Lot 401

Hershey 2023

1903 Thomas Model 18 Rear-Entrance Tonneau


$220,000 USD | Sold

United States | Hershey, Pennsylvania



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US Title
  • An incredibly rare, and award-winning example of one of America’s earliest luxury automobiles
  • Among the most sought-after and indomitable tourers of the horseless carriage era
  • Distinctive, French-inspired design; just three owners since 1955 and well-documented by marque historian Kelly Williams
  • Benefits from a meticulous, concours-winning restoration
  • Third in Class at the 2015 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and Best of Show at the 2017 Greystone Concours d’Elegance
  • Eligible for the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, and HCCA touring

In 1903, the E.R. Thomas Motor Company began offering expensive, performance automobiles that established one of the era’s finest reputations. Thomas’ first production automobile was the Model 17, which derived its power from an eight-horsepower, water-cooled, single-cylinder engine of 106 cubic inches. A more deluxe version of the same chassis—the Model 18—received an all-steel frame, an improved carburetor, a camshaft-operated intake valve, and a three-speed transmission. The Thomas Model 18 was one of the earliest “luxury” cars offered by an American manufacturer. Very few of Thomas’ single-cylinder automobiles have survived to the present, and today the 1903 Model 18 is among the most highly sought-after American-made cars of the horseless carriage era.

The research of Thomas historian Kelly Williams, whose report is on file, indicates that this Model 18 first surfaced during the early 1950s within the ownership of Bay Area Horseless Carriage Club of America member Iver Iverson. Iverson subsequently restored it by his own hand and further modified its body via substitution of a rear-entrance tonneau from a 1903 Ford, as identified by distinctive brass railings.

Around 1969, Iverson loaned the car to the restoration staff of legendary car collector and Thomas fanatic Bill Harrah. Harrah’s team was free to replicate and study the car to complete their work on Harrah’s own Model 18, in exchange for a full set of fenders to be fitted to Iverson’s example.

Following Iversen’s passing in early 1979, this prized Model 18 was purchased by Johnny Crowell of San Ramon, California, who immediately added an attractive pair of wicker baskets for improved touring utility. Following 45 years of much-enjoyed ownership with very few changes of note to Iverson’s 1950s restoration, Crowell sold the car to the consignors in 2014.

The consignors immediately submitted this storied Thomas for a complete concours-grade restoration executed by their in-house restoration team in Valencia, California. Using traditional coachbuilding methods and an exacting study of another surviving Model 18, the team fastidiously recreated every detail of the car’s original factory-supplied rear-entrance tonneau.

Though active concours participants, Veteran Era cars rarely, if ever, take top honors at premier events. And yet, the extraordinary quality, panache, and presentation of the restoration team's exhaustive work upon this remarkable Model 18 quickly resulted in a Third-in-Class award at the 2015 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Two years later, the car improved to top honors, garnering Best of Show at the Greystone Mansion Concours d’Elegance in Beverly Hills. In July 2023, this Model 18 triumphantly returned to its birthplace for the Thomas Flyer Week festivities in Buffalo, New York.

Genuine Thomas specimens are in constant, unrelenting demand, and this award-winning Model 18 is certainly one of the most significant and desirable examples of the marque.