Love them or hate them, movie cars are a part of car culture. It’s silly that the provenance of being in a movie or television show or being owned by an entertainment celebrity gives cars a bump in price, but some movie cars are significant enough cultural artifacts in and of themselves to merit note when they change hands. Perhaps the most valuable movie cars, the ones with the most interest, are the cars that themselves become characters in their films. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is one example, and it sold for $805,000 last month at a Los Angeles auction. Jack Benny’s Maxwells, real General Lee Chargers or James Bond Aston Martins are other examples. Now you have a chance to own one of the most familiar film autos of all times, one of Laurel & Hardy’s Model Ts.
Comedians Stanley Laurel and Oliver Hardy used Model Ts as such a staple of their comedy that it’s easy to picture them behind the wheel of a Model T runabout. Even the Wikipedia entry on the team’s comedy style mentions the T.
Plastic model kits and children’s toys naturally associate the Model T with Laurel & Hardy.
Starting in the silent film era, Laurel and Hardy relied heavily on visual humor based on the travails of the average guy. The Model T, and the trouble that Stan and Ollie had with their various Ts fit that concept perfectly. So perfectly that they continued to use Model Ts well into the talking picture era, long after the T went out of production.The Model T was almost the third member of their comedy team.
Sadly for movie car collectors, Stan and Ollie were rough on cars. Many of the Model Ts that they used in their films made by Hal Roach were damaged or wrecked for comedic purposes. In Busy Bodies, the two of them sat side by side in a Model T as a giant band saw sliced it in two between them.
Fortunately, some of the cars survived. A 1918 Model T used in the Roach directed Laurel & Hardy films ended up in the massive collection of Hollywood costumes, props and memorabilia that actress Debbie Reynolds will be selling later this month. Ms. Reynolds had hoped to eventually open a museum but says that debt forces her to sell almost of of her historic items, which include the “subway dress” that Marilyn Monroe famously wore in Seven Year Itch. That dress is expected to fetch $2 million. Laurel and Hardy’s Model T is expected to get more modest bidding, $20,000-$30,000 according to the catalog from the Profiles In History auction house. Actually, that’s very strong money for a Model T, attesting to the continued appeal of movie cars. The Laurel and Hardy Model T is lot #20 in the auction catalog. Take a minute to look over the catalog. If you’re at all a movie fan you will marvel at the scope of the collection, started when Ms. Reynolds bought many of the items bankruptcies forced the Fox and MGM studios’ liquidation in the early 1970s.
From the auction catalog:
20. 1918 Ford Model T used in Laurel & Hardy films. Acquired by Debbie Reynolds at the 1970 MGM sale. This piece was bought with no wheels and was on blocks (the wooden wheels had rotted). Debbie’s father, Ray Reynolds, restored the car to running condition following the sale and in 2001, once again, the Model T was restored to running condition and has remained so since. Laurel & Hardy used mainly Model T Fords (in various configurations) in their films, including such classics as Perfect Day, Hog Wild, Towed in a Hole and Big Business. This 4-door example is one that survived the onslaught of abuse dished out by the comedic duo. Special shipping arrangements will apply.
If something more modern is to your tastes, you can also bid on the red 1952 MG TD used by Ms. Monroe and Cary Grant in Monkey Business. Ms. Reynolds’ daughter, actress and writer Carrie Fisher, wanted her to give her the MG but she can’t drive a stick so it’s going to be sold to someone who can drive it.