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Rollston Co.
Rollston Company, 1921-1938; New York, New York
Associated Builders
Rollson Inc.

Harry Lonschein (1886-1977), an ambitious 16-year-old Romanian immigrant, found employment at Brewster & Co, one of the country’s oldest carriage makers in 1903. At that time Brewster was making the transition from one of the country’s oldest carriage makers to one of its first automobile body builders. In addition to building their own Knight sleeve-valve-engined car starting in 1915, Brewster was the NY agent for Delaunay-Belleville and later Rolls-Royce. During his employment there, Lonschein gained a lot of experience building high class enclosed bodies on the world’s finest chassis. At about the same time that Rolls-Royce opened their Springfield, Massachusetts assembly plant in 1921, Harry, along with a couple of partners, Sam Blotkin and Julius Veghso (1874-1964) formed the Rollston Company and moved into a building located on West 47th Street. They paid homage to their favorite chassis by naming the firm after it, and set out make the highest quality bodies possible. Veghso, a graduate of Andrew F. Johnson’s carriage drafting course, and a very experienced coachbuilder had founded the Perfect Body Co., an early coachbuilder who built bodies for Singer and other luxury chassis. Lonschein served as president, Blotkin, its secretary-treasurer, and Veghso the firm’s designer, draftsman and general superintendent of the factory.

Rollston’s bodies were acknowledged as the strongest of the classic-era and like the work of their favorite chassis, were over-engineered in the finest carriage-building tradition, using only the finest materials and castings. Their fine work attracted the attention of Grover C. Parvis, the Custom Body Manager of Packard's New York dealership.

Rudy Creteur recalled that Sam Blotkin did not like the way Rollston’s body frames were set up, as a great deal of extra  manpower and lumber was used on the glued-up frame that would later have to be cut away and discarded in order to obtain the desired body contours. To show his dissatis­faction with Veghso’s wasteful methods, Blotkin bought him a hatchet so that the excess lumber could be dressed down faster. Not surprisingly, the penny-pinching Blotkin was not a popular person in the Rollston shops. However, Veghso’s heavy-duty framing and attention to detail helped to establish the firm’s excellent reputation.

While working as a LeBaron employee in the late twenties, Hugo Pfau remembers Parvis showing him a new Rollston body that had just been delivered to him. Parvis lectured Pfau that he expected subsequent bodies delivered by LeBaron to have the same superior finish, and high quality interior as the Rollston product, even though Parvis paid LeBaron $1,500 less per body than was paid to Rollston. At the time, LeBaron ­Packard town cars were selling in the $7- $8,000 range, while Packards with Rollston bodies of the same general type were priced around $10,000 or more.

Packard would become their best customer, and over the next 20 years, the vast majority of the 700 bodies built by the firm would appear on Packard chassis.

From their very start, Rollston specialized in Town Cars or Town Cabriolets, a limousine that features an open chauffeur's compart­ment and leather-covered, closed rear quarters. Although it appeared to be a series-built body, in fact each one was custom-built to order, displaying subtle differences from one body to the next such as in the arrangement of the window surrounds or beltline molding. Rollston’s early bodies were very conservative and bore a resemblance to the town cars being built by Derham and Holbrook at the time, not surprising since all three firms did business with Packard’s Grover C. Parvis. His personal taste and sales experience had a con­siderable effect on the bodies he ordered.

At the 1925 New York Auto Salon, they exhibited a Minerva Sedan-Limousine at Minerva’s booth and two Packard town cars - a Cabriolet and a Brougham – at their own stand, an arrangement that continued through the next several Salons.

Minerva’s stand at the 1926 Salon included a Rollston all-weather Town Car, with windows in the front doors - their first appearance on a Rollston body.

In early 1927, Charles Novak - a former Locke draftsman who now worked for Rollston – made repeated attempts to convince Locke’s talented young designer, Rudy Creteur (1904-1978), to come to work for Rollson. Creteur was one of the few talented designers of the Classic Era who did not graduate from Andrew F. Johnson’s carriage drafting school, although he did take a similar night course at New York’s Cooper Union. Initially, Creteur was reluctant, as Rollson was a much smaller firm. However Locke’s shaky management and financial stability caused him to re-evaluate the offer, and a few months later he made an appointment with Lonschein, who hired him on the spot. He started working for Rollston in July of 1927 and it turned out to be a wise decision, as Locke was out of business by 1932. Creteur would eventually become Rollston’s general manager, and eventually its owner. Surprisingly, it’s still in business, although it no longer makes automobile bodies.

