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


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I think everyone is in agreement  the Duesenberg is the top dog. I suppose the question becomes one of "what's next?" Is it a V-16 Marmon or Cadillac? One of the many V-12 cars? What makes those Cadillacs hard to steer compared to another equally sized car? Does the steering gear truly make that big of a difference, or is it more down to tire size/front end weight?

 

I assume a closed town car or sedan would be the best from a comfort perspective, but could a case be made for an open car aside from the lighter weight? I know they can get chilly! 

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3 hours ago, Rusty_OToole said:

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?

The ride on a Franklin is fabulous and probably the only car that you can drive over the worst or railroad crossings and never hit the brakes. 

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I thought the RR PI Springfield was pretty impressive as far as steering and braking, it just fell short in the gearing (lots of torque, but not enough top end speed) and way too complicated. 

 

I do not know about other RR PI, but I had half point steering - much like a race car.

 

I had a bear of a time figuring out how to shift it until I believe Ed asked me if it was one of the later cars with an internal transmission brake - it was as it turns out and that just takes a whole different shifting mindset.  Also, had to count to 30 or so prior to shifting upon start-up.

 

Still a really large and heavy heavy car.

 

 

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5 hours ago, edinmass said:

Over the entire time, not one service, adjustment, or repair was needed. I did open the hood to check the oil.......nothing else.

 

On the AACA National Vintage tour in Kingston this this year with cars from 07 to 31 attended none had to be towed all week.  

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On 10/27/2019 at 11:33 PM, FLYER15015 said:

I drive my "31 Chrysler Imperial (CG) all over central Colorado, and we live @ 8500 ft.

 

Mike in Colorado

1931_chrysler_imperial_4_door_sedan_limousine_906e6c9e79.jpg

A friend use to have a 31 Cabriolet (it was turquoise in color and is now red and owned by Brent Merrill) and was restoring a sedan or 7 passenger sedan (never saw it, but I think he was painting it blue) - I asked him one day why Imperials were so few and far between and his reply was they are fabulous cars and people drove them into the ground to the point there was nothing left of them. 

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12 minutes ago, John_Mereness said:

The ride on a Franklin is fabulous and probably the only car that you can drive over the worst or railroad crossings and never hit the brakes. 

 

What makes the ride so good over other cars?

 

2 minutes ago, John_Mereness said:

Call be a glutton for punishment, but I have a soft spot for L-29 Cords (and well aware of their driving faults).  I also have a special garage spot for a Lancia Lambda Touring. 

 

I love the look of the L-29's as well. Wonderful proportions, colours, and details. I agree I wouldn't want to tour one, but damn wouldn't I want one anyways!

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7 hours ago, Sharps45-70 said:

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. 

Correct !

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On 10/27/2019 at 9:33 PM, FLYER15015 said:

I drive my "31 Chrysler Imperial (CG) all over central Colorado, and we live @ 8500 ft.

 

Mike in Colorado

1931_chrysler_imperial_4_door_sedan_limousine_906e6c9e79.jpg

 

I would like to know more about this. You don't hear much about them, and ai have always loved the long proportions of the hood and fenders. Would you be able to enlighten me on some of the driving characteristics/features?

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4 minutes ago, Sharps45-70 said:

 

What makes the ride so good over other cars?

Franklin's have a full elliptical spring (on everything but the V-12 and the Olympic) and a somewhat flexible chassis - dreamy smooth ride under even the worst of conditions.  You get some nice Horsepower too when you get to 1930 and even better in 31 and ...

Edited by John_Mereness (see edit history)
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11 hours ago, John_Mereness said:

In the glutton for punishment and slave to your car category - a well sorted 36-37 Cord is probably the finest in driving pre-1953 cars (problem though is the bulk of them are not well sorted).

 

So I have heard, regarding both aspects noted.

Edited by Sharps45-70 (see edit history)
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8 hours ago, Sharps45-70 said:

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!

Overall best driver would favor the newer cars.  There is a reason so many super luxury cars like Duesenberg, Stutz, Peerless and Pierce Arrow went out of business in the thirties and it wasn't all the depression. The state of the art in autos had advanced to the point where mass produced cars like the Chrysler Airflow, Buick, Cadillac and Packard eights were nearly as good. No doubt the super luxury jobs were better but not so much better as to justify paying $5000 to $20000 when you could buy something that would do the same job for $2500. This was not true in 1925 but by 1935 the difference between the mass produced cars and the custom built high end cars was much narrower.

