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Lot 486A: Cunningham Series V-4 Model 82-A Town Limousine

Collectors' Motorcars and Automobilia, Bonhams (3 June 2012)

By 1922 James Cunningham, Son & Company didn't even post suggested prices for its exclusive automobiles. Its market, always a tiny one made up of wealthy, discriminating clients who appreciated the company's approach to building fine automobiles to individual customer orders, was largely insensitive to price. Its listings in the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce "Handbook of Automobiles" read only "Prices Upon Application". The Series V-4 was offered in two models, the 132" wheelbase 91-A and the 142" wheelbase 82-A, a curious situation where the larger and more expensive model had a lower model designation but one that is in some ways typical of Cunningham's disregard for convention. Both were powered by Volney Lacey's 442 cubic inch side valve V-8 with cast iron blocks and aluminum 3-bearing crankcase. Still rated 45hp by the increasingly outmoded NACC formula, Cunningham in 1923 would announce the engine's power on the engine brake, 90 horsepower. With a 5" stroke and 442 cubic inches its torque was prodigious. Also new for 1922 was the change to a four-speed transmission, still supplied by Brown-Lipe as was the multi-disc dry clutch. Cunningham still relied on Timken-Detroit spiral bevel drive full floating rear axles, rugged and proven not only in Cunningham automobiles but also in its successful line of hearses and professional vehicles. Both centerlock wire and demountable rim wood spoke wheels were offered. "Theft locks" became standard equipment but braking was still only on the rear wheels. Cunningham continued to build its own bodies but in 1922 with the V-4 replaced its prior round shouldered radiator shell with one with sharp edges as seen on this stunning example of the Cunningham Town Limousine. Its early history is not known but it came into the present family ownership in the early 70's and was restored for them by Richard Straman. In 1979 was displayed at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance (where another Cunningham, restored by Ken Vaughn, won Best of Show in 1984). Finished in discrete black, its Cunningham-built body displays restraint and dignity but also style and poise with its continuous beltline molding, front fenders tightly wrapping the varnished wood wheels with whitewall tires that complement the dual sidemounted spares. The windshield frame is noticeably raked but the passengers' tonneau is erect and formal with its leather covered padded roof and landau bars. Cunningham's characteristic "ventilator" shaped fender lamps have ingenious beveled glass side lenses. The chauffeur's compartment is upholstered in functional black leather matching the exterior livery and he is provided with a full complement of gauges, dials and switches as well as the receiver of an electric communicator for directions from the owner. The tonneau is sumptuously but tastefully appointed in beige broadcloth. The four windows, including the rollup division, have pull shades for privacy and are framed by brightly varnished wood moldings. The restoration is now aged but the Cunningham has been sympathetically preserved. Formal coachwork like this example is typical of the refined, elegant tastes of Cunningham's clientele, clients who appreciated solid construction and tasteful hand fitting and were willing to wait, and pay, for it to be created to their specifications by Cunningham. It will be a proud and probably unique addition to a fine collection and a telling example of the quality, performance and style that made James Cunningham, Son & Company the preferred vendor to America's rich and famous.

Lot Details
Auction Collectors' Motorcars and Automobilia
Bonhams, Greenwich, Connecticut
Lot Number486A
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price$110000
Hammer Price (inc premium)$128000
Condition rating
Registration number
Chassis numberV4627
Engine numberV4633
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors