Motor City | Lot 135

1913 Michigan Model R Touring



$132,000 USD | Sold

United States | Plymouth, Michigan

26 July 2014

Chassis No.
  • Offered from a prominent private collection
  • Formerly owned by John McMullen
  • A wonderful Kalamazoo-built tourer
  • Ideal for the Glidden Tour and HCCA activities

40/46 bhp, 298 cu. in. L-head inline four-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, front and rear semi-elliptic leaf-spring suspension, and rear-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 118 in.

Kalamazoo, Michigan, was a hotbed of automobile production in the early years of the industry, and numerous fascinating automobiles were produced there. One of them, the aptly named Michigan, was launched in 1904 by three horseless carriage manufacturers, Victor Palmer, Henry Lane, and George Lay, proprietors of the Michigan Buggy Company. After seven years of false starts and sporadic production, the Michigan took off fully in 1911 with the establishment of the Michigan Motor Car Company, which was the builder of a 40-horsepower, four-cylinder car that was designed by industry veteran W.H. Cameron.

The Michigan was sold with the delightful hyperbole common of the era. The 1913 “Mighty Michigan” was offered up to owners who sought more power, more room, more appearance, and more of comfort and luxury in “the middle field” of automobiles. In other words, they were offered to customers who wanted what Michigan termed “a man-size car.” “Do not make the vital mistake of accepting any car that is under-tired,” warned an ad, which described the 40-horsepower model as being “the only actually over-tired car in America.” The Michigan wasn’t worn-out; rather, the claim referred to it having tires that were larger than were actually needed to carry its weight, with a whole page being given within the catalogue to the virtues of the 35x4.5-inch rubber shoes.

Unfortunately, like many quality automobiles of the Brass Era, the Michigan was fated to a swift and unfortunate end that was fueled by the hubris of its executives. One such leader had bankrupted himself at the horse racing track, while another received two years in jail for a stock promotion scheme. Despite the valiant efforts of numerous would-be saviors, in the end it all came to naught, and the Michigan was toast by 1915.

The exact number of Michigans produced is not known, but the factory’s claim of 6,125 is almost certainly more “big talk.” Historian G. Marshall Naul studied serial numbers and estimated that fewer than 1,200 Michigans were produced between 1911 and 1913. Few have survived, and even fewer still are complete and sound. This car is a fortunate and notable exception.

The Model R Touring on offer was discovered in central Iowa in 1991 by the late Dr. Art Burrichter, a well-remembered enthusiast in Florida. It had been reportedly purchased new by a farming family for $1,585, a princely sum at the time, and it was driven sparingly, covering fewer than 5,700 miles in 12 years. In 1925, after a family disagreement, it was put into storage, and there it remained until Dr. Burrichter acquired it. It was found to be well preserved and in amazing original condition, which was complete and untrammeled, with only the patina of nearly seven decades.

Prior to his passing in 2002, Dr. Burrichter elected to sell the Michigan, which was then acquired by noted Michigan collector John McMullen. Mr. McMullen had the Silver Dollar Restoration Shop, of Tampa, Florida, restore his new treasure to its original condition. Because it was in such solid overall condition and absolutely complete, the work was comparatively easy, and the car retains an astonishing number of its original trim pieces and components. It was finished in black, with a black leather interior and upholstery, and it made only one showing, at the Cavalcade of Cars in Romeo, Michigan, where it received a First Prize award. Hail to the Victor!

Today, this Michigan, being offered from yet another well-known and respected private collection, represents an opportunity to acquire a rare, prize-winning automobile of quality and character. It is accompanied by an exceedingly rare original manual for the 1913 model, and it will undoubtedly be welcomed to future show appearances, as well as on such wonderful events as the Glidden Tour and Horseless Carriage Club of America activities, for which it would be ideal. The “Mighty Michigan” is exactly that!

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