and gave a tip to the rest of the American car industry that it was time to catch up. It took until 1949 for all the Big Three to introduce all of their new post war designs.

studebaker champion

Studebaker Champion

As far as success, the Studebaker Champion was a winner. This had a lot to do with the car's relatively low new car price. In 1939 the first Champions cost about $650. The Champion model really breathed new life into Studebaker which had a tough 1930's. It as a bright light for the company and the economy in general was starting to show real signs of improvement.

The automobile featured in this article is the 1953 Studebaker Champion. In 1953, Champions came in two- and four-door sedan models and you could also purchase a Champion in either a coupe or convertible model. In 1954 Studebaker came out with a two door Champion station wagon called the Conestoga. Here is a name that goes back to the pioneer wagons seen on the old Overland and Oregon Trails and the old wagons built by the Studebaker brothers.

1954 was also the year that Studebaker who had been experiencing financial problems and was in the midst of very tough labor negotiations merged with Packard. The new company was named the Studebaker-Packard Corporation.

studebaker champion photos

Interior view of the 1953 Studebaker Champion

1953 represented the start of the fourth generation Studebaker Champions. The 1953 models came out with an entirely different design. The two-door coupe was called the "Starlight." while the more expensive hardtop coupe was called the "Starliner."

Champions Long Run

The Studebaker Champion was in production from the 1939 model year through 1958. Beginning in 1959 it was replaced by the Studebaker Lark which took the place as  Studebaker's economy offering. Just as the Champion first breathed new life into the company in 1939, the Lark did the same in 1959 although the effect didn't last long. The Big Three in Detroit put a lot of pressure on smaller Studebaker with their own new economy cars.

While the Lark helped the financial picture in 1959 everything with Studebaker-Packard started again to go downhill in the early 60's. Packard ceased production of their nameplate models in 1959 after severe losses and this left Studebaker going it alone again.

In 1962 the company name was changed back to the Studebaker Corporation. The Studebaker Lark, in it's third generation, was produced until 1966 when all Studebaker production in the U.S. came to a halt.

Studebaker will always be remembered as a company that started manufacturing horse drawn wagons in 1853, made a successful transition into a horseless wagon (automobile) company in the early 1900's, and continued in the automobile business through tough times and mergers until 1966. A terrific run for a company founded in the mid 1800's.

53 studebaker champion

53 Studebaker Champion

1953 Studebaker Champion Specifications

The 1953 Studebaker Champion was powered by Studebaker's own 170 cubic inch flathead straight-six engine. This engine could deliver 85 horsepower.

In 1953 the Studebaker Champion buyer had a choice of three different transmissions. The base transmission was a three-speed manual. Optional choices were a three-speed manual with overdrive and a Borg-Warner Automatic Drive.

The Champion's wheelbase was 120.5 inches. The car's overall length was 201.9 inches and a weight of about 2,800 lbs. The new car price for the 1953 Champion was about $2,100.

Studebaker Champion 1953 production totaled about 93,600 units.

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1953 studebaker

A rear view of the 1953 Studebaker Champion

Studebakers Make Fine Collector Cars

Studebakers have remained quite popular with collectors. As mentioned above, the company's history is rich and the automobiles they produced are distinctive. For those restoring or maintaing old Studebakers, parts are not all that difficult to come by.

Plenty of Studebakers offered for sale today have been modified one way or the other, mostly with engine upgrades and customized body parts.

As far as today's asking prices go for 1953 Studebakers for sale, the range will be wide depending on modifications and overall restoration and whether the car has had a frame off restoration or not. You will likely come across 1953 Studebakers priced all over the place from $20,000 to six figures.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline)

A Rare 1981 “DMC-12” DeLorean

What was billed as the DeLorean sports car is rare only in as much as only about 8,500 units were built. Like the Tucker car, the DeLorean came and went in a flash, although many more DeLorean DMC-12's were produced that the fifty odd Tuckers. Some might say that the DeLorean was the world's most notorious car since the Tucker.

delorean dmc 12

DeLorean DMC 12

To be sure, the DeLorean was an eye catcher in 1981 although it's trademark gullwing doors were first introduced by Mercedes. The Delorean's engine was rear mounted and the inner body was fiberglass constructed while the outer panels were made of stainless steel.

John Z. DeLorean

In all probability, the DeLorean DMC-12 sports car has collector appeal that's a bit different than the ordinary. When you talk about the DeLorean automobile you're talking about it's founder, John Z. DeLorean, a one time "golden boy" of General Motors.

