Unique and fun vehicles that might not typically see the spotlight
The Elkhart Collection offered by RM Sotheby's auctions has a bit of a dirty background. The massive assembly of vehicles was previously owned by Najeeb Khan, the former founder, owner, and CEO of Interlogic Outsourcing Inc., a payroll processing company based in Elkhart, Indiana. According to the South Bend Tribune, Khan resigned from and sold the company after he was hit with several lawsuits, including numerous accusations of fraud amounting to millions of dollars. Khan reportedly filed for bankruptcy in October, 2019, and a judge ordered him to sell his assets, including his incredible collection of automobiles.
Offered nearly entirely without reserve, the RM Sotheby's auction will feature more than 286 motor vehicles, including cars, trucks, vans, trikes, and motorcycles that range from a 1903 Clément 12/16 HP Rear-Entrance Tonneau to Jeff Gordon- and Dale Earnhardt Jr.-raced NASCARs to an ice cream truck with a mustache. The collection also includes several transportation trailers, tons of cool signs and memorabilia, kids toys, and even four-post garage lifts. In total, there are 567 lots in the auction, which was originally scheduled for May 1-2 in Elkhart. Due to the situations created by the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the live on-site auction has been rescheduled for October 23-24.
Many of the offered rides could be considered the most beautiful cars ever built, but for the purpose of this list, that was not a key criterion. Instead, we picked unique and fun vehicles that might not typically see the spotlight. Let's start with one of the oldest campervan makers in the world.
1961 Bedford CA Dormobile Caravan by Martin Walter
British firm Dormobile Limited started out as Martin-Walter in the late 1700s as a harness manufacturer for horses. That business progressed to building carriages in the 1800s, later coachwork in the early 1900s, and then military vehicles during World War I. Separately, in the early 1930s, Bedford Vehicles was established as a commercial vehicle manufacturer under the GM-owned Vauxhall Motors umbrella. Bedford specialized in
lorries trucks, and its most popular light-duty model, the CA, was introduced in 1952 and produced through 1969.
Inspired by the increasing popularity of caravans in the 1950s, Martin-Walter developed specialty coachwork and conversions to increase practicality and versatility. The two biggest contributions were the "Dormatic" front seat that could fold down into a makeshift bed and the patented Dormobile roof that opened skyward and added two bunks. The Dormobile conversions were applied to a wide variety of makes and models, including examples from Ford, GM, Fiat, Chrysler, Land Rover, Triumph, Austin, Volkswagen, Morris Standard and more. This particular example is based on a Vauxhall chassis and recently received a restoration.
1948 Crosley CC Four Happy Wagon
There isn't much information on this particular Happy Wagon, let alone info about the original Happy Wagons. RM Sotheby's says this jolly mustached automobile is a tribute to Mr. Happy of Erie, Pennsylvania. Only 12 examples were originally created, and this example was replicated using patterns from an original. It comes equipped with freezers, ice-cream scoops, bells and a uniform.
1958 Goggomobil TL 250 Transporter Dubble Bubble
The Elkhart auction marks the second time in the past decade that the Dubble Bubble Goggomobil has appeared in an RM Sotheby's sale. It previously sold for $132,250 as part of the Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum auction in 2013. It was one of at least four listed Goggomobil transporters, and the others were branded with Coca-Cola, PEZ and Krispy Kreme liveries.
This microcar was produced as one of 3,665 by Hans Glas GmbH and Isaria-Maschinenfabrik, in Dingolfing, Bavaria, Germany. It stands at about 9.5 feet long and is powered by a 14-horsepower two-cycle, two-stroke, 245-cc engine. It was nicknamed the mailbox-on-wheels and had a cargo volume of 57 cubic feet and a load capacity of 550 pounds. This example, with a welded-steel platform chassis and swing-axle suspension, was restored by the museum before it was sold.
1953 Fiat 8V Supersonic
Fiat built only 114 8V chassis, and 30-40 of those were commissioned to coachbuilder Carrozzeria Ghia of Torino. From that lot, only 15 units with the Supersonic styling were produced, and this car was reportedly originally ordered and owned by Henry S. Lauve, the designer who styled the original Chevrolet Corvette prototype. The Supersonic jet-age design was penned by Giovanni Savonuzzi and was originally intended for an Alfa Romeo racing car. This particular example has seen a few engine swaps but has since been restored with an original 8V overhead-valve V8. A different example, one believed to be the show car from the 1954 Geneva Motor Show, previously sold at a 2017 RM Sotheby's Amelia Island auction for $1,375,000.
1963 Auto Union 1000 S Coupe
The history of Audi is rooted in a fairly lengthy timeline of mergers, acquisitions and reshuffling, but a basic truth is this: Auto Union was part of a precursor to what Audi eventually became. The 1963 Auto Union 1000 S Coupe was mainly produced during a a small window of time when Daimler-Benz owned Auto Union starting in 1958 before selling to Volkswagen between 1964-1966. But its origins came long before that.
