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Rolls-Royce Custom Coachworks; RRCCW
Rolls-Royce Custom Coach Works; RRCCW, 1923-1926; Springfield, Massachusetts
Associated Builders
Amesbury Body Co., Biddle & Smart Co.,Holbrook Co.,
Locke & Co., Merrimac Body Co.,New Haven Carriage Co., Smith-Springfield Body Co., Springfield Body Corp., Springfield Coach Works, Willoughby & Co.

On December 12, 1919, L.J. Belnap of Montreal, President of the newly formed Rolls-Royce of America Inc., announced the purchase of the former plant of the Wire Wheel Company plant in Springfield, Massachusetts as a location for the American branch of the British automobile concern. The plant compromised seven buildings and covered seven acres. Rolls-Royce of America optimistically announced that they were planning on hiring 1,000 hands within the following year.

It had long been the policy of Rolls-Royce Ltd.’s advertising to concentrate on the chassis alone and leave the advertising of the coachwork to the independent coachbuilders. Rolls-Royce’s authorized sales agents would typically work with a specific coachbuilder, or group of builders, who could supply them with completed bodies depending on the requirements of the customer.

Unfortunately that tradition wouldn’t work in the United States as by 1920, most American luxury car buyers had become accustomed to purchasing a complete vehicle. In order to effectively compete with the competition - Packard, Pierce-Arrow and Cadillac - Rolls-Royce of America introduced a series of semi-custom bodies that would be available under the Rolls-Royce Custom Coachwork program.

Luckily, the Springfield works were located in the virtual center of the country’s custom coachbuilding industry, and by the time the first finished chassis were completed in February 1921, arrangements had been made with a handful of them to supply the plant with bodies in-the-white. In-the-white refers to bodies delivered to a chassis manufacturer minus trim, paint, varnish and hardware.

Early bodies were supplied by the New Haven Carriage Co. of New Haven, Connecticut and the Smith-Springfield Body Co. of West Springfield, Mass. They all bore Rolls-Royce Custom Coach Work plates affixed to cowl at the lower right front corner. RRCCW-badged bodies were constructed to standard designs by the following firms:

Amesbury Body Co., Amesbury, Mass. (aka Amesbury Body)
Biddle & Smart Co., Amesbury, Mass.
Holbrook Co, Hudson, N.Y.*
Locke Co., New York, NY*
Merrimac Body Co., Merrimac, Mass.
New Haven Carriage Co., New Haven, Conn.
Smith-Springfield Body Co., West Springfield, Mass.
Springfield Body Corp., Springfield, Mass. (aka Springfield Body Works)
Springfield Coach Works, Springfield & Chicopee, Mass.
Willoughby & Co., Utica , N.Y.*

Other coachbuilders who supplied bodywork for the Springfield Silver Ghost and PI/PII without RRCCW badges included:

Brewster & Co., Long Island City, N.Y.
Derham, Rosemount, P.A.
Fleetwood Co., Fleetwood P.A.
Hibbard & Darrin, Paris, France
Holbrook Co., Hudson, N.Y.*
LeBaron Carrossiers, New York N.Y.
Locke Co., New York N.Y.*
George W. McNear, Brookline, M.A.
Walter M. Murphy Co, Pasadena, C.A.
Willoughby, Rochester, N.Y.*
F.R. Wood and Son, New York, N.Y.

*Note: A small percentage of Locke-built bodies are thought to have had RRCCW builder plates, while a small percentage of Holbrook and Willoughby bodies had Holbrook or Willoughby builder plates.

By 1923, Rolls-Royce had established seven factory showrooms across the United States. The firm’s corporate offices were in Manhattan and Robert W. Schuette ran the New York Showrooms. Secondary factory branches were located in Boston MA, Chicago IL, Cleveland OH, Hartford CT., San Francisco CA. and Troy (Albany) N.Y. Independently operated salesrooms were located in an additional 16 North American cities.

On 3-17-1923 Rolls-Royce advertised for 2 cushion men, 2 seat men, 2 side curtain men and one top man in a “Help Wanted” display ad in the Bridgeport Telegram. “Apply to Rolls-Royce of America, 54 Waltham Ave., Springfield, Mass.”

Rolls-Royce had just purchased the former Waltham Ave factory of the Knox Automobile Co. and converted the entire facility over to the Rolls-Royce body production and finishing.

