The 1917 Locomobile Story

Model 48 Dual Cowl Sportif Body By Farnham & Nelson

1917 Locomobile Model 48 Dual Cowl Sportif Body By Farnham & Nelson width=
1917 Locomobile Model 48 Dual Cowl Sportif Body By Farnham & Nelson

A car's greatness is judged most importantly by its historical significance/provenance, originality, mechanical design, and, of course, its beauty. This is an example of a car that has it all: Provenance back to new, original custom dual cowl coachwork, T-head six cylinder engine, and an outstanding award winning restoration.

The Locomobile Company of America was an automobile company that was once the greatest in America with their factory located here in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Beginning with steam in 1899, and eventually moving to gasoline in 1902 with the help of Andrew Riker who also came from experimenting with his Riker Electric Vehicle Company that he had since sold to Colonel Albert Augustus Pope in 1901. Locomobile became very successful early on, being of very high quality with great mechanical designs from Riker, first offering 2 cylinder engines and then big 4 cylinder T-Head engines and chain drive gear boxes. Riker entered Locomobiles into multiple endurance races and eventually Locomobile became competitive in the Grand Prix circuit as well, both in the United States and in Europe. Most notably in 1908, they ran two 90 horsepower F-Head grand prix cars at the Vanderbilt Cup winning the race coming in both 1st and 3rd place with George Robertson at the helm of the winning car #16. This was the first time an American car had ever won an international race, immediately making Locomobile the most famous motorcar company in the United States and abroad. From then on, Locomobile was "The Greatest Car Built in America" and was really the "Rolls Royce" of the United States, not just because of their fame, but because they truly did create some of the highest quality cars of their time.

The pinnacle of Locomobile's creations came in 1911 with the introduction of the mighty 103 horsepower T-head six cylinder Model 48 that was once again designed by Locomobile's head engineer, Andrew Riker. With their signature cast bronze crankcases and 4 1/2 inch by 4 1/2 inch bore and stroke, these powerful model 48s were truly a sight to behold and were very expensive, initially starting at $5,000 dollars, and, by the end of the Model 48's run in 1925, it would rise to around $10,000 dollars. The basic design of the Model 48's chassis was so well designed and so ahead of its time that it would basically remain unchanged until the end of production. Throughout the model 48's production run, many of the wealthiest and most famous people in the world chose the model 48 as their mode of transportation, including members of the Vanderbilt family, William Wrigley, William Carnagie, and many other famous people. Most 48s had factory coachwork later designed by Frank deCausse who had previously worked as designer for Kellner of Paris. But some were also ordered as a bare chassis and were sent to a coachbuilder for custom coachwork.

Body By Farnham & Nelson width=
Body By Farnham & Nelson

One of the most coveted, rarest, and most famous of all the custom coachwork ever to adorn the model 48's chassis would most certainly be the dual cowl designed by Farnham and Nelson of Boston, Massachusetts. With its narrow body sporting a low waistline, an incredibly short and rakish windshield, and, of course, the signature cape top over the rear compartment. This design is nothing short of perfect. Only three Farnham and Nelson bodied Locomobiles survive today and none of them was ever offered publicly for sale.

Offered here for the first time is quite possibly the most exquisite example of any Model 48; a 1917 Model 48 Farnham and Nelson dual cowl Sportif. This particular car is also one of the most well known, being a very early participant of the Veteran Motorcar Club of America. It has a wonderful history starting from the very beginning as its chassis, #13058, was originally ordered through the Boston Locomobile dealer and sent to Farnham and Nelson to be fitted with its dual cowl coachwork it still wears today for its first owner: Mr. Louis K. Liggett. Mr. Liggett was a drug store magnate who founded the famous Rexall drug company and he later became the chairman of the United Drug Company. Mr. Liggett used the car sparingly and kept it until later in his life when it would be sold to Mr. James A. Demone of Southboro, Massachusetts in the 1940s who was an early member of the Vintage Motor Car Club of America. Mr. Demone used the car for numerous VMCCA events around the New England area, including meets at the Larz Anderson Museum. In 1958, Mr. Demone sold it to Jerry and Betty VanBenschoten of New Kingston, New York. They also showed the car around the New England area throughout the 1960s and 1970s. They would keep the car until 1997 when it would pass into the hands of its most recent owner Mr. John McAlpin. At that time, it was still in mostly original condition with light restoration work done to keep it going throughout the years. Upon Mr. McAlpins acquisition, he decided to completely restore the car from the ground up which he began only a short time after taking ownership. Over the next 20 years, John restored every nut and bolt of #13058 taking it down to a bare chassis. The engine and transmission were completely disassembled as well, and were rebuilt to factory clearances and specifications. Even the cast bronze crankcase was completely polished to a show finish. John even went to the library in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where much of Locomobile’s original records are now kept, to research this particular car as well as to make sure every detail was absolutely correct. Even the wonderful colors of light coral and blue grey on this car are original and exactly how Mr. Liggett ordered the car in 1917. An original panel with original paint is included with the car to show its authenticity. The entire restoration process is documented with many photographs and records. It is as perfect as a car can possibly be.

Upon its completion in 2019, John showed #13058 at Amelia Island, winning best in his class as well as achieving multiple other awards at other Concours and events. Most notably, this car has achieved a 100 point senior award from the Classic Car Club of America in 2019 as well as its Junior and senior awards and the most coveted Zenith award from the Antique Automobile Club of America. It has never been shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, but would certainly be welcome with open arms. Everything about this car is wonderful; its coachwork, its history, its chassis, and its restoration. It has it all. If you are looking for an amazing high quality and sporty custom bodied car, it doesn't get much better.

This car won best in show at the Klingberg Motor Series show of New Britain, Connecticut on June 21, 2022.