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Lot 339: Cramer Comet

The Scottsdale Sale, Bonhams & Butterfields (19 January 2012)

*Unique Aero Engined Car *Fitted with Allison V12 1350hp motor *Documented original build photos *Featured in Hot Rod magazine in 1954 *Two owners from new When one reads about Omaha, Nebraska today it is almost always about the famed 'Sage of Omaha' Warren Buffett. If Buffett is the King of Funds today, nearly 60 years ago the Omaha King of Horsepower could only have been Tom Cramer with this, his 1,350 horsepower, Allison-engined Comet Roadster. Against the backdrop of the immediate post war era, which heralded the GM Parade of Progress and new aero and rocket influenced car design, the hot rod scene was completely in tune with these advancements. Tom Cramer just took it one step further than most.... Dreamt up in his auto repair shop, he purchased a stock Allison aircraft motor for $2,200 and installed it in a massive chassis specially built for it out of nickel-steel refrigerator tubing. Ingeniously engineered, the frame served as more than just structure as one side channeled coolant from a rear mounted truck radiator, the other being the return. Its front cross member served as a vacuum booster tank. Cramer took suspension from two sources; the tubular front axle came from a '36 Chrysler Airflow and as sprung with Chrysler coils, while at the back more modern '49 Plymouth coils where utilized, providing satisfactory road holding for the 5200 pound machine. As others who fitted aero-engines in automobiles have always found, the greatest challenge was in harnessing the immense power. For this task Cramer employed a solid GMC two ton clutch and four speed 'box transmitting to a truck rear end. Heavily influenced by his contemporaries, he clothed his 'Comet' in a bullet nosed wind-cheating body that paid homage to Harley Earl's Le Sabre among other early '50s designs, and borrowed body parts and fittings from a host of production cars. Cowling and hood parts were Olds, with Buick and Studebaker additions. The rear fenders were made from Buick and Lincoln fenders, while the windshield is actually a rear window from a '53 DeSoto. Perhaps surprisingly given its proportions, the track measured eight inches than a standard car of the period; the rear was four inches wider than the front, but still less than standard. The fascinating process of its build was documented with many photos, a number of which accompany the car; some are shown here. By November 1954, Cramer was 10 months into the project when Hot Rod magazine devoted a two page feature to the car entitled 'A Bolt from the Blue'. At that time he was in the stage of ironing out some teething troubles, but hopeful of at least 160mph performance! This was the first of a number of articles on this remarkable hot rod, by the spring of 1955 it was featured in Popular Science Monthly and given a road test under the heading 'Omaha Mechanic wins Horsepower Race'. In this article, the interior/cabin can be seen to be finished and was a balance of 1950s trim and aircraft cockpit, the center console having a multitude of necessary switches, gauges and controls. Describing his inspiration, Cramer comments that he wanted to 'build something a little different. I wanted to see what would happen if you put a really high-powered engine in a chassis' and continues 'Of course, there's something nice about going a little farther than others have gone, trying something untested and new.' Cramer would continue to tweak the car for the next few years. It needed a mechanical rebuild by the late 1950s, not surprisingly the clutch had struggled with the torque. The Comet would also be exhibited at the 1960 Nebraska Motor Sports Auto Show. The car remained with the Cramer family until around 1980 when it passed into a prominent collection on the East Coast from which it is offered today. In the course of the current ownership, some attention has been paid to making the huge hood more accessible and it now operates through a system of motors which slide it forward. Today, when viewed, there is little doubt that Cramer's ingenuity and care in the car's construction was incredibly diligent and skilled, making the Comet a fascinating automobile to inspect and contemplate how it operates. It would make a striking addition to any auto or aero collection, to be shown or perhaps even further developed. Offered with many photos and press articles from its heyday, the unique Cramer Comet is certain to always draw attention wherever it goes.

Lot Details
Auction The Scottsdale Sale
Bonhams & Butterfields, Arizona, Scottsdale
Lot Number339
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price$105000
Hammer Price (inc premium)$122500
Condition rating
Registration number
Chassis numberA070974
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors2