SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – December 20, 2007 – The only 1929 Muller Front Drive Ruxton Engineer Prototype Roadster ever built, which later became known as the “Alligator”, will be sold at No Reserve during the 37th Annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Event on Jan. 12-20, 2008, in Scottsdale, Ariz. The “sporty little roadster” (Lot #1313) will cross the block during SPEED’s live primetime coverage on Saturday evening. Hailed as “The World’s Greatest Collector Car Events™,” the Scottsdale auction will feature over 1100 of the world’s finest collector vehicles and lavish lifestyle events. As always, SPEED will broadcast live-coverage of all six auction days.
“Barrett-Jackson began 37 years ago by offering some of the most important collectible pre-war classics in the world,” said Craig Jackson, Chairman/CEO of the Barrett-Jackson Auction Company. “Today, demand is still strong for crown jewel cars like this incredible Ruxton ‘Alligator’ that have proven provenance and represent important milestones. This car has a fascinating history and showcases some of the advanced technology that could have revolutionized the auto industry if the great depression had not created so much turmoil. It’s a car that symbolizes what might have been.”
Sometimes overlooked, Ruxtons were trailblazers in automotive design. One of the biggest achievements of this marque was the use of front-wheel-drive technology. The car was created by a brilliant engineer, William Muller, for the New Era Motor Company. He had been charged by CEO Archie Andrews with developing a high-end sedan for mainstream production. While building the prototype sedan, Muller secretly began working on a “little sporty supercharged Ruxton roadster for fellows… who really enjoyed fast road cars”.
Muller’s creative genius resulted in a one-off front-drive automobile that incorporated all of the important Ruxton features, while having a unique look. His prototype roadster had the same Continental 4.4 liter side-valve, straight-eight cylinder engine capable of producing 100 horsepower, transmission and frame as the sedan, but the body and frame were chopped nine inches. He also supercharged the engine with a unit similar to the ones installed in the Stutz to bump up the horsepower. The supercharger is not in the car’s present restored configuration.
The Great Depression was a difficult time for many, primarily manufacturers of high-priced, luxury goods. After producing less than 200 cars, Ruxton closed its doors and ceased production in 1930. Today, only a handful of the original cars are known to exist.
“This is a terrific car that has been thoroughly researched and recently restored to very high standards,” noted Tim Whited, co-owner of the Ruxton “Alligator”. “The story of Bill Muller and this car is incredible and of considerable interest within the collector car community. A file drawer full of notes, letters and articles accompanied the purchase of the car. The ‘Alligator’ will make a stellar centerpiece for a serious collector who appreciates world-class engineering and the exclusivity of owning a one-off prototype that wowed the public in 1929.”
According to one of those letters, Muller described the body as “All steel made of Dodge Roadster stampings at the Budd Plant in Philadelphia. Doors were standard. Cowl was cut in two and widened so seat was comfortable for three people. Rear quarter panels were reworked for proper wheel clearance for fenders. Deck center section was hand made. Fenders were made in temporary dies. Spare wheel was carried in rear compartment…”. He even made a special “MULLER FRONT DRIVE” badge and installed it on the radiator shell; it is still on the car today.
“Muller was a serious racing enthusiast and you can see his passion for motorsports in every aspect of this fantastic car,” added Steve Davis, President of the Barrett-Jackson Auction Company. “For instance, the vehicle sat lower than most cars of the era so it would be very stable at speed. Bill let a number of drivers, including Ralph DePalma, Cannonball Baker and Ralph Harroun, take it around the track at Indy for some timed laps after the race in May 1930. Someone saw it running around the track and said it looked like an alligator. Somehow that name stuck.”
The Ruxton is in stellar condition following a restoration completed in late 2006 by Cole’s Classics. Their craftsmen used a number of original parts that accompanied the Ruxton when it was purchased.
“The ‘Alligator’ was in a neglected condition when we purchased it and we felt strongly that it should be restored as close as possible to its condition when Bill Muller drove it throughout the U.S. to demonstrate the front-drive technology,” added Whited. “Our focus was absolute detailed accuracy. The photos and documentation we received with the car were invaluable and this amazing wealth of documentation will pass on to the new owner.”
Established in 1971 and headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz., Barrett-Jackson specializes in providing products and services to classic and collector car owners, astute collectors and automotive enthusiasts around the world. The company produces the “World’s Greatest Classic Car Event” in Scottsdale, AZ, and has expanded to other venues, including Palm Beach, FL and in 2008, Las Vegas, NV. For more information about Barrett-Jackson, visit www.barrett-jackson.com or call (480) 421-6694.