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Humer-Binder Company, 1919-1982; New York, New York
Associated Builders
Golde, ASC

Frank (Franz) Humer (b.1885-d.19??) was an Austrian-born (Vienna) carriage designer who emigrated to the United States in 1911. He worked for a number of years in Manhattan’s numerous automobile body shops eventually entering into a partnership with a German immigrant named Matias Binder (b.1894-d.1970). In 1919 the pair established the Humer-Binder Company at 127 W. Fifty-third Street, in the heart of Manhattan’s automobile row.

Miatias Binder (aka Mathias - Matthew) was born on September 16, 1894 in Bezenye, Győr-Moson-Sopron, Hungary (Bizonja in Croatian or Pallersdorf in German). Situated just a few kilometers away from the intersection of Hungary, Austria and Slovakia, Bezenye is located just 25 km south of Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital city.

Binder learned the carriage-builder’s trade in his father’s wagon works and at the age of 17 emigrated to the United States. He left the Mediterranean port of Fiume, Croatia on the 20th of April on board the SS Ivernia, arriving in the port of New York on May 10 1912. He found employment with Locke & Co., a Manhattan automobile body builder located at 220 West Eighth St.

Binder’s 1918 draft registration lists his occupation as draughtsman, employer as Locke & Co., 220 W. 8th St. and stated he was married and had 1 child. The 1920 US Census lists him at 568 Columbus Ave, (near W 88th st.), Manhattan, his occupation automobile designer. Also enumerated were his wife Elsa (born in US to German immigrants), a 2 yo son, Matthew J., and a 2 month old daughter Margerette.

Humer did some freelance work for a number of automakers and in 1920 was hired by the newly formed Lincoln Motor Co. He eventually relocated to Detroit and following Ford’s takeover of the firm went to work for General Motor’s as a body engineer.

Humer-Binder specialized in building, modifying and refinishing automobile bodies for New York automobile dealers. They built a handful of bodies for LeBaron Carrossiers and between 1924 and 1931 served as LeBaron’s Manhattan service depot.

LeBaron historian Hugo Pfau recalled:

"Often some adjustment was needed after a car had spent a month or two on the road, and if it could not conveniently be driven back to our plant in Bridgeport, we would have Humer-Binder take care of the problem at their place on 53rd Street.

Binder’s small shop prospered, and kept busy through the Depression by refinishing and updating existing coachwork.

Just before Rollston went into receivership Donald Melhado came to Rollston to have them install an English-style sunroof on a new Studebaker. Melhado owned the North American license to the King Sliding Roof, one of the many sun-roofs that were popular in Great Britain at the time. Creteur engineered the installation, and found its design lacking in a number of important areas. With Melhado’s approval, he redesigned the lifting/closing mechanism to make the roof flush when closed, and suggested that removable tracks be utilized.

Creteur applied for a patent for his modifications, and when Rollston closed in April 1938, he formed a partnership with Melhado called the Sun Aire Auto Top Company Associates. Creteur installed a prototype roof in his Lincoln Zephyr, and went on the road trying to drum up interest in the new roof. Humer-Binder Co., was brought on board as Sun Aire’s authorized installer, and a small number were sold through them for $275.

Although he was no longer associated with the firm bearing his name, Frank (Franz) Humer designed a sliding sunroof for General Motors at about the same time, and received US Patent No. 2203931 on June 11, 1940.

Binder’s son, Matthew J. Binder (b.1917-d.1993) entered his father’s business during the mid-thirties as a teenager and following the war became associated with the firm full time. By that time, the firm had relocated to smaller quarters at 109 West Sixty-fourth Street.

In 1951 Hoosier comedian and radio and television star Herb Shriner purchased Rusty Heinz’ Cord–based Phantom Corsair from its then-current owner, E.G. Studebaker.

Shriner had previously used Humer-Binder to customize his LeBaron-Packard phaeton and when he elected to restyle the Phantom Corsair in 1954, he once again called upon them to complete the work.

Count Albrecht Goertz (of BMW 507 fame) was commissioned to restyle the front end to aid cooling and vision, and Humer-Binder finished off Phantom Corsair in a golden bronze lacquer. According to Cars magazine, the total cost of the redesign and construction was a reported $10,000.

Shriner loaned the car to Sam Jarvis who placed it in his Silver Springs automobile museum. After Jarvis' death in 1965 Shriner repossessed the Phantom and kept it until his tragic death in 1970. Collector Tom Barrett acquired it from Shriner's estate after which it was re-sold to Harrah's museum in Reno who restored it back to its original configuration in 1972 and put it on display. The Phantom Corsair currently resides in the National Automobile Museum (The former Harrah Collection) in Reno, Nevada. 

In 1953 the 3M Company featured the firm in an ad for their new Wet-Or-Dry sandpaper. The flier included a testimonial letter from the Humer-Binder as well as a photo of a Humer-Binder employee sanding a 1953 Ferrari with the new 3M product.

In the early 60s Humer-Binder moved to less expensive quarters near the East River at 440 East 108th Street. Matias Binder (known as Matt) was nearing retirement and his son Matthew J. was running the firm.

Hugo Pfau - who is normally good with names - stated that the elder Binder's first name was Herman*, however it's clear that Binder's given name was Miatias, Matthew, aka Matt Sr. Pfau was likely confusing him with Clevleand, Ohio's Herman Bender, founder of Bender Bros. and son of the well-known Manhattan coachbuilder John Bender. Regardless, Pfau visited the Humer-Binder shop sometime in the mid-1960s and reported the following:

"Herman Binder* mentioned that he had put a partition into a sedan just a few months earlier. He had had to crawl in and do the wood work himself because he no longer could find the skilled craftsmen needed. He is past 70 but still active although his son, Matthew, now manages the business. Apparently that was the last such job he tackled, however, since while editing this manuscript I was informed that he had told our local Chrysler dealer that he could no longer undertake such jobs.

(*Matthew Binder’s grand-daughter, Joanne Binder Ssekandi, reports that Matthew had an older brother named Herman Bender (the surname differed, Binder or Bender, depending on individual preference or immigration officer error), however he was not associated with the Humer-Binder Co. and was not the Herman Bender that headed Bender Bros in Cleveland.)

European-style sunroofs were the latest thing, and Humer-Binder was Manhattan’s official Golde sun-roof installer. Golde Schiebedächer was a German firm who made a high-quality cable-driven sliding steel sun roof. One particularly challenging installation was a custom-built stainless steel-clad sunroof that was installed in a Cadillac Eldorado Brougham for William Randolph Hearst, Jr.

Matias (Matt) Binder passed away in his West New York, Hudson County, New Jersey home in November of 1970 at the age of 76.

Matthew J. Binder became active in New Jersey politics, and was eventually elected to the State Legislature. He was an official Republican delegate to the 1979 Republican National Convention and was instrumental in helping to elect Reagan as President.

In 1982 Reagan rewarded him for his efforts by appointing him to the National Highway Safety Advisory Committee. Binder served as a NHTSA advisor from June 17, 1982  until January 11, 1985. 

Matthew J. Binder passed away on December 21, 1993.

© 2004 Mark Theobald - with special thanks to Joanne Binder Ssekandi







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1938 Phantom Corsair by B&S

The Modified 1938 Phantom Cosair with owner Herb Shriner



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