Each January, the auctions in Arizona offer an amazing opportunity for visitors and buyers—a chance to witness and be part of the action as the gavel falls on some remarkable vehicles. This year, historic vehicle sales topped $176 million and the HVA had a team to Scottsdale. In this feature, we turn the spotlight on a handful of vehicles that stood out from the rest.
The Make: 1901 Duryea Four-Wheel Phaeton
The Buzz: Long before Ford, Duryea was producing viable gasoline vehicles, winning the first auto race in America in 1895, and having the first car to reach Brighton in the Emancipation run of 1896.
The Facts: Brother’s J. Frank and Charles Duryea first built cars in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1893, making their vehicles among the earliest gasoline automobiles in the country. Frank later moved to Peoria, Illinois, and by 1901, Charles was building cars in Reading, Pennsylvania, where this Four-Wheel Phaeton was almost certainly produced. It is likely that this Duryea was driven by Charles’ daughter, Rhea, who tested many cars up the steep hill to Mount Penn in Reading.
The Features: Two-seater powered by a three-cylinder, 10-horsepower engine, two-speed transmission, and leaf-spring suspension.
The Make: 1931 Marmon 16 Convertible Coupe
The Buzz: Marmon was one of the great American automakers and the 16 was the company’s final passenger vehicle before The Depression forced it to concentrate on truck manufacturing.
The Facts: Engineer Howard Marmon led his family’s firm in its venture into automobile manufacturing, building ever-more luxurious machines of very high quality. Introduced in 1931, the powerful and elegant 16 went head to head with Duesenberg, Cadillac, and Packard. This convertible Coupe by LeBaron is just one of six known to survive. Although the company withdrew from auto production in 1933, Marmon trucks can still be seen on highways all over America.
The Features: Two-seater powered by a 200 horsepower, V-16 engine mated to a three-speed manual transmission. Suspension by solid axles and leaf springs; mechanical drum brakes are vacuum-assisted.
The Make: 1954 Buick Russ Losing Special Custom
The Buzz: Winner of the Best Handbuilt Custom Class at the Tacoma Autorama in the early 1960s, this vehicle was invited to appear as one of the 75 Most Significant Customs at Grand National Roadster Show in 2011.
The Facts: Long unknown and incorrectly labeled as a Buick Custom Car, this car was correctly identified as a 1954 Buick Russ Losing Special Custom by Rik Hoving of Rik Hoving Kustoms. The only early photographs of the vehicle known to exist come from its appearance in the Car Craft show coverage in 1963 and in the Custom Car Yearbook No.1, also from 1963 and compiled by the editors of Hot Rod, Rod and Custom and Car Craft magazines.
The Features: The vehicle retains its original chassis from a 1940 Chevrolet and features a number of chrome suspension components. Its engine is a 1956 Buick Nailhead V-8 and is equipped with fully-styled fuels lines to the three stromberg carbs and an elaborate exhaust system made up of eight individual chromed pipes running the length of the chassis. Other than the tri-rod front bumper, headrests, and top added sometime after the original photographs were taken, all other aspects of the car remain as they were in the early 1960s.
The Make: 1953 Nash Healey LeMans Coupe
The Buzz: One of the earliest sports cars offered by an American automaker, it was the product of a partnership between the Nash-Kelinator Corporation and British engineer Donald Healey. The early roadsters were bodied by Panelcraft in England, though a restyle by Pinin Farina came along for 1952 and was joined by the LeMans Coupe in 1953.
The Facts: Donald Healey and George Mason, CEO of Nash-Kelvinator, met over dinner on the Queen Elizabeth. Healey had been in America to try and convince Cadillac to supply engines for his cars. Mason found Healey’s proposal interesting and offered the use of a Nash Ambassador drivetrain. A total of 506 Nash-Healeys were made.
The Features: LeMans Dual Jetfire Straight Six, aluminum cylinder head, 2 SU carburetors, 3-speed manual transmission with overdrive.
The Make: 1975 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible
The Buzz: This California Car is an un-restored original.
The Facts: By 1975, U.S. Congress was considering a ban on convertible automobiles due to safety concerns. GM, like all other U.S. automakers, began to phase out the convertible although a ban was never enacted. The 1975 Corvette convertible was to be the last for more than a decade and accounted for just 12 percent of all 1975 models sold.
The Features: Air conditioning, power brakes, an optional 205-horsepower V-8, tilt-telescopic steering column, dual horns, map light, off-road suspension and brake package, power windows, and an auxiliary hardtop for the convertible. The engines of 1975 Corvettes have the last six digits of the VIN stamped on the block just ahead of the cylinder head on the right side combined with a three-letter engine code suffix. Also cast into the top rear of the block is a four-symbol code indicating when the engine was built.