Between 1923 and 1926, some bodies were constructed inside the Waltham Ave. plant, but most were supplied by the aforementioned builders. Bodies in-the-white, built by a small group of regional production and semi-custom body builders, would be shipped to the Springfield factory where Rolls-Royce of America employees would complete them. In-the-white refers to bodies delivered to a manufacturer minus trim, paint, varnish and hardware. Most of the plant’s craftsmen had worked for the Smith-Springfield Body Co. which Rolls-Royce had purchased in 1933.

When a customer ordered a new Rolls-Royce from the distributor, they would select a body style from the Rolls-Royce Custom Coach Works catalog, which would then be trimmed and painted to order. Popular catalog body styles could be built in lots of 5 to 25 at one of the firm’s body suppliers then stored at the Waltham Ave. works until needed. 

L.J. Belnap resigned as President of Rolls-Royce of America on 4-16-1925 and the firm’s chairman, Henry J. Fuller, replaced him. Belnap then became President of the Worthington Pump and Machinery Corp. of New York and in the 30s became President and chairman of the Consolidated Paper Corp. of Montreal. 

Following the introduction of the US-built Phantom I and Rolls-Royce of America’s acquisition of Brewster & Co. in 1926, most coachbuilding operations were transferred to Brewster’s Long Island City, New York factory and the Waltham Ave works became a service, refinishing and storage depot. 

Although the move effectively eliminated the RRCCW program, Brewster is generally considered to be the premier builder of Springfield Rolls-Royce coachwork, and Brewster-bodied examples continue to be the most sought-after.

© 2004 Mark Theobald - 

Appendix 1 - Short Biographies of RRCCW and Springfield Rolls-Royce body builders 

Amesbury Body Co. (Hollander & Morrill, Walker, Currier & Cameron) Amesbury, Mass.

In his book, the American Rolls-Royce, Arthur W. Soutter claims that most of the undocumented Springfield Silver Ghost bodies were built by Springfield Body Works of Springfield, Massachusetts and Amesbury Body Company of Amesbury, Massachusetts.

I’ve been to Amesbury a number of times and can find little evidence that an automotive body manufacturer with that name operated out of Amesbury. I’ve seen a couple of small ads that identified an Amesbury Body Co. as a collision shop that repaired and repainted automobile bodies in the late twenties and early thirties.

Of course that doesn’t mean the firm didn’t exist, as I’ve discovered previously researching other firms. For example, there’s no evidence in the Rochester, New York business directories/ historical society/city newpapers or public library that Locke had a plant there, yet they did –albeit for a very short time.

There are a number of Amesbury Massachusetts builders who could easily have supplied early coachwork to Rolls-Royce, and chief among them is Hollander & Morrill, a longtime supplier (1913-1925) of coachwork to regional Cadillac dealers, especially Inglis M. Uppercu’s Detroit Cadillac Motor Car Co. in Manhattan. 

In 1920 one hundred and thirty workmen produced as many as thirty-five closed bodies per month at their High Street factory. As with most Amesbury builders, Hollander & Morrill started life building carriages and moved on to automobile work in 1909 when they built a series of taxicab bodies for the American Locomotive Co. (ALCO). The firm’s owners retired in 1926 and the factory was acquired by the Biddle & Smart.

“Nothing is said about the Amesbury body, although time was when half the Cadillac and Packard limousines in New York had Amesbury bodies readily identifiable by the windshield.” (Sweet & Sour by John O’Hara – pub 1954) 

Speaking of Walker, it’s a possibility that they were one of the unknown Rolls-Royce coachbuilders. It’s been generally accepted that Walker supplied aluminum bodies-in-the-white to Franklin “exclusively” from 1920-1932. However, as Amesbury’s largest builder, they certainly had excess production capacity and could have easily built the handful of bodies required by Rolls-Royce. 

Another possible Amesbury builder of Rolls-Royce bodies is Currier & Cameron. The firm was Stanley’s production body builder and their body building operations were winding down as sales of the Stanley plummeted in the early twenties. Currier & Cameron specialized in producing aluminum bodies in-the-white, as they had no in-house paint or trim departments. That work was completed across town at the Shields Carriage Co. where the Stanley bodies were painted and trimmed prior to shipping to the Stanley factory in Watertown, Massachusetts. 

