This 1914 American Underslung 642 Roadster was my own personal pick for “best in show” at the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Monterey California. It just had that “wow” factor that took my breath away when I first saw it that day, and I still think it was one of the most beautiful cars on the field.
You might be asking yourself, right about now, “what the hell is an Underslung?” Incidentally, that was the same question I found myself asking that day. You see, these concours events are always a learning experience for me, as a member of the “millennial” generation. This is a car that was built when not my grandmother, but my great grandmother was just ten years old. Any memories of an Underslung, or any American automobile for that matter, are three generations back from me. Let’s think about that for a second, and consider just how special this Underslung is that it is still drop people’s jaws a century after it was created.
As for the story of the American Underslung, the car you see here really marks both the pinnacle and the ending. American made automobiles for only a scant 9 years in the beginning of the 20th century, and they went bankrupt in November of 1913. At the time, they had produced a few 1914 models, one of which being the Underslung 642 Roadster you see here.
The American Underslung got its name from the way it was constructed, with the frame of the car sitting below the wheel’s axles. This gave the Underslung a very sporting appearance in its day, as most cars sat much higher up. Backing up its sporty appearance the American Underslung’s design also kept its center of gravity low, which helped it to be one of the better handling cars around. In addition to handling well, the Underslung also had some pretty good power for its day, with its 7.8L straight four engine producing as much as 60hp — there are still some cars today, 100 years later, that make due with that amount, or less.
American, as a company, was not afraid to toot their own horn. They called the Underslung “America’s Most Luxurious Car”, and the company humorously changed their marketing slogan to “The Car For The Discriminating Few” right before they went belly up.
It was truly awesome to see and learn about the American automobile company, and their Underslung, at Pebble Beach this year. This particular Underslung 642 Roadster, with its powder blue color with white tires, was just gorgeous, and really stood out among the droves of automotive aristocracy at the event.
Enjoy the photo gallery, and let us know what you think of this amazing piece of automotive history.
-Photos by Nick Walker