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Rochambeau, 1921-1922; New York City
Associated Firms
Le Baron Carrossiers

Although Rochambeau is listed as an exhibiting coachbuilder* at the 1921 New York Auto Salon, the firm’s exhibit (a round-cornered brougham on a Sunbeam chassis) remained undescribed by most members of the automotive press who reported on the event.

(*The December 8, 1921 issue of Automotive Industries erroneously listed Rochambeau as a 'make of car', not a coach builder).

For the unititated, the 'Importer’s Auto Salon' was organized in 1904 for the purpose of providing automobile importers a place to exhibit their wares, which at that time were prohibited from being displayed at the New York Auto Show. During the next two decades coachbuilders from both sides of the Atlantic were invited to contribute, opening the door for American chassis providing they sat beneath a body built by one of the custom coachbuilders.

The only period account I could locate with any details of Rochambeau's exhibit was written by Thomas L. Hibbard and published in the January 1922 issue of Arts & Decoration:

"Sunbeam, a high-grade English importation, was exhibited by Rochambeau in the form of a round-cornered brougham. This car was done in oil finish—a novelty on a brougham, and was trimmed in pleasing fashion after a design by Le Baron, the feature of which was a touch of natural wood in the arm rest of the rear seat, the rest of the trimming being an unassuming gray worsted."

My research reveals there were no automotive-related firm’s named Rochambeau in the 1921, 1922 or 1923 New York City Directories, nor in the ones published in New Haven, Boston, Philadelphia, Amesbury or Springfield, and the name never appears in any automotive industry directories of the day.

I suspect Rochambeau* was a fictitous moniker dreamt up by the Sunbeam importer who was aware of the name recognition General Rochambeau had at the time. The just-organized British-Sunbeam Motors Agency Inc., 25 West Fifty-Seventh St., was mentioned in the January 12, 1922 edition of The Automobile / Automotive Industries reporting:


“NEW YORK, Jan. 12—The Sunbeam Motor Co., Ltd., of Wolverhampton, England, has opened a direct factory branch at 25 West 57th Street, this city, with Dario Resta, famous racing car driver, as general manager. The 1922 chassis will sell for $6,500.”

*(Why Rochambeau? Americans might know the name from thoroughfares in the Bronx and Providence, Rhode Island, and from the S.S. Rochambeau, a French ocean liner owned and operated by Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, shuttling passengers between Le Havre, France and New York City.During the Revolutionary War, Marshal Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau (b.1725-d.1807), a French nobleman and general, served as commander-in-chief of the French Expeditionary Force, helping the American Continental Army fight against British forces; he was friends with General George Washington, the leader of the Continental Army.)

Comte de Rochambeau spent some time in New England and after suffering multiple wheel failures near Scotland, Connecticut, (Sept. 18 and Sept. 22, 1781) he became well acquainted with a local wheelwright of whom he wrote:

“I do not mean to compare all good Americans to this good man, but almost all inland cultivators and all land owners of Connecticut are animated with that patriotic spirit, which many other people would do well to imitate.”

The only accounts that I could find pertaining to Rochambeau in the automotive trades were likely copied from a press release issued by the Salon’s organizers prior to its Sunday night, Nov. 27, 1921 opening. Six representative articles follow in chronological order.

The Nov. 26, 1921 Automobile Topics listed all 13 custom body exhibitors at the 1921-22 Salon:

“Custom body builders who have special exhibits are: Brewster, Brooks-Ostruk, Clark Pease, de Causse, Derham, Fleetwood, Healey, Holbrook, Locke, New Haven Carriage, Rochambeau, Smith-Springfield and Walter Murphy.”

December 1, 1921 issue of the Automobile / Automotive Industries:

“Body builders having exhibits at the salon are Brewster, Brooks-Ostruk, Pease, De Causse, Derham, Fleetwood, Healey, Holbrook, Locke, New Haven, Rochambeau, Smith- Springfield, and Walter M. Murphy. A more detailed account of the salon will appear in next week's issue of AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRIES.”

