Held by Bonhams* at Middletown, Rhode Island, it was a white-glove affair realising a premium-inclusive total of just over $4.3m on April 29.
The 35 collectors’ cars which rounded off the auction provided the top prices of the day headed, at $760,000 (£613,000) by a Thomas Flyer, a 50HP seven passenger touring car from 1906.
The 345 lots of automobilia which preceded the collectors’ cars covered a huge variety of material including car accessories, model cars, motoring themed ceramics, posters and petrol pumps, motoring trophies and motor themed vesta cases.
Posters race to high prices
Successful posters in the sale included a 3ft 11in x 5ft 2in (1.2 x 1.57m) example for the Grand Prix de l’ACF at Dieppe from 1908, a striking design by Bric showing a goggles-wearing driver speeding along a coastal road in a racing car.
It was printed on paper by B Chapellierjeune, Paris, and mounted on linen and took $27,000 (£21,775), over four times the $5000-7000 guide.
Keen competition also came for a Paris-printed Michelin tyre poster from c.1905 designed by E Montaut measuring 5ft 1in x 3ft 10in (1.54 x 1.16m) depicting another racing car with the legend Le Pneu Michelin A Vaincu le Rail (The Michelin Tyre has beaten the Rail). It went beyond a $3000-4000 guide to take $20,000 (£16,130).
A c.1901 poster measuring 4ft 10in x 3ft 7in (1.47 x 1.09m) advertising Automobiles Corre, a design by Philippe Chapellier prominently featuring a large unicorn logo, realised $10,000 (£8065) against a guide of $1000-1500.
Bing ‘Gordon Bennett’
An early rarity among the selection of toy and model cars was a 11¼in (28.5cm) long clockwork-powered ‘Gordon Bennett’ racing car made by the German firm of Bing, c.1904.
This was hand painted in yellow with gold details and numbered 71, had velvet upholstered pierced metal white seats, a red chassis and spoked wheels with white rubber tyres and was described as in ‘playworn’ condition. Estimated at $6000- 8000, it sold for $26,000 (£20,970).
Much more modestly guided at $300-400 was another early clockwork racing car: an 8in (20cm) French model of c.1905 lithographed in red and with a driver and mechanic and a maker’s mark to the rear. This ended up making $6000 (£4840).
Fast and flamboyant
Erwin Ross Thomas, whose factory produced The Flyer, started out in the bicycle-making business working for H A Lozier & Co. He left to take over the Buffalo Automobile and Auto-Bi company, producing bicycles and motorcycle engines, changing its name in 1900 to Thomas Auto-Bi.
The first Thomas automobiles, small runabouts, were produced in 1903. The firm progressed with a more substantial frame and a three cylinder engine. Because of its sprightly performance the new car was christened a Flyer by Thomas’ Chicago agent CA Coey, a highly marketable name that stuck.
The engine size progressed with the addition of extra cylinders so that by 1905 the firm offered a range of four Flyers: a four-cylinder 40hp, two four-cylinder 50hp and a six-cylinder 60hp.
Thomas Flyers soon gained fame among the faster and more flamboyant touring cars of their time and were often finished in bright colours with ornate accessories.
The remarkably original Flyer offered at Bonhams – almost certainly the only unrestored example of this model, said the auction house – had been acquired from the well-known William Fisk Harrah collection in the 1980s. It sold at Bonhams to a bidder in the room.
* Buyer’s premium for Cars is 12/10%, for Automobilia 27.5/26/20/14.5%