Alphabetical Index|A|B|C|D|E|F|G|H|I|J|K|L|M|N|O|P|Q|R|S|T|U|V|W|X|Y|Z


quicklinks|buses|cars|designers|fire apparatus|limos|pro-cars|taxis|trailers|trucks|woodies

Locke & Co.
Locke & Company, 1902-1937; New York, New York; 1926-1932; Rochester, New York & Detroit, Michigan
Associated Builders
Healey & Company; A.T. Demarest

Justus Vinton Locke was born in Massachusetts in 1864. After a stint in the Navy, he enrolled in Central New York’s Hamilton College to study engineering, as did a future competitor, Edward Willoughby. Locke started as an apprentice with the New York City carriage building firm of Healey & Company and eventually found employment with Demarest & Company of New Haven, Connecticut as their New York City branch’s superintendent.

While working for Demarest, Locke became friends the Fleischmann family (of Fleishmann’s yeast, vinegar and gin fame) whose headquarters were located on the West side of the city. In 1903 they provided the finances for him to open his own carriage and auto body works. Early business must have been good as in 1910 he married the former Elizabeth Doty and purchased a lovely new stucco mansion in the exclusive Kensington subdivision of Great Neck, Long Island.

The company prospered after World War I, bought a much larger building at 453 E. 56th Street and York Avenue (1st Ave.) near New York City’s new Queensboro Bridge, and became the New York distributor for Hotchkiss automobiles. George Tasman, a stern old-school draftsman, was Locke’s chief body engineer and plant manager from the teens through the firm’s demise. Some early custom body drawings were purchased from New York City’s independent designers like Frank deCausse, Paul Ostruk and LeBaron Carrossiers. Roland Stickney also contributed designs to Locke when LeBaron moved to Detroit.

Through the teens and early twenties Locke built custom bodies on most prestigious chassis available in the Metro New York area. Know examples included Cadillac, Duesenberg, Hol-Tan, Hotchkiss, Locomobile, Marmon, Mercedes, Packard, Pierce-Arrow, Renault, Rolls-Royce, Singer, and Stutz.

Locke craftsmen were also masters in the art of faux canework, which they had used since their early days making formal carriages. Although real canework panels called shamcane were commercially available, they had a habit of yellowing, falling off and fraying, so many years earlier, French craftsmen developed the art of applied paint canework using small pastry tubes. Using an extremely thick paint applied from the tip of a purpose-built force-fed tube the paint was applied over a chaulked-on pattern that followed the line of woven canework. Once dry, the thick paint had a similar texture to real shamcane and held up much better to the frequent washings a chauffer-driven car was exposed to.

In 1924 George Tasman hired Richard Koblitz, an experienced draftsman who also worked part-time at Brewster and a young draftsman’s helper named Rudy Creteur. Hired for the nominal sum of $15.00 per week, Creteur traced Tasman’s 1/12th scale body designs in order to make copies for prospective customers to take home. Once a design was approved, he assisted Tasman with the full size body draft.

Tasman suggested to Creteur that he should enroll in the Andrew L. Johnson School to hone his skills, but as Creteur had already taken a different course at Cooper Union, he felt Johnson’s course unnecessary. The decision proved to be a mistake, as Tasman’ treated Creteur poorly for the remainder of his employment at the firm. (Creteur went on to become a great designer across town at Rollston/Rollson.)

After his unexpected death in 1925, Locke, an active member of the New York National Guard’s famous Seventh Regiment on Park Avenue, was given a soldiers funeral at All Angels Church on West End Ave. & 80th St., with his widow Elizabeth and all of his employees in attendance. As Locke had no children, the Fleischmann Co., still a majority owner of the firm, appointed one of their own – attorney Charles M .Fleischmann - to oversee the firm’s finances and Tasman remained chief engineer and in complete charge of the production end of the factory..

