1929 duPont Le Mans Speedster
Chassis Number : G-916 Horsepower : 125 Displacement : 8-cylinder, 5.3 L Wheelbase : 125.6"
The duPont Motor Manufacturing Company was formed by E. Paul duPont of Wilmington, Delaware, just after World War I, starting out at first by building marine engines. In 1919, their Model A came out and subsequently a series of luxury versions, with the highlight being the Model G, first built in the late 1920s. By far the most luxurious and the most popular of all the duPont series 273 Model Gs were made. They were powered by 322 cubic inch Continental engine, developing 125 horsepower at 3200 RPM. Bodies were made by a variety of companies, to the order of the customer. A favorite carosserie was the Merrimac Body Company from the north shore of Boston, who made a variety of chassis for luxury cars, and clothed, virtually all of the rare two- and four-passenger speedsters.
It was clear that E. Paul duPont, his young friend, Charles Moran, and dealer Alfredo J. Miranda, Jr., were all interested in competition. The Model G two-passenger speedsters had limited experience in some trials and it was decided to enter two cars for the 1929 Le Mans Race. This required special four-passenger open bodies, which were designed by Mr. Briggs Weaver and made by the Merrimac Body Company.
Although two cars were entered, only one actually participated. With some modifications, such as Rudge-Whitworth wheels, Dunlop tires, Champion spark plugs, they were otherwise “stock” four-passenger speedsters. This 1929 effort was remarkable because not since 1921, when the Duesenberg Brothers won a Grand Prix at Le Mans, did an American car with American drivers participate in Le Mans. In the 30s, Miles Collier tried, but with an MG, and in the 50s, Briggs Cunningham tried several times with Cadillacs, cars of his own make, as well as a variety of foreign racecars. Finally, in 1966, an American Ford GT40 Mk II, won with British drivers, and in 1967 the ultimate occurred when an American car won with American drivers (Dan Gurney, A J Foyt). Samples of these cars are in the collection and will be discussed later.
This car was originally delivered on August 21, 1929 to Mr. Paul Huettner of Philadelphia. It is unique among four passenger speedsters in that it most closely resembles the actual Le Mans model. This is because it was originally ordered with two hood straps, which were part of the Le Mans regulation but did not appear on any other four passenger speedster. It also has a driver’s side door which was required on the Le Mans car but apparently not all the other DuPont four passenger speedsters had a driver’s side door. Only three DuPont four passenger speedsters exist. The interval history of this car after its original owner is unclear but sometime after World War II it returned to a scion of the family, E. Paul DuPont. He began to work on it but he died in 1950.
We have some correspondence from Mrs. E. Paul DuPont when she was shepherding the restoration of the car which was inherited by older son Steve and bought from him in September 1957 by younger son Alexis for $800. In her delightful manner she writes to Mr. William Swigart for advice who by then had a four passenger speedster in his museum (the car now owned by Lammot DuPont).
On July 14, 1969 she writes,
Dear Mr. Swigart: Alexis, whom you may remember as the youngest of the boys and the one who took Mercer on the Glidden Tour has lately come up with the DuPont car which we hope to restore. Allen Carter has overhauled the engine. The venerable Wendling Brothers of Macungie have promised to do the body work. On Thursday last, Allen drove me up to see what progress was being made for we hope to have it for Alexis on July 17th. Guess what! They haven’t even touched it!
It is obvious that Mrs. DuPont was most interested in having the car used by Lex but, of course, she wanted it properly restored. She was admirably concerned about certain details. She writes,
Alexis, who was not born until after the car was built, cannot be expected to remember every detail.
Prior to this, in a letter to Brian Smith on January 18, 1968 when the restoration was begun she reports,
I have at last decided to add a little impedance to the restoration of the DuPont coupe and the speedster which I have been storing for some 20 years. One belongs to Alexis and one to my son George. Neither one can afford to put too much money on the project so for Christmas I presented each with a set of tires which cost a pretty penny! The speedster needs a crank hole cap. We need the two Watson shock absorbers for the front of the car and two rear shock absorbers, all strap type. Alexis thinks that Lovejoy hydraulic shock absorbers would be better than those of modern design so I had better not be too determined to keep everything according to the original specifications. Since you are a ‘DuPont fan’ you will understand how much I long to put them back as they were, not a make-shift or hodgepodge reconstruction. I am not shy at mentioning money but I am sure you must need it as do my young sons. Do not hesitate to tell me what parts costs you or rather what they are worth should wheels or other parts be available.
The restoration was completed by and appeared proudly on the cover of The Antique Automobile. Lex used the car regularly, along with his sons, and brought it to several shows in the Delaware Valley where it was always popular.
On reviewing the car there have been very little modifications. The car is surprisingly intact in every way. The brakes are larger than standard and may have been modified to help this very heavy car to stop on time. The car runs perfectly and it makes an interesting addition to our “Americans at Le Mans” Exhibit.