December 3, 1921 issue of Automobile Topics:


“The work of the body builders in the individual displays never before appeared to greater advantage than in the 1921 salon. At the exhibit of the Smith-Springfield Body Corp. were shown three Stevens-Duryea stock jobs, these being a four-passenger touring, a seven-passenger touring and what was designated as a three-quarter limousine, This company also had on view a four-seated coupe body on a Minerva chassis painted a maroon with lighter red trimmings.

“A Stevens-Duryea chassis likewise formed the basis for what proved to be the center of attraction at the space occupied by Healey & Co., this being a four-passenger sedan the interior of which is handsomely trimmed in Circassian walnut. This trimming is even used on the roof of the car which is latticed with strips of the wood. The back seat is divided, the arm containing a drawer which when pulled out acts as an ash receiver. The rear is square cornered and on each side of the interior is a diamond shaped light. Beneath the rail at the rear of the driver’s seat are several compartments of the same handsome wood, one of which may be used as a cellaret, providing room for two thermos bottles. This model also features a vertically divided windshield on which is employed an automatic window lift. In addition to Healey workmanship as exemplified on a Cadillac chassis there was likewise shown in the Healey exhibit a closed body on a Falcon chassis, the Falcon being recalled as the product of the Moller Motor Co.

“Departing from some of the more conservative models shown was the sport sedan executed by the Brooks-Ostruk Co., Inc., and placed on a six-cylinder Minerva. The radiator bonnet, cowl and windshield of this job are of polished aluminum the rest of the car being finished in Rolls-Royce blue with a top of grey leather. This company also had on exhibition a Salamanca cabriolet on a Minerva, this being finished in French grey, cobbler seats being used on this as well as all other of the Brooks-Ostruk bodies.

“The fine coach work for which the Fleetwood Metal Body Co. is noted was well exhibited on various chassis which made up its display, prominent among which was a LaFayette and Packard. Among other body builders making the most of the opportunity afforded by the salon for displaying their wares was Locke & Co., showing a non-collapsible cabriolet on a Stevens-Duryea chassis and a town brougham also on a Stevens-Duryea chassis. The entire list of body builders having individual exhibits was: Brewster, Brooks-Ostruk, Clark Pease, de Causse, Derham, Fleetwood, Healey, Holbrook, Locke, New Haven Carriage, Rochambeau, Smith-Springfield and Walter Murphy.”

December 8, 1921 issue of the Automobile / Automotive Industries:

“Wood wheels are in the lead, but wire wheels follow closely, while the disk and pressed steel spoked types are used on a few models only. A rather remarkable feature is the strong representation of wire wheels, being fitted on the following makes of cars: Benz, Isotta, Minerva, Hispano, Rolls-Royce, Cunningham, Winton, Lanchester, Daniels, Baker electric, Duesenberg, Rochambeau and Richelieu. Some exhibitors, like Winton and Daniels, show models with two or three different types of wheels.”

The December 1921 issue of the Automobile Journal:

“Automobile Salon Brilliant Event

“Aristocracy of Motordom Views Display of American and Foreign Cars including the Finest from Both Continents.

“That was undoubtedly the largest assemblage of the world's finest motor cars ever gathered in this country was on exhibition at the 17th annual Automobile Salon, which opened at the Commodore hotel, New York City, Sunday night, Nov. 27. Thirty makes of high-grade motor cars representing England, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany and the United States, and custom-built bodies designed by the prominent manufacturers of three European capitals and a half score of American cities disclosed practically all that is new and fashionable in the aristocracy of motordom.

“Last year's Automobile Salon set a new record for the number of exhibits, yet the exhibition opening Sunday night was 50 per cent greater. Thus was attested the fast growing vogue of the fine motor car and custom body and the success of the annual salon. There were exhibits at this salon in the main lobby and mezzanine balcony of the Commodore, as well as throughout the entire ball room floor.

