The Guyton Collection | Lot 359
1906 Mason Touring
$112,000 USD | Sold
| St. Louis, Missouri
4 May 2019
- The earliest known automobile designed by Fred Duesenberg
- Known history with only five owners since new; superb authenticity
- Formerly owned by Harrah’s Automobile Collection
- A remarkable and irreplaceable piece of Duesenberg history
FRED DUESENBERG’S ORIGINAL CREATION
The young, German-born Fred Duesenberg had acquired quite a name for himself in Iowa as a gifted mechanical hand. It was only natural that a wealthy backer would come to him in the early 1900s, seeking his help at building an automobile. The backer was Edward R. Mason, a Des Moines attorney, and the car that Fred created for him was the Mason, with an interesting overhead-valve twin-cylinder engine of square proportions (equal bore and stroke, 5 × 5 in.), good for 24 hp from 196 cu. in. It was installed in a beautifully engineered, heartily constructed car that achieved an excellent reputation for power and ruggedness. What it was not, however, was a big seller, and Mason eventually sold out to the Maytag washing machine family, which continued production (and employment of Fred Duesenberg) under their own name.
As history now knows, the Mason was no footnote, but rather the start of one of the U.S.’s prodigious automotive engineering talents – the first automobile designed by the great Fred Duesenberg for the motoring public.
THE EARLIEST KNOWN DUESENBERG-DESIGNED CAR
According to Mason historian, George Hess, the Guyton car is one of approximately 25 automobiles produced by the company in 1906, and is the earliest known automobile designed by the Duesenberg Brothers. It was one of two shipped to an agency in San Diego, California, whose owner had planned to build his own automobile and had contracted with brothers Clarence and William Hunt of National City to build it. When the finances for the new car ran out, the brothers Hunt received the new Masons as payment for their work on the project. William Hunt obviously enjoyed his car, as a wonderful period photograph survives of him driving his family in the Mason.
The Mason remained with the Hunt family until 1970, and was then sold to Roy Davis, a longtime member and director of the Horseless Carriage Club of America. When acquired, the car was very complete, including its original body, and in excellent condition for its age. Mr. Davis and Bud Von Nordheim restored it to original condition between 1971 and 1975. It was finished to “stock” specifications with the exception of removal of the intake tube manifold and the installation of a Ford Model T carburetor to each cylinder intake, for better performance; the body was also refinished in red, with the correct elaborate pinstriping (a single continuous line that runs throughout the car, forming THE MASON on the radiator shell). While the car was not originally built with a top, one was fabricated to a high standard and installed.
Around 1975, the restored Mason caught the eye of casino magnate and renowned automobile enthusiast, William Harrah, who a year later sent an employee to Mr. Davis’s house, with instructions to buy the car for Harrah’s Automobile Collection. The deal was consummated, and the Mason remained an exhibit alongside Harrah’s numerous Duesenbergs until 1986, when it was sold to Dr. F.N. Brunemeier of Redding, California. Dr. Brunemeier enjoyed showing and touring with the car for eleven years, before selling it to Fred Guyton.
The Mason was one of Mr. Guyton’s favorite automobiles, as reflected by its proud position front and center in his collection, as well as by its choice for various paintings displayed nearby, including the 2008 AACA Hershey Eastern Fall National Meet poster by Ken Eberts. The restoration is considerably older but still largely attractive and, with the exception of the typical cracking in high-stress areas, is solid. Furthermore, as would be expected from a car that has had such good care for its entire life, its level of authentic detail is truly fabulous; the headlamps, badged from a California supplier, are likely original, and the car retains its 1915 California registration plate on the dashboard, as well as its original serial number plaque on the rear fascia and the original brass Harrah’s identification tag.
The Duesenberg is America’s Mightiest Motor Car, and the Mason is its earliest progenitor, its Homo erectus, if you will. This is the earliest known Mason, a wonderful car that has been cared for in good hands for 113 years, and therefore an irreplaceable and insurmountable artifact of Duesenberg history.