This Playboy Car Came Before the Magazine

This obscure microcar has an important cultural legacy, allegedly giving Hugh Hefner the name for his magazine. Only 91 were built, and this one's for sale.

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RM AuctionsJeff Creech

In the mid 1940s, the trio of Buffalo, NY Packard dealer Louis Horowitz, Pontiac engineer Charles Thomas and service station owner Norman Richardson managed to raise $50,000 in their quest to launch a new microcar company. Under the Playboy Automobile Company, they wanted to create a perfect second or third car, with a production target of 100,000 units per year. Building a total of 97 cars before declaring bankruptcy, they landed somewhat short of their goal, needless to say.

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The problem was that most of the trio's money went into a prototype, which debuted in the autumn of 1946 at the Statler Hotel in Buffalo. The car had a rear-mounted 2.6-liter four-cyinder built by military supplier Hercules, and a three-passenger cabin with a canvas top. This prototype lives today.

By the summer of 1947, the design was changed to a front-wheel drive layout with engines made by Continental, and a manually operated retractable hard top. This concept became the 1948 Playboy A48, of which 91 were finished before a failed sale to Kaiser resulted in all assets being auctioned off in 1950.

So, what is a Playboy A48? It's an American microcar with a 1.5-liter, 40-horsepower four-cylinder, a three-speed gearbox with optional overdrive, an independent front suspension, and GM-sourced electronics.

While the Playboy A48 didn't make a dent in the American automotive industry, . Apparently, someone told Hugh Hefner the name of the defunct car company would be good for the magazine he was creating, and clearly, he agreed.

This particular car spent most of its life in Florida, and got a bare-metal repaint done in a period sea-foam green color just recently. on October 18 at its Hershey, Pennsylvania auction, and it estimates the convertible's value to be between $55,000 and $75,000. Hugh Hefner would make that one hundred.

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RM AuctionsJeff Creech
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