1915 Liberty LaFrance Speedster

The word "unique" only begins to describe this astonishing creation, a Liberty LaFrance 27-liter, 12-cylinder Speedster. Built during the 1980s and 90s by Roger Sweet, an active vintage racer in the UK and the United States, it is a combination of period components that looks like it could have been made a century ago. Sweet started with a 1918 American LaFrance fire truck chassis and Rolls-Royce front axle, then fit bodywork from a 1914 Krit, bodywork that was so well preserved and complete that it even had its original leather upholstery. It fit beautifully on the long fire truck chassis. What distinguishes this motorcar most of all, however, is its engine. It is a water cooled, overhead camshaft 27-liter (1,649 ci) Liberty V-12 originally designed for use in Allied Forces' aircraft after America's entry into the First World War. The Liberty was designed by Packard's Jesse Vincent and Hall-Scott's Elbert J. Hall, becoming a crucial factor in Allies' ultimate success and was produced in excess of 20,000 examples by Buick, Ford, Cadillac, Lincoln, Marmon and Packard. Imagine, then, the effect that this colossal powerplant has in an automobile. It has dry sump lubrication, is fitted with a three-speed manual transmission with 2-speed intermediate gearing, giving six effective ratios to its double chain final drive. Horsepower is around 400 at maximum revs of just 2,000 and torque is an incredible 1,000 lb-ft, meaning that the Liberty LaFrance makes even the steepest hills disappear. The top speed of this car, built with components from before 1920, is estimated at 140 miles per hour and it has been timed on Britain's MIRA test track at 111 mph. Finished in blue, it also has 21-inch wire wheels, 21-inch blackwall tires, dual rear-mounted spares, rear-mounted luggage rack, brass headlights, brass radiator and a tonneau cover. The right running board doubles as the engine's dry sump oil reservoir, Completed in April 1994, it has been rallied and has participated three times in the Oldtimer Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. The Liberty LaFrance was brought to the United States in 1999, and the import documents and copies of its UK registration come with the car. This automobile's sheer size give it an imposing, commanding presence and the large unmuffled exhaust pipes running down each side of the car give voice to the gargantuan V-12 that has to be heard to be believed with the detonation from each of the slow-revving engine's 137 cubic inch cylinders clearly reported. The presentation of this car is also admirable because it had a pleasing level of patina when completed twenty years ago and still wears it gracefully today. It very much looks the part, not like a shiny re-creation but a distinguished vintage supercar in the tradition of other aero engined 'speedcars'. An epic and imaginative creation, it is well built, fast and very distinctive. Every time the engine starts up is an occasion, and there is just nothing else quite like this Liberty LaFrance Speedster. It is unique.

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