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By 1954 he had the largest collection of antique automobiles in the country.

He owned a 1911 Rolls-Royce that once belonged to the last tsar of Russia and raced a vintage 1913 Peugeot.

An early member of the Horseless Carriage Club of America and a regional executive of the Sport Car Club of America, Bothwell's enthusiasm extended beyond the automobile to horse-drawn streetcars and trams, which he ran on a rail he had built on his ranch to entertain guests.

Now, a large part of his collection is up for sale at Bonhams in an on-site sale at Bothwell Ranch, California, on November 11.

Racing engines

Among the stand-out lots are three early racing cars.

Two were made in 1908: a Mercedes Simplex 60hp, thought to have been owned by William K Vanderbilt and a Benz 105hp Prinz Heinrich, one of only 10 ever created to commemorate that year’s Prinz Heinrich Tour, which was won by a Benz.

The sale will also include a 1913 Peugeot 4.5-Liter L45 which ran in the 1916 Indianapolis 500. Bothwell drove it in 1949 and beat the lap record of 85mph when he reached 103mph. The engine was highly regarded, inspiring those of Miller and Offenhauser, and is still considered a classic.

 “We are incredibly excited to offer these fascinating automobiles for sale, particularly the early racers,” says Bonhams’ Rupert Banner. “The sale of the sole surviving 45 Grand Prix Peugeot will be a generational opportunity to acquire a landmark car in the history of the development of racing.”

As well as 50 automobiles, the sale will include five horse-drawn streetcars and a collection of spares and automobilia.