Creteur’s first job at Rollston was to design a Packard 5-Passenger Cabriolet and All-Weather Town Car for the upcoming New York Salon. The designs were a hit with Grover C. Parvis, the NY Packard representative, and Paul Ostruk, the New York City agent for Minerva. The designs were easily adaptable to different manufacturer’s chassis and a Five-Passenger All-weather Cabriolet body for a Lincoln Model L chassis was the first example sold during the Salon.

In addition to being accustom body builder, Rollston also restored and customized existing bodies. Typical tasks performed included adding tire-wells to front fenders, reworking dash-boards and cowl lamps, re­mounting bodies on new chassis and repainting and re-chroming.

At the 1928 Salon, one of their Packards was a roadster built on a Series 645 chassis. The design proved popular and several duplicates were built during the following year.

During the twenties, the Rollston shops served as Holbrook’s New York City warranty and service representative. There were often some minor adjustments needed after custom bodies had been in service for a short time. The bodies were mounted on a layer of anti-squeak material laid over the chassis frame, and sometimes this would settle a bit so that some tightening of body bolts and even occasionally a. little shimming was necessary.

The 5-passenger sedan-bodied Duesenberg Model J that appeared on the Holbrook stand suffered a slight mishap on the way to the 1928 Salon. While being loaded onto a steamboat at the Hudson River Day Line pier in Hudson, NY, the driver discovered to his dismay that the car’s brakes were non-existent and almost drove it into the River.  The bodywork was damaged in the incident, but there was no time to return it to the Holbrook plant. Holbrook’s John (Jack) Graham immediately telephoned Rollston to ask them to make the necessary repairs as soon as the car reached New York. Luckily, Rollston's shop was located a few blocks away from the Manhattan Day Line pier, and the Duesenberg was towed to their plant without further incident. A number of Rollston employees worked through the night to repair the damage, and the car made it to the Commodore Hotel the next day in time for the opening of the Salon.

Unfortunately, the Holbrook Co. of Hudson, New York, one of the shining stars of the Classic Era of coachbuilding, went into receivership in early 1930. Harry Lonschein attended the Holbrook auction that was held on May 15th 1930 in Holbrook’s Hudson, New York factory. For a number of years, Rollston had served as Holbrook’s New York City repair depot, and Lonschein purchased many of Holbrook’s assets at the auction including the North American rights to the Gordon England patents, but no bodies of this type were ever built by Rollston or Rollson.

Some of the Holbrook staff, including their sales manager, Hjalmar Holm, were asked by Lonschein to come to work for Rollston in New York. As Holm had established connections with Duesenberg early on, he was without a doubt instrumental in getting a number of Duesenberg orders for Rollston between 1930 and 1932. (Holm is also the person who allegedly buried an unknown number of Ruxton chassis in his Hudson, New York back yard, but that’s another story, unrelated to Rollston’s.)

Holm was a “Super-salesman” and had an excellent reputation in the business and Rollston was lucky to get him. Sam Blotkin, one of the firm’s partners, was unhappy that Lonschein had hired Holm, and resigned from the firm soon after Holm’s arrival.

By that time Rollston had expanded to all four floors (a total of 48,000 sq. ft.) of the West 47th Street factory. The ground floor was remodeled and a new entrance was put to use on the north side of the building, on 48th St. When Creteur had joined the firm in 1927, the entrance was on 47th St. and only the first and a part of the second floor were being utilized. Unfortunately, the remodeling was ill-timed as Rollston was beginning to feel the effects of the Depres­sion, which was now in its second year.

From July of 1927 to April of 1931 - Rollston’s all-time busiest period – the firm produced a total of 218 bodies, an average of 50+ per year. Rollston bodies appeared on Bugatti, Buick, Cadillac, Chrysler, Cord, Duesenberg, Ford, Hispano-Suiza, Lancia, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Packard, Peerless, Pierce-Arrow, Rolls Royce, Stearns Knight and Stutz chassis.

