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Jack Landon
John E. "Jack" Landon (1883-1964)
Associated Firms
Crown Carriage Co.

John E. 'Jack' Landon (b. 1883 - d. 1964) of Los Angeles, California constucted small numbers of 1/2-sized midget automobiles during the 1920s, one of which saw screen time in the 1928 MGM romantic comedy, 'The Cardboard Lover'. A second Landon midget was used by Pepito the Clown, a well-known vaudeville performer who toured the Unites States and Australia during the late 1920s.

John Elmer 'Jack' Landon was born on March 3, 1883 in the city of Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York, to Dwight K. and Alice Ashton (Bell) Landon. Siblings included: George Wesley (1870-1933); Ernest D. (1875-1965); Laura (1878-1878); Pearl Anna (1879-1958); Vietta M. (1886-1979) and Lulu (b.1900) Landon.

1910 US Census list him in Los Angeles at 72 ???? – wife is named Lillian D. (b. in 1882 in NY), daughter named Miriam I. Landon. His occupation is automobile mechanic.

1911-1912 Los Angeles directories – lists his residence at 4231 Kingswell av – occupation automobile repair

1918 draft registration card lists him at 230 S Beaudry, Los Angeles. Occupation is mechanic at American Aero Co. (American Aero Engine) 2886 ?? Los Angeles, Calif. Contact is R.M. Baird.

1920 US Census lists him as an automobile mechanic, 37 yo. Married to 2nd wife, Helen G. (Dennis), 24 yo. - born in Ohio. Address 776 Kensington Rd, Los Angeles, Calif. 1920 Los Angeles directory lists him as a machinist at 776 Kensington Rd.

1924 Los Angeles directory lists him as “Jack Landon” a salesman at 774 ½ E. Kensington Rd.

Kimes & Clark list Landon's business as follows:

“Jack Landon, of 5250 West Hollywood Boulevard, indicated himself to be an automobile manufacturer.”

Located in North Hollywood between N. Harvard and N. Hobart Blvds., the property currently houses the Mid-West Wholesale Lighting Co.

A mid-1920s photograph seen to the right shows racing driver Ralph DePalma sitting behind the wheel of a miniature Packard Twin Six racer that looks like it could have been built by Landon. Also pictured are Los Angeles-based racing drivers Fred Frame (standing beside the woman in the back) and Arthur “Fuzzy” Davidson (in the car to the right) and several of the midgets bear regular California number plates, indicating they were also street legal.

The October, 1927 issue of Popular Science included a couple of pictures of Landon's creations:

“Manufactures Half-Size Autos

“You may have to double up to get inside one of these half-size automobiles - but they’re real cars, for all that. Proprietor of what is said to be the only business of its kind in the world, Jack Landon of Los Angeles, California makes midget cars exclusively. They are said to rival standard machines in speed, endurance, and luxurious appointments - and they are just as high-priced.

“Every detail, from the diminutive chassis to the controls, is scaled down to fit the tiny cars - with the exception of standard brakes almost as large as the wheels. One model uses a sturdy little four-cylinder engine and runs on special balloon tires. A number of the little fellows are said to have traveled sixty-five miles an hour! One, it is claimed, averaged forty miles to a gallon of gasoline.

“Manufacturers use them to advertise their products; children of rich parents drive them as pleasure cars. A society woman ordered a special coupe model for shopping. She found it much easier to maneuver in traffic and to park in a limited space than a standard-sized automobile. The manufacturer, returning recently from a 1500-mile trip around Oregon, encountered muddy, rutted roads that discouraged many a large automobile, but his little machine with its narrow-gauge wheels, ran undisturbed between the ruts.

“The first of these mechanical marvels was an experiment for the builder. He bought a small used car, took it apart and cut it down, making new parts when necessary. When finished it was just half as large as the original. This little machine attracted attention on the streets and orders piled in for cars like it.”


“Off for a cross country run in a pygmy roadster which can speed a mile a minute and averages better than forty miles to a gallon of gas.

“The truck tire, shown for comparison, contains material enough for all the tires of this tiny coupe. Note elaborate shock absorbers.

“Jack Landon, small car manufacturer, starts for work after parking his midget machine like a bicycle, on his home veranda all night.”

The following year William Randolph Hearst's beautiful “protege,” Marion Davies, drove a Landon-built boat-tail speedster in a short chase scene in the MGM romantic comedy, 'The Cardboard Lover' (aka 'Her Cardboard Lover').

The diminutive beauty sported a Willys-Knight mascot (a knight’s helmet w/eye shield) and front end treatment and was driven by Miss Davies as she tried to elude her co-star, Nils Asther, who was driving a regular-size Renault Town car.

A behind-the-scenes press photo seen to the right is captioned as follows:

”Director Robert Z. Leonard sends actress Marion Davies off set after she nearly runs over leading man Nils Asther and cameraman John Arnold during the filming of MGM's 'Her Cardboard Lover'”

Another car pictured to the right shows Landon standing in between a full-sized sedan and a miniature Hudson faux cabriolet (or Victoria coupe), replete with Hudson emblem on on the radiator shell and hubcaps. It includes a builders card from the Crown Carriage Co., a Los Angeles firm that is believed to have built many of the bodies for Landon's vehicles.

