1 of 97: 1948 Playboy A48 Convertible

The 1948 Playboy A48 retractable hardtop convertible was the only car produced by the short-lived Playboy Automobile Co. It was conceived by a Packard dealer who felt the cars would sell well after World War II. Only 97 copies were made before the company went out of business. Fewer than half the autos are believed to have survived 73 years later and this is one of them, located in Auburn, Indiana. It will be offered via auction here on Sotheby’s during the first week of December 2021.

While the company’s name immediately makes folks think of the famous magazine with the same name, Playboy Automobile Co. was founded six years before Hugh Hefner came up with his publishing empire. The company’s founder was car dealer Lou Horwitz who thought a car like the A48 would be popular in the years following WW2. The car was introduced in the Fall of 1946, production started the following year and it’s said to be one of the first drop-tops with a retractable hardtop (like the 1957-59 Ford Skyliner). Unfortunately, the Buffalo, New York-based company was unable to find sufficient investment capital and folded before 100 copies of the A48 could be built.

Powered by a small inline-4 engine with a 3-speed manual transmission, the seller’s car (and the others) would top out of 75 mph, although taking 17 seconds just to get to 50 mph. So, they were built to be economical cars, not speed demons. We’re told example #79 has seen just 7,500 miles of use. Though the Sotheby’s listing doesn’t mention it (but shows photos of it), there is some rust on the underbody of the car. So, while it presents well from the exterior, some degree of restoration will be needed for the car to return to 1948 standards.

The A48 was ahead of its time, including the use of unit-body construction, coil spring suspension, and the hardtop that is hinged and folds flush with the rear decklid. We’re told the automobile runs well, at least to make an appearance in an Iowa Independence Day parade in 2021. These are rare but strange-looking machines that are hard to find today. We would assume that parts for these vehicles are even more difficult to locate. It will be interesting to watch the auction and see how much it takes for this car to change hands.

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Comments

  1. 370zpp 370zpp Member

    As innovative as this was, even with that name, I’m betting there are no photos of Hef, smoking a pipe driving one.

    Like 9
  2. Harvey Member

    Only a mother could love this sad little car:-)

    Like 11
    • Scott Marquis

      Then just call me Mom.

      Like 40
  3. Richard Kirschenbaum

    Another incarnation of the retractable hardtop that first appeared on the Peugeot Eclipse in 1938, the brainchild one Georges Paulin, a true genius and French patriot executed by the Nazis for resistance activities after being betrayed by Vichy French collaborators. It was like murdering Picasso,

    Like 24
  4. Howard A Member

    A Playboy, whoop, whoop, how would you like your daughter picked up in a “Playboy”? Funny, like Russ mentioned, the car name had nothing to do with the magazine, which came out in 1953, long after this cars demise. The name “Playboy” did refer to a person that had a “swingin’ lifestyle” however, and why Hefner chose that to begin with. Surely the name alone will sell the car. After the war, there certain companies flush with cash, Packard, and their dealers being one of them. A “swing and a miss”, like shown here, was common, as they may hit it out of the park. Sadly, not here, it was nothing special, and returning GI’s found out, there were far swoopier European cars to be had, than this. The motor is a Continental, about 40 hp, and a Jag would blow the doors off this, but we were slow to accept that fact, and amazing some still gave it the ol’ college try. If having the only one of something trips your trigger, cost no object, by all means, whip out the card,,or however these people pay for these exorbitant purchases.

    Like 4
    • Psychofish2

      Thanks for the info on the engine. I was going to ask where it was sourced.

      Like 1
      • Michael

        I attended a Playboy Motor convention just outside of Buffalo a few years ago. Some had Continental motors, some had Hercules, and a handful had Willys. I guess they used whatever they could find.

        Like 3
  5. Doug from MD.

    I would have figured a car with the name Playboy would be painted in a hot lip stick red. I’m sure a potato was used in the design of this car, its not very appealing kinda like a potato. Oh well each to his own.

    Like 3
  6. Big Len

    Strange, not one picture with top down.

