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The Howard Hughes 1953 Buick Roadmaster

 

To mark Barrett-Jackson’s half-century in business, in this special series we’re taking a look back at some of our favorite moments from the past 50 years – as well as some little-known facts about The World’s Greatest Collector Car Auctions.

 

On display at the Flagler Museum prior to the 2005 Palm Beach Auction, the Howard Hughes 1953 Buick Roadmaster was the first car at the Florida auctions to break the million-dollar mark.

When Howard Hughes’ 1953 Buick Roadmaster crossed the block at the 2005 Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach Auction, the energy in the packed auction arena was palpable. Said to be the last car Howard Hughes ever drove, upon Hughes’ passing the Buick was put into storage, where it would remain hidden for nearly 20 years. “No human had seen this car since 1958,” said Craig Jackson, Chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson. A friendly tip led Craig Jackson’s brother Brian to Hughes’s Hollywood, California, headquarters at 7000 Romaine Street, where he discovered a treasure trove of Hughes’ personal effects, along with the Buick. The back wall was stacked with tins from silent, sound and color versions of Hughes’ film “Hell’s Angels.” There was also a mannequin wearing the jacket Hughes wore when he piloted the Spruce Goose. “It was like walking through the history of Howard Hughes,” said Craig Jackson.

 

Nellie Jackson at the 2005 Palm Beach Auction emerging from the Howard Hughes 1953 Buick Roadmaster before it sold for $1.65 million.

In attendance at the Palm Beach Auction was Nellie Jackson, the First Lady of Collector Cars and matriarch of the Jackson family, who eagerly anticipated the sale of the Pastel Blue and Seafoam Green Roadmaster she and her son Craig now owned. Her excitement lit the fire, and a fierce bidding war between three determined parties broke out. Back and forth, and back and forth – the bidding climbed and climbed, passing $500,000, passing $1 million, and soaring all the way up to an astounding $1.65 million. The sale set a new auction world record for the sale of a Buick, a record that stands to this day. “It was amazing to see that whole thing play out,” remembered Barrett-Jackson President Steve Davis “Everyone was holding their breath; everybody was on their feet.”

 

Four 6-volt batteries to power the trunk-mounted air conditioning unit

Hughes was a Renaissance man of the 20th century, and the Buick certainly conveyed some his more idiosyncratic and eccentric characteristics. At the direction of Hughes, the Roadmaster was substantially modified; all the windows and vents (apart from the driver’s) are locked, sealed and inoperative. The vents and heaters were removed, and the firewall completely sealed. The Buick featured a full 24-volt aircraft electrical system in conjunction with the Buick’s factory 12-volt system, allowing Hughes to jumpstart aircraft and power a trunk-mounted air conditioning unit that was operable independent of the engine and redesigned to flow air through dust trap and bacterial filter. The trunk contains four 6-volt batteries to power auxiliary systems and – due to lack of trunk space – a Continental kit built by Hughes Aircraft. The Roadmaster served as Hughes’ mobile office when he was in Hollywood and was his preferred means of transport due to its understated appearance.

 

Hughes certainly left his mark on American culture; he was a real-life Tony Stark before Tony Stark was a thing. He was captain of the Spruce Goose, an aviation pioneer, Academy Award-winning producer, a recluse and one of America’s most alluring personas. The sale of the Howard Hughes’ Buick Roadmaster remains an important piece of American automotive history and played a significant role in Barrett-Jackson storied past.

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By: Barrett-Jackson
Title: THE AVIATOR’S ROADMASTER: A 50 Facts & Favorite Memories Feature
Sourced From: www.barrett-jackson.com/Media/Home/Reader/howard-hughes-1953-buick-roadmaster/
Published Date: Thu, 04 Nov 2021 15:57:24 +0000

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