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Best Late 20's / Early 30's Car for Touring?


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At the great risk of starting a war...

 

I thought it would be fun to as this question. I have always been a big believer in driving the heck out of cars, no matter what the vehicle, but certain ones obviously lend themselves to it more easily than others. 

 

What are the best pre-war cars for lots of touring and regular use? Reliability & drive-ability. I know there is a huge technology disparity between 1927 and 1941, so I want to focus on mostly 1927-1934 or so. Buick, Auburn, Duesenbergs, Packards, Pierces, Cadillac, LaSalle, Lincolns, Chryslers (including airflows), or any of the other awesome big classics of the era. You don't hear a lot about some particularly drive-ability on Lincoln L's & K's, and the non airflow Chryslers, so would like to see all the big brands compared with all their highs and lows! 

 

I know we have a lot of folks on this forum who spend a lot of time behind the wheels of great full classics! 

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I am partial to the Studebaker President for the years you mentioned specifically the 1928-33 big block 336cid President.  They are great road cars.   However, I will make one disclaimer.  All of the cars the OP mentioned, and many others, are all great road cars if they are properly sorted out and correctly maintained in top driving condition.   Many of the cars of this era get a bad rap because of perceived problems with the mechanics of these earlier years when the real culprit is the lack of proper restorations and continued proper maintenance.   I have driven my 1929 Studebaker President on tours of well over 1,000 miles completely trouble free.   Before the car leaves the driveway I go through everything from clutch and brake adjustments, ignition system, all fluids, etc. I don’t assume because it was “ok” the last time I drove the car that it is still ok for another 1,000 miles of driving.   Careful precautions and staying on top of your collector car makes a big difference in how satisfied you are with its performance on short and long tours.      

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Please don't be harsh. Click on his profile and read his very sensible postings with the Buick guys. This is a fine, articulate, well-spoken, intelligent gentleman, only 21 years old. Knowing well, that the big REAL classics are at this point in his life beyond his means, no harm in getting a reality check to fuel his dreams. 

 

Welcome to our wonderful group here at AACA, Sharps45-70 ! By the way : there is a huge amount of evolution even between 1927 cars, and 1934 or so cars. I will have more to say, but I am old, sick, and past my bedtime. Please stay with us, and perhaps some day you will be welcoming curious newbies with your acquired knowledge and experience.     Your new forum friend,   -   Cadillac Carl 

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since you mention all of that Carl- would have to say a nice large Buick.

 

easier to get parts for then some of the rarities mentioned and reasonable to a young fella!

 

very dependable cars without the huge costs or orphan parts.

 

Owned a 1930 model 58 opera coupe and by far the most enjoyable to drive.

 

if cost and reliability were the total equation- a model A ford.

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Almost every time a question like this comes up... newer cars have more driving and creature amenities.  With that said I would head to the end of your timeline.  1933-4  Lots of nice running driving cars out there for reasonable money.  My quick search came up with this....not my car but great looking 1934 Chrysler CA  $16K.  My 1933 Graham drives just like any 1960s car easy to stop, fair acceleration, great fun to drive. 

 

https://www.hemmings.com/classifieds/cars-for-sale/chrysler/ca/2310871.html

 

 

 

 

image.png

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OP, may I suggest refining your interpretation or perception of “Touring”.

What kind of distances, roads/routes, speeds ? Self- or chauffeur driven enjoyment ? How many and type of passengers ? Single or multi-day ? Organized group events or private travel ? Etc.

 

Everybody has a different idea what "Touring" is or means.

For some it may be a day trip to neighboring city/town using Interstate Hwys or I've heard some of car clubs organizing 15-20 mile (?????!!!) "Driving Tours" driven on suburbia streets. 

For some (like me) "Touring" (in a vintage car) means something like our honeymoon trip couple of years ago, 15 days, 2756 miles, mostly two-lane highways and back roads from SoCal to Yellowstone and back in a Plymouth PB Sports Roadster with late-'40s/early-'50s drive train.

If money was no object, I'd love and wouldn't hesitate to do similar trips in something like a early-'30s Zagato bodied 6C1750 Spyder...

