Bonhams Simeone Museum 2012 – Auction Report

Bonhams ‘Preserving the Automobile’ Auction, Simeone Museum, Philadelphia, PA, October 8, 2012

Report and photos by Rick Carey, Auction Editor

Bonhams tried something new and different in Philadelphia, a sale dedicated to cars needing work. Some were old restorations, but most were in varying stages of barn-find-ness. There was a lot of rust, must, dirt and grime, but also a lot to like.

It was like walking into the Puppy Pound and being surrounded by a pack of appealing little dogs, all begging to be taken home, loved and lavished with attention and all the care they’d been denied while they were homeless.

Then they held it in Dr. Fred Simeone’s racing car museum near the Philadelphia airport. The Simeone Foundation’s collection is amazing, a selection of the very best historic road racing cars. Mostly winners of important races or podium finishers, any collector in the world (and particularly those of an Alfa Romeoic persuasion) would be overjoyed to own any car in the Foundation’s collection.

Fitting the ‘Preservation’ theme of Bonhams auction, the Simeone Foundation has beautifully restored cars but also tired, rough survivors – like the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe CSX 2287 – that demonstrated the range of possibilities open for the forlorn puppies on the auction floor.

Finally, scheduling the sale on the Monday of Hershey week put it conveniently on the calendars of collectors from all over the world who were making the trip to Pennsylvania anyway. A vast assortment of automobilia helped bring Hershey’s field crawlers for an early exposure to the quest for iron.

The appeal of barn finds is similar to that of abandoned puppies. They just have so much potential. Collectors’ minds eyes see completed shiny projects gleaming on show fields before swarms of envious spectators and approving judges. The cars wag their rusty fenders, seeking to show how much love and affection they’ll return.

Or something … Anyway, Bonhams made a success of the sale, getting solid prices for most of the cars and phenomenal prices for a few (the Citroen Sahara for example.) There were three London-to-Brighton Veteran Car Run eligible lots.

80.7% of the lots offered changed hands. 20% were sold for hammer bids over the high estimate and the total sale was $2,576,695 (excluding parts and memorabilia.) That should be more than sufficiently successful for Bonhams to reprise the venue and theme in 2013.

Preservation class cars and attractive restoration projects are very much in the minds of collectors these days and the attraction of a Preservation themed auction is that it focuses the attention of collectors looking for a project to adopt, particularly in the days before the preservation- and restoration-focused AACA Fall Hershey meet.

Projects like many of those presented by Bonhams in Philadelphia attract premium prices that are sometimes disconnected from the costs inherent in making them run and drive much less restoring them. That was evident in some of the transaction values reached here, but economics are not what’s behind their acquisition.

They are so lovable.

