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The car with a lifetime guarantee

2014-04-22 14:20

HUPP, HUPP AND AWAY: This stunning 1928 Hupmobile Straight Eight Roadster - the 'indestructible car' - was seen at a Cape Townshow, reminding that the American car company would celebrate its 105th anniversary in 2014. Image: DAVE FALL


My column a week ago was about bubble cars that had proved so popular for a lot of folk in the 1950's – but alas the bubble burst (if you’ll excuse the pun) within 10 years. So, this week, I’ll feature a car that was to prove, arguably, larger than life with a claimed "lifetime guarantee".

I can’t imagine Rolls-Royce even today (now owned, of course, by German BMW) would be confident enough to stamp 'Guaranteed for Life' on its nameplate but that’s exactly what an American auto company suggested for its cars many, many years ago.

We're taking a closer look at Hupmobile, a car company that once felt justified and confident enough to claim to build "the perfect car" – so happy 105th birthday greetings to Hupmobile owners here in South Africa and right around the globe.


Take a look at the 1928 Hupmobile “Eight” pictured above. I think you’ll agree a quite beautiful roadster that stood proud and tall that day among the many other fine cars spotted at a car show in the leafy southern suburbs of Cape Town. (It’s sad to record that an awful lot of folk have never heard of a Hupmobile – and that’s a real shame.)

Robert C Hupp, after whom the car was named, first worked in the fledgling US car industry a long time ago. In 1906 he was head-hunted by none other than Henry Ford but decided to go it alone with one of his own creations, the Model 20, a water-cooled, 17hp (12.6kW) runabout showcased to the American public at the 1909 Detroit motor show.

Business was good for Hupp, claims of reliability and dependability no idle boast. In 1910 he took one of his touring models and began a round-the-world trip through 30 countries – 14 of which had never seen a car. That trip lasted for two years and covered 77 000km – Hupp had a winner on his hands!

It seems Hupp had a penchant for that type of ultimate road-testing and in 1916 undertook another – this time taking four months to visit every state in America while racking up another trouble-free 28 000km) to earn for his company more kudos as to how rewarding Hupmobile ownership could be.


In 1925 a complete new model was announced; choosing to abandon four-cylinder engines as Cadillac had done, he went for a straight-eight for his new Series E instead of the V8 that Caddy chose. Hupmobile sales were brilliant for five years… but the infamous Wall Street crash was looming.

Unfortunately Hupp made the same mistake as his rivals: too many models without having one in particular to keep the money rolling in. But the sign on his eponymous nameplate still carried the words: 'Guaranteed for Life'.

Not content with just marking time during the Depression, Hupp pressed forward with more new models. By the mid-1930's some really innovative cars were coming out of his plants in America and Canada but with squabbling dealers and little support from his shareholders at board level a hostile takeover was imminent.

A desperate man in desperate times saw Hupp attempting to get his Hupmobile cars right back where they belonged: challenging the might of Ford, Oldsmobile and Cadillac. Alas, a last-ditch attempt saw him buy up the defunct Cord Automobile Company while simultaneously attempting to strike a deal with another ailing car company, Graham-Paige, to produce for him – under the Hupmobile umbrella — the Skylark... but by now strikers were his main concern — all confidence in the brand had finally gone.


By 1940 Hupmobile was wiped out, along with other illustrious names: Pierce-Arrow, Marmon, Duesenberg and Cord – and that’s truly sad.

• It's believed there are many Hupmobile owners across South Africa. Wheels24 would love to hear from them to find out if that ‘Guaranteed for Life’ label rings still true!

Do you have a Hupmobile or know of one in South Africa - or any other country, for that matter? Tell us about in the Readers' Comments section below or send your story, with images if possible, to us in an email .

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