Preservation Magazine, Fall 2019

Kykuit's Coach Barn Features a Rare 1918 Crane-Simplex Automobile

Crane-Simplex Model 5 Tourer

photo by: Historic Hudson Valley/Mick Hales

What weighs 5,600 pounds, is 11 feet long, can move at up to 90 miles per hour, and is more than 100 years old? If you guessed John D. Rockefeller, Jr.’s Crane-Simplex Model 5 Tourer, you’d be right. One of the last surviving motorcars owned by “Junior” (as he was affectionately known), this 1918 gas-powered automobile is a highlight of the Rockefeller collection on display in the Coach Barn at Kykuit, one of the National Trust’s 27 historic sites that are open to the public. The Coach Barn houses 12 other Rockefeller family cars, including a 1916 Anderson Electric Roadster and a 1924 Auto Red Bug Buckboard.

Crane-Simplex autos were among the largest, most powerful, and most extravagant of the early 20th century. Rare even in their day, only around 500 Crane-Simplexes were built, and today less than 40 are known to exist. Rockefeller ordered his with two custom-built bodies from coachmaker Brewster & Company: a sedan for winter use and the phaeton (shown here) for warmer seasons. In today’s dollars, the chassis and bodies would cost more than $250,000.

Dennis Hockman is editor in chief of Preservation magazine. He’s lived in historic apartments and houses all over the United States and knows that all old buildings have stories to tell if you care to find them.

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