The American Automobile Company of Indianapolis, Indiana, was founded in 1906, and in their brief eight-year history, produced a variety of cars, although none are more highly regarded or memorable as their revolutionary Underslung models. The innovative chassis design of the Underslung had the axles set over the frame rails, resulting in a distinctly sporty appearance, low center of gravity, and necessitating the signature oversized wheels. The clever chassis design is attributed to Fred Tone, though some have mistakenly credited another young engineer and American Automobile Company employee, one Harry C. Stutz. Stutz did work for the firm in its early days, and he designed their conventional line of cars, though he left in 1907. Like many manufacturers of their day, American Auto Co. vehicles rapidly grew in size and stature, and by 1911, their portfolio included powerful 50 and 60-horsepower engines in the Underslung chassis. Unfortunately, the high price of these models limited sales, and they never met expectations of management. By 1914, the company was bankrupt, and its assets were sold. Although they’re just a minuscule blip on the radar screen of automotive history, American Underslungs have long been prized by motoring celebrities – Captain Larz Anderson bought one new, and the Underslung was one of Briggs Cunningham’s first and most prized antique automobiles.
For the 1912 model year, American simplified their range into three models – the Traveler, Tourist, and Scout. The Scout was strictly a two-passenger affair with sporty and rakish roadster bodywork. Priced at $1,250, it was the most affordable of the line, but even that was not enough to save the firm, and the doors were shut just two years later. This stunning Model 22 Scout is believed to be the only surviving 1912 example extant and is well-known among marque enthusiasts. While its earliest history has yet to be discovered, Walter Seeley included it in the roster of known American Underslungs he compiled for the July-August 1972 issue of Antique Automobile. At that time, Seeley noted that the car had been previously restored and was owned by Mr. L. Stillwell. In 2008, it joined the most recent owner’s prestigious collection, and was shortly thereafter meticulously disassembled and taken down to bare metal for a concours restoration.
Refinished in white with black accent lines, a crimson chassis, and an array of highly polished brass accessories, this Scout is positively stunning. Upon completing the restoration, it was shown at the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in 2013, and the Ault Park Concours in 2014, where it earned Best in Class. The detailing is exquisite, and it features beautifully restored Gray & Davis lamps, Prestolite acetylene generator, Warner speedo, rear-mounted spare, and the radiator is adorned with a brass “THE AMERICAN” emblem and magnificent soaring eagle mascot. A digital file containing over 1,000 photos of the restoration will accompany the sale.
Beneath the hood sits a 22.5-horsepower inline-four displacing 199 cubic inches. It is beautifully detailed with a correct Rayfield updraft carburetor, period-correct fittings, plumbing, and wiring. While it is the smallest engine in American’s 1912 line, it pairs perfectly with the compact and nimble Scout chassis, making this perhaps one of the earliest examples of a purpose-built sports car in the US motoring industry.
Beautifully restored and detailed with jewel-like precision, this positively splendid American Underslung Scout is a highly sought-after collector piece that would be at home in virtually any prominent collection and a welcome sight on concours lawns worldwide.
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