The Du Ponts have long been one of America’s wealthiest and most powerful industrial families. Their financial interest in the burgeoning Automobile industry came via Pierre S. du Pont, who played a critical role in rescuing General Motors after the notoriously unpredictable William “Billy” Durant nearly ran the company into the ground. Best known today for their global chemical business, the Du Pont clan has been involved in dozens of industries over time, yet one of the most intriguing projects was the du Pont automobile of 1919-1930 – a distinguished motorcar worthy of the famous family name.
- Paul du Pont registered Du Pont Motors just before World War I, initially to build marine engines. Following the Armistice, the company shifted its focus to automobile production. To not conflict with Pierre’s interests in General Motors, E. Paul positioned Du Pont Motors to compete with prestigious marques like Stutz, Packard, and Pierce-Arrow. To help the car stand out in a competitive market, Du Pont chose the 1919 International Salon rather than the New York Auto Show to debut the first model, with period advertisements proclaiming it was “As aristocratic as its name.”
The earliest Du Pont cars used proprietary four-cylinder engines, which the company soon abandoned in favor of outside suppliers Herschell-Spillman, and later Wisconsin Engines – the latter best known for powering the original Stutz Bearcat. In 1929 Du Pont introduced its most famous and best-selling car, the Model G. It utilized a 322 cubic-inch eight-cylinder L-head engine produced by Continental and was offered with wheelbase options ranging from 125-inches to a stately 150-inches, and with no fewer than sixteen body options by prestigious coachbuilders including Merrimac, Derham, and Waterhouse. Du Pont even tried their hands at racing, entering a Model G four-seat tourer in the 1929 Le Mans 24 hour race. Despite showing promise, it proved to be Du Pont’s final production car as the receivers moved in after just 273 Model Gs and 3 Model H chassis. Like many of their contemporaries, the onset of the Great Depression sealed Du Pont Motors’ fate, and despite their financial standing, the Du Pont family saw no reason to keep a money-losing entity afloat.
Of the 273 Model Gs produced, just 18 came with this handsome Convertible Coupe coachwork by Waterhouse Company of Webster, Massachusetts. This car, chassis number G-937, is the final of the series built and was delivered new via the Philadelphia Du Pont agency to the musician Nick Lucas. A multi-talented Jazz instrumentalist and singer, Lucas enjoyed a long career in music and movies from the early 1920s through the 1950s and beyond. He was also a connoisseur of Du Pont automobiles, having owned at least two other Model Gs. Accompanying factory build records confirm this is a genuine Waterhouse convertible coupe, with equipment including a four-speed gearbox, Schebler carburetor, 100 mph Waltham speedo, and a trunk rack. As delivered, it featured an all-black livery with Espania Red wheels and Bedford cord trim. Typical of nearly all Waterhouse bodies, the coachwork is beautifully designed and crafted with subtle compound curvature of the panels and elegantly restrained detailing.
While it isn’t known precisely how long Mr. Lucas owned this Du Pont, it appears the car survived the years remarkably intact. Photos from the early 2000s reveal it was complete and well-preserved, likely restored once before in the 60s or 70s. It was subsequently treated to a world-class professional restoration, finished off in a striking red and black livery. As presented today, it displays superb panel fit and paint quality with exquisite detailing and finish work. The interior has been fully restored in black leather, and it is authentically detailed with an engine-turned instrument panel, DuPont-branded gauges, and a Waltham clock. Likewise, the original, matching-numbers eight-cylinder engine is impeccably detailed and presented true to its original specification. The overall presentation is outstanding, befitting of a high-level concours restoration.
This lovely Waterhouse Du Pont has undeniable presence thanks to the subtly curvaceous coachwork, impressive scale, and of course, the gorgeous restoration. As a testament to its quality, this car participated in the 2015 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, displayed alongside a select group of significant Du Pont automobiles. It remains in superb condition and will undoubtedly be a welcome entry into a wide array of premier concours events and tours worldwide.
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