Rollston built on two of the thirties most prestigious chassis, Mercedes-Benz and Duesenberg. During 1930 two bodies were built on Mercedes-Benz chassis, a 7-passenger phaeton with a tonneau windscreen and a leather-roofed sport sedan with Rollston’s distinctive V-windshield.

Rollston built 57 bodies for the magnificent Duesenberg Model J and JN chassis. 16 were Convertible Victorias, 15 Cabriolets (aka Town Cars or Landaulets - Duesenberg called open-front bodies Cabriolets), 5 Convertible Coupes, 4 Convertible Sedans, 4 Sedans, 4 Limousines, 2 Beverlys, 2 Convertible Berlines, 1 Convertible, 1 Torpedo Sedan, 1Victoria and 1 unknown body style. Five of the bodies were replacements for existing bodies, so only 52 of the 57 bodies were built for new Duesenberg chassis. Rollson, Rollston’s direct descendant, built a single Duesenberg body, a Fully Collapsible Town Car built for Rudolph Bauer of Deal, New Jersey in 1940, for the last remaining Duesenberg chassis sold in the United States. The total cost of the Bauer Duesenberg was $21,000.

Not all of Rollston’s designs have stood the test of time. Case in point: Rollston bodied Duesenbergs produced in 1933 and1934 that featured “scoop fenders”, an incredibly unattractive fender that featured forward thrusting front edges and droopy-looking rear edges. Another unattractive Duesenberg seen on occasion at Amelia Island and other eastern Concours, is a 1933 Rollston Convertible Sedan that was modified by its Chicago, Illinois owner, Stephen Junkunc III in 1937.

For the record, the preposterous appendage that currently resides at the front end of the car was not designed or built by Rollston, nor would they ever have signed off on such an atrocity.

Nicknamed the “Eagle Nose Duesey” (a more appropriate description would be "Sperm Whale"), it features a very unattractive front end that includes a bulbous grill and radiator housing flanked by two Duesenberg headlights mounted just above a 1940s-style front bumper. It’s currently owned by his son,  Stephen Junkunc IV of Ocala, Florida, who explains to onlookers that "My father made that. He was one of the first hot rodders. He wanted a bigger nose, and put it on," says Junkunc. "The judges don't like it, but the people like it."

Harry Lonschein's daughter, Roz Kreitzman, worked in the plant after school when she was a teenager and often met prominent people who were Rollston customers, two that she remembered were tap dancer, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and film icon, Gary Cooper, who both purchased Duesenberg Model J’s with Rollston bodies. Col. E. Parmalee Prentice, a well-known lawyer and son-in-law of John D. Rockefeller, drove a Rollston-bodied Packard convertible as well. Clark Gable owned a Rollston-bodied Duesenberg Model JN Convertible Coupe that was later customized for him by Bohman & Schwartz. Actress Marion Davies owned a traditionally–styled 1935 Rollston-bodied Duesenberg Model J Panel Brougham. Another memorable customer whose name has been lost to time brought in a mink coat to have it cut up for hand warmers in her Rollston-bodied car.

Rollston’s most famous car was the 1933 Model J Duesenberg Arlington Torpedo Sedan aka “Twenty Grand," which is on display at J.B. Nethercutt’s automobile collection at San Sylmar in Sylmar, California. Designed by Gordon Buehrig, the Twenty Grand was built originally as a show car for the 1933-34 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, and the finished car’s price tag was $20,000, an astronomical amount at the time.

The most interesting commission received by Rollston was from the famous cartoonist, Reuben Lucius Goldberg (aka Rube Goldberg). He presented Rollston with a picture of an old fashioned floor lamp with three candles hanging on it. From the bottom of each one of the candle mountings, hung a monkey suspended by its tail. He then asked Creteur to design a sedan body using the picture as inspiration. Amazingly, Goldberg approved Creteur’s design after the first draft, and had the sedan mounted on a Lincoln Model K chassis.

Creteur elaborated:

“The first time that he saw it, he liked it and said build it! This was some­what unusual in our custom body business as most people would stare at the line drawings that we did and then request modifica­tions. It was not unusual to have to do drawings over six or seven times. Once in a while we actually had to make full sized pen and ink drawings for people. We would hang them on the wall so that they could step back and look at them. Remember, if they declined to order the car, we did not receive any compensation for the art-work!”

