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Walton Body Co.
Walton Body Company, 1910-1930: New York, New York
Associated Builders

The Walton Body Company of New York City (1910-1930) was unrelated to the Walton Body Company (Ike Walton) in Denver Colorado which is remembered today for re-bodying a Duesenberg Model SJ during the mid-1930s.

Super automobile salesman and real estate investor Harry S. Houpt took over the Metropolitan New York City Hudson distributorship in 1915 forming the Hudson Motor Car Company of New York.

Houpt had started in the automobile business in 1905 as the Manhattan distributor for the E.R. Thomas Automobile Company. He believed racing was a good way to move product and sponsored his own racing team which successfully campaigned the Buffalo-built vehicle in numerous motor races on both sides of the Atlantic. He later distributed the Lozier and Herreshoff automobiles and in 1909 produced his own luxury car, the Houpt (aka Houpt-Rockwell), which was built in New Britain, Connecticut by Albert F. Rockwell and his brother-in-law DeWitt Page, principals of the New Departure Manufacturing Co.

In April of 1910 Houpt sold his share in the motor car building operation to his partners and concentrated on selling vehicles built by others, namely the ALCO and Mitchell automobiles.

By 1915 he had installed his new Hudson dealership in a magnificent new Broadway showroom. Houpt was well aware of C.T. Silver’s recent foray into providing Manhattan’s elite with mid-priced chassis bearing custom coachwork, and set about getting similarly-bodied vehicles for his new Hudson showroom. As he did not have the facilities enjoyed by the competition he enlisted the help of two little-known Manhattan coach builders, the Clayton and Walton Body Companies.

The Walton Body Company, which was located in Manhattan’s lower east side at 155 Avenue D near East Tenth St., was founded by Wirt W. Walton, a former bicycle racer and trainer, who entered the body building business sometime around 1910. Walton was one of the numerous pre-classic era Manhattan body builders that supplied coachwork and refinishing services to New York’s early automobile dealers.

While there were numerous firms selling aftermarket speedster bodies for the Model T, only a handful offered speedster bodies for larger vehicles. By 1917 Walton was producing an attractive mid-sized turtleback speedster body that could be easily adapted to the Hudson Super-Six chassis.

Equipped with cycle fenders, abbreviated running boards, and an outrigger seat, the attractive vehicles were prominently featured in Houpt’s Hudson showroom and soon attracted the attention of a number of Hudson distributors in other parts of the country.

Walton soon offered the “Walton Special” speedster to the nation’s Hudson dealers and was soon shipping bodies to dealers as far away as San Antonio, Texas where one speedster was awarded top prize at a local Concours d’Elegance.

The popularity of the Walton Speedster sharply increased when Hudson eliminated the production Hudson speedster body from their 1918 catalog. Although the Walton Speedster was officially listed as a two-passenger roadster, an adventurous passenger could ride for short distances on an optional outrigger seat that was installed in front of the left rear fender.

Unfortunately production of the Speedster bodies were sharply curtailed after Walton received a large order for airplane wing assemblies. Although the War ended a few months later, the initial order of wings was completed and only a small number of speedster bodies were built into 1919.

A Robert Breese-designed speedster appeared in 1917 on a stretched Hudson Series J chassis. Although it differed in some respects to the Walton, the basic body lines were the same and it’s likely that the New York-based Breese used a Walton body instead of creating an identical version from scratch. The Breese speedster utilized brass and brass plated accessories and featured Isotta-style leather hood straps and radiator to disguise its humbler origins.

Robert P. Breese (b.1887-d.1958) was a Harvard-educated American engineer who relocated to France where he served as Assistant Engineer of the Peugeot Freres Sigma Auto Company of Paris from 1909-1911. He then introduced his own limited-production Breese automobile which was a light speedster powered by four-cylinder Ballot and Fivet engines. Approximately 65 Breese roadsters were produced during 1911-1912, and one is known to exist today.

At the start of the war Breese joined the American Ambulance Corps after which he became attached to the US Aviation Service attaining the rank of Lieutenant. At the end of 1916 he returned to the United States and became the Manhattan distributor of the Philadelphia-built Biddle Automobile. His partner in Breese-Montant Motors was a French automobile importer named Louis Montant and the pair displayed a number of custom-bodied Biddles at the January 1917 New York Automobile Show.

It was later that year that Breese announced he intended to manufacture the Breese Speedster. Production on the second automobile to bear his name did not ensue, although two years later he introduced another Breese automobile to the automotive press.

Powered by a 20 hp Harley-Davidson engine, the Lilliputian Breese racecar was built using surplus aircraft parts and looked very much like the midget racers that would become popular after the Second World War. Unfortunately no backers were forthcoming and Breese spent the rest of his professional career as an engineer for Bendix Aviation and the General Bronze Corp.

In 1919 an adventurous Hudson owner embarked on a 4,700 mile cross-country tour in a Walton-bodied 1919 Hudson Super-Six. The privately-funded journey traversed numerous mud-filled roads between New York and San Francisco and the only item that needed replacement was a fouled spark plug.

Flush with cash from the wing manufacturing windfall, Wirt W. Walton decided to build his own assembled speedster which was christened the Noma after millionaire Vincent Astor’s popular steam-powered racing yacht of the same name.

The Auto Trade Notes column in the September 21, 1919, New York Times announced the firm’s incorporation:

“The Noma Motor Corporation of New York City has incorporated in its new car principles of light construction learned during the year and a half when its factory was devoted to the making of aircraft wings for the government. The body is of aluminum. Aluminum is also used for the flywheel and transmission housing. The weight of the car is only 2,600 pounds.”

A prototype speedster was built in the Walton Body Co. shops and the vehicle made its debut at the January 1919 New York Automobile Show.

The Noma looked very similar to the Kissel Silver-Special speedsters and was well received in the press. It was powered by a 55 hp 6-cylinder Continental and featured a 128” wheelbase aluminum-clad laminated hardwood chassis. The composite aluminum body was loosely based on Watson’s popular Speedster bodies and looked particularly attractive on the low-slung chassis. Rounding out the package was an ovoid radiator, aluminum step plates, Houk wire wheels and cycle-style fenders front and rear.

Despite being in the midst of a post-war recession, the August 27, 1920, New York Times announced a recapitalization of the firm from $100,000 to $280,000.

The Noma was exhibited at the 1920, 1921 and 1922 New York Automobile Shows which were all held at the Grand Central Palace. Approximately 600 Nomas were built before production ended in 1923.

Walton Body Company remained in the auto body building and refinishing business into 1930 after which the former body shop became the home of the Monroe Chair Frame Co.

© 2004 Mark Theobald -






Edwin Hess - Auto Data Book pub 1921

Winona Whittington Pfander - The Whittington-Brown Book, 1066-1965‎, pub 1965

Normand H. Carleton - Houpt-Rockwell: Connecticut Luxury, Old Cars Weekly, January 05, 2009

1917 Walton Special Speedster – White Triangle News - Vol, 21 No.3 Jan-Feb 1980 issue

Don Butler - The History of Hudson

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

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