Saturday, November 14, 2015

1917 Case

1917 Case
If you see a Case car in your lifetime, consider yourself lucky. When Associate Editor George Mattar found this one in the paddock at the big Kruse auction at Fall Hershey last month, he knew he'd found something special.
Not a lot of information exists on these cars, so we called in one of the experts to give us a bit of a primer. We ended up digging through the Horseless Carriage Club of America's member roster to find someone - anyone - that could tell us more than the sketchy details we could find on this special car. Herb Wessel of Hampstead, Maryland, was our man. He came through with an article he wrote for the February 2000 Gas Buggy Gazette, the Antique Auto Club of America's Gettysburg Region newsletter.
Wessel writes that the car was built by the J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company of Racine, Wisconsin. The car manufacturing concern started life in 1895, when Andrew J. Pierce built his first car under the banner of the Pierce Engine Company. Later cars were known as Pierce Racines, which was completely unconnected to the Pierce Arrow car company.
The J. I. Case Threshing Company got involved with the company when Pierce was looking to expand. Financing was provided by executives and stockholders of J. I. Case, and some possibly through the Case company itself. When debt and expenses spun out of control, Case found itself the owner of a car company. By 1910, some later Pierce Racine cars were emblazoned with "CASE" emblems on the radiator grilles. By 1911, all the cars featured the Case name.
Case served the farming community in the Heartland manufacturing tractors, and as such, felt it had a leg up on its competition, especially among farmers who were familiar with the products. With 8,000 dealers and agents around the country, the idea was strong. The price, however, wasn't; in 1922, a Case Model W listed for $2,250. A Ford Model T could be had for the princely sum of $300. You do the math and get back to us on which car a farmer would buy.
In total, Case produced 27,000 some-odd cars in its 16-year run. Not a low total, but Wessel reminds us to consider that in January of 1924 alone, Ford sold more cars in a week than Case built in its entire history.
Wessel notes that there are about a hundred Case cars left in existence, and the Case collectors all know where they are. Wessel himself owns five, from 1912 to the final year of the car's production in 1927. With such a small group of cars available, assessing value is ironically both easy and hard. It's easy because you can find out what each car sold for. It's hard because each individual car has its own unique elements. Wessel notes that a 1912 sold last year at the Krause auction in Iola, Wisconsin, netted $99,000. "But that was a brass era car," he says, adding "The 1917 was a much more plain-Jane, functional car."
This particular example was nearly perfect, having been the subject of a recently completed, ground-up, professional-quality restoration. Asked what he thought the value of the Case at the Kruse Hershey auction Wessel joked: "It bid up to $57,500. I think that's a pretty good indication of what the car's worth."

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