Published date: 23 Nov 2012
Bonhams Motor Car
Department, New York
1900 – 1910
1909 White Model M
If it is good enough for the President of the United States of America, it is good enough for me. William Howard Taft selected a Model M sevenpassenger tourer as the first official automobile of
the US President, and for good reason. Certainly one of the most powerful steam cars ever built, it has massive presence and power, both of which would have been needed to tote around the full figured
1910 – 1920
1913 Mercer Raceabout Type 35J
The Mercer Raceabout is to sports cars what fine whiskey is to cereal grains – the distilled essence of the whole. Equipped with only what was required, it proved to be a fierce competitor against much
more powerful machines. More to the point the car's engineer, Finley T. Porter, lived to see it become one of the most sought-after collector cars when most cars of that era were still regarded as just old, used cars. I love the look of the thing and I imagine it would be a joy to drive.
1920 – 1930
1923 Doble Model E Murphy Roadster
Abner Doble probably came the closest to making modern steam cars a practical alternative to gasoline models. Able to travel 1,500 miles on a 26-gallon tank of water, go from dead cold to full steam in 30 seconds, and hit 90mph with ease, the Doble Model E was powerful machine. Of the few built, and fewer surviving, my favorite is the
Murphy-bodied Roadster. It isn't the prettiest thing ever made, but it is one of the most technically fabulous and I really appreciate it for that.
1930 – 1940
1935 Duesenberg SSJ
I have always had a soft spot for Duesenbergs, and the pair of SSJs built for Clark Gable and Gary Cooper are the two most sporting in my view. Gratuitously powerful and lithely-bodied by Walker-LeGrande, the fact they were equipped with a notthe- least-bit-optimistic 150mph speedometer speaks to the power underfoot. I'll have Cooper's two-tone gray example, please.
1940 – 1950
1949 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe
Anyone who knows me knows I'm a Cadillac man. The post-WWII Series 62 heralded the beginning of the modern era of car design with its sleek,
Harley Earl-designed body. Not content on the open highways of America, Briggs Cunningham proved the car had racing mettle by entering Le Mans in 1950. Largely unmodified, the big coupe came first
in class, and 10th overall.
1950 – 1960
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé
I'm not a racing driver so I have limited use for a race car, but a race car for the road I can live with. Nothing gets the heart aflutter quite like the outand- out racer the Uhlenhaut Coupé is, having been gently warmed over for use on the road, complete with muffler. The fastest thing out there when it was being used as a company car, and strikingly beautiful, I wouldn't mind using it to blast down Route 1 on the California coast.
1960 – 1970
1961 Ferrari 250GT SWB California Spider
As a Chicagoan and a child of the 1980s, few movies are held in higher regard than the great John Hughes classic Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The image of Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane motoring up Lake Shore Drive is forever branded on my brain. It's just a gorgeous car with all the right curves in all the right places and a wonderful drivetrain to boot. Just don't ever give it to a valet.
1970 – 1980
1979 BMW M1
It is rare BMW builds an out-and-out sports car, but when they do they do it right. Powered by BMW's legendary 3.5-liter straight 6 and clothed in sleek Giugario styling, only 456 rolled off the line. I rather fancy the classic wedge looks, which are sleek and sporty without being gaudy. Like all BMW sports cars, after they finished the production run they just stopped. The finality of it all makes it such a wonderful exclamation point in the company's history.
1980 – 1990
1987 Buick Regal Grand National GNX
I'm a sucker for sleepers, and few cars are more of a sleeper than the Grand National GNX. From the automotive doldrums of America in the 1980s sprung forth this awesome thing, a seemingly dowdy Buick coupe painted black and equipped with a 231cid supercharged V6 putting out 276hp. Capable of doing 0 to 60mph in 4.7 seconds and
the quarter-mile in 13.5 seconds (faster than the Corvette), Buick was told to stop stepping on toes and as a result nothing like it would be built again until Cadillac's V-series of the mid-2000s. It's the car Darth Vader would take to dinner, a drag strip, and a movie.
1990 – 2000
1999 Cadillac DeVille
While I was tempted to go with something more de rigueur, like a McLaren F1, I couldn't resist going with my old DeVille. The Caddy and I conquered 26, the Lincoln Highway, Route 66, and countless trips
into the snow-packed High Sierras with my skis in the trunk. Malcolm Barber nicknamed it 'The Queen Mary', an apt title for the 17.5-ft car. It would simply swallow highway miles with abandon. It is a car
truly made for America's long and straight roads.
2000 – 2010
2005 Pagani Zonda F
The most interesting and memorable cars havetypically been ones made in large part because ofthe determination of a single individual. Horacio Pagani's vision of the ultimate sports car is both beautifully rendered and unabashedly fast. I really appreciate that attention to detail and the individuality of these cars, something that is rarely seen nowadays.