For further information on the history of Hollander & Morrill, Walker and Currier & Cameron please view their respective entries in the encyclopedia.

Biddle & Smart Co., Amesbury, Mass.

Biddle & Smart's beginnings can be traced to 1869, when William Eugene Biddle formed a partnership with a local carriage maker named Charles H. Cadieu. Biddle bought out Cadieu within the year and in 1880 entered into a partnership with another local builder named W.W. Smart forming Biddle & Smart.

Early one-off automobile body production commenced in 1902 and by late 1903 they had a contract to produce limousine bodies for Peerless.

By 1907, proper metal sheeting over a hardwood frame was developed as the standard construction technique. The com­pany embarked on limited series production for a growing list of satisfied customers: tour­ing cars for Mercer and Alco, Abbott coupes, National roadsters, Packard and Winton sedans and assorted models for Lincoln, White, Chalmers, Marmon, Peerless, Haynes, Speedwell and Club. They became specialists in using aluminum, although steel-paneled bodies were also produced.

As early as July 1914, Biddle & Smart produced a series of limousines and coupes for Hudson Motor Car Company which looked "very similar to the Simplex closed cars of last year." This proved to be a fruitful association and by 1923 B&S had become an exclusive supplier to Hudson, building five and seven-passenger sedan bodies and the occasional dual-cowl phaeton and speedster. During 1916 Biddle & Smart’s customers included Hudson and Mercer with a few custom-built Packards made for wealthy Bostonians.

By 1919, Biddle & Smart had become Amesbury's largest auto-body producer and its holdings included two three-story and three five-story factories, totaling approx­imately 300,000 square feet. In the mid-1920s customers included Hudson, Lincoln, Peerless, Marmon, Mercer, White, Chalmers, Speedwell and Haynes.

Biddle & Smart became a short-term supplier for Rolls-Royce's Custom Coach Works program during 1925. The first of 55 bodies were shipped in April, but the contract was cancelled following Rolls-Royce of America’s purchase of Brewster at the end of the year.

For further information on the history of Biddle & Smart Co, please view its entry in the encyclopedia. 

Brewster & Co., Long Island City, N.Y. 

For close to 200 years, the name of Brewster has been associated with the finest carriages and automobile bodies that money could buy. There were over a half-dozen different firms with Brewster in their title, and they were all related in one way or another to James Brewster, a Connecticut native whose roots went deep into American history. In 1620, a group of Puritan separatists led by Elder William Brewster arrived at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts aboard the Mayflower. 

In 1856 Henry Brewster left James Brewster & Sons, a firm founded by his father in New Haven Conn. in 1810, and formed a partnership with Manhattan’s most respected carriage builder, James W. Lawrence of Lawrence & Townsend. The new firm was initially called Lawrence, Brewster & Co., but after Lawrence passed away it was renamed to Messrs. Brewster & Co. of Broome St. 

Now officially known as Brewster & Co., the NYC firm prospered and a new factory and showroom was built at 1581 Broadway and 47th St in 1874. Brewster & Co.  The firm was eventually handed down Henry Brewster’s son William, who was quick to realize that the auto­mobile would soon supplant the horse. 

On and on the occasion of the firm’s centenary (1910) Brewster & Co. moved into a new 420,000 sq. ft. 7-story factory just over the 59th Street/Queensboro Bridge at 27-01 Bridge Plaza, North, in Long Island City, New York. Although a handful of horse-drawn vehicles were built there, the factory was specifically designed for the manufacture of automobile bodies.

Unlike most other American coachbuilders, Brewster specialized in selling complete automobiles rather than just bodies supplied by other dealers. If a customer insisted on a particular chassis, they would comply, but records indicated that prior to the start of World War I, most of their sales were on either Delaunay-Belleville or after 1914 on Rolls-Royce chassis for which they were the New York agents.

