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Marmon V16 Convertible Coupe by LeBaron, Silver, for sale in Warrensville Heights, Ohio, price on application.
Known as the “Hamilton” car, #22 has a well-known and fascinating history, and has received a top-quality restoration that went on to achieve a perfect 100-point score in CCCA national competition.
When Howard Marmon began development of his magnificent Sixteen in 1926, times were good for the automotive industry. With a variety of six - and eight-cylinder motorcars bearing his name, he, like many others in the car business, decided it was time to push the engineering envelope and develop something truly spectacular, something that would surpass all current vehicles in terms of performance and smoothness, something that would revolutionize the industry. Initial experiments mating a pair of Marmon straight-8s on a common crankshaft were scrapped, which led to the clean-sheet design of the mostly aluminum OHV 491 cubic inch 16-cylinder powerplant that became the pinnacle of Classic Era engine design. Unfortunately, the events of 1929 made such extraordinary luxury cars a commodity that many could no longer afford, and even those who could afford it found themselves embarrassed by their ostentation. Coupled with Cadillac arriving at the V16 party more than a year earlier and stealing what sales there were to be had, the Marmon Sixteen, while arguably a superior motorcar in every regard, was not able to generate the sales required for Marmon’s survival. As a result, just 392 Sixteens were built between 1931 and 1933, with fewer than 60 estimated to survive today.
This 1931 Marmon Sixteen convertible coupe by LeBaron, is number 24 of approximately 40 built and one of only a handful remaining (some sources claim as few as two while others claim as many as eight). Known as the “Hamilton” car, #24 has a well-known and fascinating history, and has received a top-quality restoration that went on to achieve a perfect 100-point score in CCCA national competition. For fans of the Classic Era, there are very few cars that can compete with a Sixteen for engineering excellence, performance, and status, and fewer still that are as desirable as the LeBaron convertible coupe.
Number 24 was purchased new by a young Yale student, whose father owned Century Electric in St. Louis. Alarmed by the car’s staggering $5200 purchase price, especially in a time when labor troubles were brewing in St. Louis, the lad’s father forced him to sell the new Marmon almost immediately. The lucky buyer was James E. Hamilton, an engineer at the Century Electric factory, who found the half-price proposition on such a magnificent car just too good to pass up. Mr. Hamilton drove the car sparingly for the next 25 years, until an accident with an unfortunate Volkswagen ended Mr. Hamilton’s Marmon driving days. Mr. Hamilton’s son, concerned for his father’s safety, locked the car up in a barn on an Indiana farm, where it sat until the 1980s.
Long after Mr. Hamilton the elder had passed away, his grandson, George, discovered the car in the barn, and was alarmed to see that the floor had rotted away under the massive automobile, leaving it resting on its frame rails and perched precariously on the ancient wooden floor joists. Three days later, with the help of some friends and some clever engineering, the Marmon was safely extracted and delivered to Walter Reynolds’ restoration shop in Indianapolis. At that same time, noted restorer and collector Phil Bray spotted the car and began a 12-year pursuit of the beautiful LeBaron convertible coupe, although it wasn’t until 1999 that he was finally able to negotiate its purchase.
Following the purchase, Mr. Bray treated the car to a no-expense-spared frame-off restoration to the very highest possible standards, and it debuted at the CCCA national meeting in Indianapolis in January, 2000. At that show, it scored a perfect 100 points and won the Primary Production Class. Subsequent to this, it won its AACA National Senior First Prize, as well as a CCCA Premier First Prize, all a testament to the quality and accuracy of the restoration.
Today the car remains in near-show ready condition, and a Saturday afternoon with a rag and some gentle cleaning underneath would easily return it to concours readiness. LeBaron is credited with the bodywork, and they did indeed build the bodies for Marmon, but it is actually the father/son team of Dorwin Teague Sr. and Jr. who should receive recognition for the Sixteen’s design. From the instantly identifiable fluted front fenders to the graceful curve of the rear valence, the Teagues created an imposing, stylish motorcar with very little ornamentation, a testament to exceptional design and near-perfect proportions, although any 2-seat convertible on a 145-inch wheelbase is sure to be breathtaking.
The lovely paint scheme on this car is actually a very light teal with a cream pinstripe, a color combination devised by former GM designer Dave Holls and Mrs. Bray. It’s a wonderful, subtle contrast to the many glamor restorations performed on Marmon Sixteens, and the understated elegance of the finish suits the rakish rumble seat bodywork quite well. Of course, the workmanship is beyond reproach and the finish remains exceptional, with a beautiful shine and no signs of wear, use, or damage on any of the painted surfaces. Of note, the pinstripes are hand-painted, and the fenders were finished to match the bodywork, a new concept for 1931 that would become the industry standard just a few years later. All the chrome is beautifully restored and remains in better-than-new condition with no blemishes, cracking, or scratching. Fortunately, thanks to this car’s history and long-term storage, all of the original components were intact and very good condition, so the restoration work is superior in every respect.
