1931 Marmon Sixteen Coupe by LeBaron
$650,000 - $850,000Offered without reserve
RM | Auctions - HERSHEY 10 - 11 OCTOBER 2019 - The Complete Collection of Jack Dunning - Offered on Friday
- Offered from the collection of Jack Dunning
- Only four private owners since new; original body, engine, and chassis
- Documented history in Dyke W. Ridgley’s Marmon Sixteen Roster
- The rarest Marmon factory style; one of just six extant
- Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Senior award winner
Like all great pieces of art, the Marmon Sixteen was one man’s vision of perfection. Automobile pioneer Colonel Howard Marmon created a triumph of pattern-making and foundry technology, containing at its heart an all-aluminum V-16 engine on a state-of-the-art chassis. With 200 hp from over 490 cu. in., the car was capable of out-accelerating a Duesenberg Model J—yet it cost only one-third as much, making it as much of a performance bargain as a $5,000 automobile could be.
The Sixteen was dressed by Walter Dorwin Teague Jr., an MIT student working for his father’s industrial design firm, whose crisp lines devoid of gratuitous ornamentation and characterized by crisp design shapes embodied the lean sportiness of the age. This was a design in which superb styling and world-class engineering existed with harmonious balance as has seldom been seen before or since. Like a fine Swiss watch or the best mahogany speedboat, it whispered quietly but firmly of its owner’s wealth and exquisite taste.
Only seventy-five examples of the Marmon Sixteen remain in existence; the rarest body style is the lean and sporting coupe, of which just six examples survive. They stand as one of the definitive statements of engineering and performance from the Classic Era and as among the finest driving automobiles of the decade.
SERIAL NUMBER 16 141 675
The coupe offered here is one of the very few Sixteens with ownership history known back to the original owner, Louis P. Mayer of Warrington, Pennsylvania, second-generation publisher of the Philadelphia Gazette-Democrat newspaper. Mr. Mayer would regularly use the Marmon for his commutes into downtown Philadelphia until his passing in 1952. The car remained in the ownership of his family for another two generations and a total 55,000 miles, long enough to be reflected in their ownership in the Marmon Roster as early as 1963. Few Sixteens remained with the original family longer than the Mayer coupe.
The car was in a shop having its engine rebuilt in 1978 when it suddenly left the family’s ownership—by means of a theft. Nothing was heard of the car for five years, until a tip to the Marmon Roster keeper in December 1983 led to its recovery by authorities in New York State early the following year. Depending upon whom you ask, the thief either escaped into the night or was arrested at gunpoint. Phil Mayer was happy to take the car back into the family and to reunite it with the original engine components that he had been saving for its safe return, but never got around to the restoration that he had so long planned.
In 1987 the Sixteen finally left the original owner’s family, legally, when it was sold to James Guerra of Perth Amboy, New Jersey. It passed in 1989 to well-known enthusiast Gerry Lettieri and four years later was acquired through an East Coast broker by Jack Dunning, with whom it has now remained for over 25 years. Mr. Dunning commissioned a restoration of the car between 1996 and 1997 by skilled craftsman Glenn Hatcher of Cambridge, Ohio, a longtime collaborator. He recalls today that the most complex part of the restoration was a proper engine rebuild; the body was in fine condition, a bent rear fender its only flaw.
Following the restoration’s completion, in a rich, dark, and elegant maroon with correct pinstriping color-matched to the wheels, the Marmon began a successful show career, including an AACA National First Prize and CCCA Senior Premier honors, the latter with two perfect 100-point scores. The car was also Best in Class at the Meadowbrook Concours d’Elegance in 1997. Its most recent honor was a win in the Senior Emeritus class in the CCCA Midwestern Grand Classic at the Glenmoor Gathering in Canton, Ohio, in 2011. As with all of Mr. Dunning’s cars, the Marmon has been meticulously maintained both cosmetically and mechanically over the years and remains in lovely overall condition.
Mr. Dunning is most proud of the time that his Marmon was reunited with its designer, an elderly Dorwin Teague. Mr. Teague spent a good deal of time walking around the car and examining it, then paid the ultimate compliment to its owner, telling him that he had seen multiple examples in flashy non-original color schemes, but “this is perfect. That’s the way these were—understated.”
To be blessed by the man who designed it—there is no greater honor.