 

OTOH, I personally wouldn’t have much interest “Touring” or traveling in most of the large pre-war V12, V16, etc Classics, especially those designed and built to be chauffeur driven as I don’t see practicality in them for my/our type of use.

Edited by TTR (see edit history)
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10 hours ago, 1937hd45 said:

Not into driving them, but if I had to pick a 1929 Lincoln sport phaeton would be my pick.Bob

Fine cars, but everyone I know with them still having updraft has problems with them - they work a whole lot better when you convert them to downdraft. 

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You asked:  What are the best pre-war cars for lots of touring and regular use? Reliability & drive-ability. 

While it remains a matter of personal choice for you, I can tell you what other people do.   Touring has been the highlight of my life in this hobby.

I've done 42 national tours, and watched what others drove and by far the highest number of antique cars (20's & 30's) touring is the Model A Ford. 

In my 11 Great American Races, (All Pre WWII vehicles in races 1983 thru 1995) about half the competitors drove Model A Fords.  Then we began

Glidden,  Sentimental Tours and Regional Tours.  Again Model A Fords.  This years Glidden Tour had 38 Model A's in the 132 car tour.   Relatively

inexpensive, easy parts availability, lots of available expertise and help.

Having owned Model A's I found them to ride rough and drive like trucks, but durable and great examples of late 20's and early 30's cars.

It seems to me that the statistics are that the Model A Ford is the leader in tourable antique cars.   "Best" is a matter of choice.  While I'm very

partial to early Ford V8's (1934) I chose the Chrysler Airflow (1935) for speed, comfort and durability.    However Tom McRae (Great Race founder)

use to rag on us in the big black ugly car.     I had to agree and in later years decked it out as a TAXI

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John Mereness makes a valid statement about the Lincoln model L. My good buddy Austin Clark drove his 1929 model L dual cowl across the USA and back in the 1950s had a downdraft carburetor fitted and used it forever with very little maintenance. I drove Austin's Lincoln on a number of occasions and it was a great driving/steering etc car. My late friend Stan Marcum liked Chryslers especially the 1932 - 33 era. I bought a 1933 Chrysler CT conv coupe from him and it was one of the easiest cars I have ever driven, he also had a 1933 CQ and 1932 CP all great driving cars. My own experience is driving a 1931 Franklin series 153 over 40,000 miles trouble free, very easy to drive, 1940 Buick Roadmaster - great to drive and very very fast! ( so smooth you loose track of how fast you are going if you don't keep an eye on the speedometer) . Friends have had V8 Cadillacs of the 1937-41 era and they are great as well. I will not comment on anything else because I have not had personal experience behind the wheel of other cars long enough to state " yeah , this is good, very good". BUT no matter what you own , it is only as good as the maintenance you give it once you have it sorted out properly.

Edited by Walt G
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And Rolls, Bentley, Daimler, and Mercedes had some great touring (different from GT) cars. For a GT car something like an 851 Auburn, Coffin-Nosed Cord, or a Graham Page are both sporty and Interstate capable, particularly with a Columbia 2-speed rear end (OD).

 

I also suspect that anyone who would use a buffalo gun (I know 1874 was late in the game) as a username knows what he/she wants.

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1 hour ago, John_Mereness said:

Fine cars, but everyone I know with them still having updraft has problems with them - they work a whole lot better when you convert them to downdraft. 

Ok, I'll add two big side by side Winfields to the fantasy. Bob  

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I have to say I am thrilled with the responses on this topic - just what I was hoping for! I will answer some questions here.

 

C Carl- Thanks for the welcome. To be honest, I was spurred on in this vision by your own tours in your 1927 Cadillac, as well as edinmass (especially edinmass) regarding his heavy use of classics once properly sorted. 

 

TTR- by touring, I mean specifically long distance self-driven tours, 500,1000, 2000 miles. Mostly two-lane roads, but of course needs to be capable of higher speeds for the odd interstate stretch, though I wouldn't push anything too fast in any event. I am partial to heavy driving, and love seeing the world from behind a steering wheel. There are just two of us riding along for now, but multi-day organized or private tours are definitely on the hopeful agenda.

