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Lot 205

1930 Cadillac V-16 Convertible Sedan by Murphy

  • Engine no. 700991

Sold for $1,925,000


185 bhp, 452 cu. in. OHV V-16 engine, three-speed manual transmission, front and rear semi-elliptical leaf springs with hydraulic dampers, and four-wheel vacuum-assisted mechanical brakes. Wheelbase: 148 in.

  • Exceptional, one-off, custom California coachwork
  • Built for General Motors VIP and horseracing legend Charles Howard
  • A long-term part of some of the world’s greatest collections
  • Numerous Best in Class victories, including at Pebble Beach
  • One of the most important Cadillac V-16s


When the San Francisco earthquake hit in 1906, one of the few early automobile dealerships in the city that survived was Charles Howard’s Buick agency. This fortune allowed him to provide cars to first responders and then sold them in the aftermath. That brush of awkward luck led to a success that started in the 1920s and 1930s and never stopped rolling for Mr. Howard. He became the most successful Buick dealer on the West Coast, a General Motors VIP, and, in his spare time, a successful breeder of horses, among them no less was legendary thoroughbred Seabiscuit.

Members of the Howard family became enthusiastic customers of Pasadena coachbuilder Walter M. Murphy, commissioning such cars from the coachbuilder as the only Bugatti built with American coachwork, a Type 37 which is now owned by Jay Leno, and a Buick modeled after Murphy’s L-29 Cord town cars. Charles himself, the patriarch, ordered up this V-16 Cadillac with Murphy coachwork, forming an entirely appropriate automobile for a man so well-connected to both General Motors and West Coast society.

Car number 700991 was originally delivered as a two-passenger roadster through the Don Lee dealership in San Francisco. Conjecture is that a bare V-16 chassis had been unavailable for Howard’s order, so with money not being an object, he ordered the least expensive factory style, and upon its arrival in California, he had Murphy throw out the factory body and install their own.

Murphy’s Convertible Sedan was styled by Franklin Q. Hershey and is in many ways similar to the shop’s Duesenberg designs of the era, as it included aluminum-edged wide beltline molding, center-hinged doors, forged aluminum “Clear-Vision” window pillars, and similar lines to the hood.

Special features found on the car included particularly exotic inlaid interior woodwork and a second windshield for rear-seat passengers that could be cranked out of sight. Both the front and rear windshields were raked at 22 degrees, giving the car the sporting appearance of a dual-cowl phaeton when the top was lowered. With the top up, ventilation was provided by removable rear quarter windows. Originally, the car was finished in the rather spectacular color combination of a white body with lilac fenders, and it was equipped with a mother of pearl gearshift knob, which has long since been removed.

The completed Cadillac was enjoyed by the Howards for some years. When exactly the family parted with it is not known, although it is likely that it was in the late 1930s or early 1940s, when many large automobiles were abandoned in the onslaught of the Great Depression. By 1961, it had made its way into the ownership of Bob Gillespie, an early enthusiast in California, who then sold it that year through Fazackerly Cadillac, of San Francisco, to Norman Taunton, of Galt, California. Mr. Taunton was amazed at the car’s well-preserved, largely original condition but had soon set about restoring it to its original condition, with the assistance of former Murphy employee I.E. Burnside.

The Cadillac was sold in 1968 to the Brucker family of Santa Barbara, whose members were well-known collectors and operators of the famous Movieworld museum. In 1985, it eventually passed into the ownership of renowned enthusiast John Mozart, and then briefly through the hands of Jim King, of Beverly, Massachusetts, before its acquisition by noted collector John McMullen, of Lapeer, Michigan.

Mr. McMullen maintained the car in his famous stable until 2007, and during this time, he had its 1980s restoration freshened to its present appearance, with a repaint in maroon and gloss black and extensive cosmetic and mechanical improvements being made. At some point, the original removable rear quarter windows had been replaced by “peekaboo slits” in the convertible top, à la Hibbard & Darrin, which is a feature that the car retains today.

The McMullen Collection displayed the Cadillac at the 1997 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where it was awarded First in Class. After acquiring the car from Mr. McMullen, the Andrews’ returned it to Pebble Beach in 2008, where it was again a show favorite. It has remained well-preserved in their collection, although the restoration can now be described as older, with light wear showing around the panel gaps and on the driver’s-seat upholstery. As with most all of the Andrews’s cars, it has been well-maintained by their in-house mechanics, and it is still in very good mechanical condition, enabling a new owner to enjoy its potential on CCCA CARavans.

As this V-16 Cadillac combines a superb history of ownership by noted enthusiasts with some of the best lines of any 1930s automobile, it may well be the most important example extant. It is a one-of-a-kind machine that had been built by California’s finest coachbuilder for a General Motors VIP, one who regarded it as beloved a thoroughbred as his famous Seabiscuit.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more