Bonhams Simeone Museum 2012 – Auction Report

1922 Dodge First Series Roadster
Lot # 402 1922 Dodge First Series Roadster; S/N 693490; Engine # 751957; Burgundy/Black vinyl; Black leatherette top; Estimate $10,000 – $15,000; Cosmetic restoration, 3 condition; Hammered Sold at $12,500 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $14,375 — Varnished wood spoke 32 inch wheels, blackwall tires, rear-mounted spare. Decent older cosmetic restoration with good paint, nickel, upholstery and top. Chassis painted assembled, instruments are clean but not restored. A sound and presentable driver. No Reserve. Nothing to be very proud of, but a usable alternative to a comparable Ford Model T at a reasonable price.
1913 Hupmobile Model 32 Roadster
Lot # 403 1913 Hupmobile Model 32 Roadster; S/N H37154; Engine # 36720; Ivory, Black fenders/Blue leatherette; Black cloth top; Estimate $25,000 – $35,000; Visually maintained, largely original, 4+ condition; Hammered Sold at $28,000 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $32,200 — RHD. C.M. Hall nickel acetylene headlights, Hupmobile kerosene sidelights, Prest-o-lite tank, dual kerosene taillights, bulb horn, Klaxon, Stewart speedometer. Dull old paint, grimy chassis and engine, sound, usable old upholstery. No Reserve. This is a prime example of a complete and easily restorable barn find car, and an unusual one at that with 32 ALAM horsepower and lightweight bodywork. It should be a fine tour car when it’s had some fairly simple attention, doesn’t really need much cosmetic attention and is a sound value at this price.
1929 Essex Challenger Phaeton
Lot # 405 1929 Essex Challenger Phaeton; S/N 1126406; Antler Tan, Black fenders, Woodlawn Green accent/Saddle leather; Tan cloth top; Estimate $20,000 – $30,000; Older restoration, 3 condition; Hammered Sold at $23,000 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $26,450 — Varnished wood spoke wheels, blackwall tires, wind wings, rear-mounted spare. 1981 AACA Senior award, still with good paint, chrome, interior and top. Shows a little touring use and age but has survived remarkably well and is represented as freshly mechanically sorted. No Reserve. This is way more car than a Model A, but bought for Model A money. Its 30-year old restoration has held up extremely well and should be good for many more years. It is a good value even at this mid-estimate price.
1903 Knox Model C 8hp Runabout
Lot # 406 1903 Knox Model C 8hp Runabout; S/N 177; Varnished wood, Black fenders/Black leatherette; Black leatherette surrey top; Estimate $75,000 – $125,000; Older restoration, 3- condition; Hammered Sold at $60,000 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $69,000 — Lefthand tiller steering, varnished wood spoke wheels, whitewall tires, kerosene sidelights, no taillight. Stanhope-style body with a folding seat in front of the driver. Restored long ago and re-varnished since. Right rear fender and bracket are unpainted. Chassis and engine have been done but long ago to the standards of the time. Comes with several photos and newspaper articles from the Twenties that authenticate its current configuration and add flavor to its history. A handsome and usable old car that should be Brighton eligible in a heartbeat and brought representative Brighton-eligible money consistent with its condition.
1915 Packard 3-38 Gentleman's Roadster
Lot # 409 1915 Packard 3-38 Gentleman’s Roadster; S/N 76440; Dark Blue, Black fenders/Black leather; Black leather top; Estimate $200,000 – $300,000; Visually maintained, largely original, 3- condition; Hammered Sold at $195,000 plus commission of 12.56%; Final Price $219,500 — Single rumble seat, rear-mounted spares, electric Klaxon horn, yellow wood spoke wheels, leather-covered rear deck. Sound old repaint, torn original upholstery, good top but tattered liner. Orderly engine looks original. Way too good to restore, as shown by its ‘Worn but not Forgotten’ award at The Elegance at Hershey earlier this year. Undoubtedly one of the stars of this auction full of well-preserved old automobiles, this Packard is just wonderful. It brought a reasonable price for its condition, but it’s more car than the money for the right buyer.
1913 Woods Mobilette Tandem Roadster
Lot # 412 1913 Woods Mobilette Tandem Roadster; S/N 404; Green, Black fenders/Black; Beige cloth top; Estimate $20,000 – $30,000; Older restoration, 3- condition; Hammered Sold at $42,000 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $48,300 — 4-cylinder, 12hp Sterling engine, 2-speed sliding gear transmission, center-mounted steering wheel, silver wire wheels, blackwall tires, single cowl-mounted King of the Road acetylene headlight, Neverout kerosene sidelights, Stewart oogah horn. Sound paint, top and interior but showing age and use throughout and plenty of oil and road grime on the chassis. This cute little Woods had a steady stream of informed onlookers commenting on it. No Reserve. The rarity of this Woods Mobilette and its charm more than explain why its result is so far askew from the estimate. Estimated reasonably in the absence of comparable sales, it got caught in the bidders’ enthusiasm and brought a definitely heroic price.
1904 Buckmobile 15hp Twin Runabout
Lot # 413 1904 Buckmobile 15hp Twin Runabout; S/N 244; Varnished wood, Black fenders and hood/Black vinyl; Estimate $20,000 – $30,000; Older restoration, 3 condition; Hammered Sold at $40,000 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $46,000 — RHD. Two cylinder engine, wheel steering, flat rear deck, one kerosene sidelight, wood spoke wheels, black tires. Redone long ago and usable as is but not very presentable except in the Brighton paddock if it makes it. Interesting suspension with a single semi-elliptical leaf spring on each side carrying and locating the axles damped by flat wooden planks riding on the axles: wooden shock absorbers. Practical buckboard-style body. No Reserve. Not guaranteed to be a 1904 but since Buckmobile merged with Black Diamond Automobile in October of 1904 it’s a pretty good bet. It has a big 2-cylinder engine that should make it a great ride on a cold November morning in London-to-Brighton and is a good value at this price.
1965 Mercedes-Benz 230SL Roadster
Lot # 418 1965 Mercedes-Benz 230SL Roadster; S/N 11304210008613; Red/Ivory leather; Estimate $20,000 – $30,000; Visually maintained, largely original, 3- condition; Hammered Sold at $15,000 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $17,250 — Becker Grand Prix multiband radio, manual transmission, hubcaps, trim rings, blackwall tires, Euro headlights, soft top and pagoda hardtop, rear jump seat. Poor old repaint with visible sanding marks, dull trim chrome, torn driver’s seat cushion. Moth-eaten carpets. Needs a lot. A very ordinary 230SL that had not led an easy life. There is a difference between a barn find survivor and a beat-up, neglected old car. This is the latter and this is all it’s worth.
1948 Case VAC Farm Tractor
Lot # 423 1948 Case VAC Farm Tractor; S/N VAC5262266; Orange/Orange; Estimate $10,000 – $15,000; Visually maintained, largely original, 3 condition; Hammered Sold at $5,500 plus commission of 15.00%; Final Price $6,325 — Overhead valve 4-cylinder, power takeoff, row-crop tricycle layout. Dull repaint without disassembly. Fairly clean and serviceable. No Reserve. Deeres and Farmalls bring the most money among farm tractor collectors but this is still a very good price for a surprisingly good old Case. It is unexceptional among tractors, for which a good dousing with a steam cleaner, spray in something close to the original color and a few new decals is called ‘restoration.’

