1914 Peugeot L45 Grand Prix
Offered by Bonhams | Los Angeles, California | November 11, 2017
Over the past year I’ve done some (super nerdy) analytical statistician-type stuff around the Indy 500. During the course of that research, I found some interesting things and this car features prominently among them. We’ll get to that in a minute, but first let’s say that yes, this is the coolest Peugeot you’re likely to ever see up for sale.
As one of the oldest car companies in the world, Peugeot has been involved in racing longer than most companies have existed. The L45 was one in a series of purpose-built racing cars that started with the L76 shortly after 1910. It became the L56 for 1913 and those were raced around Europe. For 1914, the car was updated again, this time to the L45 specification you see here. Peugeot built four of them for the 1914 French Grand Prix (three competed and this was the spare).
It features four-wheel brakes, shaft-drive, and a 112 horsepower, 4.5-liter straight-four. While racing in Europe was big business for Peugeot, there was this little race on the other side of the Atlantic that was getting a lot of attention. They sent one of their premier drivers, Jules Goux, there in 1913 and he was the first to take the checkered flag at the third Indianapolis 500. Keeping in mind there were no Indy 500s in 1917 or 1918, the race history for the chassis you see here includes:
- 1916 Indianapolis 500 – 3rd (with Ralph Mulford)
- 1919 Indianapolis 500 – 19th, DNF (with Art Klein)
- 1919 Sheepshead Bay board track race – 4th (with Klein)
- 1919 Cincinnati board track race – 2nd (with Klein)
- 1923 AAA dirt championship – 2nd (with Joe Boyer)
- 1949 Indianapolis 500 – DNQ (with Lindley Bothwell)
Wait, what was that last one? This car was owned by Peugeot and passed to a few owners including Lutcher Brown, Frank Book, Ralph Mulford, Art Klein, and finally to Lindley Bothwell. Bothwell’s legendary collection of early racing cars featured this among others. Feeling sporty, he took the car to the 1949 Indy 500 and bested the qualifying speed that the Peugeots posted in 1916. Unfortunately, it was far too slow to make the race. But it makes for a pretty interesting, if not bizarre story. Imagine someone showing up at the 2019 Indy 500 trying to qualify in Bobby Rahal’s race-winning car from 1986.
Not many of these Peugeot racing cars survive and this is supposedly the only one with Grand Prix history (even if it was a spare car). It is largely original, though the engine has been rebuilt since 2000 – but it is still capable of 100 mph. It’s one of the most interesting cars to come up for sale in some time. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.