A total of 46 Rolls-Royce chassis were received by Brewster between 1914 and 1916 when shipments ceased due to the sinking of the Lusitania. With their supply of European chassis cut off, Brewster decided to start building their own chassis using a 4-cylinder Knight sleeve-valve engine, named for Charles Y. Knight, its inventor. Although the Brewster-Knight had an oval-shaped radiator, many of its other features, such as the braking system, suspension were modeled after the Rolls-Royce chassis although the chassis was significantly smaller with a 125” wheelbase. The prototype was completed in 1915, and the car was introduced as a 1916 model. For the next ten years, all Brewster-Knights featured a 276.5-cubic-inch Knight sleeve-valve engine that developed 58 hp. The car was built entirely in-house at Brewster’s Long Island City plant, and was not an assembled car, the cast iron blocks were even stored on the factory’s roof to cure.

When trade with Europe resumed at the end of WWI, Rolls-Royce starting shipping new chassis to Brewster, and the arrangement continued when the Rolls-Royce started production at the Springfield, Massachusetts plant in 1919. However, as the American Rolls-Royce Company gained strength, Brewster eventually lost the bargaining power they once enjoyed as Rolls-Royces’ largest US distributor, and the Springfield firm terminated their distributorship in 1921. If you wanted to buy a Rolls-Royce in Manhattan, you now had to deal with Robert W. Schuette, their sole New York City distributor. Brewster retaliated by importing Lanchester chassis from England and became dealers for Marmon and Packard as well. It’s interesting to note that one of the first Lanchester chassis sold by Brewster went to Henry Ford and it was equipped with a magnificent Brewster limousine body. Within a few short years, Brewster found themselves over-extended, the aircraft division was losing money, sales of the Brewster car had trickled to almost nothing, and they had a large 5th Avenue showroom as well as a huge Long Island City plant to pay for. The interest on the bonds and notes held by Brewster investors were three times higher the amount of the firms net profits between 1923 and 1925.  

At much the same time, the capacity of Rolls-Royce Company of America’s Waltham Ave body plant had been exceeded and the Springfield firm began looking for a firm with the capacity to supply them with the bodies that would be needed in the coming years. In 1925 Rolls-Royce and Brewster executives entered into negotiations which resulted in the purchase of Brewster in January of 1926. Rolls-Royce of America paid $202,000 in cash to the Brewster family, assumed a $1,400,000 in outstanding 5% bonds and further guaranteed the principle and interest on a 7% $400,000 seven-ten-year note owed by Brewster.  In return, William Brewster, was given a seat on the Rolls-Royce board and was appointed a vice-president of the Springfield manufacturer. He retired two years later in 1927, but remained a director until 1930. Brewster’s Fifth Avenue showroom was closed, as Rolls-Royce already had a beautiful showroom Eighth Avenue and 58th Street which was run by John S. Inskip (1885-1961), a former Locomobile salesman. Robert W. Schuette’s small 236 W. 5th St. Rolls-Royce distributorship was also absorbed by Rolls-Royce of America at the same time.

Willmore returned to the plant in Long Island City, and Carl Beck became Brewster’s chief designer as Henry Crecelius Sr. had left to head Lincoln’s body division. In a marginally related matter, Crecelius told Hugo Pfau that although Stutz had advertised in their 1925 catalog that their new Stutz 8 bodies were "designed by Brewster & Company," in fact Brewster had been involved only in the engineering of the bodies, not in their basic design which had been dictated by the automaker.

Many of the craftsmen from Rolls-Royce’s Waltham Avenue bodyworks were transferred to Brewster’s Long Island City plant to get body production going as soon as possible. New Rolls-Royce chassis were fitted with a temporary driver's seat and weather enclosure and driven from the Springfield works to Long Island City where the Brewster coachwork was fitted. Quite a few Rolls-Royces were sold through the 8th Avenue showroom, so many of the firm’s drivers returned to Springfield on the train.

With the integration of coachbuilding with chassis operations, Rolls-Royce of America, Inc. was able to add its own in­novation in marketing. Twenty-eight standardized body styles were offered to the public at prices substantially less than custom body costs. Delivery time was reduced and some of these models could be purchased off the showroom floor.

An undated Rolls-Royce brochure lists eight of Brewster's "Coachwork Innovations":

UPHOLSTERY - Between each fold of Brewster upholstery, a shell of fine curled hair is filled and rounded with soft swan’s down. The springs are firm at the front of the seat and the lower part of the back cushion; soft and resilient at the back of the seat and upper part of the back cushion. The armrests are not ornaments; they are long, wide and soft-a real comfort, designed to fit the arm and wrist. Note Brewster reading light, strong enough to read a time table.

