“Dulce Domum,” loosely translated, means “Sweetly at home.” It conveys a sense of comfort, of settlement, of wanting for little. Fittingly, somebody long ago tattooed the phrase on the side of an incredibly well-equipped and preserved 1929 Studebaker house car – complete with toilet, bathtub, and the kitchen sink – that will head to auction later this month.
Though photos of the house car have floated around the Internet since 2009 or so, little is known about its early history. Somebody – possibly Harvey Firestone, though that part is apocryphal – obtained a Studebaker commercial chassis (chassis number 3251731) in its long 184-inch wheelbase version, typically found under buses. Fitted with a 114hp, 337-cu.in. flathead straight-eight, four-speed manual transmission, and dual rear wheels, it had the size and sturdiness to handle a house-car conversion.
Its original owner then took the chassis to Advance Auto Body Works in Los Angeles, the shop that crafted designer W. Everett Miller’s Arrowhead, along with plenty of streamlined gas and oil delivery trucks for Gilmore. Advance then gave it the full Pullman treatment: fold-out beds, wash basin, camp stove, writing desk, chamber pot, plenty of storage, and the bathtub built into the floor under a trap door. A tank and heater provide running water, and a 12-volt electrical system powers the entire vehicle. The conversion even includes an in-car intercom for speaking to the driver.
How long it remained with that original owner – and where it went – seems to remain a mystery, but it remained in Southern California for the next 30 years or so, until collector Remy Baker bought it in 1961 in San Bernardino, then drove it across the country, eventually parking it in his collection in South Carolina. Baker then sold the Studebaker in 2006 to its current owner, who rebuilt the drivetrain and restored the leaded glass windows but left everything else untouched.
Scheduled to cross the block at Worldwide Auctioneers’ Houston Classic Auction, the Studebaker has a pre-auction estimate of $125,000 to $175,000.
The Houston Classic Auction will take place April 23 at La Toretta Lake Resort and Spa in Montgomery, Texas. For more information, visit Worldwide-Auctioneers.com.