A wealthy matron in Albany, New York liked the Goldberg car so much that she asked Goldberg for permission to have Rollston make a duplicate of it for herself. At the time of Creteur’s death, (1978) both cars were known to exist.

At that time Julius Veghso was Rollston’s draftsman and general superintendent and Stanley Nowak, their second drafts­man and layout man. The two old-timers made sure that every­thing at Rollston was over-engineered in order to create the strongest body possible. Unfortunately as time went by, Creteur found the pair increasingly difficult to work with, and a showdown took place in 1931 that Creteur wrote about in great detail in a 1960 article for “The Classic Car”. 

“Mr. Holm saw some improper drafting and so pressured Mr. Lonschein to give me a chance to make body drafts. In April, Rollston Body #503, a Speedster design for ship designer Clarence Gibbs, was sold. Mr. Veghso would not, for some reason, start the draft. This design - a small door-less body like an upside down canoe - required a properly developed draft, and after Julius refused to work it, I was asked to make the drawing. I consented, but advised that I had not done a complete body draft before. I also quickly added that I could not make a suitable draft with existing equipment. So the drafting board was enlarged to 14 feet, the square ledge at the bottom removed, better drafting paper was purchased, and I started my first complete body-draft.

“My procedure was to stretch the paper over the board and around the ends - using wood strips nailed on the under side of the board, with the paper turned down and under at each end. The paper was then sprayed, causing it to stretch. A wedge was slipped in at both edges of the paper to make it taut while still damp. The next morning the paper was as tight and flat as a drum. I then drew in red ink ten inch spaced lines both horizontally and vertically through the entire draft. The bottom horizontal line was the bottom body sill line, and marked zero. The first ver­tical line, also marked zero, was the front body dash line. This was my own system, and Mr. Veghso was fit to be tied. As I wet the paper, installed the lines, etc., he almost pulled out his Franz Josef mustache. Lonschein and Holm were more in the draft room than in their office. Feelings were a little strained, but I made my body draft my way.

“When my draft was finished, I requested a par­ticular (Rollston) body builder - and not Mr. Novak - to be the layout man on my job. This body builder, who was an expert, made perfect 3/8th white wood patterns, then laid this ash lumber out with all contours and bev­els so that the machine men could cut the pieces al­most to finish contour on the shaper machine. This shell, when glued up, required very little dressing down to obtain the final body contour, and we pro­duced it in less time than the estimate allowed. How­ever, this good showing still did not put me perma­nently at the drafting board. Julius and Charlie con­tinued to make the draft and layouts together, but Mr. Holm worked on Mr. Lonschein, saying that I should do the drafts especially with prices tumbling, and orders being lost - for Rollston needed $1000 to $1500 more to produce a body (especially an All­-weather or Town Car) than any other custom body builder. A Packard-Rollston formal car was, for ex­ample, at the ten thousand dollar price level.

Clarence Gibbs - the son of William Francis Gibbs, the famous naval architect and ship­builder - was always getting stopped for speeding during his frequent journeys into Manhattan, and as a joke, had Creteur put a star-shaped sheriff’s emblem on the side of the vehicle that said "New York City Sheriff". Jimmy Walker, the Mayor of New York City and Gerald Whalen, its Police Commissioner both owned Rollston-bodied Duesenbergs at the time and would not have been amused. 

Back to Creteur’s story:

“When Mr. Holm joined Rollston, his aim was to get our bodies into the Lincoln line, and I was continually submitting All-weather Town Car designs to Lincoln. Finally, Mr. Edsel Ford placed an order for a Town Car - for one body to be placed in the Hotel Commodore Salon. This design was submitted on August 28, 1931, as design #657, and became body #512. Since this was our first Lincoln order from Ford Motor Company directly, we were asked to submit our body draft to Lincoln Engineering for approval. Now again, Julius Veghso refused to make the body draft, and Mr. Holm demanded that this draft be made as I had made the Gibbs-Buick draft. So, for the second time, I was requested to make the draft. Needless to say, my draft table had been cut back to the old size, the t-square ledge replaced, etc. So I requested a complete new drafting table - on sturdy legs – and this was made. I bought linen-backed drafting paper, and set to work on the complete and complicated body that had to incorporate standard Lincoln dash and cowl construction specifications. When the draft was finished, I asked Julius and Charlie to check it before we sent it out to Lincoln Engineering. This was refused, and so the draft went off without their approval. I had omitted one small sill cut-out (to clear a chassis nut) and this Lincoln filled in. The draft was returned, marked "accepted", and we went to work on the actual car. Again the layout was done by the body builder, and the car made the show in time­ less than three months from design drafting to show opening on November 29, 1931. Mr. Edsel Ford saw the car at the show, said it was the best looking Town Car in the show, and took it as his own car.