    Like 9
    • Solosolo Solosolo Member

      I was thinking the same way. I don’t think it works otherwise Sotherby’s would have lowered it.

      Like 2
  7. Rodney - GSM

    The only Playboy you will want to look at with a top fold instead of a center fold.

    Like 11
  8. Will

    I’d like to have the steering wheel!

    Like 1
    • Riffraff

      Ross Cam and Lever Steering

      Like 2
  9. charlie Member

    “Somewhere west of Larime” was the advertising slogan for the Jordan Playboy in the early 1920’s – a fast open car in its day.

    Like 2
  10. Tango Smoker

    The battery says it’s a 6 volt system.

    • Norman K Wrensch

      6 volt As were all other cars of that vintage

  11. Howie Mueler

    I hope there was not one painted pink for a playmate.

    Like 3
  12. BR

    Looks like it needs a hug.

    • AMCFAN

      Years ago was at an auction in the great state of Indiana. There was a huge car auction. Hundreds of vintage cars on two properties divided by a state highway. Across the highway there was a tree line and you had to walk. Not for the faint of heart…..or those with a bad heart. Make shift buildings falling in. Hundreds of cars trucks and farm equipment.

      Everything was numbered. The tent was across the road and went swiftly. Several people were almost hit crossing the busy highway. Pretty crazy.
      The auctioneer read from a list and you had to be on your toes.

      One of the lots was a Playboy rotted into the ground. It was so bad it would have had to been scooped up with earth and debris to remove it. Seems it was a one of a very low number and had documentation. I believe the price paid was three of four hundred.

      Looking at the real thing I am glad I passed. I will stick with a Mazda Miata

  13. charlie Member

    American cars of that vintage were 6 v. but some British cars, including my ’39 MG were 12 v. as were some US trucks. 12 v was accomplished by two 6 v batteries in series, one under each side of the back seat.

    • BR

      For the life of me I can’t recall any pre 1950 trucks that were all 12 volt, save for the 24 volt series-parallel switched starters.

  14. Stu Member

    My dad went through the training to be a salesman for the brand before they folded. He thought it would be a really good job with an expense account and all….

    Dad always talked about how they were designed so the LF fender and RR were interchangeable, as were the RF and LR. Someone else help out here–didn’t the late 40s/ early 50s Studebaker pickups do something similar?

    Like 1
  15. AnnasBigBananas

    Rather ‘sporty’ for what else was around in 1948. I mean considering the Nash Metro was still 4 years away and even then it was a lump of lard compared to this… personally, I’d just love to see it with it’s top going down.

  16. AnnasBigBananas

    And how many decades later we were offered the Pinto and nobody beleaguers that it was never offered as a hardtop convertible! Damn!

  17. Kenn

    That has to be one small engine, if the camera angle didn’t cause the engine to be not much larger than the battery. And I, too, would have like to see the top down. Or partially down to illustrate the mechanicals.

  18. John

    My father has one of these cars – serial# 44.

    Like 1
  19. George

    https://www.hemmings.com/stories/article/retractable-rarity-1948-playboy-convertible-coupe

    Here’s an article from Hemmings. There is a picture with the top down. Sotheby’s sold one in 2018 for $132,000.

    Like 1
  20. chrlsful

    & a lousy low angle one @ that. Anyway I too wanna C it ‘from above’…down.

    Considering the jeeps da guys were drivin all over europe, etc justa few yrs earlier it IS a ‘playboy’. Look @ the dash! no running boards! etc!

  21. Charles Marks

    An interesting article about the Playboy Automobile Company and the relationship of Hugh Hefner to same. The Playboy car predated the magazine of the same name and was actually the inspiration for Hugh Hefner. Playboy cars were built in Buffalo, NY, which also is the home of such storied cars as the Pierce Arrow and Thomas Flyer. Read on:

    https://www.apexautomag.com/2016/06/history-playboy-car/

    • Solosolo Solosolo Member

      Thanks for the link Charles, very interesting.

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