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Telephone Booths with Wheels

A few weeks ago Dave Lefeber was at a car show in Hartford with his 1929 Detroit Electric Model 98 FD. Dave bought his car on June 27, 1978 from an advertisement in Old Cars Weekly. It may turn out to be one of the wisest investments he ever made.

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For some reason, the values of early Electric cars are rising. Maybe it has something to do with the increasing popularity of modern electric cars, which have been getting better. The Tesla is a great example of just how good an electric car can be. It is very fast, very quiet, very reliable and very expensive.

Cars like Dave’s don’t look sleek and car-like the way a Tesla does. They look like phone booths. Yes, some of us actually remember what a phone booth looked like! The Detroit Electric Brougham looks like a phone booth with wheels.

Last year we were doing appraisals for The Automobile Gallery ( in Green Bay, Wis. Red Lewis, who founded the Gallery purchased a 1917 Milburn Electric. When the market was researched, It turned out that another Milburn—a 1923 model—had been sold on June 15, 2015 at the Motostalgia Indianapolis "Brickyard" auction for $165,000.

Now one high sale does not a market make, but it’s very clear that early electric cars are bringing much higher prices than ever before. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues. It flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that says prices for prewar cars are dropping like a lead balloon.

Interestingly, while we were talking to Dave Lefeber, a young car enthusiast came walking up to tell Dave that a “Telephone Booth” electric car had recently been discovered in Waukesha, Wis. So, not only are electric car values rising–there’s still some of them lying around that haven’t been found yet.

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