“From then on, I made every body draft for Rollston - as well as doing all the designing. I was never able to leave the draft room until two or three hours after regular staff closing time.

When the Depression sharply curtailed the market for Town Cars, Rollston developed an attractive Convertible Victoria designed by Rudy Creteur that was visually similar to those made by Waterhouse. The two can be distinguished by their rear quarters – Waterhouse’s had longer rear quarters than Rollston’s. The popular style featured an inside rear seat, eliminating the need for a rumble seat - a big plus in nasty weather. Rollston’s Convertible Victoria body was easily adapted to different brands of chassis and was duplicated many times during the next few years on Packard and Stutz chassis. Twelve were also built for Duesenberg between 1930 and1931. Essentially the same body was mounted on both the long 153 1/2-inch and short 142 1/2-inch Model J chassis, the only noticeable difference was a slightly longer trunk on the long-wheelbase versions. Two variations exist, one with glass rear quarters, the other with blind ones.

By the end of 1931, the Depression was seriously affecting the custom body business, and Rollston’s profits experienced a precipitous decline. As stated preciously, during the firm’s heyday - July 1927 to April 1931 - Rollston built 218 bodies, an average of 54 a year, or 4.5 per month. However, from May, 1931 to April, 1938 only 142 bodies were built, an average of 20 per year or about 1.5 per month. At the same time, prices were falling as well. A typical 1931 Rollston body was priced at $4,600 - wholesale to the dealer. By 1933, the same body sold for only $2,700 and Rollston was in acute financial trouble. However, Lonschein believed that the Depression wouldn’t last and refused to cut corners, or reduce expenses.  At one point, a new Packard Town Car was stoned by an angry mob as it left the Rollston plant, further proof that the golden age of custom body building had passed. There are numerous accounts from that time of similar attacks, and many wealthy people feared for their lives every time they set out in their Town Cars. Luckily there were still a handful of new car buyer’s who continued to order new luxury chassis with Rollston bodies.

Despite the bad times, Rollston introduced a very attractive slanted windshield on a 1933 Stutz chassis that was exhibited at the New York Body Builder’s Salon. Called the "Hollywood Sport Sedan" in reality it was a close-coupled limousine that featured a partition that, once lowered, left no trace of its limousine origins. Stutz described the novel windshield treatment: "The windshield header is not just a plain rounded 'bald head' as on many conventional production jobs, but has the clean cut, more definite lines of the best custom practices." The feature was subsequently included on Stutz’s production bodies that were built for them by LeBaron. The 1933 Stutz Custom Catalog included two more Rollston bodies. The first was an attractive phaeton, the second a Tuxedo Cabriolet which the catalog described in glowing detal: "The calm dignity of black throughout, body, chassis and fenders is relieved and intensified by chromium plated wire wheels and ivory striping. Seat cushions, door panels, etc. edged in black leather; door mouldings and division panel between the extra seats of ebony with silver inlay; small compart­ment of ebony between extra seats; every thoughtful touch blends into the whole and makes this a most desirable car for for­mal use.”

Rollston built two unusual bodies for Henry Brinsmade Van Sinderen, a non-ferrous metals importer and exporter whose business was headquartered in New York City. Known today as Rollston “Observation Sedans”, both incorporated rearward-facing back seats and were built on 12-cylinder Pierce-Arrow chassis. The first, built in 1934, featured a collapsible rear top to providing an unhindered view of Manhattan’s skyline. The second, built in late 1937, featured a permanent roof with a large rear window and skylight.