The following cars were on exhibition: Benz, Biddle, Brewster, Cadillac, Cunningham, Daniels, Dorris, Duesenberg, Falcon, Fergus, Fiat, Hispano Suiza, Isotta Fraschini, LaFayette, Lanchester, Lancia, Lincoln, Locomobile, McFarlan, Mercedes, Minerva, Packard Twin Six, Pierce-Arrow, Rauch & Lang, Richelieu, Rolls-Royce, Spa, Stevens-Duryea, Sunbeam, Winton.

“Special custom coach work exhibits were made by the following American body builders: Brewster, Brooks-Ostruk, Clarke D. Pease, De Causse, Derham, Fleetwood, Healey, Holbrook, Locke, New Haven, Rochambeau, Walter M. Murphy, Smith-Springfield.”

January 1922 issue of Cycle And Automobile Trade Journal:

“... cars on exhibition were: Biddle, Brewster, Cadillac, Cunningham, Daniels, Dorris, Duesenburg, Falcon, Fergus, LaFayette, Lincoln, Locomobile, McFarlan, Packard Twin Six, Pierce-Arrow, Rauch& Lang, Rolls-Royce, Stevens-Duryea, and Winton. Special coachwork exhibits were made by Brewster, Brooks-Ostruk, Clarke D. Pease, De Causse, Derham, Fleetwood, Healey, Holbrook, Locke, New Haven, Rochambeau, Walter M. Murphy and Smith- Springfield.“

I believe Tom Hibbard's article from the January 1922 issue of Arts & Decoration is well worth reading, so here it is in its entirety:

“A Motor Car Exhibition of Automobiles and Bodies of the New Mode


“Quite surpassing the expectations of those who have been watching developments in the motor world the past few months, was the interest manifested at the Automobile Salon. This seventeenth annual display of the finest cars and coachwork indicated that there is more interest now than ever before in the development of luxurious transportation.

“The exhibition, held from the 27th of November to the 3d of December inclusive, was attractive from the standpoint of novel cars and bodies on display and enabled the visitor to readily gauge the progress recently made in designing automobiles. The motor cars shown were all practical vehicles, quite suited to their intended use and were quite up to the standard set for the Salon in the past.

“Intended originally for the display of foreign cars, this exhibition has of late years increased its scope by admitting the better American machines. The foreigners were fittingly represented, but some European cars on sale in this country were unfortunately not displayed, notably the Renault, in the past one of the most prominent exhibitors. The absence of some marques was counterbalanced by the welcome reappearance of several exhibitors who had been missed during and since the war. Among these was the Isotta-Fraschini, with the Fiat and Spa, representative of Italian mechanical craftsmanship. Although only the eight-cylinder Isotta chassis was shown, its trim appearance and perfect workmanship made evident to the many laymen who inspected it that clever brains and hands had fashioned it.

“While French coachbuilders were not represented in the show, two famous chassis were on view, fresh from Paris and London shows. They were the Hispano-Suiza and Delage, both in sporting models, similar in both being six-cylinder overhead valve cars replete with mechanical innovations. Both chassis are so designed as to permit the mounting of attractive coachwork, as the accompanying illustrations show.

“A European car which has become naturalized, as it were, is the Rolls-Royce, of which were shown four cars with body work in more daring coloring than we had become accustomed to on this imperial, equipage. Another car of impressive bearing was represented in two chassis models with six handsome body types built by Brooks-Ostruk and Smith-Springfield. The Minervas, with their brass trimmings and luxurious interiors, appealed particularly to the feminine fancy, largely because of the good taste used in the selection of their appointments.

“Because of their unique upholstery the Brooks-Ostruk bodies aroused considerable discussion. Cushions were of the detached, loose-cushioned type, the first being of the conventional spring and hair construction and the second a sort of semi-air-cushion on the order of a pillow—stuffed with down. This is quite clearly shown in an accompanying illustration. Such seats are certainly most comfortable for short runs, but I rather fear that if used for several hours at a time that they would prove more tiring than the ordinary type. Neither an air cushion nor a feather pillow is comfortable if used continuously. A slight squabbing of down over curled hair in the conventional cushion is very easy indeed, as the carriage builders of other days know. However, new methods of body upholstery and aid to comfort are most welcome, and experimenters should be commended.

