Rare Find Indeed! 1920/21 Bell Motor Car

We recently featured a find that was believed to be one of only a dozen built and I asked our Facebook readers if any of them happened owned a car that was as or more rare than that. Well to my surprise, one of our readers posted a photo of a project they had just recently picked up. It was one of three in existence, so it’s definitely as rare as they come. Reader Justin B is the proud owner of this rare 1920 Bell Motor Car. It’s in rough shape, but Justin has already started the processes of restoring it!

From Justin – I actually came across the car from a post to one of the Facebook groups I belong to. Someone had posted about an estate auction somewhere in PA (I live in southern Pa) and I was scrolling through the pictures and saw the data plate for the car which said York, Pa (local to me) and I decided I had to try and buy it. I took a screen shot of the post (it was taken down later) and used the info to track down the location and date of the auction, since it wasn’t in the post. Found that out and ended up having to bid online while traveling to NY for a family function.

I plan on restoring it. Doing as much work myself as possible. There is a restoration shop near by (Penn Dutch Restorations) that restored the first Bell Motor Car that was found in a barn and worked on the second one found as well, they said they would help me out as much as they could with it, which is nice, because I know I’m going to need them to do some work on it. I’m going to end up having to make most of the missing parts or adapt things to work. It will be a long expensive process. So work will be done as I can afford it.

This is a Herschell Spillman 4cyl engine and will eventually be installed in the Bell. It was sold at The Hershey Fall meet in 2015 to a guy who deals in pre-war cars and parts over in New Zealand, so I had to buy it and pay to ship it back. Herschell Spillman was known in the early 1900’s for manufacturing carousels and the engines to power them. Some cars, like my Bell, received these engines as well.

What an incredible undertaking! Restoring a car that was built in large numbers can be a challenge, but restoring something this rare is in a completely different ball park. There aren’t books out there explaining how to put this car back together, so he will have to puzzle it back together from old photos and the knowledge of the few individuals who have worked on these cars. I want to wish him the best of luck with this project and hope that he will keep us posted on his progress! If you have a rare barn find project that your currently restoring, we sure would love to hear about it!

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Comments

  1. Karguy James

    This is one of my rarest finds….. One of three

    • 68 custom

      looks like a land speed record car? a miller?
      the bell is neat but talk about an ambitious restoration!

      • Karguy James

        1937 Adler Lemans class winning race car. My rarest find below IS a land speed car.

        Like 1
    • Ken Member

      What is it?? I’m in Mich. and I see it has an old Mich. plate – is it a Bonneville car?? A good friend of mine who unfortunately passed away a few yrs ago was Chrysler’s liaison with the Sommers Brothers on the Goldenrod which set the record for many yrs at 409 mph with 4 Hemis around ’65 – and it’s now at the HF museum in Dearborn – but please tell us what this is???? Is that a european insignia on the back deck?

    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Beautiful car James! Boy, and people complain about looking out the rear view mirror on the 63 Sting Rays.

  2. Karguy James

    My rarest find…. 1931 Pierce Arrow Land Speed car built by Preston Tucker

    • cudaman

      Was the car above (1931 Piece Arrow Land Speed car) the one that was on The American Pickers a while ago???? Sitting next to a house, I think in Florida???

    • Chris Eddy

      Wow – how goes the restoration? Astonishing car ….

  3. Blueprint

    Poor little MGB!

    • Ian

      ..you can buy new complete shells for them these days….could be restored quite easily

      The resto jobs look amazing – hope we get progress reports

  4. Gunner

    Impressive automobile James. Even in its present form. Finished 6th and 9th respectively at Lemans that year. Is this car complete car? I am always intrigued when I see European automotive art that I know nothing about.

    • Karguy James

      This 1937 Adler Streamliner was black flagged in the 1937 Lemans (a write up about it is in Automobile Quarterly), it came in 8th at Spa, and then returned to Lemans in 1938 where this car came in 7th overall and won it’s class. It is now restored and in a private collection in Europe. I took that photo the day I bought it and pulled it from that backyard. It is just such a cool photo for guys like me that like to find cars. This is a photo of the exact same car at Lemans in 1937 with a Female co-driver Madamme Annie Itier and Barron Fritz, Hueske Von Hanstein

      Like 1
  5. Crewsy

    There are more Bells around than some may think. I live about an hour north of Toronto Ontario in Barrie and in 1917 arrangements were made to start producing Bell automobiles here.

    http://www.drlogick.com/bellcar.html

  6. michael streuly

    Just another rusted out pile of junk.

    • Crewsy

      Nope. Far from it. This pile of rust has a future just as so many other cars that many consider beyond repair.

      This car has a future thankfully because the owner has the vision that many people who consider it “just another rusted out pile of junk” lack.

      Like 2
  7. nessy

    Wow. The Bell Motor Car Company, built in York PA from 1915 to 1921 was a smaller low priced car to compete with the Model T Fords, the Overland and the Chevy at the time. From what the AACA records show, only 1 Bell still exists in the club and it’s been restored so this car could be a new unknown find. Well worth saving no matter what the condition is as not many were built. It is believed that for a few years, the Bell was also built in Canada. There must be at least a few around.

  8. Fogwerks

    Wow, this car would be a special guest at the Hill Climb in Newport, Indiana, if they ever decided to visit some year.

  9. Jeff Hammers

    In the interest of truth there is no real evidence that what Karguy James has is a land speed car or a LeMans car. Most likely it is a homebuilt car. Too many inconsistencies to be anything else. Wishing it was more does not make it so. Restore it as what it is, someone’s fantasy creation.

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