In 1936 Rollston built ten Town Car bodies for Packard’s popular new budget-priced 120 chassis. The cost of the complete car - $3975, was substantially less than the cost of a Rollston Town Car body, sans chassis, circa 1931. A very conservative razor-edge Rollston Panel Brougham was introduced the following year by Packard that could be ordered on all three 1937 Packard chassis, the 120, the Super Eight and the Twelve. Unfortunately there were few takers. Rollston’s skill at building town cars, limousines and convertibles helped them to weather the Depression. However, Detroit’s production body builders eventually mastered that body style as well, just one more nail in the remaining custom coachbuilder’s coffins.

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.

An effort was made to get General Motors interested in the Sun Aire, and a sample was installed in a 1938 LaSalle, that was delivered to Cadillac’s headquarters in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Their engineers disassembled the roof, and upon further consultation with GM’s patent attorneys, it was decided that GM already owned similar patents, so no money or licensing fees would be forthcoming to Creteur and Melhado. That fall, Cadillac exhibited a sunroof-equipped Sixty- Special at the New York Auto Show. Unfortunately, the design was inferior to the Sun Aire’s and if it didn’t close properly, leaked profusely whenever it rained. The subsequent bad press forced the American sunroof into a 17-year hiatus as well as ruining the market for Sun-Aire’s far superior leak-proof product.

In the meantime, Lonschein had gotten a commitment from Packard to help finance a small run of town car bodies forming Rollson Inc. in September of 1938. Creteur was brought on board as a partner, and a tiny 1200 sq-ft shop was rented at 311 W. 66th Street and West End Ave. The four partners were as follows: Harry Lonschein, President; Hjalmar A. Holm, Vice President; Frank Sever, Treasurer; and Creteur, Secretary. Lonschein handled the purchasing, while Holm wa put in charge of sales. Creteur was put in charge of drafting and design and Sever was placed in charge of the metal shop. At that time, when a Corporation went bankrupt, they lost the ability to conduct business under their original name unless all of the firm’s debts were paid off. So when Lonschein reorganized, it was easier (and much less expensive) to rename them firm to Rollson - R-o-l-l-s-o-n, without the "t."

Rollson designed and built bodies almost exclusively on Pack­ard chassis, producing 50 custom Pack­ards between September 1938 and the December 1941. Most of them were Panel Broughams for Packard, although a Formal Brougham was built in 1940 on a V-8 Ford chassis for a Mr. Bradley and a Fully Collapsible Town Car was built during the same year on the last remaining “new” Duesenberg chassis in the U.S. for Rudolph Bauer of Deal, N.J. One of the Panel Broughams was built for opera singer Lily Pons on a 1941 Packard 160 chassis, and a special high-roofed five-passenger sedan body was fitted on a Super Eight chassis for either an elderly or handicapped customer. A Rollson rendering of a 1941 Clipper Convertible Victoria exists, although it’s not known whether it was ever actually built. The rendering depicts a lower grille molding that extends around the front of the fenders to the wheel openings that is similar to another Clipper designed by Derham during the same time period. Rollson also built a Packard Convertible in 1940 that’s virtually indistinguishable from those built by Dutch Darrin, but upon closer inspection, the higher-quality of Rollson’s bodywork is immediately apparent. It’s unknown how many were built, but at least one of the cars still exists.

A source of revenue for Rollson and other small coachbuilders who survived the Depression was the building of new bodies - or the modifying existing ones - for elderly or physically handicapped customers. Elderly customers typically requested them to move their cars' roofs up to a more aristocratic height, while others ordered motorized rear seats than enabled them to enter and exit without difficulty. For the wheelchair bound, they devised portable aluminum tracks and ramps that could move a chair in and out of the vehicle, and built wheelchairs to match the cars interior. A surviving design sketch and photograph of the Super Eight’s five-passenger sedan includes a dimension of 47 inches from the floor of the rear compartment to the top of the door opening. As it was unusual to show such a dimension on a body design, it wouldn’t be there unless the client was concerned about getting in and out of the vehicle without stooping, indicating that an elderly or handicapped person would be occupying the rear compartment on a regular basis.

