Amelia Island

9 March 2013

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Lot 163

1932 Marmon HCM V-12 Two-Door Sedan Prototype

  • Chassis no. DD609

Sold for $407,000


151 bhp, 368 cu. in. overhead-valve aluminum V-12 engine, three-speed manual transmission, sliding-pillar independent coil-spring front suspension, transverse leaf-spring independent rear suspension, and four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 134 in.

  • Offered from the Estate of John O’Quinn
  • A historic, highly-advanced prototype; the only Marmon V-12 built
  • Well-known provenance and ownership history
  • Multiple concours award-winner, including 2001 Pebble Beach Best in Class


The winter of 1930–1931 was a bittersweet time for Howard Marmon. His pièce de résistance, the landmark Marmon Sixteen, debuted to great acclaim at the Chicago Auto Salon in November, and the following month, he received a medal for outstanding achievement from the Society of Automotive Engineers. Although a second shift was added to the assembly line when full production began in April, Marmon turned to deficits as the Depression deepened, and two rounds of pay cuts were followed by layoffs for most of the engineering staff. Into this milieu, Mr. Marmon took drastic action, and a revolutionary new model was conceived.



The new car originated as a sketch created by Howard Marmon after meetings with Fred Moscovics, Marmon’s former vice president and general manager who had moved on to Stutz, and Chief Engineer George Freers. The name HCM, derived from Howard Marmon’s initials, was applied late in the car’s development.



It was to have a tubular backbone and four-wheel independent suspension, using transverse leaf springs in the front and rear. Two parallel front springs connected to sliding pillars, a concept initiated by Lancia in 1921, were anchored to outriggers from the narrow center chassis. At the rear, four springs, two forward and two aft, mounted to the differential housing, which formed the center of the chassis. The outer ends of the springs supported the wheel hubs. Drive was by swing axles. The result was very low, unsprung weight, but ride quality suffered, so the front springs were changed to coils mounted on the pillars above the steering knuckle, as in Lancia’s design.



The transmission was a three-speed unit mounted rigidly to the tubular backbone, through which the driveshaft ran. Behind the transmission was an epicyclic overdrive, in turn rigidly bolted to the differential housing. Problems with lubrication and the shift linkage caused this arrangement to be abandoned and replaced by a standard Marmon Sixteen transmission mounted directly behind the engine.



Howard Marmon decided on a V-12 engine, more powerful than an eight but much more economical than his flagship V-16. Engineering was expeditious and based on the V-16, retaining the V-16’s bore, stroke, 45-degree cylinder bank angle and wet-liner aluminum construction. It developed 151 brake horsepower at 3,700 rpm, three-quarters of the V-16’s output from an engine three-quarters its size. Initial tests at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July of 1932 confirmed acceleration from 10 to 50 mph in a then-remarkable 12.77 seconds, with a 113 mph maximum speed clocked with racing driver Wilbur Shaw at the wheel.



The HCM’s body was similarly radical. It had as its genesis a wooden model made by a college student. In creating the Marmon Sixteen, Howard Marmon had contracted its body design to Walter Dorwin Teague Associates in New York. The firm, which took its name from its founder and principal designer, was responsible for such icons as Kodak’s Brownie camera, Steuben glassware, Texaco gas stations, and interiors for several generations of Boeing airliners. Mr. Teague, however, did not like automobiles and did not even drive, so he assigned the Marmon project to his car-crazy son, Walter Dorwin Jr., then an M.I.T. student. The Marmon Sixteen design came together when Teague Jr., known as Dorwin, came home from Boston to work weekends.



After his experience with the Sixteen, Dorwin Teague built a model of what he described as “what a car really should look like.” His influences were an evocative Renault ad in a French magazine and the enclosed fenders on Frank Lockhart’s 1928 Stutz Blackhawk speed record car. The 1/10-scale model, with its long hood, aft-mounted cabin, and truncated luggage compartment, was in the Teague design office when Howard Marmon came to discuss the project. Marmon was captivated, and once back at Indianapolis, he sent Teague a set of chassis drawings to get things started.



The HCM’s form followed Dorwin’s model, but with several refinements. The cabin moved slightly forward, and the trunk became more of a bustle. In place of the model’s freestanding headlamps, he integrated a pair of the stylish narrow Woodlites into the edge of the grille shell. Like the model, a four-passenger coupe, its doors were reversed to become front opening. Dorwin visited Indianapolis and found a mockup of the car to his liking. After returning to New York, however, he received a new set of drawings, in which the car had gained a hood ornament, which he had purposely omitted. The lights were now fender-mounted, à la Pierce-Arrow. An early version of the design was seen in the October 1934 issue of Arts and Decorating magazine.



Built in a special shop in a corner of Marmon’s plant, the HCM was personally financed by Howard Marmon at an estimated cost of $160,000, and upon completion in the fall of 1933, the company was in receivership. Howard Marmon and George Freers took it on a tour of the nation’s auto manufacturers to see if someone else could produce it. However, none of the Big Three, nor any of the independents, were interested. In the end, Marmon took the car home to his North Carolina estate and wrapped it in cellophane, and there it remained until his death in 1943.



Prominent car collector and operatic tenor James Melton tried to buy it, but Marmon’s widow would not sell. Instead, she gave the car to Fred Moscovics, then working for A.O. Smith, a manufacturer of automobile frames and other industrial products, in New York. Moscovics in turn traded it to Allan Floyd, of Milwaukee, son of an A.O. Smith vice president, for a Stutz. Floyd enjoyed working on the HCM, by then in need of some TLC, until he departed for college, after which the car saw little use. Designer Brooks Stevens, a friend of Floyd’s father, was starting the collection that eventually became a museum in suburban Milwaukee. Floyd stored the car there for a time, eventually giving it to Stevens for the museum collection. Stevens painted it dark blue, but otherwise, he left it largely untouched and unused.



The next owner purchased the car from the Stevens Museum in 1999, after Mr. Stevens’ death. Initially interested in some other cars from the Stevens Collection, he decided to purchase the HCM after researching its history—becoming, in his words, “the only one of five owners to pay for the car.” All previous transfers had been gifts or trades. His first priority was to return it to the original color; the impetus for a complete restoration came from Dorwin Teague, who, despite his deep involvement, had never actually seen the car. It was entrusted to George Kovanda, of Chicago Restorations, who completely disassembled and rebuilt it, finishing it with the correct shade of light tan. Completed in 2001, it was reunited with its designer in an emotional moment at that year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, compounded by the car achieving a perfect score and winning Best in Class.



Since then, the HCM has earned a special award at Amelia Island in 2002 and took Best in Class at Cranbrook in 2004. It was also judged a 100-point car in national CCCA Grand Classic competition and has achieved Senior status. Dorwin Teague died in 2004 at age 94, and it can be said that the reunion with the HCM must have ranked among the high points of his prolific design career. The Marmon HCM is one of the most significant, yet relatively unknown, prototype cars ever built. Acquired by the vendor in July 2007, it has been extensively chronicled by the late Beverly Rae Kimes in Automotive Quarterly, and it represents a singular opportunity to acquire a car of exceptional historical importance.

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 9... 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. He is a life-long automobile enthusiast and ... 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

Ian Kelleher

ikelleher@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Politica... 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

Jonathan Sierakowski

jonathan@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Jonathan Sierakowski developed a passion for classic cars while working at a Connecticut restoration shop as a teenager. He graduated with a... 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. He att... read more

Peter Wallman

pwallman@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007 following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, where he was based out ... 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