Snowberger-Offy

1956 Snowberger-Offenhauser

Offered by Mecum | Indianapolis, Indiana | May 13-21, 2022

Photo – Mecum

Russ Snowberger competed in 15 Indianapolis 500s as a driver between 1928 and 1947 with one pole position and a best finish of fifth (two years in a row). He was the king of the “junk formula” that debuted in the 1930s that required stock-ish engine blocks.

He built and entered some of his own cars, including this Hupmobile-powered roadster. After his career as a driver ended, he became the chief mechanic for the Federal Engineering racing team based in Detroit. This lasted until 1961 and included prepping this Federal Engineering Detroit Special in 1956.

The chassis is based on a Kurtis 500C, and it’s powered by a 4.2-liter Offenhauser inline-four. No specific competition history is listed, but it was driven in period by Tony Bettenhausen, George Amick, Billy Garrett, and Tom Pistone. It’s currently owned by Ray Evernham, who is thinning his collection a bit at Mecum in Indy. Click here for more info.

Diamond T COE

1956 Diamond T 931C COE

Offered by Mecum | East Moline, Illinois | November 11, 2021

Photo – Mecum

COEs were seemingly everywhere even 30 years ago. Now seeing one on the road is kind of a treat, but in the 1970s they were much more commonplace. The cab-over-engine design is still popular in Europe, but different laws in the U.S. make them less appealing today than they were 40 or 50 years ago.

Something I find interesting about older semis is that it can be hard to pin down a year (or range of years) of manufacture. Trucks were generally in use until they were no longer functional. So some of the trucks you saw on the highway in the 1990s may very well have been produced in the 1970s, ’60s, or even earlier.

Diamond T is perhaps best well-known for its beautiful Art Deco pickup trucks of the 1930s and ’40s. But they were also building heavier trucks for commercial and military use. This 1956 COE model is said to have a “262 engine,” which I think means a 12.2-liter Cummins turbodiesel.

It’s one of the tallest COEs of its day and is well restored. It’s being sold on behalf of the American Truck Historical Society. You can read more about it here and see more from Mecum here.

Update: Sold $18,700.

Byers SR-100

1956 Byers SR-100

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Online | June 23-30, 2021

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

The 1950s was the golden era of fiberglass. And Jim Byers took full advantage of it in El Segundo, California, in 1955 when he designed the SR-100. This body was constructed of fiberglass and was meant to fit over a 100-inch wheelbase. He sold the molds to Victress in 1960.

Approximately 25 bodies were produced in that time, and only 10 are known to still exist. This one is fitted on a modified 1949 Ford chassis and features independent suspension. Power is from a 4.3-liter Chevrolet V8 that is mounted behind the front suspension, which technically, I guess, makes this car mid-engined.

It’s a pretty great example of a rare, cool, old sports car. The pre-sale estimate is $60,000-$70,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Not sold.

BMW 502 by Baur

1956 BMW 502 Cabriolet by Baur

Offered by Bring a Trailer Auctions | April 2021

Photo – Bring a Trailer Auctions

The BMW 502 was the V8-powered version of BMW’s six-cylinder 501. The 501 went on sale in 1951 and the 502 in 1954. Confusingly, there was also a “501 V8” model sold, with a detuned version of the 502’s.

The 502 was also better appointed than the 501, which made it expensive. They only sold 190 in the first sales year. The standard body style was a sedan, but Baur-built coupes and cabriolets were also available. This car is one of 57 cabriolet examples.

This one is powered by a 3.2-liter V8 sourced from a later BMW 3200L. The 502 was Germany’s first post-war V8-powered car. With a single carburetor, this engine was rated at 140 horsepower when new. The removed factory 2.6-liter V8 is included with the car.

This car was restored between 2011 and 2013, and it looks pretty fantastic. It’s been at Pebble Beach and is being offered out of a museum. The bidding is already at $125,000 as of this writing, and it is scheduled to end two days from this posting. Click here for more info.

Update: Sold $275,000.

Austin Metropolitan

1956 Austin Metropolitan Coupe

Offered by Historics Auctioneers | Ascot, U.K. | May 15, 2021

Photo – Historics Auctioneers

A few weeks ago we featured a Nash Metropolitan, which is what this car is usually referred to as. But, it was actually built under four different brands including Nash, Hudson, Metropolitan, and Austin. The easy way to identify an Austin is the right-hand-drive layout.

Actually, Austin built them all and then shipped most of them to the States for sale by Nash/Hudson/AMC. Metropolitans aren’t uncommon in the US (I love them), but the Austin version sure is. This one is still in England though.

Power is from a 1.5-liter inline-four (sourced from the Austin A50 Cambridge) that made about 68 horsepower. While the Metropolitan launched in the US in 1953, they didn’t go on sale in the UK until the very end of 1956, making this a very early UK model. Austin-branded production continued through 1959. There were no ’60 models in the UK, and 1961 cars were just known as “Metropolitans” as they were in the US. Both coupes and convertibles were available.

This one looks good and should bring between $20,000-$25,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $16,992.