Inside, contrasting dark teal leather was stitched in the original patterns, covering the generous front bench seat, door panels, and kick panels, as well as the rumble seat area. The hides remain in almost new condition, with only the driver’s seat showing the most minor creases from people seated behind the wheel, but the rest remains as-new. Fresh carpets were fitted with a suitably luxurious pile, and continued onto the lower doors to protect the leather, as well as custom-fitted floor mats bound in matching teal leather. Inspired by aircraft design, the instrument panel offers an array of comprehensive and easy-to-read instruments, including an AC speedometer and a Jaeger eight-day clock, with individual control levers underneath for such things as throttle, spark, heat, and ventilation. The steering wheel is surprisingly basic for such a magnificent automobile, rendered in black rubber with a simple horn button bearing the Marmon crest. Overhead, the tightly fitted top is gray canvas bound in more teal leather, and a matching boot is included with the car, although it has never been installed. The rumble seat offers spacious seating for two, with easy access thanks to three steps up the long rear deck and a hinged panel that makes entry and exit at least slightly more graceful. Leather flaps protect the body and tuck out of sight when the rumble seat lid is closed.
Additional aircraft influence can be found under the long hood, where the magnificent Marmon sixteen-cylinder engine uses aluminum castings for the crankcase and cylinder blocks, resulting in a relatively lightweight 970 pound engine. Pressed-in steel cylinder liners eliminated the wear issues Marmon experienced with earlier aluminum engine designs, the 45-degree V made it compact, and thanks to an expensive fork-and-blade connecting rod design, it was shorter than Cadillac’s V-16, which offered less displacement. Marmon’s wonderful engine also used the industry’s highest compression ratio, 6.0:1, and full pressure lubrication, which ensured quiet operation. At an even 200 horsepower, it was some 35 more horsepower more powerful than Cadillac’s 452 cubic inch engine, and with an estimated 400 pounds of torque, only Duesenberg’s mighty J could rival it for performance on the road. Of note, each Sixteen buyer received a certificate indicating that his car's chassis, fitted with a test body that simulated the weight of a complete vehicle, had been driven 210 miles at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with the last 10 miles being run at \"wide open throttle at not less than 105 miles an hour. \"An additional test demanded that the driver downshift from high to second gear at 80 MPH without any gear clashing. Whether this is true (or even possible) is a matter of some speculation, but there is no denying that that any Marmon Sixteen is a dazzling performer on the road, and this convertible coupe is easily capable of running at modern highway speeds without effort.
The 51,827 miles shown on the odometer are believed to be authentic, and the car has been driven very sparingly since the restoration was completed. The engine shows only light signs of use, most notably some minor discoloration of the finish around the exhaust ports. The porcelainized manifolds remain shiny and undamaged, the bright aluminum valve covers have a lovely soft shine, and the correct 2-barrel downdraft carburetor remains in place atop the engine. Using the added electric fuel pump to prime the carburetor, it starts quickly and idles smoothly, although the muscular note from the dual exhaust system suggests great power, a wonderful accompaniment to open-air motoring. The transmission is a standard 3-speed manual, with synchronizers on 2nd and 3rd, and the rear end is so massive, it looks like it belongs under a railroad car rather than an automobile. Steering is surprisingly light and direct, and the oversized 16-inch brake drums offer a servo assist, so braking is remarkably effective. 18-inch wire wheels were standard equipment on the Marmon Sixteen, with those on this car hidden behind stylish chrome wheel discs that further emphasize the car’s sporty demeanor. Mr. Bray, who has owned many Marmon Sixteens in his long and distinguished car collecting career, says that this one may very well be the best driving Sixteen he’s ever experienced.
This convertible coupe represents a very rare opportunity to own what is perhaps the most desirable of all Sixteen body styles, restored to the highest possible standards by some of the best names in the industry. Still in near-flawless condition throughout, it can form the cornerstone of any significant collection, and will be welcome at any major event in the world. Given the engineering, performance, and scarcity of any Marmon Sixteen, plus the convertible coupe body style, it remains only a matter of time before prices begin to match those of, say, a Duesenberg J Murphy convertible coupe, which is considerably more common. This is an A-list Classic which, even at this price, must surely be considered somewhat of a bargain.
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Engine:491 cubic inch ohv v16
Location:Warrensville Heights, Ohio