 

alsancle- I admit, it does seem to be an open-ended troll question. The main reason for my asking, is that this information is discussed by folks like edinmass and yourself, but it is spread out over many forums and threads, never compiled in one place. That was partially the attempt here. I know Duesenbergs are phenomenal cars, but they have their quirks for heavy use like any one of these cars. 

 

padgett- I do love my buffalo guns!

 

And yes, I am asking about driver quality under the premise that each vehicle is well maintained and completely sorted (easier said then done on some cars).

 

 

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1 hour ago, Sharps45-70 said:

TTR- by touring, I mean specifically long distance self-driven tours, 500,1000, 2000 miles. Mostly two-lane roads, but of course needs to be capable of higher speeds for the odd interstate stretch, though I wouldn't push anything too fast in any event. I am partial to heavy driving, and love seeing the world from behind a steering wheel. There are just two of us riding along for now, but multi-day organized or private tours are definitely on the hopeful agenda.

 

And yes, I am asking about driver quality under the premise that each vehicle is well maintained and completely sorted (easier said then done on some cars).

 

Thanks for clarifications. I feel such details may allow others a better chance to advising accordingly.

I do several thousand miles annually in my vintage cars, combining 2-3 long distance ( 500+ mile) "Grand Touring" trips with 2-3 monthly 100-200 mile "Sunday drives", often up on the local mountain roads, which there are plentiful to access within an hour drive from our house or my shop.

 

Just yesterday, I did a 170+ mile, several hour pleasure drive, including couple of roadside picnics in my PB Roadster. Best parts (+/-80 miles) were on and around "Angeles Crest Hwy".

One of the highlights became after a spirited jaunt on a more twisty section of the “A.C.H.”, during which I was followed closely by a Porsche GT3 and the driver whom I did let pass at a appropriate moment/place, later, at a further up the road overlook/rest stop came over to complimented my driving skills and road sharing accommodation, but added having been perfectly content watching the roadster from behind taking those curves at speed. 😉

Edited by TTR (see edit history)
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I guess I do not understand the problem with updraft carbs?  I have several Graham-Paige cars all with updrafts.  I have been driving them personally for the last 15 years.   My 1933 just sat for over a month, cranked over and started right up last weekend.

 

My favorite quote from a car show  "What is a young guy like you, driving a old car like that?"

 

I own several eights and small sixes, all 1928-1933, the Graham-Paige eights (and big six) are geared higher than the small cars.  My 1929 Graham-Paige 827 will cruse at 70mph all day and has larger brakes to stop it, my 1931 small six likes 45mph.

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Interesting question open to myriad interpretations. As I have not owned any cars of the late 20s = early 30s my answer must be theoretical.

No doubt the most practical would be a Model A Ford in terms of bang for the buck, easy and cheap parts and repairs, economical to run, and fun per dollar.

I have great respect for Chrysler engineering  and would favor a Chrysler product

Maurice Hendry is an old car expert I have a lot of respect for. He thought highly of Packards as tour cars, but said for sheer grinding hard work Cadillacs took some beating.

Have heard good things about Grahams, those who own them and have experience of them think highly of them.

Pierce Arrow small sixes, the model 80 and 81 were good cars often overlooked. I would take one over the big dual valve models on practical grounds. But the straight eight  is better, and probably the best and most practical Pierce for your purpose. One of the best made cars of the time.

Would like to know what cars of that era have the best support for parts and repairs.

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Another way of approaching the question is to look at the cars most driven on CCCA CARavan tours.   I confess I haven't been on one yet --- it's not really kid-friendly, and these days events need to be kid-friendly in our household to have a chance of happening -- but reviewing the pictures you see a lot of '41 Cadillacs and immediate post-war cars like '47 Cadillacs and '47 Packards.  There seem to be fewer '27-'34 cars, but my sense is that the '34 Packards may be among the more common in that time range.  Of course, all of those numbers partly reflect their relative number among CCCA cars generally: If I recall correctly from the CCCA's survey, Packards are the most popular car in the CCCA directory, followed by Cadillacs. 

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2 hours ago, Graham Man said:

I guess I do not understand the problem with updraft carbs?  I have several Graham-Paige cars all with updrafts.  I have been driving them personally for the last 15 years.   My 1933 just sat for over a month, cranked over and started right up last weekend.

