This Lincoln Model K speedster started out as Howard Hughes's personal 1936 Lincoln K model V12 Limousine, until he converted the car into his idea of a Boattail Speedster. It was originally shipped to Long Beach, California, in January of 1936 and apparently special ordered with only one foot rest in the rear. Other documents indicate the car was customized by the Hughes Aircraft Company shortly thereafter in Culver City, California. It was restored in Spring 2009.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1936 Lincoln Model K Howard Hughes
Years Produced:1936
Number Produced:1
Original List Price:$5,800 (as limousine)
SCM Valuation:$1m, to the right bidder
Distributor Caps:$450
Club Info:Lincoln & Continental Owners Club
Alternatives:Any Popemobile, ex-Third World Head of State Mercedes 600 Pullman, George Barris provenance vehicles
Investment Grade:D

This 1936 Lincoln Model K “Howard Hughes” Boattail Speedster sold for $1,080,000, including buyer’s premium, at the 37th Annual Leake Auto Auction in Tulsa, Oklahoma, June 12-14, 2009.

Hey, Howard Hughes, you’re well dead and we’re in a deep recession here, so what gives with the half-Air Stream-half-Munster Mobile with only one footrest?

I consider readers of this magazine to breathe the rarified air of “thoughtful collectors.” We covet and collect relatively expensive and tasteful things, and then make all-too-easy justifications of our purchases to the rest of the collector world (a.k.a. fellow SCMers).

People collect “things”-of this I am acutely aware and guilty as charged. We all have friends who collect the cool, the bizarre, the insanely boring, and the enormously interesting. You name it: Pez dispensers, vintage metal lunch boxes, Sailor Moon anime, huge clamshell ashtrays, WWII Nazi postage stamps, 1950s guitars… just fill in the blank for a bazillion other things found on eBay. We all have our proclivities, of which I understand, condone, and admire 99%, because it’s what makes the collector world go round and round.

I use the collector excuse to my benefit

For example, I have five Heuer or Hanhart stop watches on my desk that I fiddle with every day. This is not normal behavior, I know. I use the “collector” affliction as my excuse, and for the mental justification it provides.

But I want to focus on the 1% of collectors whom I don’t comprehend. You guys aren’t getting a free pass in this article; no more riding on the coattails of the “thoughtful collectors.” I’m focusing on the “you have more money than sense, bizarro taste” crowd. You know who I’m talking about and I’m pointing you out because most of us are too polite to take the bullet for pointing out this behavior when it occurs. In public, we just stand around and mumble phrases like, “Wow, that was a lot of money for that” or, “What a surprising result.”

The huge Hughes car result proves that the world still has an inordinate amount of folks who have enough money to drive the economy by spending it on the most re-donk-a-doodle stuff you can imagine, no matter how many MSNBC/Wall Street Journal/CNN reports of financial meltdown we endure. Bear with me, I’m getting to my point.

A few examples from the July 19 Boston Globe story, “Bidders for Toys Did Not Play Around”:

1) $63,250 paid for a 10″ motorcycle toy called “Say it with Flowers”
2) $10,350 paid for a 1912 push lawn mower
3) $3,565 paid for an old cabinet filled with 1950s Maine railroad tickets

If this is all too sublime and not ridiculous enough for you, remember this headline and short story from last September?

“Damien Hirst Bucks Financial Slump in Record Art Sale
Sept. 16 (Bloomberg)-Damien Hirst’s “The Golden Calf” kept alive a 10-year bull run in the art market last night as collectors vied for the British artist’s works at Sotheby’s, even as global stock markets collapsed.

Hirst’s “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever” auction in London took 70.5 million pounds ($126.6m) with fees, led by the 10.3 million-pound ($16.8m) preserved Charolais calf with 18-carat gold horns. The total was a record for a sale of works by one artist, said Sotheby’s, which had estimated the evening would fetch as much as 62.4 million pounds ($102m). All but two of the 56 lots sold.”

A taxidermy calf with golden horns in a glass box for $16.8m! I cry foul.

They all thought it $150k-$250k at the most

I also cry foul at the $1,080,000 paid for this “thing,” which was a perfectly fine (if boring) Lincoln limo circa 1936, before Howard Hughes put his stink style stamp on it. Were the remains of Howard Hughes encapsulated in the car somewhere? For that princely sum, the Elephant Man’s remains, Ted Williams’ head, and Michael Jackson’s glove all should have been included.

I took an informal poll before I shared the results with a handful of fellow car collectors, and they all thought the 1936 Lincoln Model K “Howard Hughes” Boattail Speedster to be a $150k-250k car “AT THE MOST,” primarily because of its hot rod oddity and Hughes connection. Aesthetically, it looks like a high-school shop project, though I’m sure the riveted-fuselage look was state-of-the art in the aircraft business at the time. How did they resist adding a tailplane, I wonder? No one mentioned the footrest or the fact the catalog description was a tad vague.

The positive byproduct of this bidding travesty is three fine conversations that can now engross us:

(a) What other cars could you buy for that sum?
(b) What other surprises have we all seen in the car world that prove that a one-of-a-kind car can bring ten times the amount we’d all guess, because two guys who have got the bucks both need to have it, real bad?
(c) The rich are different from you and me-talk amongst yourselves and explore.

Judging from moments like this, the reports of the financial apocalypse are greatly exaggerated. And once again, money and good taste do not go hand in hand.

Oh, and in case you missed it, I would call this 1936 Lincoln Model K extraordinarily well sold indeed. (Introductory description courtesy of Leake Auctions.)

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