1913 Cole Fifty Speedster

Like so many automakers of the early twentieth century, Cole of Indianapolis, Indiana, enjoyed brief success selling high-quality, high-price luxury automobiles but disappeared nearly as quickly as it rose. Cole automobiles were fast and powerful, proving themselves in the rugged and dusty days of early American motorsport. The Cole Flyer won the Massapequa Trophy during the 1910 Vanderbilt Cup and topped numerous other East and West Coast contests. The earliest production Cole models used 2-cylinder engines in 1909, switching to predominantly 4-cylinder engines by 1910, with six-cylinder and V8 engines added later. Primarily, Cole was an assembled vehicle using major components sourced from outside manufacturers. Joseph Cole considered this an advantage, believing no manufacturer could build every part of a vehicle as well as a specialist. In 1919, Cole was second only to Cadillac among luxury car manufacturers and was courted by Billy Durant to join his fledgling General Motors Corporation, though Joseph Cole declined the offer. Unfortunately, the post-WWI recession hit smaller companies like Cole particularly hard, and sales dwindled. By 1925, J.J. Cole began liquidating his eponymous company, and by the end of the year, he passed away suddenly at age 56.

For the 1913 model year, Cole was beginning to hit its stride. The lineup expanded to include two four-cylinder models and a 40hp six-cylinder model, each built on a different wheelbase chassis. The Cole Fifty featured a mighty 50 horsepower inline-four, set in a 122-inch wheelbase chassis and offered as a roadster, toy tonneau, or touring car. Interestingly, 1913 was the only year the four-cylinder Fifty had a higher horsepower rating than the six-cylinder Sixty.

This 1913 Cole Fifty Speedster is a superb example of a high-horsepower brass sporting car, and it has been meticulously restored and prepared for touring enjoyment. The previous owner discovered the car as a partially completed restoration. Cole did not actually offer a Speedster body on the Fifty chassis, and this car is believed to have started life as a tourer, though the original body was lost to time. After taking over the project, the most recent owner began researching the marque and found a period photo of a genuine 1914 Cole Speedster in the archives of the Detroit Public Library, and, using that as a reference, carefully recreated a Speedster body, scaling it up to fit the proportions of the larger Fifty chassis. A series of accompanying photographs document the comprehensive restoration process.

The results are nothing short of spectacular, and the Cole Fifty has tremendous presence, with a character evoking the “dust and glory” days of early American motorsport. It is quite striking in its livery of a white body with a red chassis, red wheels, and light gray accent lines. The paintwork was executed to a very high standard all around. The minimalist body is authentically detailed with twin bucket seats, a round fuel tank, a built-in trunk, and dual rear-mounted spare wheels. Brass adornments include a side-mounted acetylene generator, twin Cole-branded cowl lamps, Gray & Davis headlamps, and numerous other fittings and fixtures. The cockpit is all business – with button-tufted red leather bucket seats, period-correct instrumentation, and brass switchgear providing all one needs to tame the big Cole. The shift lever controls a fully-rebuilt three-speed gearbox, sending power to an overhauled rear differential.

Of course, the highlight of the Cole Fifty is that powerful, deep-breathing inline-four. As part of the restoration, the engine was comprehensively rebuilt by the noted Brass-Era specialist Vintage Tin Restorations to include new rings, valves, timing gears, valve springs, and more, and it has covered just a handful of miles since completion. It has been thoughtfully updated with a starter/generator to ensure effortless starting when hot or cold.

Since completing the restoration, the Cole Fifty was shown just twice, taking a well-deserved First in Class at the French Lake Concours d’Elegance, and the Chairman’s Choice Award at the Keeneland Concours d’Elegance. It is simply a gorgeous automobile, ready for continued concours success, and sure to be a most exciting mount for Brass-Era touring events.


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