EXTRA SEATS - A truly luxurious auxiliary seat. It is exceptionally wide, affording the ease of a library chair. It is carefully poised and is made with soft springs and deep cushions. Generous arms afford real support and relaxation. Note ample knee room, both for the occupant of the extra seat; and for one who sits back of it. Another type of extra seat installation is shown in the illustration of Clear Vision.

SKELETON TRIM - An interior treatment developed by Brewster in carriage days, for turnouts which were used informally in the country. The practice has been continued in motor cars, primarily used by gentlemen for sport requirements and wherever the informal utility motor is desirable. The upper framework of the body is exposed and carefully finished, while the panels are covered with leather fabric, matching the upholstery in colour.

VENTILATING WINDOW - A recent innovation by Brewster is this hinged "casement" window. It swings out and may be adjusted to afford complete ventilation of the compartment without draft

CLEAR VISION - Devised and developed by Brewster. Blind spots are completely eliminated. This light frame construction is pat­ented, and its features are practically impossible to imitate without introducing rattles, vibrations and structural weak­ness. The windshield is divided to allow the driver's panel to open. One type of extra seat installation is also shown in this illustration.

ADJUSTABLE FRONT SEATS - Another problem of personal comfort solved by Brewster. A motor operated by different persons may have sliding seats which are moved backward and forward by means of convenient levers and locked in place.

INTERIOR SUN SHADE - Brewster has successfully dispensed with the impractical sun visor. A shade in front of the driver, adjustable at any angle, gives protection with full vision and without reflection from the rear. It folds against the roof when not in use.

WIDE OPENING DOORS - It is a pleasure to enter and alight from a Rolls-Royce, due to the full door openings provided by Brewster. Doors are hung in a precise and thorough manner, affording con­tinued quietness without rattling or squeaking.

In 1929, John S. Inskip, head of Rolls-Royce New York sales office, was appointed vice-president in charge of sales and became the guiding force of the firm’s coachbuilding activities for the next few years. Along with Brewster’s designer, Carl Beck, the pair created some of the best looking Rolls-Royce’s ever built. The service department at Rolls-Royce’s Manhattan showroom was closed and the Long Island City plant became the sole New York City service depot for Rolls-Royce.

The December, 1928 issue of Autobody reported on Brewster’s 1929 New York Salon exhibit: 

"Rolls-Royce exhibits will be chiefly with Brewster coachwork, but there will be two cars with bodies by Walter M. Murphy Co. The Brewster coachwork will be on a 4-passenger "Speedster" phaeton; a town brougham, with canework aft of the door pillar; Wimbledon 4-passenger coupe; Newmarket 4-passenger convertible sedan, with engine-turned finish on the top of the bonnet, cowl and moldings, the interior being trimmed with tan broadcloth and brown leather, and the fitments being done in hammered French bronze; Salamanca de Ville. 4-passenger "sport enclosed drive" with the interior done in Bedford cord seats and broad­cloth lining; St. Alban 7-passenger enclosed limousine with interior woodwork in greenish curly maple and bright green inlay matching cloisonne inlay in the green-­bronze hardware; a St. Stephen 7-passenger landaulet, with all-weather front; a Lonsdale 7 -passenger en­closed limousine. The sport phaeton by Murphy is trimmed with a combination of leather and Bedford cord. The disappearing-top coupe with rumble seat by the same builder has seats trimmed with Bedford cord and lining of Baronial-grain leather."

During this period, Brewster designed a series of bodies for the 1930 model 745 Packard chassis. Original built in series of 5 for Packard’s New York City distributor, they became quite popular and were eventually added to the Packard Custom body catalog. Over 300 examples are though to have been built and Inskip obtained a Packard dealership so he could sell the cars in his 8th Ave showroom. There were five models, a convertible sedan, 2 sedan-limousines, an all-weather cabriolet and an all-weather landaulet.

When Rolls-Royce’s Phantom II was introduced in 1929, it was assumed that the Springfield plant would be retooled to produce it in the United States. However, the Depression changed the economic situation in the United States, and by 1930 it became apparent that retooling the Springfield plant was no longer a possibility.