“Both Winton and Cunningham were present in prominent positions and displayed body types of their respective styles, with which most of us are familiar. Cunningham has been experimenting in mouldings on the scuttle-sided touring car, and have produced a body with a double moulding around the upper portion, somewhat after the effect seen on a number of the enclosed cars. Winton used a leather with a new and attractive impressed design on the open sport model.

“A car which in the early days of motoring built up a splendid record for durability was the Stevens-Duryea. This make is back in the ranks again and was shown in the Salon this year by several body builders with a wide range in varieties of coachwork. On the Smith-Springfield stand were three Stevens— all stock models built for regular production. Markedly conservative, these cars are for those who care more for reliability than for startling effects. Of the Springfield Stevens-Duryeas, the four-passenger touring car in gray was the most attractive. On these cars was a clever adjustable sunshade that appealed to me as being about the best yet brought out.

“Locke and Company's craftsmanship was shown in two Stevens-Duryea bodies, beside the Mercedes cars, which I shall describe later. The former were a town brougham, square-cornered with glass quarter windows, and a cabriolet.

“Holbrook and Company, now of Hudson, New York, had its stand occupied by two Packards, a La Fayette and a Pierce-Arrow. The Packards were a touring cat in maroon with a prominent broad recessed panel of red running the length of its sides, and a large enclosed drive. The latter was rather sombre in appearance and indeterminate in line, but the open car was crisply done—a fine piece of work. The Pierce-Arrow limousine was in dark blue and quite up to the commendable Holbrook standard. Body builders run to short coupled sedans on the La Fayette chassis, it being peculiarly adapted for such coachwork. The Holbrook model was a straightforward creation in two tones of gray.

“Four Locomobiles were on display under the name of De Causse, their designer. In so far as I was able to distinguish, these were standard types such as have been produced for some time previously. They were good-looking cars, carefully turned out, as most Locomobiles are.

“Reading, Pa., sent four Daniels cars to the Salon. They looked familiar, as they all incorporated the Daniels lines which have become well established. The exhibit was especially trimmed and painted for the show. The Daniels appeals especially to those who care for cars of a very solid appearance, with commodious passenger space.

“The Salon demonstrated that there are distinct national schools of motor car design. For instance, while there was but one foreign body on display, those who noticed the mechanical layout of the various cars were able to distinguish the foreign from the American machines by their general appearance. Our cars are similar to the English in being rather heavy looking, more or less mechanically complicated, powerful but not light running or particularly fast. The Italian cars, of which there were three, were extremely clean and simple in design, and quite light in construction. The French cars, which, by the way, were very good representatives of the type, looked both lean and very fast and seemed especially suitable for the French driver's temperament. They are hard drivers and tour over there at a great rate of speed. The cars are well designed, nearly as simple in construction as the Italian and much more so than the English and American cars. The Minervas, made in Belgium, are close to the French school. The two German representatives were Teutonic from stem to stern. High "V" radiators, semi-elliptic springs with looped goosenecks at the rear, they were distinguishable at a glance. The Benz six-cylinder car showed some French and Italian influence, but the predominating earmarks were German. The Mercedes was shown in several types, from a large six-cylinder sporting phaeton to a cabriolet with a four-cylinder Knight motor. These cars retain many of their pre-war characteristics - notably the radiators and the exposed brass exhaust pipes, the transmission amidships and the like.

“There are exceptions to every rule, of course, and this held true at the Salon in the matter of chassis design. Two American cars, the Falcon and the Duesenberg, resemble European types. The former is like the newer British light cars and the latter has Continental earmarks, such as the four-wheel brakes and the somewhat French-looking overhead valve eight-cylinder motor. These two machines are cleverly designed and the models shown at the Salon brought out that fact. The Falcon was displayed with both an open and enclosed four-passenger body and the Duesenberg was exhibited as a town car, with a body by Fleetwood, and in chassis form.

