1915 Crane-Simplex Model 5 Sport Berline by Brewster
Offered by Bonhams | Greenwich, Connecticut | June 3, 2012
Tell me that isn’t a beautiful car. Quite a number of cars of this vintage have upright grilles that lead the cowl straight back to the firewall and passenger compartment. It’s like somebody fitted two rectangles together and called it a day. But look at the flow of the front of this car – how the cowl sweeps right into the windshield. It’s one of my favorite early automotive design touches. The roof rack completes the picture of this car, full of a wealthy family, their belongings strapped to the roof, travelling on to some Gilded Age vacation home on the New England coast.
Crane-Simplex is one of those marques that went through quite a few different names and owners over the years. A brief history: The Smith & Mabley Manufacturing Company began building the S&M Simplex in 1904. Two years later the company was broke and it was absorbed by the Simplex Automobile Company, the badging was shortened to “Simplex.” In 1915, the Crane Motor Car Company purchased Simplex and Crane-Simplex was born. In 1920, Mercer (and the ill-fated Hare’s Motors corporation) acquired Crane-Simplex for two years before Henry Crane (who founded the Crane Motor Car Company) bought it back after Hare’s Motors went bust. He tried to revive the company but it was gone from the marketplace by 1924.
The car featured here has a six-cylinder engine displacing 9.24-liters and it is from the first year of production. The body is by Brewster and, because the engine puts out significant power, it’s big. Crane-Simplex cars were for the very wealthy – John D. Rockefeller had one. They were well built and expensive. The one seen here sold for $13,800 in 1915. Only 121 Crane-Simplex cars were made in total.
The car is presented as “original” while having been “worked over” (which I take to mean “restored as needed”) so it can be driven long distances. Original or not, this would be one hell of a car to drive on a classic car tour. It’s one of the most exclusive pre-war American automobiles. It is exceptional.
The pre-sale estimate is $100,000-$140,000, and after looking at it, this sounds remarkably fair. To read the complete lot description, click here. And for more from Bonhams in Connecticut, click here.
Update: Not sold.