In 1927 Pepito the Spanish Clown (real name Jose Escobar Perez) a nationally-known vaudeville act, purchased a Landon-built Packard-badged midget automobile to use in advertising his upcoming appearances. Registered as a 1925 Monroe Pezel roadster, the car was purchased from Los Angeles car dealer Oliver Pezel who had it constructed by Landon to Pepito's specifications. A 1948 interview with Pepito and Joanne (his wife and assistant) states:

“The car they shipped abroad on their European tours reposes in the garage, a memento of the past. And we were not surprised to learn that it is ‘the smallest car in the world.’ Especially made by the Packard people in Detroit for Pepito, it is four feet long and two feet high - and the veteran clown doesn’t have to be encouraged to show it. He and Joanne used it for advance publicity, touring the cities they played outfitted for the act.”

A closeup of Pepito's Landon-built miniature Packard reveals the aircraft-style balloon tires were constructed by the Gates Rubber Co. The sidewalls read:

“Landon's Midget Balloon, 21 x 440, Made for Jack Landon, Los Angeles, California, Designer and Builder of America's Smallest Car.

“The Gates Rubber Co., Denver, Co., Aeroplane Type.”

Pepito & Joanne biographer Melani Carty provides some additional information about the car:

“But then I received a special email from 99-year-old Muriel Combes and her daughter Marilyn ... Muriel has a special memory of riding in this very car with Pepito on a summer day in 1928. They drove together on the surface streets of Los Angeles, from the Athens district, all the way down to the docks in Wilmington. Muriel’s big brother, Clifford Combes, was a clown acrobat with Pepito & Co. from 1927 into the 1930s. On that momentous day in 1928, Pepito, Joanne and Clifford were departing for a six month tour of Australia with the Tivoli vaudeville circuit. Upon arrival at the docks, the unusual little car was loaded onto the boat; it was part of Pepito’s stage act. Muriel told me in a recent phone interview that Pepito would actually drive the car onto the theater stage and do a routine with it. Muriel recalls that at the conclusion of her amazing ride in the miniature roadster, her legs were numb from being cramped in the tiny passenger compartment, and she could barely get out of the car or stand up. Muriel confirms that Pepito’s little car resembled a miniature Packard.”

Jack Landon is also pictured standing next to the naked coupe pictured out on the street that's equipped with a small L-head four-cylinder engine and a pair of miniature Westinghouse shock absorbers.

Miniature car historian Robert D. Cunningham includes several Landon-built automobile in his 3-volume 'Orphan Babies; America's Forgotten Economy Cars':

“Unfortunately I cannot shed light on what chassis or engine the miniature Hudson used. However, I can report that the photograph was made before the final bodywork was completed.

“The finished car is pictured on page 39 of my book, “Orphan Babies: America’s Forgotten Economy Cars, Volume 2: 1927 – 1943″. Landon added a short pick-up bed out back, similar to a coupe-pickup treatment. The bed sides were topped by hand rails that extended back from the lower landau iron mounting, across the top of the bed sides, and then curved down to attach to a step plate, similar to early fire trucks. The car is wearing “Golden Bear” lettering on the driver’s door, and the pickup bed carries a cartoon illustration of a bear’s smiling face. The Golden Bear Furniture Company was located at 3701 Geary Blvd. at the Arguello intersection in San Francisco. In another photo (unpublished), two children are standing in the pickup bed and hanging onto the railings.”

Also pictured in Cunningham's “Orphan Babies” is a miniature Hudson-badged C-cab delivery truck seen to the right. Constructed by Landon for the American Dye Works, the 'Smallest Delivery Car in the World' sported a side-mounted spare across the driver's door, which suggests egress and exit were via the other side of the vehicle. The back of the advertising card includes the following information:

“Specifications Miniature Cars; 4 Cyl. Continental Engine, 20 H.P.; Full Floating Rear Axle; 3-Speed Sliding Gear Transmission; Multiple Disc Clutch; Electric Starting and Lighting System; Tires 21 x 4 Aeroplane Cords; Length 75 Inches; Height 55 Inches; Weight 1200 Lbs.; Speed 50 M.P.Hr.; Gas Mileage 40 M. Per Gal.; Specially Built to Order for the American Dye Works; 35 Large Cars at Your Service; Work Called for and Delivered in All Parts of the City.”

Based in Los Angeles with branches located across Southern California, the American Dye Works was a reorganization of the Berlin Dye Works, a firm founded by Morris S. Kornblum in 1904.

The 1935 Los Angeles directory lists him as “Jack Landon” a salesman at Valley Ice Co., Alahambra

1942 draft registration card lists him at 620 Mott St., San Fernando, Los Angeles, Calif. His employer, the Food Machinery Co., 2025 San Fernando Rd, Los Angeles, Calif.

During the 1960s he lived with his 3rd Wife Lura (Dell) Landon at 921 Chestnut Ave, Apt 10 in Long Beach, Calif.

USA. Death: Apr. 4, 1964. Los Angeles County California, USA. Burial: 5/14/1964

© 2015 Mark Theobald for






Jack Landon


Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark - Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805-1942

Robert D. Cunningham - Orphan Babies: America’s Forgotten Economy Cars, Volume 2: 1927-1943, pub. 2010

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