May 21, 2013

95 year-old 1918 LaFrance Open Speedster speeds to surrey auction

It would be frowned on as a fuel-guzzling, eco-ignorant behemoth if manufactured today but, as the Roaring Twenties approached, what better way could there have been to celebrate and impress the neighbours than in a mighty 14.5-litre, 1918 LaFrance Open
Speedster, a superb example of which comes to auction at Historics at Brooklands, Surrey, on June 1.

With roots that go back to around 1830, American LaFrance was, and remains, a manufacturer of fire trucks. But they also applied their talents to the build of a number of passenger vehicles from their New York premises. These were based on their fire truck chassis, and hence the significant and sturdy proportions of the LaFrance Speedster.

The model on sale at Historics, SV 5636, was imported into the UK in the mid 1980s. It was used extensively on tours and rallies before it received a complete overhaul, bringing it to its impressive current-day standards.

Kerb presence is what your get aplenty with this magnificent vehicle. Driver and passenger sit up high, resplendent in a 'Roi de Belge' blue leather bench seat with wicker finish, a long polished aluminium bonnet stretching out before them and a period touring trunk to the rear, with superb artillery wooden wheels giving a distinctly sporting stance.

But it's not just the style of this car that is larger than life. The car weighs in at 3.5-tonnes and a measures of its gargantuan proportions is in the fact that the six cylinders in the 14.5-litre engine displaces 2.4-litres, more than the total engine capacity of an average family saloon car.

Starting is by hand crack (although for the less physically adept, the push-button provided is surely a better choice). With its massive torque, a gearbox has little relevance other than to accomplish greater vigour and panache, with three forward gears capable of propelling the Speedster to a heady pace, 150 kph being typical for Speedsters used in competition.

With the capacity to draw as much attention as any £1-m supercar, the LaFrance Speedster is also the ideal car for anyone who fancies embarking on an adventure. Hugely popular on the Peking to Paris Rally (where all but one event to date has featured a La France entry) and on every running of the West to East Road Race in the USA, the Speedster is guaranteed to turn heads and get people talking wherever it goes. 
The sale price of the American La France Open Speedster is estimated by Historics at between £42,000-£48,000 and robust bidding is anticipated internationally.


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