Cox Collection Joins Bonhams’ May Auction Calendar


Bonhams will offer the Dr. Ralph W.E. Cox Jr. Collection at auction on May 10 in Cape May, New Jersey. The aviation pioneer’s intriguing collection includes such rarities as a San Francisco cable car, a Baldwin steam locomotive and a JB1 Buzz Bomb, in addition to fine antique automobiles, carriages, automobilia and aviation parts and accessories, and even a few musical machines. At Bonhams’ recent Scottsdale Auction, two of Dr. Cox’s most famed automobiles — a 1935 Mercedes-Benz 500K Tourenwagen and 1932 Auburn Twelve Speedster — realized close to $2m total. The May 10 auction will take place at the NASW Aviation Museum located at the Cape May Airport in New Jersey, where the collection was on public display from 1961-1964.

Dr. Cox died two years ago at the age of 97. A true pioneer, he was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he graduated as a Doctor of Dental Surgery from Pittsburgh University in 1937. But once this was achieved, he chose to pursue his true passion of aviation. He founded the U.S. Overseas Airlines in 1949.

“Dr. Ralph Cox was an extraordinary pioneering collector of all manner of self propelled machines, and the collection he built was extremely diverse,” said Rupert Banner, Bonhams Motorcar Specialist. “Unseen for decades, this auction will return the vehicles to the former site of their display and provide today’s collectors of a wide variety of genres of fresh property all offered at no reserve.”

In addition to the fine, very early examples of the automobile, the sale will include some highly unusual, rare commercial vehicles like the c1870 Silsby steam fire pumper, a 1920s American LaFrance ladder truck and a magnificent opened-top 1933 “Double Decker” bus by Yellow Coach, still in its 5th Avenue Coach Company livery!”

The Ford marque was of particular interest to Dr. Cox, and the auction is lead by his very early 1904 Ford Model AC four seater tonneau (pictured). Alongside it are a Model N, a number of early ‘brass radiator’ Model Ts and even a Model T fabric-bodied speedster of his own design.

Always a popular component of a Bonhams auction, the spare parts and automobilia section of the auction will include dozens of brass lamps, speedometers, horns, engines and other rare antique car parts. A select number of aircraft items, including engines by Continental, Wright and Pratt, Whitney, and even a Wasp Major — one of the largest piston aircraft engines ever built — will also be on offer.

Dr. Cox Jr.’s eye for quality also extended to mechanical music. The collection of numerous musical machines will include two Mills Violano Virtuosos and the crown jewel: a Seeburg Style G orchestrian.

“Single estate sales of extraordinary quality and diversity are one of our hallmarks,” Mr. Banner remarked. “We anticipate that the Dr. Ralph W. E. Cox Jr. Collection sale will join the esteemed ranks of our other renowned estate auctions, such as the “Ted” Jamieson Collection or the Richard Paine Sale.”

The Bonhams auction of The Dr. Ralph W. E. Cox Jr. Collection of motorcars, aviation and automobilia will take place Saturday, May 10, with preview day on the Friday prior. For more information about the Bonhams auction, please contact Rupert Banner at the international motorcar department at (212) 461-6514 or visit Fully illustrated catalogs will be available mid-April.

Tony Piff

SCM Auctions Editor and Photographer

Tony has long trumpeted the virtues of collecting Japanese cars. His daily driver is a 1970 Toyota Hilux — the one with the turn signals on top of the fenders. His popular “Rising Sun” column keeps a pulse on the J-tin market.

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