 

My favorite quote from a car show  "What is a young guy like you, driving a old car like that?"

 

I own several eights and small sixes, all 1928-1933, the Graham-Paige eights (and big six) are geared higher than the small cars.  My 1929 Graham-Paige 827 will cruse at 70mph all day and has larger brakes to stop it, my 1931 small six likes 45mph.

From my understanding, the problem is not so much updraft carbs in general, but their particular location on Lincoln Model L's in the V of the block. The heat can be quite a problem for their updrafts, but if I am wrong, Lincoln L experts please correct me so we have have accurate info on the thread. 

 

I borrowed my neighbour's 1971 F250 4x4 for a week a couple years ago. I LOVED that truck with it's red/white two tone and 4 speed. You would be amazed as to how many people questioned why a young guy would bother driving a truck like that, since most "youngsters" have stanced Subarus and Acuras. 

 

Regarding Model A's: I do not want to offend any owners of these venerable cars, especially since I really have come to respect what the Model A has come to mean for the motoring world in our history, really a great continuation of the Model T. I will say though, when it comes time to spend my money on a vintage car, I would rather something with greater drive-able, physically larger, and less common. I have driven quite a few Model A's, but I have also driven a handful of fairly well sorted larger series cars from Pontiac, Dodge, and Oldsmobile and the differences are quite profound in my eyes. I know the gap will be even more evident with the luxury marques. 

 

1935Packard: I have noticed the 1937-1941 Cadillac's (1941 in particular) are very common tour cars. This is of course a great testament to their excellent driving nature and part availability. If I were to get something from this time period, I would have a hell of a time choosing between a Buick, Cadillac, LaSalle, or Packard.

Edited by Sharps45-70 (see edit history)
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There are some interesting choices in the medium priced field. Possibly more practical, and economical than the luxury Packards, Cadillacs and Pierces.

 

Cars like the Hudson Super Six and Studebaker Big Six were the fast cars of the late 20s. I knew an old time collector who had a dozen cars but in the sixties and seventies his favorite tour car was a Willys Knight sleeve valve sedan.

 

Buick, Chrysler, Nash, and others made some nice six cylinder and straight eight cars in the period.

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7 minutes ago, Rusty_OToole said:

There are some interesting choices in the medium priced field. Possibly more practical, and economical than the luxury Packards, Cadillacs and Pierces.

 

Cars like the Hudson Super Six and Studebaker Big Six were the fast cars of the late 20s. I knew an old time collector who had a dozen cars but in the sixties and seventies his favorite tour car was a Willys Knight sleeve valve sedan.

 

Buick, Chrysler, Nash, and others made some nice six cylinder and straight eight cars in the period.

As much as I like the middle price field, I want to keep the discussion focused on the overall best drivers of the period, regardless of the price field they are from, though most will tend to be from the higher price fields as they have the higher quality and more impressive engineering. Still fun talking about all the marques!

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35/36 Super-Charged Auburns, due to 150 horsepower, light 3800-pound weight, two-speed rear axles with highest (fastest) gear ratio approaching 3-to-1 on some cars, easy steering, reasonable quality (not nearly up to Packard, Cadillac, Pierce or Lincoln but good enough), plus their share of flash and style thanks to outside stainless steel exhaust, pretty dashboards and lots of aluminum under the hood that you can polish up if you like.    

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EDINMASS must be quite a character from all the comments.................

 

Ok, confession time.......I haven’t responded because I was on the Duesenberg tour. Just got home.......
 

The most important concept on this thread is properly sorted and serviced. Most any medium priced car from the 1929-1934 era is decent and drivable. Some are better drivers than others, and the quality of build, coachwork, and fit and finish vary quite extensively.

What is the best? Well..........that depends......on countless permutations. 
 

Here they are in descending order from the top.........

 

Duesenberg

Duesenberg

Duesenberg

Duesenberg

Duesenberg

all the rest in almost any order depending upon ones bias...........

 

There are many great cars that are not well understood that offer fantastic value for your dollar, The Stude President is one of them. I can think of bunch of others. I prefer Pierce-Arrow..........over all the others. I could make the same argument for a few others. I have never been one to own something commonplace, I like the unusual. Pierce best fit my personality. 
 

