1904 Wilson-Pilcher

1904 Wilson-Pilcher 12/16hp Four-Cylinder Four-Seat Phaeton

Offered by Bonhams | London, England | November 2, 2012

In 1898, Walter Wilson and his partner, Percy Pilcher, attempted to make an aero-engine and beat the Wright Brothers to powered flight. Unfortunately, Pilcher was killed in a gilding accident in 1899. So, in 1900, Wilson set up shop in Westminster, London to build automobiles bearing both his name and that of his late friend.

The car seen here is powered by a 2.7-liter four-cylinder making 12/16 horsepower. Wilson was a brilliant engineer who designed and built everything himself, inventing numerous things along the way. In 1903, the company was bought by Armstrong-Whitworth and moved to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Production continued until 1907.

When the First World War broke out, Wilson joined the Royal Navy but eventually found himself working alongside William Tritton and developing the world’s first tank, receiving a sizable reward for doing so. In the late 1920s, he would invent the pre-selector gearbox which would be used on various vehicles from Armstrong-Siddeley cars to buses and railcars.

This particular car is the 52nd Wilson-Pilcher built after they moved to Newcastle. It is believed about 100-200 cars were built in total and this is thought to be the only survivor. It was retained by the factory from new and given to Walter Wilson’s son as a gift. He eventually passed it on to his son who loaned it out to museums – including The Tank Museum in Bovington. In 2006, the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust volunteered to restore the car and now it is being offered for sale for the first time in history.

It is expected to sell for between $290,000-$350,000. For more information, click here. And for more from Bonhams in London, click here.

Update: Sold $325,000.

1904 Richard-Brasier

1904 Richard-Brasier Four-Cylinder 16HP Side-Entrance Tonneau

Offered by Bonhams | London, England | November 2, 2012

No, the guy who started this company was not that full of himself that he thought his first and last names needed to be on the company letterhead. Richard Brasier was not a person – in fact, Richard-Brasier (that hyphen is important!) was actually founded by two people: Henri Brasier and Georges Richard. (Ironically, Georges Richard sold cars under the name “Georges Richard” before Brasier joined him, so yeah, maybe he was a little full of himself).

Henri Brasier left Mors in 1901 and cars were offered as Richard-Brasiers beginning in 1902. It was short-lived, however, as Georges Richard left the company in 1905 to found Unic. Beginning in 1905 the cars were known simply as “Brasier.” And here is an rare example of this very fleeting marque.

This model, from the last year of production before switching names, uses a 2.3-liter straight-four making 16 horsepower (rated by the factory at the time it was built). It’s a large car for such a small power rating, as the company offered models up to 40 horsepower as well. The history of this car is known from 1975, when it entered display at a Dutch museum. It is definitely a driver, having run London-to-Brighton every year since 2000 (with one exception).

This is a truly glorious automobile from the pioneering days of motoring and it would be worth any serious collector’s time to think carefully about acquiring it. It is expected to sell for between $350,000-$480,000. For more information, click here. And for more from Bonhams’ Veteran car sale, click here.

Update: Sold $358,000.

World’s First 4-cylinder Car

1895 Buffum Four-Cylinder Stanhope

Offered by Bonhams | Carmel, California | August 17, 2012

You’re looking at the oldest American car ever offered for auction and the oldest American gasoline-powered car in private ownership. It was also the first four-cylinder car ever built – anywhere in the world. And you’ve likely never heard of it.

Herbert H. Buffum built his first car in 1895 (actually he started it in 1894). Anyway, this is it. While other early automotive manufacturers where attaching single and twin-cylinder engines, Buffum had an idea for something a little more useful but just as compact. A designer and builder of machines for the shoe industry, Buffum had the technical know-how to accomplish what he wanted. And what he accomplished was building the world’s first four-cylinder gasoline engine for an automobile. It was a inline-four.

A chassis was needed to house this technical marvel – and for that Buffum turned to a local carriage builder named George Pierce, a name that would go on to be synonymous with high-quality automobiles in the next decade. Buffum was secretive with his new car, keeping it locked away in a shed when not using it, but eventually he hand-built six others for customers prior to 1900, when he entered production as an official manufacturer. The cars he produced until 1906 were front-engined cars, unlike most of their American competitors.

Other Buffum firsts included America’s first eight-cylinder car (of 80 horsepower) in 1904. In 1905 saw the world’s first V8. Buffum died in 1933 and his widow sold this car the following year from the secretive shed where he kept it stashed. It has changed hands numerous times and has appeared in a number of museums. It is operational and presents an extremely rare opportunity to acquire a pre-1898 American car (as almost all of the others reside in museums).

The pre-sale estimate is $200,000-$280,000. For more details, click here. And for the rest of the lineup from Bonhams in Carmel, click here.

Update: Not sold.

Update II: Sold, $182,000 at Bonhams Veteran Motor Car sale, 2012.

St. Louis Four-Cylinder

1904 St. Louis Four-Cylinder Side Entrance Tonneau

For Sale at Hyman Ltd | St. Louis, Missouri

The St. Louis Motor Carriage Company was founded in 1898 in – where else – St. Louis, Missouri. The company was the first American company to ditch tiller steering in favor of a right-hand drive steering wheel. In 1902 the introduced a four-cylinder engine. In 1905, the company moved to Peoria, Illinois, but retained the name “St. Louis.”

The beautiful car you see here is the only surviving four-cylinder St. Louis in existence and one of about ten St. Louis cars (of any model) that survive. The ten-year-old restoration still looks brand new and the car is festooned with period accessories. Putting the top down (at least in photographs) makes the car look a lot bigger than it does when up.

The St. Louis car company ceased automobile production in 1907 and the company is not well known today. There were so many early car companies that churned out automobiles for about ten years or less. This car is from one of them. It’s quite nice and quite rare and if your a collector of rare makes of cars, this one’s for you. The price? $175,000. Check out the full description at Hyman Ltd’s website where it is for sale, guess where – in St. Louis.