The November 1929 issue of Autobody described the Brewster-bodied Rolls-Royces that were scheduled to appear at the 1930 Chicago Salon:

"Eight Rolls-Royce cars, with coachwork by Brewster, will be exhibited ranging from formal town cars to flash­ing sport models for the younger generation. A feature of all the closed bodies will be the use of the slanting windshield and slanting front door windows which lower without gaping. The Regent, a 2/4-passenger convertible coupe, finished in tan and cream, with polished-aluminum moldings, is shown at the bottom of the page. Other exhibits include the Huntington; a 7-passenger enclosed limousine finished in black and green and trimmed with a green figured broadcloth; fittings are of green inlaid bronze and the cabinetwork of green stained burl maple inlaid with green stripes; the St. Andrews, a 7-passenger limousine in black and maroon, with brown broadcloth upholstery, mahogany trim and bronze fitments with red inlay; St. Martin, a 5-pas­senger brougham finished in dark and light brown, with cream striping, and trimmed with brown broadcloth; the Dover, a 5-passenger sedan finished in Oxford Blue and black, the upholstery being a brown Heathertone and the fitments of French bronze; the Newmarket, a 4-passenger convertible sedan; a special sport roadster, with polished-aluminum moldings, and the Ascot, a 4­ passenger sport phaeton The last is one of the most dashing in the exhibit; it is finished in gunmetal lacquer and has sunken moldings of polished aluminum running from the radiator shell to aft of the front doors."

Sales of the remaining Phantom I chassis floundered and only 100 Springfield Phantom I’s were sold during 1931, and they had been assembled from spares. 73 new Derby-built left-hand-drive Phantom II’s made their way to the US market that year and most were fitted with Brewster bodies. Designated the AJS and AMS Series, (the “A” prefix denoting their final destination, America), they were offered for sale at Rolls-Royce’s posh Manhattan showroom as well as the remaining factory outlets in Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Montreal, Palm Beach, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, St. Petersburg  and Washington.

Brewster's exhibit at the 1931 Chicago Salon was described in the November, 1930 issue of Autobody:

"Rolls-Royce has scheduled four cars, with coachwork by Brewster, for its Chicago exhibit: A Newmarket, a 4-passenger convertible sedan, will be finished in the handsome gun metal lacquer introduced by Brewster in a previous Salon; the wheel disks will be in this finish with raised circular moldings in carmine; the belt line will be marked by a narrow molding of the same color. and carmine Velveau leather will be used for the upholstering.

The Huntington, a 7-passenger enclosed limousine, will be finished in Oxford Blue with black trim. The passenger compartment will have tan "heathertone" upholstery, a harmonizing rug and lap­robe, damascened bronze hardware with tan inlay and Karolith knobs matching the mahogany of the marquetry panels. The St. Andrew, a 7-passenger town car with all-weather front, is finished in two tones of brown with cream striping; the interior will be similar to that 6f the Huntington, but the upholstery is a brown broad­cloth and the cabinetwork is of walnut with scroll inlay of a lighter wood.

The other Rolls exhibit will be - if completed in time - a sporting convertible coupe with sloping windshield and complementary angle for the back edge of the door window and top; it will have a rounded boat-type rear with rumble seat for one; this job will be finished in Cairo Gray and Mojave Green; the fabric top will match the body color and the seats will be in Mojave Green Velveau leather.

The caption below accompanied an illustration of the convertible coupe in the same issue:

This sport convertible coupe on Rolls-Royce chassis was designed by Brewster for the "younger generation." It is suggestive of speed and dash. The wide door is occasioned by the peculiar shape of the window, complementing at the rear the angle of the windshield. A single deck seat is provided in the rounded boat-type rear. The New York job is being brought through in the interesting gun­metal finish."

A striking Super-Sport body was introduced by Brewster at the 1931 New York Salon that became known in the press as the Wind-Blown Coupe. It was featured in two issues of the New York Times - November 30, and December 7, 1930 - as well as in the 1931 Salon issues of Automobile Topics, Country Life, Autobody and Motor World.

New York Times: “The Rolls-Royce designers, departing from the square lines which are associated with their work, showed a four-passenger sport coupe with all its lines slanting from northeast to southwest, reading from left to right."

Country Life: "This car, being a Rolls, is of course long in the hood. Then comes a body that looks as though it had been blown to a slanting angle by high wind. The windshield, the doors, the windows, all slant. Inside the seats are tipped backwards, so that when you sink down into them you feel that you'd like to stay in them while somebody drove you about forever. Perhaps the most illustrative thing about it are the door handles. They are chromium, or silver, or something, but they taper to a point such as would spit a chicken. There isn't a 'gadget' anywhere on the car."

