December 21, 2007 In recent months we've covered a number of the spectacular rare automobiles set to go under the hammer at the 37th Annual Barrett-Jackson Auction. Now, just weeks away from the event, news that another pre-war classic - the only 1929 Muller Front Drive Ruxton Engineer Prototype "alligator" Roadster ever built - will be among the more than 1100 vehicles up for grabs.
Ruxton broke new ground in automotive design with the use of front-wheel-drive technology and the "alligator" has a fascinating history of its own. While working on a high-end sedan for the New Era Motor Company, engineer William Muller secretly began working on a "little sporty supercharged Ruxton roadster for fellows who really enjoyed fast road cars".
The end-result was a unique front-drive Ruxton utilizing the same Continental 4.4 liter side-valve, 100hp, straight-eight cylinder engine as the sedan (Muller added a supercharger but this is no longer a part of the restored vehicle). The car also shared the same transmission and frame but the the body and frame were cut down by nine inches.
Due to the Great Depression and its impact on luxury goods, Ruxton closed its doors in 1930 having produced less than 200 cars - only a handful of the original cars are known to exist.
"This is a terrific car that has been thoroughly researched and recently restored to very high standards," noted Tim Whited, co-owner of the Ruxton "Alligator". "The story of Bill Muller and this car is incredible and of considerable interest within the collector car community. A file drawer full of notes, letters and articles accompanied the purchase of the car. The 'Alligator' will make a stellar centerpiece for a serious collector who appreciates world-class engineering and the exclusivity of owning a one-off prototype that wowed the public in 1929."
"Muller was a serious racing enthusiast and you can see his passion for motorsports in every aspect of this fantastic car," added Steve Davis, President of the Barrett-Jackson Auction Company. "For instance, the vehicle sat lower than most cars of the era so it would be very stable at speed. Bill let a number of drivers, including Ralph DePalma, Cannonball Baker and Ralph Harroun, take it around the track at Indy for some timed laps after the race in May 1930. Someone saw it running around the track and said it looked like an alligator. Somehow that name stuck."
The car's restoration was completed in late 2006 by Cole's Classics using a number of original parts that accompanied the Ruxton when it was purchased.
"The 'Alligator' was in a neglected condition when we purchased it and we felt strongly that it should be restored as close as possible to its condition when Bill Muller drove it throughout the U.S. to demonstrate the front-drive technology," added Whited. "Our focus was absolute detailed accuracy. The photos and documentation we received with the car were invaluable and this amazing wealth of documentation will pass on to the new owner."
For more details on the Auction see Barrett-Jackson.