DeLorean was the executive at GM behind the Pontiac GTO of the 1960's. Some of his other attributes included but not limited to creating the overhead-cam engine, concealed windshield wipers, the lane-change turn signal, vertically stacked headlights, racing stripes and an emphasis on cockpitlike driver consoles. DeLorean claimed to have over 200 patents.

delorean sports car

Stainless steel outer body of the DeLorean DMC-12

DeLorean's automotive career was both brilliant and troubled. At one time many actually thought that John Z. DeLorean would take over the helm at General Motors. For a variety of reasons, mainly political, he didn't. Instead, DeLorean left GM and formed his own automobile company.

While this was a surprise to some, others knew of the politics of the time at GM and were not surprised to see the golden boy who went against the GM grain depart. Possibly DeLoreans well known flamboyance created more than a few foes at GM.

The DeLorean DMC-12

The DeLorean Motor Company was formed in 1975 with the help of funds from the British government. The plan was to build cars in Northern Ireland near Belfast with a six building manufacturing plant while creating some 2,000 jobs.

The design of the DeLorean DMC-12 took about seven years to complete and was mostly designed by Bill Collins, another former engineer from GM. The idea was to have a relatively economical sports car with a lot of innovation. Eventually the design was reworked by Lotus of England. The DeLorean DMC-12 was the company's first and only model.

delorean dmc 12 interior photo

Interior of the 1981 DeLorean DMC-12

Trouble Came Quickly

Production of the DMC-12 was originally planned to begin in 1979 but because of engineering delays and cost overruns the production was delayed until 1981. Cost overruns would hammer the new automaker during it's entire short life. The cost overruns meant that the DeLorean had a price tag of $25,000. A very high price tag in 1981 for a relatively low powered sports car. The DMC-12 was rated at Zero to 60 at about 10 seconds. Not exactly a 1981 muscle car.

The price was thousands more than what was in the business plan and the initial reception by the media and the public was mixed, most likely because of the price tag versus performance.

Even though the DeLorean DMC-12 was promoted very heavily, sales never met expectations. In addition there were many fixes required because of assembly problems.

Cash was getting tight and the British government was putting pressure on DeLorean to raise more financing. Everything really came to a head when John Z. DeLorean was indicted on drug charges after a federal drug sting which was videotaped. DeLorean was cleared of those charges but there were also accusations that DeLorean bilked some investors. As a result of all this the DeLorean Motor Company went bankrupt in 1982.

1981 delorean

1981 DeLorean

It was said that when the company went bankrupt there were about 1,200 vehicles in production that ended up being sold for about $6,000 under the sticker price.

1981 DeLorean DMC-12 Specifications

The DMC-12 was built with a light alloy V-6 engine.

The transmission was a choice of a five speed fully synchronized manual or a three speed automatic.

Brakes were power assisted discs on all four wheels.

Suspension in the front consisted of unequal length wishbones and coil boxed spring, telescopic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar. Rear suspension were diagonal trailing radius arms with upper and lower links, coil spring with telescopic shock absorbers.

The DeLorean DMC-12's overall length was 168.0 inches. The wheelbase was 94.8 inches, the width 78.3 inches and the height 44.88 inches. Ground clearance in the front was 5.6 inches and 6.10 inches in the rear.

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A good book regarding John Z. DeLorean, his career and the DeLorean DMC-12 is Dream Maker: The Rise and Fall of John Z. DeLorean by authors Ivan Fallon and James Srodes.

delorean dmc 12 sports car

Rear view of the DeLorean DMC-12

The DeLorean DMC-12 Collector Car

There are only two model years for the DeLorean DMC-12, 1981 and 1982. As mentioned above total production over the two years was about 8,500 units.

Today's asking prices for existing DMC-12's usually range from about $20,000 to $39,000. A lot will depend on miles and overall condition. We have also a museum quality model with very low mileage being priced in the $60,000 range.

Prices for the DeLorean will also vary widely on how much a collector wants the vehicle. There's obviously a lot of history connected to the car and the man and company it was named for. John Z. DeLorean made a name for himself and had numerous achievements while at General Motors but he is thought of more today due to his connection with the ill-fated DeLorean Motor Company.

The DeLorean DMC-12 is certainly not as rare or expensive as a Tucker car but it does represent a chapter in the history of the automobile industry.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline)