Spotless Sharknose: 1938 Graham Model 97

From a styling perspective, the elegant 1938 Graham Model 97 was ahead of its time. These are a distinctive looking vehicle that, sadly, failed to sell in significant numbers. This particular car appears to be a tidy and original survivor that is ready to be driven and enjoyed by a new owner. It is located in Adell, Wisconsin, and has been listed for sale here on Craigslist. The asking price for this Graham has been set at $15,500. I have to say thank you to Barn Finder Ikey H for spotting this stylish classic for us.

When the 1938 Graham broke cover, it was advertised with the slogan “Spirit of Motion.” Since then, it has become commonly known as the Graham “Sharknose.” Its styling has been credited to Amos Northup from Murray Body. Sadly, Mr. Northup passed away before the vehicle was completed, so it is believed that some of Graham’s own engineers completed his work. The result from the rear was a car that featured quite conventional styling. However, the front of the vehicle was considered to be quite radical. Thanks to the forward rake of the car’s nose, it gave the illusion of movement when the car was stationary. The owner states that this car is an original and unrestored survivor. He also claims that it is completely rust-free. If this description is accurate, then it is an impressive vehicle. The Black paint still holds a beautiful shine, while the trim, chrome, and glass, all looks extremely nice. The front of the car is quite striking. The “Sharknose” looks aerodynamic when compared to the Graham’s contemporaries, and the fared-in headlights add to the striking appearance.

The 1938 Graham is a car that can seat six people, and it would appear that it can do this in comfort. With the owner claiming that the vehicle is unrestored, I would take that as meaning that the interior upholstery and trim are original. If so, then it has survived remarkably well. There is some wear to the outer edge of the front seat on the driver’s side. Otherwise, the upholstery presents beautifully. There are no signs of any tears or stains, and even the carpet is in good condition. The dash features some lovely Art Deco styling touches and is also in beautiful condition.

Graham wasn’t the first manufacturer to produce a car that featured a supercharged engine. The engines were supplied by Continental, but as is the case with this car, the intake and exhaust manifolds, along with the centrifugal supercharger, were all designed and manufactured by Graham. The flathead 6-cylinder engine has a capacity of 218ci and produces 116hp. This power is sent to the rear wheels via a 4-speed overdrive manual transmission. The presentation under the hood is extremely tidy, and it appears that the car lives up to the promise of that presentation. The owner states that the vehicle runs and drives well.

The 1938 Graham Model 97 “Sharknose” deserved to be a success. It brought together distinctive and award-winning styling with respectable levels of performance. Sadly, the reality for this car was totally different. Graham only managed to sell 2,410 examples to the American public in 1938. The 1939 model barely managed to eclipse that figure. From there, it was downhill, and by the end of 1940, the “Sharknose” had gone out of production. Those figures suggest that this is a relatively rare car. So, if a unique and eye-catching classic is high on your wish list, then this could potentially be one that is well worth considering.

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  1. Thayer Hills

    Already deleted.

    Like 2
    • Bear

      = already SNAPPED UP by someone who recognized a good deal! :-)

      Like 16
  2. Phlathead Phil

    Oh, my! Now this is a rare phind! Havn’t seen a Graham in a long time!

    Excellent example of phine automotive engineering.

    Like 8
  3. Mike

    Awesome futuristic front end with a frumpy back end.

    Like 3
    • Earl Chrysler Member

      That ‘frumpy’ back end put stop/turn lights where they could be seen – following-driver’s eye level, instead of ‘hidden’ at the bottom of the rear fenders.
      Also, what other manufacturer offered free-wheeling, overdrive transmission?

  4. redwagon

    Nicest Graham I’ve seen. Ever.

    Like 4
  5. Will Fox

    A beautiful car somebody already recognized as a rare find. What would have really helped were a set of whitewalls–too much black makes this car rather unremarkable to the eye of the average viewer. As for being ‘original and unrestored’ I have my doubts. NO interior of any car has survived that nice in 82 years. And the glass hadn’t even delaminated at all?! Oh well; it’s now in the hands of a new owner who no doubt will enjoy this rare sedan.

    Like 8
  6. Pete Phillips

    I’m no Graham expert, but I thought that six would produce more than 116 h.p. with the supercharger. Are you sure that’s correct? Some of them came without superchargers.

    • Earl Chrysler Member

      The unsupercharged version was rated at 93 BHP. With the centrifugal-vane supercharger it was rated at 120 BHP. The supercharged version would do about 105 MPH.

      Member: Graham Owners Club since 1972.

      • MikeH

        Interesting that you have been a member of the Graham club for nearly 50 years and seem to be knowledgeable about the cars and their powertrains. Yet earlier in this thread you write about your ’39 that you totally bastardized. Usually marque enthusiasts are preservationists. Not saying what’s right or wrong, I just find it unusual.

        Like 1
  7. Car Nut Tacoma

    Awesome looking car! I hope whoever buys it (or has bought it) enjoys the car.

    Like 1
  8. Lance

    Amos Northup also designed the 37-39 Willys . Yep they do look similar. His best design was the 1932 Graham Blue Streak. The 33-4 Ford was a direct copy but Graham was the origional.

  9. Earl Chrysler Member

    I learned how to drive in our 1939 family car and vowed to have my own. I rescued a 1939 from the crusher in 1972. Spent 1995-99 on frame-up resurrection/modification. Ford 429, C6, 9″ Traction-Lok, PS, PB, coil-over front-end, GM disk front brakes, Cruise, A/C, CD sound system, added custom running boards, two-tone cream over coffee color paint, clear coat, power front windows, power bucket front seats, floor shifter. See at Graham Car Club web site gallery.

    • Earl Chrysler Member

      Hi Mike – Since you used the verb ‘bastardized’ you obviously have an opinion. “Modernized” is the preferred term. If I hadn’t rescued it, it would have become part of someone’s Zippo lighter. It took 1st Place in the ALL MODIFIED class at an International meet and I was complimented by ‘stock’ Graham members for doing my
      modifications ‘tastefully’. Please look at the photos before you judge me too harshly (GOCI web site). Also, it is my ‘daily driver’ and as such I willingly take the time to give the many folks who approach me, who have never heard of Graham, a brief lecture on the “Sharknose”.

      Like 1
      • Wilhelm Heinst

        Sorry, bro, I agree w/Mike. Sure it would take more time & money to have brought her back to stock configuration but to me that’s the whole point of a vintage ride. IMHO

        Like 2
  10. ChevyTruckGuy

    Such a strikingly beautiful automobile!!

    Like 2
  11. PaulR

    The original “Forward Look”

    Like 2
  12. MikeH

    Unless there is something wrong, at 15.5K, this car is/was waaaay underpriced for a sharknose, especially one in that condition. Someone recognized that and snapped it up.

    Like 1

    The supercharged convertible coupe version is one of the more attractive pre-war cars ever built. This one is nice enough.The price is sure right.

    Like 1
    • Earl Chrysler Member

      The convertible coupe was a customized two-door. A gentleman paid a pocketful to buy what he thought was a one-of-a-kind car and later found he was scammed. To Wilhelm Heinst et al, you spend your money your way, I’ll spend my money my way. All of the stock parts I didn’t use were given or sold to club members at give-away prices.

  14. Dewey Gill

    Sold by: the farmer in Adell

    Like 2
  15. Stan Marks

    And worth every penny..
    Love the round lines & especially the rear split window.
    What a beauty….

    Like 1
  16. Duaney Member

    worth more like $30K

  17. Paolo

    Art Deco isn’t quite accurate, the Graham is a fantastic example of “Streamline Moderne” which evolved from Art Deco and Art Moderne.

    This one is the nicest original I’ve ever seen. Where has t been hiding all these years?

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