Lot 385

1914 Thomas Model K-6-90 Flyabout

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$594,000 USD | Sold

United States | Hershey, Pennsylvania

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language
Identification No.
4338
Documents
US Title
  • One of 10 surviving K-6-70/90 examples, and one of four specified in the later KC style
  • Retains genuine Thomas long-wheelbase high-performance chassis; correct Thomas engine configured in the uprated wider-bore 90-hp setup
  • Over two decades of ownership in the renowned William Harrah Collection
  • Rebuilt with custom coachwork by marque expert Wolfgang Gawor in the 1980s; engine rebuilt with freshly cast jugs in 2014
  • Documented with history report by Kelly Williams, former title, and restoration invoice
  • Outstanding example of an American Brass Era legend; exhibited at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance
Please note that this lot is titled as a 1910.

In 1903 the E.R. Thomas Motor Company began offering expensive performance automobiles that established one of the era’s finest reputations. Available in four and six-cylinder variants, Thomas models became popular with racing privateers, and the company’s renown was sealed with George Schuster’s unbelievable around-the-globe triumph at the 1908 New York-Paris rally in just 169 days.

The Model K-6-70 introduced in 1908 was built on a massive 140-inch-wheelbase chassis and fitted with a 784-cubic inch six-cylinder motor that developed 70 horsepower. Though never formally marketed, an uprated power option specified with enlarged 5 3/4-inch bore cylinders was known as the K-6-90 for its 88-horsepower output. After slipping into receivership in August 1912, Thomas turned to supplying K-6 chassis to commercial truck manufacturers, and many examples were completed as firetrucks.

According to a thorough history report on file by Brass Era researcher Kelly Williams, this chassis was originally built as one of the post-receivership trucks, and it was distributed to the George C. Hale Company of Kansas City, Missouri, to be prepared with firefighting equipment. By August 1914 the city of Kalispell, Montana, placed an order for a Thomas/Hale firetruck, and the featured K-6 was delivered approximately five months later.

After 12 years of ownership, Kalispell’s managers decided to retire the Thomas in 1926 and it was sold to the city of Columbia Falls, Montana. A period newspaper article interestingly referred to the as an 88-horsepower version, suggesting the engine may have originally been built to K-6-90 specifications, and additionally stated that the truck had accrued only 600 miles because its pumping capabilities did not satisfy insurance requirements.

After an additional 20 years of service for Columbia Falls, the Thomas was replaced in the city’s fleet by a Ford, and its last official voyage occurred in January 1947. Sold within three months to the Plum Creek Lumber Company in Colombia Falls, the truck was repositioned to fight forest fires in support of a logging operation.

In 1954 the Thomas finally entered private ownership when it was sold to Jess Taylor of Olney, Montana, and two years later he lent the Flyer to Greg’s Auto Sales in Kalispell for display as a historical attraction. Given its wide exposure in this position, it is very likely the car was spotted there by representatives of its next caretaker, the world-famous William Harrah Collection. Harrah records reflect the K-6 was acquired by the collection in September 1959, and by 1961 it was one of nine Thomas examples owned by Mr. Harrah.

After remaining in the Harrah Collection for at least another 20 years, the Thomas was sold in the early 1980s to renowned marque collector and restorer Wolfgang Gawor of the Channel Islands. He conducted a wonderful refurbishment to the current configuration of a proper K-6-90 Flyabout, including a custom-made body with his signature rear-seat windshield. Considering that only two to three examples of the 10 remaining known K-6 cars have retained their original coachwork, this purpose-fabricated body is hardly unusual.

After being sold from the Gawor collection, the enchanting Thomas was acquired by George Owen of Candia, New Hampshire, by March 2007, and a year later it was sold to the consignor, who retained the esteemed Brian Joseph to rebuild the engine with freshly cast jugs in 2014. Benefiting from continued fastidious maintenance, the Flyabout has successfully completed at least five Brass Era touring events over the last 14 years, and it was proudly displayed at the 2008 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.

According to marque expert Jeff Chattin, this Flyabout is very well known in the Thomas niche, and is widely understood to be one of 10 surviving examples of the K-6-70/90, of which approximately 500 examples were originally built. Notably retaining a complete original chassis, the car is believed to be one of four surviving examples finished in the later KC model designation, and it features a later-style crankcase. Though the car does not bear standard Thomas chassis and engine number stampings, it is nevertheless considered by experts to display authentic characteristics and commensurate aging; it is regarded as a genuine original Thomas chassis built in the post-receivership production period and fitted with a proper Thomas engine.

Indubitably rare and well-maintained, this Thomas Flyabout beautifully exemplifies the marque’s greatest qualities—prodigious size, breathtaking speed, and exquisite period road manners, offering a fantastic opportunity for any Brass Era connoisseur.