“Biddle was present with a cabriolet — the exterior appearance showing good taste. This car was especially adaptable for town use, where a smooth-running, medium-powered car performs to best advantage. A neighbor to the Biddle was the Rauch and Lang Electric. This machine was an excellent representative of its type and was the only car not powered with the conventional gas engine.

“Fiat exhibited the only European coachwork in the show. The body of the small four-cylinder car was a Turin product—a type turned out in large numbers on this popular chassis. Another Fiat was a pleasing cabriolet with Nuncie coachwork.

“Considerable attention was drawn to the Healy stand by an exhibit containing many interesting features. The bodies were all close-coupled four-passenger enclosed drives, one of a collapsible type on a Pierce chassis, very attractively painted in a sea-green with lead-colored mouldings striped with silver. All four bodies were of more or less conventional construction below the window line. The upper works had been treated to do away with all superfluous weight and interference with the vision of the passengers. This is clearly shown in the photograph of the Pierce - Arrow mentioned. The windscreens were divided by a central post and the glasses were disposed in an unusual manner, the lower halves being stationary and the upper portions being raised vertically by a regulator arrangement in the headbar above the shield. Somewhat similar to the Pierce-Arrow mentioned were a second Pierce and a Stevens-Duryea. All of these bodies were very prettily trimmed throughout, a great deal of thought and handicraft having been expended upon them. The remaining Healy body was mounted on the Falcon and carried out the scheme of that car—smallness and lightness.

“Upon three Lincoln chassis, Walter M. Murphy of Pasadena mounted coachwork of a new course in our national school. These bodies were what might be termed ‘Californian.’ Several coachbuilders on the West Coast have developed distinctive features that are radically different than the more staid Eastern products. The Murphy cars were a town brougham with cane panels and coachman's seat, a small imitation collapsible sedan painted a henna color, with interior trimming to match. The leather work and fenders were black. The third body was a four-passenger open affair with leather-covered metal fenders—an odd effect. This job had a natural wood arm rail and natural wood trim on the windscreen. The top was of an unusual contour, rather unsatisfactory, as one's hat touched the top when sitting in the rear seat. This exhibit was interesting because of its novelty and showed commendable pioneering spirit on the part of the Western body builders.

“Two rather conventional enclosed cars were shown at the Salon by Derham of Philadelphia on Packards. Sunbeam, a high-grade English importation, was exhibited by Rochambeau in the form of a round-cornered brougham. This car was done in oil finish—a novelty on a brougham, and was trimmed in pleasing fashion after a design by Le Baron, the feature of which was a touch of natural wood in the arm rest of the rear seat, the rest of the trimming being an unassuming gray worsted.

Fergus and Dorris were shown side by side and as newcomers brought additional interest to the exhibition.

“As has always been the case, Brewster and Company had a prominent stand in the Salon and showed some very interesting coachwork on the Brewster car. Having been appointed Lanchester representatives for this country they also displayed a chassis of that make with several remarkable features, the most prominent of which was the planetary transmission operated with a hand lever. The small cabriolet in brown and black on the Brewster chassis was an exceedingly pretty example of fine coachwork. One of the skeleton type enclosed drives and a town car were displayed, as was a conservative Pierce-Arrow cabriolet. The Brewster cars were chiefly remarkable for fine workmanship.

“The Salon brought out the fact that the coming popular type of car is a four-passenger vehicle, short and preferably enclosed, with low headroom, no quarter windows, but instead a leather roof and rear panel with a prop-joint outside for ornamentation. Tendencies are toward more lively looking cars with comfortable accommodation for a small number of people. Bright colors are bon gout this year, and apparently disc wheels must yield first place to wire for the most expensive cars, with wood wheels following in favor.”

© 2013 Mark Theobald for







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

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