Lot 261

Hershey 2013

1922 Liberty Six Special Touring


$19,250 USD | Sold

United States Flag | Hershey, Pennsylvania



Chassis No.
Engine No.
Body No.
  • Offered from the Estate of John O’Quinn
  • “Quality Proved by Performance”
  • One of ten known surviving Liberty automobiles
  • Formerly owned by John Podesta and Bill Harrah
  • A participant in the hobby since its earliest days

Model 10-D. 56 bhp, 230 cu. in. side-valve inline six-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transmission, and rear-wheel mechanical brakes. Wheelbase: 117 in.

Addendum: Please note this title is in transit.

The streets of Detroit are lined with monuments to human success and failure. One of the most fascinating is a copy of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, which stands at the corner of Connor and Charlevoix. It was built to house the ambitious plans of Liberty Motor Car Company and its executive Percy Owen, who, like so many pioneers of the automobile industry, dreamed big, reached for the stars, and narrowly missed.

Owen was an early sales manager for Winton and Chalmers, but he struck out on his own in 1916, amassing an all-star group of executives to build a car that was, by all accounts, very good. It had charming styling, quality engineering, and, for the period, an unusual degree of concern for its occupants; care was taken to make the Liberty easy to drive and comfortable to sit in. Power came from a sturdy six-cylinder engine, which was eventually produced to Liberty’s own design by Wisconsin.

Such was the early success of the Liberty’s “Quality Proved by Performance” that Owen and the company’s other investors assumed that the ride would never end, leading to the construction of the massive new factory inspired by where America’s liberty began. It was their bad luck that a recession soon followed, and shortly thereafter, it began to become apparent that, in Owen's own words, the company had an “inability of take advantage of the facilities” that it had built. In late 1923, Liberty’s assets were sold to a competing manufacturer, Columbia, which met its own end soon thereafter. The Liberty factory became home to Budd’s main Detroit wheel and body stamping operations, and it turned out panels for Motor City automakers for over 80 years.

As one of ten known extant Liberty automobiles, the Special Touring offered here is perhaps the most well-known. It was owned for decades by the late John Podesta, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and it was regularly shown at Midwestern old car meets during the earliest years of the antique car hobby. In particular, it was a regular sight and blue ribbon winner at the Old Car Festival at Greenfield Village, where it probably felt right at home in the company of the Detroit area’s other, more famous, Independence Hall replica. The Podesta family thought so highly of their Liberty that it was featured on family Christmas cards, wishing “An Old-Fashioned Christmas” to friends.

The car was eventually acquired by Harrah’s Automobile Collection in Reno, Nevada, from which it was sold in 1986. It eventually made its way into John O’Quinn’s collection, from which it is offered today. This Liberty Six is a wonderful survivor of the hype, hubris, and sheer drive that built America’s automobile industry.