If you want to stick to a cutoff year of 1934 your best choices would be after 1930. The 34 Airflow just slips in.

But if you went another 5 years all the luxury car makers had lower priced, mass produced companion models like LaSalle V8,  Packard 120, Lincoln Zephyr  or else they had gone out of business.

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7 hours ago, Sharps45-70 said:

 

What makes the ride so good over other cars?

 

 

The Franklin is 1/2 the weight of some of the other cars we are talking about and they had Full elliptic leaf springs.

 

Walt is on this thread and owned one for years so he can comment with direct experience.

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14 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.    

 

So I missed this the first time around.   These are GREAT cars,   easy to maintain,  simple,  there are parts and club support.   Also, as pointed out above,  they can move.   You can motor down the highway at 60/65 with the 2 speed in HIGH all day long.    My dad dad drove back and forth from Boston to Auburn in the 1950s with his multiple times.   Also did a few CCCA Caravans.

 

 

 

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7 hours ago, John_Mereness said:

In the glutton for punishment and slave to your car category - a well sorted 36-37 Cord is probably the finest in driving pre-1953 cars (problem though is the bulk of them are not well sorted).

 

BINGO!   John is 100% correct.   These cars are GREAT to drive,  but none or very few are actually sorted out.   Compared to the Auburn they are very complex (mostly due to the transmission) but are a joy to drive when sorted.    They are also relatively cheap, as you can get a running driving non SC Westchester for 35-40k.

 

I put these in the same category as the Mercedes 500k/540k which I was hesitant to mention being European and it will smoke Ed out for a nasty comment.    If you can spend the time and money to sort them,  they are fantastic cars that can drive all day long at modern highway speeds.

 

The big thing about an Auburn/Cord  vs a Duesenberg/Mercedes/Senior Packard/Big Classic is that if you sit in the former and then immediately sit in the latter cars,  you notice that difference between a 2k car (at the time) and a 6-20k car.   The fit, finish, detail, etc is extraordinary in the high end Classics.  

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The smaller point that keeps coming up in a subtle way is one that many of us harp on constantly: a well-sorted cheap car will drive better than a poorly sorted expensive car.


Today, decades after they were new, the quality of the maintenance is far more important to the driving experience than the brand of car. A vast majority of old cars are crap, regardless of price. A tiny fraction are wonderful, again regardless of price. The badge on the radiator matters less than the care it has received when it comes to a car being pleasing to drive today.

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9 hours ago, John_Mereness said:

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. 

But I rebuilt my super-charger. No issues when they are done right. When new they were supposed to be good for 40,000 miles before needing a rebuild.

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Franklins would be my choice. We have 4 of them and they are great touring cars. The 33 Olympic probably is the top choice. Hydraulic brakes, lots of power, steers nicely. It doesn't have the ride of the earlier Franklins with the full elliptic springs but it is still a pleasure to drive and they are usually affordable. 

Herb and Hagrid.jpg

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2 hours ago, alsancle said:

 

BINGO!   John is 100% correct.   These cars are GREAT to drive,  but none or very few are actually sorted out.   Compared to the Auburn they are very complex (mostly due to the transmission) but are a joy to drive when sorted.    They are also relatively cheap, as you can get a running driving non SC Westchester for 35-40k.

 

I put these in the same category as the Mercedes 500k/540k which I was hesitant to mention being European and it will smoke Ed out for a nasty comment.    If you can spend the time and money to sort them,  they are fantastic cars that can drive all day long at modern highway speeds.

 

The big thing about an Auburn/Cord  vs a Duesenberg/Mercedes/Senior Packard/Big Classic is that if you sit in the former and then immediately sit in the latter cars,  you notice that difference between a 2k car (at the time) and a 6-20k car.   The fit, finish, detail, etc is extraordinary in the high end Classics.  

To get Cord at 35-40K to do what you want it to do I bet you will have another 20-30K in it mechanically, plus cosmetics on top of that (there is a reason why certain Westchesters and Beverlys sell for 90K plus). 

