442ci T-Head Inline 4-Cylinder Engine
3-Speed Manual Transmission
4-Wheel Leaf Spring Suspension
Mechanical Rear Drum Brakes – Separate Hand and Pedal Operated Shoes
*Original coachwork and the sole surviving Speedwell Speed Car
*Formerly part of the collections of James Melton, Winthrop Rockefeller, Dr. Samuel Scher and William "Bill" Harrah
*Documented history and provenance with a series of highly respected collectors
*Excellent brass-era sports car for tours and driving events
*Finely and sympathetically restored
The Speedwell of Dayton, Ohio was the product of Pierce D. Schneck, a Dayton native who employed the engineering talents of Gilbert J. Loomis to design a sporty and reliable automobile. Initially flirting with assembled cars powered by Ruentenberg motors, by 1909 a Speedwell-built four-cylinder engine would be introduced and that powerplant would cement the brand's reputation. Known for quality construction and sound engineering, Speedwell developed novel features such as sealed transmissions reducing the pools of oil often found under many of the competitor's models.
Speedwell focused primarily on a single chassis line up and offered a wide variety of innovative and attractive body-styles. No doubt the attractiveness of their coachwork contributed to strong sales, and the period of 1909 to 1912 were particularly good years for the company; nearly 4,000 automobiles were produced and sold by the firm.
Without a doubt the most memorable and coveted of the Speedwells was the Speed Car. When initially announced, the car illustrated was a racy if not a bit outdated looking machine, but when finally produced it was the handsome and refined machine we see here. At $2,900, it was priced competitively with a Mercer Raceabout, and $900 over the new-to-the-market Stutz Bearcat.
THE MOTORCAR OFFERED
This important Speedwell has been prized as a collectible automobile since the earliest days of car collecting prior to WWII. The Speedwell entered the noted and pioneering collection of opera singer James Melton, when he acquired the machine in Cleveland, Ohio in the late 1930s. Mr. Melton was perhaps the best-known car collector of his day, and used his celebrity to bring attention to this new and growing hobby. Melton and his collection were the subject of a well-illustrated article in LIFE magazine in 1942. In that article, Melton is pictured seated in this 1912 Speedwell.
In the late 1950s, the Speedwell was acquired Winthrop Rockefeller, and later by Dr. Samuel Scher, who was establishing one of the world's finest automobile collections. The car passed on to William Harrah in the 1960s and became part of the world's most famous auto museum: Harrah's Auto Collection.
Later sold during the Harrah dispersal auctions in the 1980s, the Speedwell eventually made its way into the Carl Schmitt collection. Mr. Schmitt entrusted the Speedwell to respected Brass-era specialist restorer Allan Schmidt. A full restoration was commissioned, this work being completed in 1999 and resulting in the magnificent state the Speedwell presents in today. During restoration, the Speedwell was fitted with a modern electric starter, not a bad thing when one considers the prospect of hand cranking the 50 horsepower engine! The Speedwell later sold at auction in 2008, and has resided in a prominent private Northeast collection since.
The Speedwell Speed Car has always been a well-regarded and respected sporting car, but what makes this example so special are its stellar looks. The body is unusually refined and perfectly proportioned. The handsome Speedwell has proven to be the only surviving example of this super sporty body type known to exist. Fitted to a nimble 123" wheelbase and reduced to its essential elements, the Speed Car model embodies the heroic era of early motoring.
Fortunately the Speedwell can back up its good looks (and name) with strong performance. The big, over 5" bore, 442ci engine generates healthy power, which propels the light and nimble machine with ease. The short wheelbase and light weight provides for sure footed handling and light steering. The tall-geared transmission is easy to shift and its substantial lever and throw is rewarding to run through the gears.
This magnificent machine embodies all the features that make this era so fascinating. One can easily imagine racing through the countryside with the mandatory goggles, rear-facing cap and with the exhaust cut-out blaring. Every great collection needs at least one important brass era car and here is one that truly ticks all the boxes. With its sensational looks, superb provenance and history, the chance to own this singular example of the ultimate Speedwell is an opportunity that should not be missed.