By Jim Motavalli
12:10 PM EDT, May 29, 2013
WESTPORT— A few weeks ago, I saw a very cool 1907 Columbia Electric Park Surrey on display at the EV Road Rally in Westport. Now, that car is for sale as part of the epic Dragone Classic Motorcars auction May 31, with 65 cars destined to find new owners.
The Columbia was built in Hartford, and restored by the Henry Ford Museum in 1990. "Front passengers are greeted with rich black leather, while rear passengers ride in absolute comfort with rolled-and-tufted cloth, complete with buttons."
I don't know about absolute comfort — these cars were largely open to the elements. But Columbia only lasted until 1913, so this is a rare piece of history from the first, short-lived electric era (approximately 1900 to 1920). An rare 1913 Broc electric will also be auctioned.
I was able to visit with some of the cars at Dragone's Bridgeport restoration shop, in the auction and not, and it was as always a real feast for the eyes. One of the cutest, and not for sale, is an Israel-registered 1955 Abarth roadster with aluminum coachwork by Boano. Built for show, it has recently been prepared for the street—with all of the original interior intact. Underneath there's Fiat power of just 1,100 cc, but that does nothing to detract from its sporty provenance.
I much admired two Connecticut-built cars, both Locomobile Model 48s, a 1916 custom-bodied coupe and a 1921 tourer (bodied in New York for the president of Jack Frost sugar). The two-toned 1916 coupe, with body by Locke, was absolutely massive, with a gorgeous original leather interior that seated just two.
That Locomobile was capable of cruising at 70 mph. Yes, they were made in Bridgeport, back when Bridgeport made stuff. Later, Buckminster Fuller built his Dymaxions in the same factory space. It might make $300,000 in the auction.
In Bridgeport, I wandered among such cars as a 1929 Packard Sport Phaeton with coachwork by Dietrich, an Isotta Fraschini, a pristine supercharged 1937 Cord 812 Sportsman, and many more. Another highlight of the auction is a 1938 Mercedes 320N Roadster that came home with an American serviceman and lived for decades in an Orange barn, not far from the Milford Post Mall.
Did I mention the ultra-rare 1941 Chrysler barrelback woodie, one of five surviving? I'd be happy to own a 1940 Lincoln Continental V-12 convertible, the 34th built. This is one of the most choice, designed under the aegis of the ill-fated Edsel Ford. You may be able to pick it up for $75,000.
The Dragone auction is Friday, May 31 at the showroom in Westport, 176 Post Road West. Call (203)335-4643 for more information.
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