The F.D. Gould Co. was a San Francisco-based
manufacturer and installer of aftermarket all-weather tops for roadsters
and touring cars. Its proprietor, Frank D. Gould is credited with
introducing the "California Top" to northern California and he held 5
patents related to their design and construction.
Frank D. Gould entered the automobile trade
sometime during the early teens as the proprietor of an automobile
painting and refinishing enterprise which catered to San Francisco's
high-end automotive retailers and resellers. The location of his first
shop is currently undiscovered however the November 15, 1917 issue of
Motor West revealed the address of his second facility:
"F. D. Gould has leased the entire top floor,
containing 10,000 square feet, of the building at Golden Gate Ave. and
Polk St., for an automobile painting shop."
Gould's patents, all relating to automobile tops,
US Pat. 1518652 - Filed Dec 18, 1919 - Issued Dec
US Pat. D57041 Filed Dec 24, 1919 - Issued Feb 1,
US Pat. 1540262 - Filed Oct 12, 1921 - Issued Jun
US Pat. 1685530 - Filed Sep 18, 1923 - Issued Sep
US Pat. 1717970 - Filed Nov 13, 1923 - Issued Jun
Many automakers took advantage of his pioneering
work in the field and on April 13, 1922 he filed suit against F.A.
Burgeson, one of the firms who were blatantly copying his designs,
winning the case on May 5, 1922. (See U. S. D. C, N. D. Calif. (2nd
Div.), Doc. Eq. 718, F.; D. ;Gould Co. v. F. A. Burgeson for more
Gould was a regular advertiser in the Oakland and
San Francisco dailies. What follows is the text from a July 24, 1921
Oakland Tribune display ad:
There's added economy in buying the Gould Top now
—prices are reduced.
Besides the extraordinary value the Gould Top
possesses, there is a decided having in dollars and cents.
The Gould Top is in a class by itself. The growing
preference shown for it by discriminating people is a fitting tribute to
its beauty and dependable service.
Ask your motor car dealer to point out the
exclusive, Gould features. He will show you how the sliding glass
windows DROP into position when closed and rest silently and securely
upon the body of the car without the aid 'of looking devices. You will
also see the advantage of the stylish slanted windows which afford more
shoulder room in entering and leaving, besides giving the driver an
unobstructed view of the road.
Have you a copy of our illustrated book that tells
about the Gould Top. We will gladly send one to you.
Keep the weather where you want it with a Gould Top
Gould Tops, which are now carried in stock for
Studebaker Big Six and Chevrolet 4-90 touring cars, can be put on in 24
hours' working time
F. D. Gould Company, Southwest Corner Sutter and
Gough, San Francisco, Calif.
A slightly different ad appeared in the November
13, 1921 Oakland Tribune:
"Keep the Weather Where You Want I with a Gould
Which Will It Be—sliding plate glass windows or
flapping side curtains?
Winter is coming. . Motoring in the rain, wind and
fog is neither pleasant to contemplate nor experience if you have to
rely on the scant protection of flapping side curtains. Have a Gould Top
put on your car and you can motor in luxurious comfort regardless of the
Our recent price reduction will naturally influence
you to place your order now. You can save from $130 to $160 depending on
the make of your car. Quantity production has made these lower prices
5-Passenger Cars; $550.00; 7-Passenger Cars
$575.00; Dodge - $525.00; Chevrolet - $367.50, all prices include war
The Gould Top price for Pierce-Arrow, Packard Twin
Six, Locomobile, Cunningham and Mercer cars is $650, including war tax.
Exclusive Gould Features:
The sliding windows drop into position when closed,
resting silently upon the body of the car without the aid of locking
devices. The windows can be opened or closed from outside or inside the
car, from front or rear seat. The slanted windows provide more room in
entering and leaving, besides affording an unobstructed view of the
See your dealer today. Let us send you our
F. D. Gould Company, Sutter and Gough Sts., San
As the preceding ads convey, by now Gould had
relocated to 1507 Sutter St. (S.W. corner of Gough St.) which was
located a half mile northwest of their Polk St. shop. The structure
still exists although it's been substantially modified in recent times.
