NOVEMBER SONG
The Bothwell Collection Auction

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NOVEMBER SONG
The Bothwell Collection Auction
Story and photos by Harold Osmer

A clear, cool November day is very good for oranges. They ripen best with coolness and good drainage. Ann Bothwell relayed this critical information to me several times during our bi-monthly telephone conversations.

Matriarch of clan Bothwell, Ann presided over the final active orange grove in the San Fernando Valley. With her passing last year, the proverbial end of an era came to a close. The remaining details were dealt with on a clear, cool early November day.

Ann and husband Lindley operated a fruit basket and packaging business from their Woodland Hills ranch for many decades.  During their business travels, they passed time in towns across America by wandering through toy stores in search of model trains. Their collection grew to include an impressive array of 1920s & ‘30s vintage trains, each with a wonderful travel story to tell.

Lindley also had a particular passion for automobiles and managed to accumulate an impressive collection which was stored in barns and out building over their large property. Many were kept in operating condition. He brought several old racecars to Riverside, Santa Monica, and Pomona to recreate the old Vanderbilt Cup races. He can rightly be credited for launching what we currently recognize as vintage auto racing.

With Lindley’s passing in the 1980s, Ann maintained the ranch and collections. Shunning publicity, she nonetheless allowed certain car clubs and affinity groups onto the property for special events. Ann referred to select people as her “dear friend.” It strikes me that all her friends were dear to her. She passed away last year, leaving the ranch details open for tending to.

Bonham’s auction house was on hand this cool, clear November day to auction the trains, automobilia, and auto collection. The entire list of auction items and subsequent winning bids can be found at the Bonham’s www.bonhams.com site.

You could have acquired a clean 1926 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost pickup for $145,000. Or, how about a 1925 Model T speedster for $8,000 perhaps? Maybe a 1925 Locomobile Model 48 Town Car ($47,000) is more to your style. An extremely rare 1902 Packard Model G went across the block at $385,000 while Barney Oldfield’s 1908 Prinz-Heinrich Benz beat the estimates selling for cool $1.7 million.


The most significant car in American auto racing history was sold for $6.6 million dollars. A 1914 Peugeot L45 Grand Prix two seater, this particular car was the star of today’s auction for very good reason. It was this car and its stablemates that came to Southern California in the late ‘teens touting new French engine technology. Upon finding themselves in the Los Angeles shop of Harry Miller for repairs, Miller not only repaired them to racing condition, he learned a lot about how to complete his own engine designs.

Miller engines dominated the racing scene throughout the 1920s. Miller later sold off to Fred Offenhauser whose engines were the premier powerplant in American racing for decades. The Peugeot sold today is a primary reason Miller engines existed, which begat Offys, and thus became the most significant car in American auto racing history. You can argue the point if you like. You’d just be wrong.

What made the Bothwell Collection such a treasure is that it existed in a single place. From Model Ts and cycle cars to movie cars and old racers, Lindley and Ann Bothwell’s collection reflected their many interests. They were open to sharing it with the rest of us and were quick to tell tales about every piece. Now spread out, it remains to be seen if a given vehicle will increase in value with the Bothwell pedigree attached.

I will assume so. –HO

About the author: LACar staffer, Harold Osmer is a historian, an expert woodsmith (West Hills Wood in the San Fernando Valley) and the author of a number of carefully-researched motoring books on the era.  Among them true the story of California racing and its rise, run, ruin, and (at least partial) renaissance called:  “Where They Raced”.

If his above story about the Bothwell collection strikes a chord with you; that book and Harold Osmer’s books on the original Santa Monica road races (yeah they raced through the streets of that seaside town three and a half decades before Long Beach) and “scrapbook” of the life and times of Saugus Speedway, are all recommended reading. -DS

Editor’s sidebar: I have my own tale to tell about the wonderful Ann Bothwell. I worked for a couple of years as the manager of a bookstore in Burbank. Well-known in the wheels world, Autobooks carried a wide range of books on the subject. One day Mrs. Bothwell came in and purchased $2044.50 worth of books for (I think) holiday gifts. We had a lovely talk; she was automotive aristocracy (but without any of the airs and none of the attitudes) for me.

Two or three hours later she called the shop, had she forgotten anything, I enquired. “No …” she replied softly. Well then what could I do for her. “My…er… bill … the … er… credit card receipt …er.”

Thinking that I had failed to give here the receipt I said Oh, no problem, I’m right at the machine now, I’ll … there … one second … OK, I got it … would you like me to mail it …

OH S_ _ T!

Looking at our records I quickly realized that I had charged her American Express card $20,445.00, of course it went right through when I ran it and neither of us had looked very carefully at the total on the receipt.

Trying not to choke on my own tongue, I started to apologize while furtively looking around for the ground to open up and take me to my fiery demise … I had stolen a twenty grand from one of the most gentle and caring patron saints of wonderful old cars on this green earth! I was doomed to hell or worse and RIGHT NOW!

… I think that she could feel my overwhelming anguish all the way to her end of Valley and she was quick to make a joke. On my end of the phone line I was looking at a nearby box cutter and already thinking about closing early so I could slash my wrists in private.

We finally (both) had a good laugh about it. Years after whenever I found myself at the same gathering as Ann … I’d sidle up to her, wait for an opening with whoever she was talking with and say: “Ann … why don’t you tell everyone about that time I tried to swindle you out of twenty thousand bucks”.

Our little joke … I only wish that I could keep involving Mrs. Bothwell in the telling. -DS

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