One of six remaining, 1931 Marmon Sixteen coupe cracks the million-dollar mark at Amelia Island

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1931 Marmon Sixteen Coupe by LeBaron. Photos courtesy RM Sotheby’s.

When the Marmon Motor Car Company introduced its new V-16 models for 1931, the Indianapolis automaker already had two strikes against it: The Great Depression had decimated luxury car sales, and rival Cadillac had beaten it to market with a V-16 of its own. Less than 400 Marmon Sixteens were built before the company ceased automobile production in 1933, and of these, roughly 75 remain today, including an estimated six LeBaron-bodied coupes.  On Friday, March 9, a 1931 Marmon Sixteen Coupe by LeBaron sold for $1.05 million at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island sale, beating the pre-auction estimate of $700,000-$900,000 and landing a spot in the sale’s top-10.

1931 Marmon Sixteen Coupe by LeBaron

When Howard Marmon began work on what was to be the world’s first 16-cylinder automobile engine in 1926, development was carried out by the Midwest Aircraft Company to keep the project a secret from his competitors. Manufactured primarily from weight-saving aluminum with steel cylinder liners for durability, Marmon’s overhead valve, V-16 was rated at an impressive 200 horsepower. At 930 pounds assembled, the Marmon engine was relatively light, reportedly enabling the Sixteen to out-accelerate a Duesenberg Model J for roughly a third of the price.

1931 Marmon Sixteen Coupe by LeBaron

Unfortunately for Marmon, the project didn’t remain secret long enough. Engineer Owen Nacker was lured away by Cadillac, which developed a V-16 of its own for the 1930 model year. The Cadillac engine displaced and made just 165 horsepower – 35 hp less than the Marmon – but carried a higher price tag. Marketability aside, Cadillac was backed by GM, giving it the financial resources to weather the Depression, something that Marmon lacked. In 1933, Marmon ended its automobile production, merged with Herrington, and focused on production of automobile parts and all-wheel drive trucks.

1931 Marmon Sixteen Coupe by LeBaron

The known history of the 1931 Marmon Sixteen coupe sold at Amelia Island begins in 1954, when the car was owned by Wyckoff, New Jersey resident Albert A. Hood. Subsequent owners included Duesenberg authority Joe Kaufmann, and, later, Gordon Gress, who owned the car for 23 years, from 1965 to 1988. In 1982, while under Gress’s care, the car was documented as having 22,000 miles on the odometer, but was noted to be in need of a comprehensive restoration.

1931 Marmon Sixteen Coupe by LeBaron

In 1988, the Marmon sold to a buyer in Puyallup, Washington, who owned the car for three years before selling to Marmon Sixteen authority and collector Marvin Tamaroff. Under his ownership, the car was entrusted to Harry Sherry and Sherry Custom Autoworks in Warsaw, Ontario, which carried out the needed restoration, finishing the work in 2002.

1931 Marmon Sixteen Coupe by LeBaron

Six years later, the Marmon sold to noted collectors Joseph and Margie Cassini, who owned the coupe briefly before selling it to Paul and Chris Andrews. In 2010, the Andrews collection was downsized, and the Marmon sold to the consignor. Said to have the original body, engine and chassis, the Full Classic carries CCCA Senior badge 2621, and will likely be seen on the concours circuit in the coming months.

1966 Ferrari 275 GTB

1966 Ferrari 275 GTB. Photo by Patrick Ernzen.

Other lots in the top-10 at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island sale included 1966 a Ferrari 275 GTB, which sold for $2.21 million; a 1993 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 3.8, which sold for $1.66 million; a 1930 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A S boattail cabriolet, which sold for $1.27 million; a 1993 Porsche 911 Carrera RSR 3.8, which sold for $1.27 million; a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL roadster, which sold for $1.09 million; a 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing coupe, which sold for $1.08 million; a 1930 Duesenberg Model J Imperial Cabriolet, which sold for $995,000; a 1962 Aston Martin DB4 Series IV, which sold for $765,000; and a 1960 Ferrari 250 GT coupe, which sold for $720,000.

For complete results from RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island auction, visit