1915 Oakland Model 37 Speedster “Oaky”
Chassis no. 383999
Engine no. X75381
40 hp, 192.4 cu. in. Northway L-head inline four-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transmission, solid front axle, semi-elliptical front and 3/4-elliptical rear leaf spring suspension, and rear-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 112 in.
Oakland is well-remembered as one of the founding marques of General Motors and as the parent of the “junior” Pontiac. Its Brass Era models were noted for their attractive styling, relative lightness, and good performance, especially evident in the Model 37 of 1915 – a fine basis for speedster bodywork, with a rakish vee’d radiator that added a bit of extra dash.
According to Oakland historian Wayne Koffel, this particular Model 37 was an export model, shipped as a knocked-down kit of parts to either Australia or New Zealand, where it was assembled for that market. Its status as an export model explains the anachronistic features such as right-hand-drive, which had by 1915 been obsolete on home-market Oaklands for two years.
The car’s history is known back to the mid-1960s, when it was acquired at a Vintage Car Club of New Zealand rally in Hawkes Bay by Bob Mansbridge. After several years of planning but not accomplishing the restoration, he sold the car to fellow enthusiasts Roger and Diane White, who took on Mansbridge’s dream of rebuilding the Oakland in the mold of a Mercer Raceabout.
The original tourer body was changed out for this dramatic speedster coachwork, with a body, tank, and mudguards that the talented Mr. White crafted himself; he also cast his own monocle windshield, mounted on a lowered cowl with a mahogany dashboard. He learned panelbeating at a local technical school in order to make the seats from scratch, while the rear of the body was formed by a boatbuilder friend. The steering column was shifted back by rotating the spring hanger, the gearshift was relocated outside the car for the proper look, and the rear springs were moved atop the frame, to lower it and produce a more rakish appearance. Several period photos accompany the car, showing it both as-found and in use following its completion.
Upon its completion, “Oaky” was driven by the Whites in the 1972 International Rally and in many other events in their home country over the next several years, recognized by the various badges found on the car today. It was eventually sold in the late 1980s in favor of a more practical classic for their growing family, and wound up being sold in Auckland to an American serving in the Antarctic; the Whites recalled hearing that the new owner flew it home to the States aboard a C-130 Hercules.
Eventually the car was inherited by a gentleman in Long Island, who sold it to the current owner several years ago. The owner reports that the car runs and drives well, and strongly, and that it has been wonderfully fun to own and enjoy. Durable and well-engineered in the best Oakland tradition, it boasts the highly compliment to be given a Brass Era speedster: it is as well-proportioned and attractive as the Mercer that its body apes.