Like other early automotive experiments, the Ruxton emerged via innovators and investors with big ideas and bigger egos. The marriages were creative, the cars extraordinary and failure quick.
The short life of the exotic Ruxton, however, had more than its share of intrigue, resentment, failed financing and multiple layers of lawsuits.
The result: the vehicle was named after New York stockbroker William Ruxton who was a friend of Archie Andrews, who owned the prototype. But the duo’s friendship ended when Ruxton, the project’s pending financier, scrapped the funding. He also sued Andrews to accentuate his lack of support for his former friend and his automotive namesake.
Andrews failed with several other manufacturers but landed a deal with the Moon Motor Car Company of St. Louis, Mo. But when drama finally subsided, the car was still named Ruxton.
A few Ruxton have previously been showcased at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. But after several years of research, the brightly colored Ruxton will have its own class at this year’s event.
Andrews eventually soured on Moon, too. He gained control of the company’s stock. But Moon’s president, C.W. Burst, was so upset he barricaded himself in the company headquarters in protest. There were several other ugly financial disputes in the car’s short tenure.
Still, few automobiles have been as provocative.
Despite various estimate among collectors and histories, fewer than 100 chassis numbers have been confirmed for the now nearly 85-year-old car.
“Estimates of Ruxtons have varied widely over the years in terms of how many Ruxtons were made,” said Kandace Hawkinson, spokeswoman for the Concours d’Elegance. “Our experts have determined the between the different factories, there just slightly less than 100 made, maybe 97 or 98.
“We have a pretty accurate record at this point and we are fairly confident in our numbers. We believe that there are 19 or 20 Ruxtons left in the world. A couple regrettably are in boxes. But we will have all but one or two of the known together Ruxtons, We are very excited about it. They’ve never before been together in one place.”
Despite its uniqueness, Ruxton never really had a chance. With the arrival of the Great Depression, the troubled car met its financial doom.
With its future uncertain, Ruxton opted for extravagance in style. The most well known colorist of the time, Joseph Urban. He was a consultant on elaborate Hollywood productions to the Metropolitan Opera. He worked on 30 of William Randolph Hearst’s early movies and helped design cathedrals in Europe.
Despite its brief time, the Ruxton had only one front-wheel competitor, the equally stunning Cord. Car enthusiasts of the era reveled in the now often-forgotten Ruxton’s pedigree. Likewise, current car aficionados still marvel at the car.
The engine was a 4.4-liter, side-valve straight-eight cylinder that produced 100 horsepower. The three-speed manual transmission had second and third gears behind the differential and the first and reverse in front of the differential.
The Ruxton, which cost about $3,000 new, had a spare tire mounted on the outside front of the driver’s door. The fenders were long and sloped but there no running boards.
Exterior colors included lavender and a bright blue, often now called urban blue. Wide bands of white pain were also featured, making the car look like rather large saddle shoes on wheels.
Ruxton models also included Woodlight headlights. The looked like cats’ eyes. But while elegant, they weren’t efficient. Many Ruxton owners either drove only in daylight hours or had different headlights installed or auxiliary lights added.
Driving aficionados of the ere were also enamor with the Ruxton. It was built shorter and lower than most cars the time, and was praised for its maneuverability and swiftness.
The idea for the Ruxton’s pending prominence at the Concours d’Elegance was largely the brainchild of James Fasnacht, a car collector in n Houston, Texas. Fasnacht’s
1930 Ruxton Model C Rauch & Lang Phaeton, placed third in the Antique and Vintage car class in the 2009 Concours d’Elegance.
“Jim presented the idea to the selection committee several years ago,” said Hawkinson. “The committee members were scratching their head. ‘How are we going to do that?’ No one knew really knew the cars, where they were or how many were left.”
“It’s not a the top of the collector car world. It’s not a Bugatti. It’s not something everyone lusts after. And yet Jim’s been able to point out what’s important about the cars. He kept trying to move the car forward in the process. We finally had enough information to say, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s make it happen.’ ”