Gould regularly exhibited at the San Francisco Auto
Show and the work he displayed at the 1922 event prompted Paul W.
Steinbeck to write the following article which appeared in the March
1922 issue of the Automobile Manufacturer:
"Some Notes on the California Top*
"The California Top represents the present-day
culmination of a concerted effort on the part of body engineers in this
country, to produce a really satisfactory type of convertible enclosure.
This particular style took its name front the Pacific coast state since
the development of a readily convertible open car was particularly
demanded in California because of weather conditions peculiar to that
region. Days are generally very warm there and demand the protection of
an open top with ventilation unhampered by windows. The evenings, on the
other hand, are accompanied by heavy dews and a relatively large drop in
temperature which makes one uncomfortable in an open car. The car owners
seldom wished to lower their tops, disliked the saggy appearance of the
folding style and demanded something more pleasing to the eye. The body
builders and designers recognized this demand for a more durable and
satisfactory type of curtain and top than the customary folding type
with celluloid lights and began the development of what has come to be
known as the "California top."
"The first step, taken six or seven years ago, was
to construct a solid frame top of wood, covering it with artificial
leather and using glass lights in the sides and rear instead of the
customary celluloid lights. This top did not perhaps, represent any
great improvement over the "one-man" top. It was more rigid, but the
flapping, bothersome storm-curtains were retained and were loosely
attached by means of fasteners or buttons. Nevertheless, these tops sold
well. They were something different and since most of them were custom
built, each particular owner had an opportunity to express his own
fastidious tastes in form and color. The natural result of this
self-expression was a conglomeration of designs and clashing color
contrasts. The bevel-edge plate glass windows in the back and rear
quarter curtains were fantastic in shape and represented anything from a
half-moon to a diamond or oval.
"A few years later a top appeared which represented
the next stage in the creation of the present-day California top. Its
outline, shape and trimming closely resembled the type just described,
but the curtains slipped or rolled up into the space between the top
deck and the headlining. They were concealed in this way when not in use
and made a fairly weather-tight enclosure when pulled down. There were
several serious faults in this design however
"The curtains carried moisture into the top when
rolled up after a rain storm, causing the headlining to become moldy,
with consequent deterioration. The celluloid lights were dried out due
to the heat of the sun on the top, crystallized and become brittle, and
were fogged so that vision through them was impossible. Although this
type proved to be popular for a time, body engineers soon recognized it
as a mere stepping-stone to the construction of something possessing the
same utility but of greater durability.
"A body builder by the name of Gould exhibited a
closer approach to the ideal convertible top at the San Francisco
Automobile Show in 1919. It was meant to fulfill the California demand
for a top with permanent roof and glass windows which could be quickly
stowed or removed. In this design, the windows slid back into a pocket
formed in the rear-quarter window, and were concealed in this way when
out of use.
"This top can be built on any touring car or
phaeton body. A set of sills is first screwed securely to the body top
rails and from this foundation side quarters are screwed on 'o a slatted
roof construction built up over bows. This frame is covered with the
usual artificial leather or top material and the inside is lined similar
to a closed car roof. The window frames are covered in the same way and.
where space permits, a hinged wind deflector or ventilator is built-in
between the windshield and front door.
"Mr. Steinbeck described informally the
construction and operation of the top, and answered such questions as
were put to him by individuals in the audience.
"*By Paul W. Steinbeck, paper read before the S.A.E.
in New York, Jan. 11, 1922"
In addition to the San Francisco Auto Show, the
firm also exhibited the patented Gould Auto Top at the 1922 California
State Fair which was held at the State Fairgrounds in Sacramento from
September 2 to September 10, 1922.
It's interesting to note that classified ads in the
San Francisco newspapers for the Los Angeles-built Leach automobile, the
first production car equipped from the factory with an all-weather
California Top, mentioned their "Gould Top" as a selling point.
I could locate little or no information on the
firm's activities past 1924 so it's likely they, like many other firms
in the same line of business (including Leach), succumbed to the success
of factory-built closed automobile bodies.
for more information on the Leach.
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thanks to David Greenlees