Truly, seldom does an incredible opportunity to acquire such an important piece of automotive history arise. As the sole surviving product of America’s greatest automotive minds, an extremely rare machine of monumental importance, the 1895 Buffum 4-Cylinder Stanhope created by legendary H.H. Buffum in Massachusetts is being offered by Bonhams as part of its 17 August Quail Lodge auction. Described to be the world’s oldest four-cylinder functional automobile with numerous technological firsts, and an icon of the Dawn of American Motoring, this is the oldest American gasoline car in private ownership ever offered at auction. Besides, we have also seen the auction of the world’s oldest running car and the world’s oldest Mini, the Austin Mini Sedan De Luxe offered for auction at Bonhams’s Collector Motor Car Auction.
H.H Buffum began work on his first automotive design for this particular vehicle being offered back in 1894, and the car got completed the following year. For this vehicle, Buffum designed an in-line four cylinder engine and employed many of the accepted technologies of the period.
And, for the appropriate chassis to mount the motor car in, Buffum sought the assistance of local carriage maker George Pierce, who then fabricated a well made chassis for Buffum’s car design. The chassis was then finally finished-off with a Stanhope body, which resulted in a motorcar of refined elegance.
Buffum’s new car sported chain-drive to the rear axle, tiller steering, and innovative, masterly designed auto controls. And, like many other pioneer auto builders, H.H. Buffum was also very secretive of his automotive advancements, and used his car around town sparingly when it wasn’t kept hidden away for fear that someone would steal Buffum’s hard-earned innovation and design.
Interestingly, the car on sale was never sold during Buffum’s life time, and was kept in the possession of a storage building to protect his patent possibilities. But, Buffum’s ex-wife, Mrs. Dudley sold the car in 1934 to Harry Bell, a year after the death of H.H. Buffum.
Today, this marvel of automotive engineering survives in largely original condition, and looks as though its body may have been repainted many a years ago, but its leather upholstery and dash is original.