1910 Thomas Model M-6-40 Flyabout
Lot Location: Amelia Island, Florida
- One of the most famous and prestigious names in Brass Era automobiles
- Offered from single collector ownership since 1976
- Formerly owned by Lew Schaefer and Paul Rutherford
- Illustrates the Thomas chapter in Ralph Stein’s The American Automobile
- Ideal Brass Era tour automobile, powerful and handsome in design
- The same marque that won the 1908 New York-to-Paris Great Race
Revered for its victory in the 1908 “Great Race,” the most legendary endurance competition of the Brass Era in which gutsy George Schuster piloted an example over rugged roads and non-roads alike between New York and Paris, the Buffalo-built Thomas ranks among the most famous and best-engineered American automobiles of its period. It was revered for its performance, especially the six-cylinder models of the early Teens, including the 40-horsepower Model M-6-40 with lightweight factory bodywork.
Captain Lew Schaefer of Old Westbury, New York, acquired this Thomas around 1950 after it had been found by the great Henry Austin Clark, Jr., in Mike Caruso’s famed Hicksville junkyard, a notable source of fine antiques in the dawning years of the hobby on the East Coast. Photographs show the car with hood, firewall, front fenders, and running boards still intact and it appears to have originally had a traditional touring body. A prominent early enthusiast in Clark’s mold, Captain Schaefer restored the car with a raceabout body, after which it was driven in many regional meets with the Long Island Old Car Club and on the national Glidden Tour.
Following several years of enthusiastic use, Captain Schaefer sold his Thomas to a longtime admirer, Paul Rutherford, Jr., in 1954. Frustrated that it continued to be known as the “Schaefer Thomas,” Rutherford painted the car white and continued to tour in it regularly until 1959. That year, in enjoying the automobile on a local road near his home, he swerved to avoid a dog, and turned the car into a ditch. Fortunately he was not seriously injured, and the accident gave the opportunity to replace the Thomas’s damaged bodywork with the style that Mr. Rutherford preferred, the very rakish and lightweight four-passenger Flyabout.
In an article in the November-December 1961 Antique Automobile, it was noted that “Rutherford obtained many original parts and with the help of blueprints and photos was able to turn the car into what it might have originally been. The Rutherfords drove their newly completed Thomas Flyabout on the 1961 Revival Glidden Tour.” A subsequent full restoration was later done between 1966 and 1967 by the late John Caperton III of Top Brass, Inc., in Louisville, Kentucky. Later the car appeared in photography for the Thomas chapter in Ralph Stein’s The American Automobile.
In June 1976, the Thomas was acquired from Mr. Rutherford for the noted collection of the current owners, where it has now remained with a remarkable 46 years, surely one of the longest-term ownerships of any Thomas automobile. Its restoration remains well-preserved and has continued to attract attention, at events such as the 2008 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, while also being set up for easy touring enjoyment with an electric starter. Significantly, this has continued to be a very well-known example, and was the basis of a plastic model made by Ntex, a copy of which is also included today along with a reproduction of an owner’s manual and a show book depicting the car’s various public appearances.
This car is everything that a great Thomas should be – revered by enthusiasts since the hobby’s dawn, beloved by all who know it, and possessing the potency of its youth. It awaits reawakening for many thousands of happy tour miles in the best Schaefer and Rutherford tradition.
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