With Locke gone, orders began to fall off and Fleischmann laid off some of the staff and rent­ed out the second floor - formerly the drafting, trimming and final assembly areas - to a Ford and Lincoln dealer for storage. The firms operations were now consolidated on a single floor and as so often happens, business began to pick up again. As soon as a contract was completed for the design of some factory bodies for Durant, contracts were secured from Franklin, Chrysler and Lincoln to design and produce a series of factory customs.

Both Chrysler and Lincoln wanted Locke to produce the production bodies as well, but with space already at a premium, Fleischmann began to look outside of Manhattan for a small factory that had room for expansion. A large factory was soon located in Rochester, New York adjacent to New York Central’s eastside rail yards. Fleischmann purchased the plant, located on Greenleaf St and Leighton Ave from Rochester’s Symington Arms Company in January 1926. Locke’s Rochester mailing address was 40 Greenleaf Street.

George Tasman was assigned the task of setting up the plant and hiring the workmen. As luck would have it, Rochester’s James R. Cunningham & Sons was on its last legs, so there were plenty of skilled body craftsmen looking for work.

California designers W. Everett Miller and John Tjaarda were hired from Walter M. Murphy to design bodies in Rochester. (Tjaarda and Tasman later worked together at the Briggs’ LeBaron Studios in Detroit) and Rudy Creteur was promoted to body designer in New York City as a few individual bodies were still being built. Subsequently, the Manhattan shop devoted itself mostly to storing and installing winter and summer bodies for long-established customers and refinishing their cars, while the Rochester plant built new bodies. Locke also set up a satellite sales office in Detroit, and promoted their Detroit address on national advertisements from 1926 on. No mention was ever made of their main plant in Rochester.

The exceptionally talented Creteur was soon scouted by Rollston’s Charles Novak and left to work for Harry Lonschein in July of 1927.

From about 1925 forward, Edsel Ford adopted a greatly enlarged custom and semi-cus­tom body-building program that included Locke starting in 1925. Economies of scale made production runs of 25 to 100 bodies cheaper to produce and the savings were passed along to the consumer in the form of lower-priced factory custom bodies. Although considered custom bodies by their owners, they were actually high quality production bodies, albeit designed by the top designers of the day.

Between 1925 and 1932, the Rochester plant specialized in open bodies, and produced a large number of beautiful, series-built cabriolets, phaeton’s, dual-cowl phaetons, convertible sedans, convertible victorias, roadsters and sport tourings for Chrysler, Duesenberg ,Franklin, Graham, Lincoln, Marmon, Packard, Pierce-Arrow, Ruxton and Stutz, most of which were advertised as customs or factory, although they built regular production bodies as well.  A few closed bodies were produced, mostly for show cars, (for example a beautiful black 1930 Ruxton five-passenger sedan shown at the 1929 Chicago Salon) but none in any significant numbers.

The most famous of the factory customs was a two-door phaeton offered by Chrysler on their Imperial chassis in 1927-1928. Called the Touralette by designer John Tjaarda, he originally designed the body for his personal car. Chrysler representatives loved it and Locke eventually built over 20 examples for mounting on Chrysler’s L-80 chassis. The most striking feature of the Touralette is the gorgeous faux canework which covers the entire rear portion of the body. It also has a spacious built-in trunk with a two-piece clamshell opening and auxiliary luggage rack.

On rumble seat equipped roadsters, Locke offered a nifty little side door that allowed entry and exit without having to crawl over the body. Other roadsters were built with a completely disappearing top which folded into a purpose-built cavity covered by a hinged deck panel.

Some Locke convertible victorias featured a right front seat that slid forward - rather than tipped forward as was the stand practice of the time. Bodies built for long wheelbase chassis could also be equipped with a rumble seat, an option normally found only on roadster bodies. So equipped, the manufacturer could boast a true 7- passenger seating capacity in a two-door convertible.

For their dual-cowl phaeton bodies, sometimes marketed as convertible touring sedans, Locke developed an ingenious counterbalanced rear cowl that raised automatically whenever either rear door was opened.