In 1939, Auto Union AG of Chemnitz created a DKW model (one of the other brands involved in Audi's history) with a three-cylinder two-stroke engine. The car made it to the prototype stage and was supposed to launch in 1940 as the DKW F 9. Instead, WWII halted all development. The story picked back up in 1953 when Auto Union GmbH in Ingolstadt debuted the car at the Frankfurt show with the name 3=6 Special Class, Type F 91. The 3=6 name indicated the three-cylinder engine could produce similar power levels as a six-cylinder engine thanks to double the number of power strokes.
Fast forward again to arrive at what Audi calls the "final evolutionary stage of this DKW archetype," the Auto Union 1000. Production began in 1962 at Ingolstadt and in 1963, the final 1000-Series car, an Auto Union 1000 S Coupé de Luxe, rolled off the assembly line. RM Sotheby's says this example makes 50 horsepower.
1957 Iso Isettacarro
The Isettacarro is another car that Khan picked up from the Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum auction. Back in the '50s, Renzo Rivolta offered two versions of his popular Iso Isetta microcar, the Turismo and the utility-minded Type Autocarro. The Autocarro came in a few different body configurations such as a flatbed pickup, an enclosed truck, a tilt-bed, and even a fire engine. This particular car was produced in Spain under license by Iso Motor Italia Madrid, a company that later turned into Borgward-Iso Espanola SA. Between 1954 to 1958, roughly 4,900 units were produced, and this car claims to have one of the only original steering wheels still in existence.
The Isettacarro, which has a steel body, tubular frame, and a rear leaf-spring suspension, is about 11.5 feet long and just shorter than five feet. The trucklet had a top speed of 35 mph thanks to a 236-cc one-cylinder two-stroke engine that made a little less than 10 horsepower. At last auction, this car sold for $97,750.
1955 Hudson Italia by Touring
The Italia first arrived on the scene 1953 as the Super Jet concept from the minds of Hudson designer Frank Spring and Italian coachbuilder Touring. The design was meant to improve sales of the more upright and pedestrian Jet platform. It was received with such positivity that Hudson decided to put it into production with few changes and under a new name of Italia. Production was cut short at about 25 examples, however, due to the Hudson's merger with Nash to create American Motors.
This example is No. 10 and has since been cared for by four owners, including 44 years with the original buyer. The Italia has an aluminum unibody with a steel frame. Under the hood, the Italia has a 202-cubic-inch straight-six linked to a three-speed transmission. A few of the car's most notable design features include air scoops above the headlights, taillights that look like exhaust pipes, a wraparound windshield and doors that cut into the roof.
1970 Subaru 360 Police Car
Nicknamed the Ladybird after its shape, Subaru's first automobile, the 360, debuted on March 3, 1958 as a small affordable people's car. In various global markets, it was built as a two-door coupe, wagon/van and a convertible. It was extremely lightweight due to the use of fiberglass, unsafe due to its simple construction and tiny size, and packed a 360-cc engine behind the seats. At one point, a 1970 Deluxe example was certified for duty by the New Zealand Ministry of Transport. The black-and-white 360, inside and out, features a siren, a light bar and some sort of intercom system. Plus, police hats! This is, without question, one of the most unique police vehicles on the planet. It previously sold in 2010 through a Monterey RM Sotheby's auction for $16,500.
1936 White Model 706 Glacier National Park Tour Bus
According to RM Sotheby's, from 1936 to 1939, the Cleveland-based White Company created more than 500 examples of the Model 706 specifically for use in the country's national parks. Glacier National Park took in 18 of the Whites for $90,000 each and used them for tours and rides throughout the park. Some of them remain at the park and are still in use, but this example managed to escape and has been authentically restored in its Glacier “Reds” livery.
Designed by Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky from coachbuilders Bender of Cleveland, the Model 706 has eight entrance doors, seating for 17 passengers and a unique roll-back soft top. In full running condition, this 706 has its original 318-cubic-inch flathead six-cylinder engine.
2010 Alfa Romeo TZ3 Stradale Zagato
In 2010, Alfa Romeo marked its 100th anniversary with the introduction of the TZ3, a sports car that honored the Tubolare Zagato cars from the '60s that raced against legends from Ferrari, Porsche, Shelby and Maserati. The TZ3 is based on a Dodge Viper of the time but features the rounded front end, covered headlamps and "coda tronca (truncated tail)" rear end that characterized the old TZs.
The carbon-fiber Zagato body was designed by Norihiko Harada, who also drafted the 2013 Aston Martin DBS Zagato Coupe and DB9 Spyder Zagato Centennial. The TZ3 Zagato features a tubular space frame and uses the Viper's aluminum 8.4-liter V10 linked to a Tremec six-speed manual transmission. With an ACR tune, it makes an estimated 640 brake horsepower and 560 lb-ft of torque. This car is No. 6 out of only nine road-legal Stradale examples, each of which was originally priced at $1,000,000. It has only 201 miles.