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Show Comments (7)

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  1. Dear Rick Carey,
    I am posting more of an FYI regarding history of the Lot#438, 1917 Crane Simplex, serial#2333. I have reason to believe the 2nd owner if not the original owner of this car was Edward Porter May. Edward May and the Whitney family were close in the sense that both were involved in the banking business of Boston. Whitney as a bank founder and May as a partner in the Jeremiah Williams Wool Co. of Boston. Edward May died in August of 1927 but employed my grandfather as a chauffeur beginning in 1925. My grandfather continued to chauffeur for Edward’s wife, Lucy Conger May through the 1940s. As a matter of fact, her initials are etched/engraved of either side of the outside of the rear passenger compartment, both sides, LCM. Mrs May sold this car to Cameron Bradley in 1936/37 near to where she lived in Framingham, Mass. My grandfathers primary responsibility was to chauffeur the Mays from their home to Bar Harbor Maine. The Mays owned a large summer cottage/home in Bar Harbor called Keywaydin. My grandfather drove this car for the Mays until 1936 at which time Mrs May purchased a new Buick from a car dealer in Bar Harbor. I have a photo of this car in Bar Harbor with my grandfathers writing saying, “Mrs Mays Crane Simplex car.”

    Thank you for allowing me the message.
    Richard Washburn

  2. Richard,
    Thank you so much for filling in the history of this Simplex Crane Model 5.
    I’ve passed your note on to Rupert Banner at Bonhams to forward to the owner who I am sure will be extremely happy to have its history filled in in so complete and thorough fashion.
    Observations like this occasionally result from the auction reports and they are very gratifying, completing the history of a great car with first hand knowledge.
    Could you send us a digital copy of the photo to add to the auction report? Keewaydin is one of the great Mount Desert estates, and is the ideal environment for a great car like the Simplex Crane.
    Thanks for your valuable contribution.


    1. Rick,
      The Rich museum in Frackville PA got in touch with me last October via information I had posted about the Mays. Seems that the museum had done a trace of the serial number and found the May name. I filled in the rest of the history after they contacted me. It really is a great story. They allowed me to visit them and sit in the car. I cannot begin to describe the emotion sitting behind the wheel of the car my grandfather drove as a chauffeur for many years. The photos I have are B and W and will need to be scanned. I’ll do my best to get a digital off to you.

      Richard Washburn

      1. Hello, I’m Shawn Brewster. My husband David Chase Brewster is a great nephew of Lucy May (by way of her sister) We are interested in knowing more about the car. I’m currently in Bar Harbor and would love to see any photos you have. I’m also looking for the location of the house which was destroyed by fire. I’m sure your father knew a great deal about Lucy’s life. We would love to know more. My email is [email protected]

        Thank you!

    2. Rick,
      I have the photo’s of the Crane Simplex but am not able to attach them to this reply format, not sure why. Please notify me by your email so I may try attaching them to it. This communication transaction between us has just made me aware of a great nephew to the original owner of this Crane Simplex who has interest. Nice to know no matter how large the world is, it really is just a speck of dust with the web and email availability. While I have you here, how would I obtain a copy of the title for the vehicle history and genealogy history it may contain? Trying to work with the State DMV has proven frustrating and difficult at best.

      Thank You
      Rick Washburn

  3. Rick,
    I would certainly appreciate it if you would please put me in touch with Rick Washburn. I’ve been recording Simplex & Simplex Crane owner and auto information for 20+ years and would like to contact him regarding the May’s car. It was registered to Edward P. May under 1919 MA registration #91105.
    Thank you,
    Bill Bell
    [email protected]

    1. Bill, I’ll forward your reply to Rick Washburn and let him make the contact.

      On a general note, one of the most cool things about doing auction reports are the threads, like this, that develop.
      Over a couple decades of doing this some interesting and important history has been filled in, a process that is even more effective with the rise of the internet and sites like SCD with wide reach.

      Please, anyone who has even a snippet of history, an old photo or an obscure magazine article concerning old cars mentioned here, contact us. We’ll do our best to add it to the history of the cars and their owners.

      Rick Carey