However ingenious Locke’s open bodies were, they had no effect on the power of the Depression. When the flow of new factory orders evaporated in 1932, Fleischmann closed Locke's Rochester plant and their Manhattan facility soon followed. Fleischmann sold the E. 56th Street property to a real-estate developer and moved across the street to rented space where the firm painted and refurbished cars for 5 more years, finally closing their doors in 1937.

© 2004 Mark Theobald -





1930 Lincon Sport Roadster by Locke

Arch Brown - 1928 Chrysler Imperial Touralette by Locke SIA#149 pp40-47 

Harold Emmons Jr. - Locke & Company, Custom Body Builder, 1902-1932 - New York City and Rochester, NY - 1978 issue of Torque - Michigan Region CCCA 

Reminiscing With Rudy Creteur Part 1 – Henry Austin Clark – Cars & Parts June 1977 

Reminiscing With Rudy Creteur Part 2 – Henry Austin Clark – Cars & Parts July 1977 

Rollston/Rollson Part I by Rudy Creteur – The Classic Car, Spring 1960 pp10-23 

Rollston/Rollson Part II by Rudy Creteur – the Classic Car, Summer 1960 pp2-18 

Rollston/Rollson Part III by Rudy Creteur – The Classic Car, Fall 1960 28-39 

Locke & Co by Hugo Pfau - Cars & Parts - September 1972 

Marvin E. Arnold - Lincoln and Continental Classic Motorcars: The Early Years 

NY Times, Jan 15, 1926 

1928 Chrysler Imperial Touralette by Locke by Arch Brown - SIA#149 pp40-47 

Coachwork Lines: Chrysler Imperial 80 Coachwork by W.E. Gosden – the Classic Car, December 1991 pp32-33 

Special Interest Autos #155, September/October 1996 pp12 

The Automotive History of Rochester, New York by W.G.Yengst – Antique Automobile, Nov-Dec 1969 pp 5-20

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Car

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Era

Beverly Rae Kimes - Packard: A History of the Motorcar and Company

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

Richard Burns Carson - The Olympian Cars

Brooks T. Brierley - Auburn, Reo, Franklin and Pierce-Arrow Versus Cadillac, Chrysler, Lincoln and Packard

Brooks T. Brierley - Magic Motors 1930

Nick Georgano - The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile: Coachbuilding

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Michael Lamm and Dave Holls - A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design

Thomas E. Bonsall - The Lincoln Motorcar: Sixty Years of Excellence

Fred Roe - Duesenberg: The Pursuit of Perfection

Raymond A. Katzell - The Splendid Stutz

Marc Ralston - Pierce Arrow

Brooks T. Brierley - There Is No Mistaking a Pierce Arrow

Arthur W. Soutter - The American Rolls-Royce

John Webb De Campi - Rolls-Royce in America

Hugo Pfau - The Custom Body Era

Hugo Pfau - The Coachbult Packard

Griffith Borgeson - Cord: His Empire His Motor Cars

Don Butler - Auburn Cord Duesenberg

George H. Dammann & James K. Wagner - The Cars of Lincoln-Mercury

George H. Dammann - Seventy Years of Chrysler

Walter M.P. McCall - 80 Years of Cadillac LaSalle

George H. Dammann & James A. Wren - Packard

Extended Auto Warranties
Are you paying too much? Make sure your auto warranty covers your entire vehicle.

Car Shows
State by State directory of car shows; includes new car shows and classic auto events.

Auto Buying Guide
Paying too much? Use this step by step guide to help get the best deal on your next car.

Car Books, Models & Diecasts
Your one stop shop for automotive books, models, die-casts & collectibles.


Submit Pictures or Information

Original sources of information are given when available. Additional pictures, information and corrections are most welcome.

Click Here to submit pictures or information

Pictures Continued

1926 Locomobile Dual Cowl Phaeton by Locke


quicklinks|buses|cars|designers|fire apparatus|limos|pro-cars|taxis|trailers|trucks|woodies

© 2004-2012, Inc.|books|disclaimer|index|privacy