There are some very cool cars out there that are so rare they are not well known......a Sunbeam Twin Cam Six comes to mind. It’s high on my list. Just not in my budget.
 

By the way.........we did 1700 miles in a total of ten days with the J in the last few weeks. One day was 275 miles over back surface roads in the rain........it can be done.......it’s not easy..........that’s why so few do it. Over the entire time, not one service, adjustment, or repair was needed. I did open the hood to check the oil.......nothing else.

 

 

 

 

 

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Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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18 minutes ago, edinmass said:

EDINMASS must be quite a character from all the comments.................

 

Ok, confession time.......I haven’t responded because I was on the Duesenberg tour. Just got home.......
 

The most important concept on this thread is properly sorted and serviced. Most any medium priced car from the 1929-1934 era is decent and drivable. Some are better drivers than others, and the quality of build, coachwork, and fit and finish vary quite extensively.

What is the best? Well..........that depends......on countless permutations. 

 

Here they are in descending order from the top.........

Duesenberg

Duesenberg

Duesenberg

Duesenberg

Duesenberg

all the rest in almost any order depending upon ones bias...........

 

There are many great cars that are not well understood that offer fantastic value for your dollar, The Stude President is one of them. I can think of bunch of others. I prefer Pierce-Arrow..........over all the others. I could make the same argument for a few others. I have never been one to own something commonplace, I like the unusual. Pierce best fit my personality. 
 

There are some very cool cars out there that are so rare they are not well known......a Sunbeam Twin Cam Six comes to mind. It’s high on my list. Just not in my budget.
 

By the way.........we did 1700 miles in a total of ten days with the J in the last few weeks. One day was 275 miles over back surface roads in the rain........it can be done.......it’s not easy..........that’s why so few do it. Over the entire time, not one service, adjustment, or repair was needed. I did open the hood to check the oil.......nothing else.

There's the man! ;)

 

I doubt I will ever be able to afford a Duesenberg (though I won't stop trying), but I am interested in hearing your opinions comparing the other big marques; Packard, Pierce Arrow, Cadillac, Lincoln - just to name a few. I am curious as to your bias toward Pierce Arrow, and if it extends to all Pierce Arrows, or just a certain time frame (1934,1936-1937 for example). It seems to my untrained eye that Pierce Arrows and Lincolns seem pretty undervalued compared to the Packards and Cadillacs I otherwise hear mixed things about. With the Lincolns, is this possibly due to their reputation as being "Fords on steroids?"

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I don't think there's any such thing as "best." It's like asking, "What kind of woman makes the best wife?" My wife is a voluptuous blonde. Your wife may be a thin brunette. Neither is better, right? 

 

Duesenberg is obviously something special. But I would argue any expensive car from that era will deliver a superior driving experience but their personalities are quite different. And as Ed mentioned, the state of the car is sometimes more critical than what the car is. I've had affordable cars that drove great and expensive cars that drove like turds. Putting any car right will go a long way to improving your end experience.

 

All that said, cars with Ross or Gemmer steering boxes tend to have excellent steering (provided it's in good condition). I have a Marmon Sixteen right now that you can steer with a finger as long as it's rolling. My 1929 Cadillac, on the other hand, feels like a city bus with a broken power steering pump and doesn't get better no matter how much I tweak it. Some really were better than others. As AJ points out, the cars got exponentially better throughout the early '30s, probably by bigger leaps and bounds than any other period in motoring other than the very earliest days. They perfected making cars reliable so they were focusing on improving refinement and performance. The difference between a 1929 car and a 1935 car is remarkable, even though the basic specs might be the same (beam axles, leaf springs, mechanical brakes, etc.). I find the 1932-35 zone to be the sweet spot for old cars--they still feel and act old but they are easier to drive and offer somewhat more robust performance. My '29 Cadillac feels pretty primitive compared to, say, the '32 Buick 90 Series I owned a few years ago. The Car Which Shall Not Be Named (a 1935) felt quite a bit better than either of those on that one occasion I was able to drive it even though it was trash.

