1954 Oldsmobile F-88 (XP-20 show car)

1954 Oldsmobile F-88 (from the collection of the author)

1954 Oldsmobile F-88 (from the collection of the author)

Back in 1991, I was a recent transplant to Arizona and took my camera to the Barrett-Jackson auction. This was back when Barrett-Jackson only had one auction a year and most of the other auction companies associated with Arizona's auction week had not yet arrived on the scene.  The car pictured here fascinated me. I didn't know at the time, but it turned out to be one of four XP-20 cars produced back in 1953/54 - now call the Oldsmobile F-88. I car didn't attract much attention in 1991 and I remember it selling for a very reasonable price (under $200k). 

The reason for this appress to be that the car has always been in question. The project was lead by Harley Earl, with Bill Mitchell and Zora Arkus-Duntov involved. Earl is said to have kept one of the cars for himself - later updated as a second generation F-88 (with a different front and rear clip). Two other cars are assumed distroyed.  This car (styling order #2265) was assembled from a shipment of parts purchased by E.L. Cord soon after the 1954 show season. Yup, the same E.L. Cord of Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg fame. The question still debated by historians is whether this car is the 1954 Motorama show car - disassembled and shipped with all remaining parts for the XP-20 project to E.L. Cord. Or, whether this car is simply built from extra parts remaining after the XP-20 project was completed. A good argument can be made for both scenarios and I don't believe anyone really knows the truth at this point.

Regardless, it's quite curious that Cord would purchase the crate of parts and that GM would allow it sold to him. It's unclear to me the chain of ownership leading up to the 1991 sale, however Bruce Lustman (a Colorado collector) seems to have gotten a great deal in retrospect. The car was shown by Lustman and consigned to Don Williams at the Blackhawk. Williams is said to have sold the car to Gordon Apker. Michael Lamb, an automotive writer, wrote a piece on the car the year before it went back to the Barrett-Jackson auction. In January 2005, the car sold to a new owner, John Hendricks of the Gateway Colorado Automobile Museum, for $3,240,000.  

The car looks fantastic and it would interesting to see if that price could be repeated today.

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