Once the pride of Bridgeport, Connecticut, Locomobile rose to prominence as one of America’s most prestigious and exclusive automobile manufacturers. After a false start in the steam car business, Locomobile turned exclusively to petrol engines by the end of 1905, and before long, their stock in the emerging motoring industry soared. Their cars were extremely well-built, and they enjoyed considerable success in motorsport at a time when reliability and durability mattered as much as outright speed. In 1911, Locomobile introduced the T-head inline-six powered Model 48, which remained their top offering for an unprecedented eighteen years – the remainder of the company’s existence. Locomobile’s standing among the likes of Packard, Cadillac, and Pierce-Arrow attracted the attention of William C. Durant, the founder and former CEO of General Motors, who had been ousted by the board of his own firm and had a reputation for unpredictability. Durant capitalized on a period of poor management at Locomobile, which resulted in receivership in the early twenties. Eager to return to prominence in the car business, Durant swept in and purchased the company, making it the crown jewel in his new, GM-rivaling automobile empire.
Unfortunately, Durant’s second attempt at a motoring empire ended in failure, taking down some great names in the process – Locomobile included. But before that, Locomobile introduced a flurry of new models, including the all-new Model 90. This new six-cylinder car was only slightly smaller in size than the big Model 48, and it featured a thoroughly modern, L-head monobloc engine that was lighter and nearly as powerful as the older T-head design. Unlike lesser models that used outsourced engines, the Model 90’s inline-six was designed and built entirely in-house at Locomobile, so there was no question it met their exacting standards. The Model 90 was beautifully built and offered with a series of fabulously expensive bodies, making it a worthy companion to the 48 at the top of the Locomobile line. A series of lesser models introduced during Durant’s ownership did little more than tarnish the illustrious Locomobile name, but the Models 48 and 90 carried the torch proudly until the doors closed for good in 1929.
On offer is this marvelous and exceedingly rare Locomobile Model 90, wearing original and distinctly sporting dual-windshield “Sportif” coachwork. It is one of two examples believed to exist, and it is presented in wonderfully preserved condition, having had just three owners in ninety-three years. According to the 2nd owner, the respected early collector M. L. “Bud” Cohn, this car was special ordered for Russell Clifford Durant. The son of William C. Durant, Cliff was an accomplished racing driver, musician, and yachtsman, and he served as Locomobile’s President at the time this car was built. The powerful and stylish Sportif was undoubtedly a suitable machine for a wealthy playboy like Cliff Durant. Mr. Cohn reportedly purchased the car directly from the Durant family at some time in the early 1950s, not long after Billy’s death. It remained a centerpiece of Cohn’s collection for nearly 30 years, and he kept it in remarkably original condition excepting some upholstery work and cosmetic freshening along the way. Documents show that in 1976, Cohn sold the Locomobile to Mr. Sam Makhanian, also of Los Angeles. Makhanian was a loving custodian of this beautiful and significant Locomobile, and he took great care to carry on preserving its exceptional originality.
Today, the fabulous Locomobile Sportif remains unrestored and well-preserved, displaying a charming and inviting patina. The original coachwork is in superb condition, featuring evocative details like twin rear-mount spares, wood spoke artillery wheels with black wall tires, flying eagle mascot, and stanchion-mounted search lamp which all further enhance its distinct appeal. Two-tone dark green and black paintwork suits the car’s sporting character and is in good order considering its age. Likewise, the interior is in fine order, trimmed in tan upholstery to compliment the paintwork and tan top. It was likely reupholstered during Mr. Cohn’s ownership, though he was careful to retain the original hardware, controls, convertible top bows, and other fittings.
Locomobile’s fabulous L-head inline-six presents well under the hood, displaying a patina consistent with the car’s history and originality. It runs and drives quite well, with plenty of thrust from the Locomobile-built 372 cubic-inch six. The next keeper will undoubtedly relish in the powerful and refined 90 horsepower L-head engine and beautifully engineered chassis, and it needs little more than new tires and some minor dialing-in before embarking on tours and driving events.
The extensive history file contains original correspondence between Bud Cohn and the most recent owner, including a bill of sale with a statement from Cohn regarding the car’s history within the Durant family. Also included are a number of California registration certificates that verify its long-term ownership, along with period service information, and a reprinted manual. This Model 90 Sportif is a beautiful example of Locomobile’s scarce and exciting flagship, beautifully preserved and ideally suited to CCCA CARavan touring or similar events. Its offering represents a unique opportunity to acquire one of the rarest and most charismatic of the mighty Locomobiles.
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