After working for a few years for Judkins in Merrimac, Massachusetts, Roland L. Stickney, the former LeBaron designer and artist, returned to New York in 1938 to join the industrial design firm of Henry Dreyfus. While at Judkins, Stickney had done an occasional rendering for Rollson and when he moved back to New York, his contract with Dreyfuss allowed him to do more of the same. Another designer marginally associated with Rollson is George Hildebrand. Although he actually worked under Creteur for only a short time, he spent much of his free time at the West 66th Street shop while attending classes at Columbia University and took drawing lessons from Roland L. Stickney as well. After graduation he went to work for industrial designer Helen Dryden as well as GM Design Studios’ Bill Mitchell. Just before the start of WWII he joined Republic Aircraft in Farmingdale, New York as a design engineer, and stayed there through his retirement in 1972. He’s credited with the design of the legendary Seabee as well as a number of Republic’s classic jet fighters. He was in charge of Fairchild-Republic’s 1960s safety car program that led to the famous ESV (Emergency Safety Vehicle) prototypes of the early 1970s.

The start of World War II brought an end to the custom body business, but Creteur kept the firm busy through a contract with the US Navy. Clarence Gibbs, a Rollson client who also happened to be in the ship­building business helped to got Rollson a lucrative Liberty ship contract for cowl ventilators at the start of the war. The project proved so popular and profitable that Rollson took on additional Liberty ship contracts for toilet fixtures, life boat food tanks,­ storage bins, galley equipment, ship's doors, Pull­man beds, berths and furniture.

They also built fuselage sections and nose-cones for the Chance Vought Corp., of Stratford, Connecticut, makers of the F4U-1D Corsair and F7U Cutlass airplanes and Regulus Cruise Missile. Another customer was Sherman Fairchild, the inventor of the Fairchild aerial camera, who had Rollson build him autoclave dies used in manufacturing aircraft fuselage sections for Fairchild Aviation’s M-62/PT 19 Trainers. Fairchild purchased Long Island’s Republic aircraft in the 1960s to form Republic-Fairchild Corp.

With the end of the war, many of the contracts were cancelled, but their expertise in retrofitting ships galleys gave them an increasing amount of work in retrofitting the kitchens and crew’s quarters of luxury liners and merchant marine vessels back to their pre-war configurations. In the 1960s they also branched out into building kitchens and pressurized windows for commercial airliners and yachts. The kitchen for Hugh Hefner's "Black Bunny," DC-9 was fabricated by Rollson. Eventually, a new factory was built in Plainview, New York to accommodate the increased business and the firm still exists, fabricating custom dies and sheet metal products at its Plainview, Long Island plant.

© 2004 Mark Theobald -







Richard M. Langworth - Packard’s Coachbuilders: Rollston and Rollson - Packard Cormorant #41

1939 Model 1701 Rollson Panel Brougham - Packard Cormorant #41

1940 One Eighty Model 1807 Sport Sedan by Rollson - Packard Cormorant #54

1942 Town Car by Rollson - Packard Cormorant #78

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

Rudy Creteur - Rollston/Rollson Part II  – The Classic Car, Summer 1960

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

Hugo Pfau - Rollston - Cars & Parts, Jan-Feb 1974

Hugo Pfau  - Rudy Creteur - Cars & Parts

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

Stan Ogilvy - One Rollson of a Kind - the Classic Car, Autumn, 1955

Jim Pearsall - 1940 Packard 180 by Rollson - The Classic Car, March 1990

Robert J. Scheelk - Rollson Designs for Packard - The Classic Car, December 1996

W.E. Gosden - Coachwork Lines - The Classic Car, June 1994

Michael Lamm - Rollston/Rollson - Special Interest Autos #163, January-February 1998

Brooks T. Brierley - 1938 Rollston Pierce-Arrow Observation Sedan - The Arrow

Four Masterpieces for Stutz and Rollston by James F. Petrik – Best of Old Cars Weekly pp306

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

Richard Burns Carson - The Olympian Cars

Raymond A. Katzell - The Splendid Stutz

Marc Ralston - Pierce Arrow

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

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

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

Maurice D. Hendry - Cadillac, Standard of the World: The complete seventy-year history

George H. Dammann & James A. Wren - Packard

Terry B. Dunham & Lawrence R. Gustin - Buick: A Complete History

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.


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