Star Cars: Touring around Tinseltown

Much like today, yesterday’s stars drove some of the finest machinery available to them. Often, Hollywood’s heroes and heroines were photographed with their new purchases, which ranged from the uncommon to the opulent, and sometimes both. Some of those people have been forgotten with the dusty, vault-stored strips of film onto which they were captured, but the names of their cars — Packard, Wills Sainte Claire and the like — remain well-remembered by automobile enthusiasts.

Here are a few examples of that first-class iron that once sparkled the streets of Tinseltown:


Silent film actress Ann Forrest posed in what we believe is a Cole roadster during the peak of her career, which ran from 1915-1925. Her eight-cylinder Cole runs sporty wire wheels and accessory shock absorbers. Also note the combination headlamps and parking lamp arrangement, which was uncommon but not unique to Cole.


Goodrich’s 1929 Silver Fleet was apparently composed of this racy open Lincoln (right) and Packard roadster (left). The Lincoln was identified as the “flagship” by a placard in the windshield, but the Packard’s role is masked by a pretty woman on the car’s hood. The Silver Fleet was a team of 14 cars that ran Goodrich Silvertown tires in 1929 through “treacherous ice and snow, rain and mud, heat and blistering desert sand.” It was all a publicity stunt, as the fleet of cars stopped in large cities to show the minimal wear on the rubber.


The back of this photo reads, “Nita Naldi and solid black Town Brougham on Isotta-Fraschini ‘super-eight’ chassis with V-shaped two-piece windshield and side wings swinging with the doors — aluminum hood, cowl and front pillers (sic). Coachwork by Fleetwood. This car will be exhibited at the New York Automobile Salon, November 28 to December 4th at the Hotel Commodore.” What it fails to mention is that the car’s cobra hood ornament indicates it was likely built for Roaring Twenties heartthrob Rudolph Valentino, who favored the Italian Isotta chassis, and Naldi is a silent film actress and good friend of Valentino. The salon is believed to have been the 1926 event, and by this time, Valentino would have been two months dead and therefore would never have seen this spectacular car completed.


Not nearly as popular as Valentino, actor Matt Moore chose the Maryville, Mich.-built Wills Sainte Claire as his Hollywood chariot. The California license plate on this cabriolet indicates the year is 1925, and the back of the photo states this is Moore’s new car, which is either an eight-cylinder Model B-68 with 67 hp, or a Model W-6 with 66 hp. At the time of this photo, Moore was appearing in the role of Hector MacDonald in the MGM crime/drama “The Unholy Three.”


Broadway star Ethalind Terry went right to the doors of the Marmon administration building at the Indianapolis factory to pick up her new four-passenger speedster. Terry was apparently known as something of a prima donna in her musical roles on New York stages. The Marmon is believed to be a six-cylinder, 34-hp 1926 D-74 built during the heyday of Terry’s career.


Had enough star cars? We’ll end with a few “normal Joes” like you and me. These folks are lined outside the James Levy Motors Co., vendors of Premier and Chalmers motor cars, to see a new Chalmers Six touring car. It must be a fall or winter day, as indicated by the bare trees and the warmly dressed men posing with the 1917 Illinois-licensed Chalmers.

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