Automobile Topics: "The Brewster Rolls-Royce makes a startling new use of the sloping line. In past design it has not been unusual to find the sloping windshield, but sloping of the center post and back of top is a treatment that is unusual - and it may be added - effective. The practice of erasing the cowl line and terminating the hood at the windshield line also contributes much to the total effect produced by this body."

Autobody: “Interior views of the 4-passenger sport car built by Brewster on Rolls-Royce chassis. This car illustrates the extreme in the present tendency toward eliminating wind resistance. It is fin­ished in Sea Fog Gray, with white striping. The spare tire is carried in the tail, which is swept to harmonize with the sport-type fenders.”

Motor World: “A "land yacht" for would-be mariners. Twenty-one thousand dollars is the price of this Rolls-Royce coupe with a “Wind-Blown” body by Brewster. Even the seats are tipped comfortably backwards, causing one to wish never to do anything else but occupy them.”

Built on a Springfield Phantom I chassis, the car was built for Tommy Manville, an oft-married (13 times!) heir to the Johns-Manville asbestos empire who was the subject of Ernst Lubitsch's "Bluebird's Eighth Wife" a 1938 comedy starring Gary Cooper and Claudette Colbert. Manville was also lampooned in Jackie Curtis 1968 play called "Lucky Wonderful".

Manville's aerodynamic coupe incorporated the following of firsts for Brewster.

The first was the use of dropped body sills; the extra-wide body carried its doors and sills outside of the frame. This allowed the body to be mounted much lower to the ground creating a very aerodynamic contour.

The second was the total absence of a spare tire on the car’s exterior. Brewster mounted it inside of the body under a hatch in the tail of the car – known today as a trunk – again contributing to the car’s “art-moderne” appearance.

The third was the absence of a cowl. The hood – built using a modified Phantom II hood – extended from the back of the radiator to the base of the windshield.

The fourth was the forward tipping front passenger seat. In order to climb into the rear, the seatback was first folded foward, after which the combined cushion/seatback tilted forward against the dash, occupying the space were front seat passengers normally placed their legs.  

The car was Brewster’s most written about creation and it’s surprising that only one example was built, but perhaps that’s why it cost $20,000. Manville may have paid Brewster a premium, ensuring it would not be replicated. The car still exists although it’s no longer painted the original seafog grey, a grayish-green color that became popular in the early thirties.

In 1932, another batch of 100 Springfield Phantom I chassis were assembled from spares while 17 Phantom II chassis were imported from Derby.

For 1933 most of the remaining parts were used up, and 50 Springfield Phantom I chassis were assembled. Only 30 Derby Phantom II chassis were imported.

Members of the Brewster family held the $1,200,000 in 5% bonds on the Long Island City property, and in 1933 with interest payments and taxes greatly in arrears, they repossessed the property, waiving any accumulated interest and property taxes owed by the combined Brewster & Co./Rolls-Royce of America Corp.  This effectively ended Rolls-Royce’s North American manufacturing experiment. In order to avoid any stigma of bankruptcy having to be borne by Rolls-Royce, the corporation was reorganized as the Springfield Manufacturing Corporation in August of 1934, with Inksip installed as president. At that time, the firm major bondholders held a meeting and strongly recommended that the entire operation be liquidated. However, Inskip had an idea that might keep the firm going, at least for the short term. The resulting vehicle, the 1934-1936 Brewster-Ford, was unrelated to Rolls-Royce and so our story ends. 

For further information on the history of Brewster & Co. and J.S. Inskip please view their respective entries in the encyclopedia.

Holbrook Co., Hudson, N.Y. 

Two metropolitan New York coachbuilders, Harry F. Holbrook and John (Jack) Graham, joined forces in 1908 to produce high-grade custom-built bodies for regional luxury chassis builders such as Simplex who was located nearby in New Brunswick, New Jersey. 

During the teens and twenties, Holbrook produced bodies for Cadillac, Crane-Simplex, Fergus, F.R.P. (Portercar), Isotta-Fraschini,  King, LaFayette, Locomobile, Marmon, Mercer, Owen Magnetic, Packard, Phianna, Pierce-Arrow, Porter, Rolls-Royce, Ruxton and Singer chassis. 