 

And, yes the fit and finish of an Auburn or Cord is not the best - that said though they were engineered with an assembly line mentality and are pretty "engineered" cars.

Edited by John_Mereness (see edit history)
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I really appreciate all of the information and opinions on this thread. Some great suggestions and I can't wait to do further research into all of the leads provided. 

 

I must say I appreciate a high build quality and bevy of beautiful features, but I will be buying a car to drive. Build quality and features add to this of course, and if I can find something well put together that is an extreme bonus. Realistically Cords and anything supercharged probably isn't the best choice because of the added complexity.

 

2 hours ago, Matt Harwood said:

The smaller point that keeps coming up in a subtle way is one that many of us harp on constantly: a well-sorted cheap car will drive better than a poorly sorted expensive car.


Today, decades after they were new, the quality of the maintenance is far more important to the driving experience than the brand of car. A vast majority of old cars are crap, regardless of price. A tiny fraction are wonderful, again regardless of price. The badge on the radiator matters less than the care it has received when it comes to a car being pleasing to drive today.

 

I like what Matt is saying here. It reinforces a belief I have come to develop after reading many threads on here and other forums. Any car I purchase, it will be in the best condition I can afford, but then I will set about sorting the vehicle as completely as I possibly can. I want to experience it as if it was a brand new vehicle. I want to make sure I enjoy the vehicle as much as possible and I recognize I can only do so once sorted. I really admire folks like edinmass who drive hard and don't bring tools (though I think I will always bring at least some). Matt - I also believe what you preach in regards to hack mechanics who really do a world of hurt to these vehicles. Not everyone can be an expert in everything, so even "full restorations" often need a bunch re-done.

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Sharps,

Taking this discussion in total, Both Ed and Matt have given you some good advice, and they are "high end collectors".

Thing is, you need to find a car that really "knocks your socks off" when you first see it.

Then you will need to search for that car in a state of disrepair, that you can afford, and fix up, and maintain.

Tires, brakes, and fluids are cheap. When you get into engines, transmissions, rear ends, if you can't do it, the cost goes up.

When you get to body work, paint and upholstery, if you can't do it the cost really goes up.

It all depends upon what you start with, and how far you want to take it.

But in the end, you REALLY need to LOVE the car.

Otherwise, working on it or spending $$$ to have it worked on is not fun, and you will burn out on your project.

 

Wayne Cariney (sp?) passed on my '31 Imperial, just before I bought it.   Wasn't good enough for him to flip.

I will never take her to Amelia or Pebble Beach, but she has such a "presence" that here in Colorado, she is a big fish in a small pond, and has won "1st place, or best of show" in almost every car show in central Colorado.

Having it just to take my 2 grand daughters out for ice cream on Sunday's is good enough for me..................

 

Oh, and by the way she drives like a truck compared to my Lincoln Town car, but isn't that the fun of it ?

 

Mike in Colorado

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From the cars that you initially highlighted it's obvious that you seem to have an affinity for "Classic" cars. The CCCA, and the rest of the car world vetted these cars for a reason. They all have certain objective and subjective qualities that set the cars apart form the rest. They are considered "Classics" for their differences, but also because of their accepted mechanical superiority. In other words all of the boxes have to be checked or they never would have passed muster. It's like trying to choose whether you prefer steak or lobster for dinner. Like you see here, you might talk to twenty car people and get answers all over the board. If you are looking for a simple answer you will be disappointed, because there is no simple answer. Figure out what things appeal to you and ask specific questions. The direction that you have taken will only muddy the waters.

Bill

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19 minutes ago, Buffalowed Bill said:

From the cars that you initially highlighted it's obvious that you seem to have an affinity for "Classic" cars. The CCCA, and the rest of the car world vetted these cars for a reason. They all have certain objective and subjective qualities that set the cars apart form the rest. They are considered "Classics" for their differences, but also because of their accepted mechanical superiority. In other words all of the boxes have to be checked or they never would have passed muster. It's like trying to choose whether you prefer steak or lobster for dinner. Like you see here, you might talk to twenty car people and get answers all over the board. If you are looking for a simple answer you will be disappointed, because there is no simple answer. Figure out what things appeal to you and ask specific questions. The direction that you have taken will only muddy the waters.

