Tucker, one-off Duesenberg highlight Tupelo museum auction

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1948 Tucker 1028 did nearly 3,000 miles in testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway | Bonhams photos

A 1948 Tucker that was one of the original Indianapolis test cars, a Duesenberg Model J and a 1976 Lincoln Continental Mk IV purchased by Tupelo native Elvis Presley are among the more than 160 vehicles that will be up for bidding April 26-27 as Bonhams handles the deaccession of the Tupelo Automobile Museum.

“The collection is a cornucopia of wonderful machines, telling the story of the development of the automobile and charting the various ways in which manufacturers pioneered self-propelled vehicles,” said Bonhams vice president of motoring, Rupert Banner. “The scale, breadth and presentation of Spain’s museum is just extremely impressive.”

As a deaccession sale, the auction is being conducted on a no-reserve basis. 

Museum’s collection is being sold to fund late collector’s educational foundation

Spain is Frank K. Spain, a television pioneer and car collector who opened his collection as a museum in 2002. Spain died in 2006 and his widow, Jane Spain, said she and a group of volunteers could no longer maintain the museum. She also said that the sale of the collection will go toward an educational foundation that was one of her husband’s dreams.

The collection includes vehicles from the 1890s to the 1990s and every decade in between, Bonhams said.

The Tucker 48 (No. 1028) is one of seven that Preston Tucker took to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for endurance runs in September and October, 1948. No. 1028 accumulated 2,931 miles in that test, according to Bonhams auction catalog. 

The car became one of six owned in the 1950s by Bob Turner of Minneapolis. The went through several owners before Charles Lehnen had it restored and refinished in its original beige color.  Lehnen moved from Wisconsin to Florida, where he put the car in the care of Richard Jones, one of the founders of the Tucker Automobile Club of America. Spain purchased the car in 1996 in Florida. 

The car retains its original engine (335-35) and was the third car produced after the gas tank was relocated from the rear to the front of the car, a change necessitated by the installation of an automatic transmission, Bonhams notes in its catalog. Bonhams expects the car bring $1.25 million to $2 million at the auction.

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1934 Duesenberg Model J has one-off coachwork by Rollston

The Model J Duesenberg is a 1934 Prince of Wales Berline with one-off coachwork by Rollston. Bonhams notes that the car (chassis 2575) retains its original chassis, engine, firewall and body. 

The car originally was produced for a customer in Los Angeles, believed to have been air mail pioneer Walter Varney. The car was part of Homer Fitterling’s Duesenberg collection in the 1970s and ‘80s and in the early 1990s was purchased by Dalton, Georgia, carpet manufacturer Ed Weaver for his huge collection. Weaver died soon thereafter and Spain acquired the car.

Bonhams has set a pre-auction value of $500,000 to $600,000 on the car.

Though valued at only $20,000 to $40,000, the bright blue 1976 Lincoln Mark IV was purchased by Presley as a gift for a police captain in Denver, Colorado, who had provided security services for Presley appearances. The car was sold at an auction in 1995 and became part of the Tupelo museum collection.

Among other vehicles on the docket are a 1905 REO single-cylinder runabout, 1910 Guide Model 45 Scout, a 1917 Pierce-Arrow Model 48-B-4 Runabout, a 1927 Hispano-Suiza T49 short-chassis drophead coupe, a 1927 Stutz Series AA Blackhawk Speedster, a 1930 Hispano-Suiza H6B chauffeur coupe, a 1936 Lagonda LG45 Tourer, a Brazilian-built 1974 Volkswagen SP2, a 1985 Tritan A2 Aero Car, the 1967 “Big Daddy” Roth “Wishbone” and the 1982 George Barris “Barrister.”

To see the full docket, visit the auction website.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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