 

There is no best. There's only finding the one that suits you best. I've longed for a '34 Packard all my life but when I finally got one I wasn't blown away by it like I hoped. Maybe that was reality not matching an imagined dream, or maybe my car wasn't quite as good as it could have been, but it didn't amaze me. My advice is always to drive everything you can possibly afford and pick the one that makes you smile the widest. You might be surprised when the car you thought you wanted turns out to be a dud and something you never imagined makes you fall in love. Be open-minded and open to cars you wouldn't have ordinarily considered and you can end up with something really special. 

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Given the criteria, I'd start with at least a 300 CID (250 if blown) engine and either a two speed rear end or an OD. At least two carbs. That is pretty much the minimum for a 70 mph cruise. Conventional three or four speed tranny (unless you really like to tinker stay away from the Wilson Pre-Selector). DOHC 8 is a big plus. Keep in mind that HP was measured differently then, torque is more important.

 

Next, 2 to 4 seater ?

Open or closed car?

 

That should narrow it to a short list and can concentrate on sevicability ? Club with parts vendors ? Marque Forum ?

 

Good luck.

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What kind of woman makes the best wife?

 

 

 

If I was to comment I expect I would be suspended indefinitely!

 

 

 

When it comes to the high dollar stuff........the big headlights, custom designer body, the advanced chassis, and head turning good looks are all desirable attributes to a great car......or a good wife!

 

Now.....do I get warning points?🤔

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Like the proverbial stopped clock,  Ed is right about this.  There is basically the Duesenberg Model J and then everybody else.   There NO American comparison except for maybe Marmon 16.

 

The downside is all cost.  If you want to get picky,  you are driving around on a 1928 chassis that has the ability to go much faster than it can stop or turn.   There are many later 33-34 chassis that are better refined, easier and more comfortable to drive,  and while you are shifting to high the Model J will be blowing by you on the outside.

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According to contemporary reports the best driving car of the 20s was Franklin. If you want to cover miles in an hour, vs miles per hour, the Franklin often made better time than more powerful, supposedly faster cars.Ride, handling and steering all came in for praise. The full elliptic springs, wooden chassis, steering, scientific light weight and balance made the difference. Have seen reports from Franklin owners on this board that seem to confirm this is still true.

 

As for the Duesenberg is it still possible to buy a good driver for a million?

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Matt........I have a very easy fix for your difficult to steer 1929 Cadillac...............remember I had a dozen early Cadillacs when I was in my youth driving and collecting CCCA Classic Cars. The fix was simple...........sell the Caddy and buy a Pierce! Problem fixed! Along with a bunch of other issues.....all at the same time.  Sorry, I just couldn’t resist. 👍

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9 hours ago, Graham Man said:

I guess I do not understand the problem with updraft carbs?  I have several Graham-Paige cars all with updrafts.  I have been driving them personally for the last 15 years.   My 1933 just sat for over a month, cranked over and started right up last weekend.

 

My favorite quote from a car show  "What is a young guy like you, driving a old car like that?"

 

I own several eights and small sixes, all 1928-1933, the Graham-Paige eights (and big six) are geared higher than the small cars.  My 1929 Graham-Paige 827 will cruse at 70mph all day and has larger brakes to stop it, my 1931 small six likes 45mph.

With the Lincoln L's the carb sits in a valley in the V-8 and they just toast up to the point that you cannot overcome vapor lock.  You can get a little relief from blocking off the engine pre-heater/exhaust cross over, but ....  Cadillac V-8's of same era have same issue.   It has to do with the formulation of the gasoline. 

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6 hours ago, jrbartlett said:

35/36 Super-Charged Auburns, due to 150 horsepower, light 3800-pound weight, two-speed rear axles with highest (fastest) gear ratio approaching 3-to-1 on some cars, easy steering, reasonable quality (not nearly up to Packard, Cadillac, Pierce or Lincoln but good enough), plus their share of flash and style thanks to outside stainless steel exhaust, pretty dashboards and lots of aluminum under the hood that you can polish up if you like.    

Not many people successful with touring with the supercharged cars - there is a whole lot of extra stuff going around.  Plenty of people touring with the non-S/C cars though. 

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