Founded during 1919 and based in Mars Hill, Indiana, the LaFayette Motors Company boasted the technical expertise of none other than D’Orsay McCall White. An expat Glaswegian, McCall White served as chief engineer to the Daimler Motor Car Company, D. Napier & Son (where he designed a Land Speed Record car) and Crossley Motors before emigrating to the USA.
Personally responsible for devising Cadillac’s first V8 engine, the Type 51, he later became the company’s vice president and was one of three people entrusted with developing the V12 Liberty aircraft engine during World War One. Drawing upon his aeronautical experience, 5.7 litre V8 engine that McCall White created for the LaFayette Model 134 featured a hollow case crankshaft weighing just 30.5lbs, air-pressurised fuel delivery system, internally driven accessories using Morse type chains, twin crankshaft-driven back-to-back water pumps, manifolding routed through the cylinder block and a dual exhaust system to the rear of the car which resulted in low back pressure.
Fed by a multi-jet carburettor, the sophisticated power-plant developed 100bhp at 2,750rpm and was allied to three-speed manual transmission. Based around a substantial ladder frame chassis equipped with all-round semi-elliptic leaf-sprung suspension, worm and sector steering, fully floating back axle and rear wheel brakes. The Model 134 also incorporated thermostatically controlled radiator shutters.
Relocating to Milwaukee, Wisconsin when Charles Nash of Nash Motors acquired control in 1923, LaFayette nevertheless ceased production the following year. Available in Touring, Sedan, Coupe, Torpedo, Roadster and Limousine guises, a mere 2,267 Model 134 cars were produced. Competition amid luxury car makers during the 1920’s was particularly fierce. For all its engineering excellence LaFayette struggled to poach customers from established giants such as Cadillac and Packard especially as the Model 134 was more expensive than the former’s offerings and on a par price wise with the latter’s; the Four-Door Coupe model costing a princely $4,300 in 1924. The survival rate for LaFayette Model 134 cars has been estimated at just one percent.
Finished in Dark Green over Black with Red pinstriping and Grey cloth upholstery, this particular Milwaukee-built example – chassis 2978 – wears Four-Door Coupe coachwork by the Seaman Body Corporation (number 31178). One of a pair of Model 134 cars supplied new to North Georgian steam locomotive manufacturer James Bulan Glover (the other being a Torpedo), it remained in his family until 2001. Dry stored in a basement for the previous seventy years, the LaFayette was complete but in need of a full restoration. Displayed ‘as found’ at the Nash Car Club of America’s 2002 Grand Nashional meeting, it caused an understandable stir. The vendor estimates that acquiring and refurbishing the Model 134 has cost some $200,000. Rewired, repainted, re-trimmed and treated to a thorough mechanical overhaul, the work took NCCA member Ben Bliss over three years to complete.
Undeniably handsome, the Four-Door Coupe body sports a distinctive, prism-like windscreen, LaFayette calormeter, integral luggage trunk, LaFayette Motors Corporation Milwaukee hubcaps and twin rear-mounted spare wheels. To the interior, the well-stocked dashboard is complimented by a wooden steering wheel, wooden window frames, nickel-silver door furniture and blinds to the rear windows. Sparingly used since its completion save for a few rally outings, chassis 2978 is quite possibly the finest Model 134 in existence. Offered for sale with French Certificat d’Immatriculation (Carte Grise), UK V5C Registration Document, FIVA Identity Card, bill of sale from Mr Glover’s son (a distant relative of Teddy Roosevelt) and a huge history file. This is a rare opportunity to own an even rarer car in a truly breath-taking condition.