Kurtis 500E

1956 Kurtis 500E

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | Auburn, Indiana | September 3-5, 2020

Photo Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Frank Kurtis built quite a few race cars in his day, but he only built one 500E. In fact, he only built three cars in 1956 in total, two of which were Novi-powered 500Fs. The E was produced for the Federal Engineering race team, and it was an evolution of the earlier 500D, except the engine was tilted to the left and the fuel cap shifted places on the tail.

The engine would’ve been an Offenhauser inline-four. The car currently houses a mock-up of an Offy, but it’s not actually powered. The competition history for this chassis includes:

  • 1956 Indianapolis 500 – 7th (with Bob Veith)
  • 1957 Indianapolis 500 – DNQ (with Billy Garrett)
  • 1958 Indianapolis 500 – 14th, DNF (with Bob Christie)
  • 1959 Indianapolis 500 – 14th, (with Jimmy Daywalt)
  • 1960 Indianapolis 500 – 17th (with Shorty Templeman)
  • 1961 Indianapolis 500 – 10th (with Norm Hall)
  • 1962 Indianapolis 500 – 21st, DNF (with Chuck Hulse)
  • 1964 Indianapolis 500 – Never arrived

Yeah, it was raced at Indy, a lot. It was supposed to go back in ’64, but they never ended up preparing it. The car’s trail went cold, until John Snowberger, went on the hunt for his dad’s old race cars (his father, Russ, was Federal Engineering’s crew chief for many of those Indy appearances). He found a rusty old frame in a Detroit-area shop, which later turned out to be the remains of the 500E. It has been semi-restored, and is now expected to bring between $90,000-$120,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $68,200.

Rambler Cross Country

1956 Nash Rambler Cross Country

Offered by Mecum | Indianapolis, Indiana | July 10-18, 2020

Photo – Mecum

Rambler is one of the most confusing American automotive marques. The first Ramblers were produced in 1900. They would become a product of the Jeffrey company in 1914, and Jeffrey became Nash during WWI.

Nash would later produce Rambler-branded cars, up until 1958, when Rambler became its own marque again (before once more becoming a model under the AMC brand). The 1956 Rambler was completely redesigned, and some seem to think it was its own marque beginning in 1956. The ’56 and ’57 Ramblers were pretty cool looking, especially in wagon form as shown here.

Power is from a 3.2-liter inline-six that was factory rated at 130 horsepower. Production totals are hard to come by for the $2,326-when-new Cross Country wagon, as the totals are combined with the mid-level Rambler Super Station Wagon. Between the two models, 21,554 were built. Turquoise is one of the best 50s colors, making this wagon a winner. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $24,200.

Elva Mk I/B

1956 Elva Mk I/B

Offered by Bonhams | Knokke-Heist, Belgium | October 5, 2018

Photo – Bonhams

Elva Engineering Co. Ltd. was founded by Frank Nichols in 1955. The first series of cars, the Mk I, were based on a previous Nichols creation, the CSM, and were sold as bare rigid tubular chassis with a live rear axle. Some assembly required.

In 1956 the Mk I/B was introduced and it came with an engine – a 1.1-liter Coventry  Climax straight-four. The streamlined fiberglass body was actually built by Falcon Shells and it’s estimated that only 14 were built. This example was road raced around the Midwest its first owner, seeing track time at the likes of Road America and more.

This car was expertly restored in the early 2000s and still shows very well. It is thought to be the final Mk I/B built and is expected to bring between $160,000-$260,000 at auction. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $165,398.

Fina Sport Convertible

1956 Fina Sport Convertible

Offered by Bonhams | Carmel, California | August 24, 2018

Photo – Bonhams

The Fina Sport was a dramatic and beautiful American-built, Italian-styled, 1950s dreamboat designed and constructed by automotive engineer Perry Fina. Fina gained a lot of knowledge working for Fiat and Isotta Fraschini – both in their early years – before returning home and setting up shop in New York to fine tune other people’s cars.

The first model he built under his own name was a coupe and then he opted for a convertible. Styled by Vignale in Italy, it clearly blends American and Italian lines. Power comes from a 5.4-liter Cadillac V-8 good for 250 horsepower.

Fina only built a few cars and this is the only restored example in existence. The restoration was completed earlier this year and it’s ready and eligible for all the major shows. A rare car from a manufacturer that barely got anything out the door, this convertible should bring between $750,000-$950,000 at auction. Click here for more info and here for more from Bonhams.

Update: Sold $775,000.

Buckler Mk V

1956 Buckler Mk V

Offered by Brightwells | Bicester, U.K. | June 24, 2018

Photo – Brightwells

Derek Buckler was one of many enterprising Britons who wanted to build light sports cars in the aftermath of WWII. Based in Reading, he set up shop in 1947 and managed to churn out about 400 cars through 1962. The intended destination for his cars were race tracks.

These are not common cars today. As you can see, they are tiny and look a little basic. But this two-seat roadster made up for any design demerits while on track. The Mk V is powered by a 1.2-liter straight-four from a Ford Prefect. Top speed? 80 mph.

The Mark V was the first car Buckler built (but so named so others wouldn’t know), becoming available in 1949 and lasting through 1955. A slightly lengthened Mk VI was also offered. This would be a great car for hillclimbing and welcomed at most such events. It should bring between $8,000-$10,500. Click here for more from Brightwells.

Update: Withdrawn.