They relocated to Hudson, New York in 1921, and commenced production of semi-custom bodies for Lincoln, Packard and Rolls-Royce. Although they built an occasional open body, they specialized in closed bodies, limousines and town cars in particular.

Holbrook was part of Rolls-Royce Custom Coach Work program and built a total of 135 Town Car, Limousine, Sedan and Landaulet bodies for the Springfield Silver Ghost chassis and a single body for the Springfield Phantom I. 

Most of the bodies Holbrook built for Rolls-Royce of America had Rolls-Royce Custom Coach Work badging that did not betray their Hudson, NY origins, and are virtually impossible to identify without the chassis’ serial number. Few examples are thought to exist as most owner’s discarded the  stodgy Holbrook coachwork in favor of more flashy convertibles and tourers. 

For further information on the history of the Holbrook Co. please view its entry in the encyclopedia. 

Locke & Co., New York., N.Y. 

Justus Vinton Locke was a college educated coachbuilder who opened his own factory in 1903 after working for Healey and Demarest. Locke prospered after World War I and moved into larger quarters at 453 E. 56th Street and York Avenue (1st Ave.) 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 Metropolitan New York area. Know examples included Cadillac, Duesenberg, Hol-Tan, Hotchkiss, Locomobile, Marmon, Mercedes, Packard, Pierce-Arrow, Renault, Singer, and Stutz. 

They also participated in the Rolls-Royce Custom Coach Works program, contributing 32 bodies in total, 28 Silver Ghost and 4 Phantom II, most of which bore a Locke body tag. 

For further information on the history of Locke & Co. please view its entry in the encyclopedia.

Appendix 1, short Biographies of RRCCW and Springfield Rolls-Royce body builders  is continued here.

© 2004 Mark Theobald -


RRCCW is continued




Matthew C. Sonfield - Custom Automotive Coachbuilding in the United States, 1900-1940 - Design Issues, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Summer, 1996 issue), pp. 47-60

Hugo Pfau - Brewster Pt 1 - Cars & Parts, June 1971

Hugo Pfau - Brewster Pt 2 - Cars & Parts, July 1971

Hugo Pfau - Brewster Notes - Cars & Parts, August 1971

Francis Nunan Howard - Brewster and Company Part 2: Rolls-Royce Era - Flying Lady, pp 660, issue 3, 1963

Francis Nunan Howard - Brewster and Company Part 1: Early History - Flying Lady, pp 648, issue 2, 1963

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Gerald A. Rolph - Brewster & Company – Antique Automobile Jul-Aug 1972

The Brewster-Knight – Special Interest Auto #104, April 1988

Michael Lamm - Brewster - Special Interest Auto #152 March/April 1996

Arch Brown - 1934 Brewster: Have A Heart! - Special Interest Auto #104, April 1988

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S.P. House - Al Jolson and His Brewster Ford – Best of Old Car Weekly Vol. 5

Jim Mass - Fall From Grace: The Brewster Aeronautical Corporation, 1932-42 - AAHS Journal, Summer 1985

Keith Marvin - Brewster's Last Stand - The Classic Car, Winter 1965

Keith Marvin - Brewster's Last Stand - Upper Hudson Valley Automobilist, April 1960

Keith Marvin - Inskip's Brewster by Brewster's Inskip: A Memoir – The Classic Car, December 1990

Automobile Trade Journal, March 1934

Automotive Industries, February 24, 1934

Beverly Rae Kimes - Brewster - Automobile Quarterly, Vol. VII, No. 3

Dennis Adler - 1940 Brewster Series 90 Town Car - Car Collector, Feb 1996

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John Webb De Campi - Rolls-Royce in America

Colonel Paul Downing & Harrison Kinney - Builders for the Carriage Trade - American Heritage Magazine, August 1956

1862 Lawrence, Bradley & Pardee Catalog (1998 reprint)

Lawrence Dalton - Coachwork on Rolls-Royce 1906-1939

G.N. Georgano - The Classic Rolls-Royce

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 - 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

Arthur W. Soutter - The American Rolls-Royce

John Webb De Campi - Rolls-Royce in America

Hugo Pfau - The Custom Body Era

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