19-20 January 2012
1903 Cadillac Rear-Entry Tonneau
- Engine no. 13
Sold for $134,750
• Offered from the Estate of John O’Quinn
• “Number 13”—one of the oldest Cadillacs known to exist today
• The first Cadillac automobile known to have been sold to California
• Featured in detail within the July-August 2007 Horseless Carriage Gazette
While many early automobiles can boast rarity and significance, this 1903 Cadillac Rear-Entrance Tonneau, bearing engine number 13, is particularly important as one of the earliest Cadillac automobiles known to exist today. According to an original shipping ledger supplied by the GM Media Archive, this car was the sixth Cadillac invoiced. On March 11, 1903, it was assigned to William E. Metzger, who was Cadillac’s Sales Manager and already a major player in America’s nascent automobile industry. Initially hand-listed on the ledger as an “RAB” or Runabout, the entry for Number 13 was later corrected to “Tour Car,” indicating that it was factory-supplied with a rear-entrance tonneau.
Mr. Metzger, whose many achievements could easily fill several volumes, was reported in prior histories of Number 13 to have taken it, along with two or possibly three sister cars, to New York City’s Madison Square Garden for display at the January 1903 Automobile Show. The New York Show was a huge success for Cadillac, with Mr. Metzger evidently taking some 2,000 orders there. Although Mr. Metzger is believed by some to have sold Number 13 at the New York show to a Mr. Thomas, the owner of a large winery in Cucamonga, California, no documentary evidence is available, and the invoice dates do not coincide with the New York show. That said, one Mr. H.H. Thomas of California’s Thomas Winery did indeed own Number 13 later on.
An International Newsreel photograph dated 6-10-26, shown within an article on the restoration of Number 13 in the July-August 2007 Horseless Carriage Gazette, sheds further light on the car’s early years. As stated in a period caption with the photograph, which shows Ontario, California AAA Office Manager Ed Dirking and a young lady posing with the car, “This was the first Cadillac in California with the motor number indicating it was the 13th car produced by the company. This 1-cyl rear-entrance touring was owned by G.D. Haven of Cucamonga, California. It is now owned by H.H. Thomas of that town who still operates it.”
Number 13 remained in single-family ownership and was displayed at the Thomas Winery for many years, along with several other early automobiles. Patrick R. Herman, a Model T enthusiast who eventually built and supplied radiators for many early automobiles, first saw Number 13 and photographed it at the Thomas Winery during the early 1960s. He eventually acquired it in 1973, in lovely original condition, from the great-granddaughter of Mr. Thomas. Since the winery had been sold by then, the Cadillac was moved and stored within a small garage in Upland, California. After negotiating the car’s purchase, Mr. Herman collected parts for its eventual show-quality restoration, which commenced in the mid-1980s with mechanical work by Herman Stroebel and Phil Reed. In 1989, Ernie Sanders completed the upholstery, pinstriping and some finishing work. Number 13 was very successful in its post-restoration show career, garnering AACA Junior, Senior and Grand Champion awards under Mr. Herman.
During the summer of 2007, Number 13 joined the collection of John O’Quinn. The possibilities for this extraordinary motor car are virtually limitless. The London-to-Brighton Veteran Car Run is one of many events it may be eligible for, as well as some of the world’s finest concours events. Its place in history is assured, as is its significance within any important private collection.
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