1913 Peugeot L45 Grand Prix car, part of the Bothwell Collection. Photos courtesy Bonhams.
For 60 years, Lindley Bothwell indulged his passion for buying and driving antique cars, amassing what was once one of the largest private collections in the world. Chock full of historically significant race and road cars, the collection was maintained by Lindley’s wife, Ann, following his 1986 death. Ann died in 2016, and since that time little has been done with the cars once owned by the Bothwells, but that changes on November 11, when Bonhams will have the honor of hosting a sale in Woodland Hills, California, featuring 50 cars from the legendary Bothwell Collection.
It isn’t likely that “good enough” was a phrase commonly uttered by Lindley Bothwell. He excelled in college, amassing a pair of degrees at the University of Southern California before heading to the Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University) to earn another degree in agriculture. At USC, Bothwell is credited with creating the moving-card stunt currently employed by college football fans across the country, and his athletic prowess on the baseball field was good enough to earn him an offer from the Pittsburgh Pirates, which he declined to further his education.
Following his time in Oregon, Bothwell returned to Southern California and took to citrus farming with equal zeal, and by 1943 was said to be one of the 10 largest citrus growers in the United States. Eventually, his properties would expand to 34 ranches owned or managed by Bothwell, who also raised cattle on a grand scale and served as a consultant to other citrus farmers throughout the Southwest. He purchased his first vintage car, a 1901 Oldsmobile, in 1926, and at the height of his collection reportedly had as many as 90 vehicles stored at his Woodland Hills ranch. A driver as well as a collector, Bothwell is credited with “virtually creating” vintage racing in the United States during the 1940s and 1950s, and the genesis of today’s Monterey Historics were races started by Bothwell.
1908 Benz 105-hp Prinz Heinrich, one of 10 such cars built.
There were setbacks along the way, such as the 1948 wildfire that destroyed the Woodland Hills ranch and, with it, 32 collector cars. Remarkably, Bothwell turned even this loss into a gain, when a sympathetic collector agreed to sell him a 1913 Peugeot L45 grand prix car raced at Indianapolis in 1916. Bothwell believed the car to be the one driven to victory in that race by Dario Resta, though the position of Indianapolis Motor Speedway historian Donald Davidson was that no conclusive proof exists to confirm this.
In 1949, Bothwell took his newly acquired 1913 Peugeot back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, ostensibly to qualify for that year’s race. With 1915 race winner Ralph DePalma as a driving coach, Bothwell racked up as many as 600 laps at the Speedway before his “qualifying run,” which was really a promotional stunt for sponsor Mobil Oil and an attempt to best Resta’s qualifying speed of 94.4 mph. Thanks to engine tuning from Bud Winfield, wider tires and four-wheel brakes (as opposed to the rear-only brakes used by Resta), Bothwell managed a lap at just over 103 mph, easily besting Resta’s qualifying speed and beating Howdy Wilcox’s 1919 Peugeot qualifying record of 100 mph. As good as Bothwell’s lap was, it still fell about 23 mph short of 33rd place qualifier Manny Ayulo, whose 125.799-mph lap was just good enough to make the 1949 race.
1908 Mercedes Simplex 60 hp, said to have been owned by William K. Vanderbilt.
The Peugeot will certainly be the star of the sale, but other significant offerings include a 1908 Benz 105-hp Prinz Heinrich, one of just 10 examples constructed to honor Benz’s victory in the Prinz Heinrich Tour, and a 1908 Mercedes Simplex 60 hp, said to have been the property of William K. Vanderbilt. The auction will also include lots as diverse as horse-drawn streetcars that once served the citizens of Los Angeles, several Brass Era Packards, and a Hudson-powered race car, sponsored by Gilmore gasoline, along with spare parts and automobilia collected by the Bothwells over the decades.
The sale will take place at the Bothwell Ranch in Woodland Hills, California. For complete details, visit Bonhams.com.