Bill

 

Thanks for the input Bill. I specifically do not want easy answers. I want to hear as many opinions as possible on the widest variety of vehicles. With the most information possible, I can at least narrow my search, then ask the specific questions as time goes on. I am still in the phase where basic mechanical quirks about certain cars need to be learned before I can really proceed. I like complicated answers, as this is a complicated issue.

1 hour ago, FLYER15015 said:

Sharps,

Taking this discussion in total, Both Ed and Matt have given you some good advice, and they are "high end collectors".

Thing is, you need to find a car that really "knocks your socks off" when you first see it.

 

But in the end, you REALLY need to LOVE the car.

Otherwise, working on it or spending $$$ to have it worked on is not fun, and you will burn out on your project.

 

Mike in Colorado

 

This is really the biggest thing for me Mike. I can only do so much looking on Hemmings or various auction pages. I need to get behind the wheel of some of these to figure out what I like. I have fallen in love with some wonderful looking cars in classified ads or on auction pages, but never driven something of the like. I really want to get as much research done beforehand, so I can take the time and wait to purchase something I will really LOVE, instead of a bunch of mediocre vehicles along the way.

 

Speaking of vehicles I like, I did want to include a link to these two 1931 Lincoln K's. They really caught my eye when I first saw the ads. They are by no means the only vehicles that have caught my eye over the past few years, but they have remained in my mind and seem like they would be good choices for tour cars. My only complaint might be that their interiors aren't as flashy as I might want, but that is really nitpicking. I would be curious to hear opinions about Lincoln K's, and their successors in the KA/KB lines. 

https://www.hemmings.com/classifieds/cars-for-sale/lincoln/k/2306346.html

https://www.hemmings.com/classifieds/dealer/lincoln/k/2230567.html

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I am going to differ from Bill here and say this is one of the better recent threads.  

 

On fully sorted cars agree 100%.  I could pipe in here and say "You can have as much fun with a Model A as with a Model J" but as we are talking Full Classics here so I won't.  🤔😁

 

What about overlooked mid range cars?

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Sharps,

Based on your last post regarding the 2 "FINISHED" Lincolns @ 82K and 89K, now we know what your budget is.

Both are way out of my league.

What's left to do to them ? A wax job ?

Where is the fun in that ?

 

Maybe we should have Matt's people call your people and set up a meeting.

Then maybe he can tell you about "the car which shall not be named".

 

Mike in Colorado

Edited by FLYER15015 (see edit history)
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Steve,

 

I wasn't trying to say that there weren't other cars of the era that deserved consideration. Just trying to limit to the type of car he initially highlighted. I could have included plenty of additional cars to the search, like some of my favorites the Graham Blue Streak, Reo Royal, or the Hupmobile  H. When we start including junior models into the mix we could be talking about hundreds of cars. Is that helping or hindering in his search?

 

From cars and the model years that he mentioned I assumed that styling and luxury was his focus (Lincoln KA and KB). Then I guessed that he was asking for opinions on other cars that looked like the Lincoln, but would be a good substitute in their stead. I still don't know if I'm right.

Edited by Buffalowed Bill (see edit history)
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regarding the Franklins....

 

the co and cars were designed completely by engineers. why they are such a great car.

 

beauty, not so much, but that isnt the question asked.

 

Beauty and quality are often two different things. Harley Earl advanced the beauty aspect throughout much of the American designs. beauty is what ended up selling most cars.......... maybe not so much today.

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When it comes to we’ll sorted CCCA Classic Cars, most anything you buy is decent. All have one or two faults, NONE are perfect. There are several of the approved cars on the list I wouldn’t own, due to design and performance issues. Some cars are just 40 mph cars, and that’s what they were designed to be. Auburns are great, I am a fan of them, but the fit and finish leaves me cold........but they sure rip down the road when pushed. All things considered, only a few are truly star performers and available at prices the average collector can afford. Many of the legends don’t do it for me.......too many flaws. Notice I haven't called any Marques.......by choice. Some cars are much easier to own than others.........early Cadillac’s are very challenging and beyond most people’s ability to keep going down the road without issues. Drive as many as you can. Try and find cars that have just finished a tour.......they are usually better than most. Just remember one thing............LESS THAN ONE PERCENT ARE CORRECT. LESS THAN ONE PERCENT ARE AS NEW.

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

When it comes to we’ll sorted CCCA Classic Cars, most anything you buy is decent. All have one or two faults, NONE are perfect. There are several of the approved cars on the list I wouldn’t own, due to design and performance issues. Some cars are just 40 mph cars, and that’s what they were designed to be. Auburns are great, I am a fan of them, but the fit and finish leaves me cold........but they sure rip down the road when pushed. All things considered, only a few are truly star performers and available at prices the average collector can afford. Many of the legends don’t do it for me.......too many flaws. Notice I haven't called any Marques.......by choice. Some cars are much easier to own than others.........early Cadillac’s are very challenging and beyond most people’s ability to keep going down the road without issues. Drive as many as you can. Try and find cars that have just finished a tour.......they are usually better than most. Just remember one thing............LESS THAN ONE PERCENT ARE CORRECT. LESS THAN ONE PERCENT ARE AS NEW.

This is precisely my attitude towards this. The few full classics near me have things that even I know are not correct. A local Packard 903 that "just finished a complete restoration" had some minor mistakes made, but also some more major oversights that were unfortunate to see on a nice convertible. This kind of work frustrates me, so any car I intend to purchase I will always result to experts (thank god for this forum).

 

FLYER15015: Tying into edinmass' point, I have great doubt whether a "completed" vehicle is actually sorted. Even those two Lincolns I imagine will need work, and I would rather start with as good of a base as possible, with the majority of the costly work done, so I can just focus on the minor details/corrections. 

 

Buffalowed Bill: In response to your question, I want a car that I love looking at as much as I love driving. The idea of this thread was to find a good combination of luxury, styling, and solid engineering. Often cars that are physically gorgeous are poor to drive, like many of the aerodynamic coupes of the time, which were cramped or even claustrophobic. I like the Lincolns, I just haven't heard much about them. They just happened to be a couple that I picked out from a list of vehicles I find appealing.

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One last thought.......the average 100 point Pebble Beach restoration will drive and run the tour........but most wouldn’t make a 250 mile trip without significant issues to be dealt with. A total restoration need 2000 miles down the road to be sure it’s sorted and dependable.

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Both those Lincoln’s are what I call .........a car collectors car. Interesting coach work and lines.......not fantastic, but very nice. Build quality is fantastic. Chassis is average, and the power plant is acceptable. Good driver for 40-45 mph without modifications and refinements. They are an excellent value on the dollar spent. They have always been a “hard sell” like Pierce Arrows and a few others, but the collectors in the know buy them and keep them.

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Bill, understood, hoping this is a rambling, meandering thread on different driving experiences, we just don't want too much order here.  😁😁

 

OP is smart to know what challenges await. 

 

A decent, older restoration that can be sorted to really nice road condition is about the best combination to me.  I don't want to look out of place at a local show, but beyond that if you intend to drive you have to expect wear and tear.

 

Maybe because we are mainly discussing Full Classics, but I think early 30s Buicks (mentioned early on) are value packed.  Well supported, another consideration for the person who tours a bit.  Parts will break at some point, and advice based on collective knowledge are also considerations, I think, as well as the driving experience.

Edited by Steve_Mack_CT (see edit history)
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And this is why restomods are so popular, all of the style and modern drivability. Last few autions they are bring more than original cars, which indicates there are some original bargains out there.

 

However if Sharps is attracted to an $82k Lincoln then there are many opportunities out there.

 

But again starts with the MUSTS (Kepner-Tregoe). If 70 mph cruise for hours on end is a MUST then the options limit themselves. So start with what a candidate MUST have/be and that should limit the field to what you WANT to have.

 

With certain exceptions my MUSTs limit me to cars built after 1962. I just accept that and the field is wide.

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Personally I don't see a parallel driving experience.  Maybe just me but having had 5 prewar cars (6 counting a project, but only counting cars I drove) I wanted that experience, not a modern car underneath an earlier shell.  Restomod to me is for hot rodder who needs room, wants at, ac, pw, maybe self driving.. 🤗but less likely for someone looking at prewar options for AACA, CCCA type events.

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