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In an article he wrote for the Winter 1961
issue of The
Classic Car, Willoughby’s designer, Martin
“At this time Willoughby was building bodies
Studebaker, Cole, Marmon and others. There would perhaps be orders for
bodies for Locomobile, but the orders for the other makes would run
“Willoughby built many single custom bodies;
some of these
orders came through dealers, but others were ordered directly by the
In Utica and its environs many of the wealthy people would buy the
then order the bodies. Limousines, broughams, and panel broughams were
and of course, they all had open chauffeur compartments. The rear seats
sixteen inches high and head room was 39-41 inches. A few extra inches
room was always important.
“The interior trim of these beauties
featured English broadcloth.
The seats were tufted in a biscuit design and some even had pillows
with down. Inside door panels had pockets with silk broad lace around
and approximately 2" from the openings. Arm-slings were mounted above
quarter windows, and some cars even had flower vases attached to the
pillars. All windows had silk curtains. The custom automobile of that
considered a luxury. Therefore, it was used mostly for town driving,
calls, and theater visits. Anyone who either designed or built these
doing more than just a job. The finished product of beauty gave one a
of exhilaration, well-being and satisfaction that very few occupations
“By 1921, a new era in auto building had
changed rapidly, and for the custom business, it was not for the
closed body became very popular. Buyers all wanted the closed bodies,
but for a
price which was too low for them to be built in hundred lots. Only the
companies could stand the competition. Some of the medium-priced cars
out. The Willoughby Company then started building more of the
bodies in smaller quantities. For many years the company built several
of Rolls Royce bodies which were delivered "in the white" (untrimmed
and unpainted) to their place in Springfield, Massachusetts. Others
Cadillac, and Wills St. Claire convertible town cars for Buenos Aires;
Franklins, Duesenbergs, and of course Lincolns, which were the most
to build, and which became Willoughby's largest volume product.
“All Willoughby bodies had wood frames.
These frames were
hard ash reinforced with forged iron. The outside sheet metal was
the belt line down. The windshield pillar, door frames and rear
aluminum casting. This type of construction was expensive, but it was
strongest and safest body made.”
“The New York Automobile Show was an event
to which everyone
in the automobile business looked forward eagerly. Most custom builders
exhibited there. It was an excellent place to compare your product with
competitors. Not many custom body builders could stay in business just
single jobs. The smallest order taken at the show would be for 5-10
was not unusual to have an order for 50-100 bodies. The preparation for
show began at the beginning of a new car year. It took many weeks to
work out a
design; how a particular style would fit into the family of bodies of
company for which it was intended, etc. Usually, when there was
the price, valuable time would be lost which later had to be made up
body was being built. Naturally, the show job was made to obtain
some of the small orders, nine weeks had to be sufficient. The larger
from 3-3 ½ months.”
Despite the fact that Willoughby had its own
stand at the
New York Automobile Salon, its growing expertise in the manufacture of
put it in the national spotlight and as a consequence, Francis D.
was elected president of the Automobile Body Builders Association on
12, 1923, succeeding Holbrook's John Graham. The July 5, 1923 issue of
Industries reported on the recent body builders’ convention:
“Membership Campaign Adds Fifty New
Companies to Association
“In his opening address President F.D.
Willoughby of the Willoughby Co., Utica, NY, expressed his thanks
membership committee for its services to the organization in conducting
energetic membership campaign. Nearly 50 new members have been added to
list since Jan. 1. He pointed out that the association has the
good-will of the
other automotive organizations and is working in close cooperation with
It has cause to be proud of its progress in establishing this cordial
Body building has become a great and distinct industry, he said, and it
been demonstrated that it is possible to build perfect bodies at
prices. He urged the need of support for the work of standardization of
which has been undertaken in conjunction with the SAE. Not only
standards be agreed upon, but they must be adopted. In his opinion one
for lack of progress in this direction has been that too much
been placed upon relatively trivial parts and not enough upon those
“Bodies will have more attention in the
future than any
other part of the automobile, he declared. Chassis design has been
such an extent that it can take care of itself. The A.B.B.A. will
attention of the industry.”
According to the February 22, 1924 Utica
Francis D. Willoughby delivered the following address highlighting the
importance of the shop foreman to the Mohawk Valley Engineers Club:
“Willoughby Gives Final Lecture in Engineers
“Francis Willoughby, president of the
makers of automobiles, declared that efficiency in manufacturing has
20 percent since pre-war days.
"We were before the war 80 per cent
efficient, now we
are 40 per cent. Labor saving devices are a help, but what of the man
“Mental efficiency we need, same as our
fathers had when
they had no machines to compute for them. The foreman is the means of
about an industrial regeneration. He should have qualities to handle
it often happens a foreman is picked for his age in service, his
knowledge of a certain business and not for his executive ability.
“These are some qualifications: Brains, good
physique, not a
Jack Dempsey but in good health, accuracy, initiative, co-operation,
perseverance, concentration, thorough, observing, good memory, good
mechanical intuit, tact, self-control and a sense of humor. He must
sincere, loyal and fair.
“A foreman represents the firm and as such
should be fair
and loyal to all employees and to his employers.
“The lecture was the final talk in the
series of the
Foreman’s Training Lecture Course under auspices of the Mohawk Valley
Club. The session took place at the Utica Gas & Electric Club
Although Willoughby coachwork had been
exhibited at the New
York Automobile Show for over two decades, their first official display
prestigious New York Automobile Salon didn’t occur until the winter of
1924-1925, the November 8, 1924 New York Evening Post announcing the
“Among the custom body exhibitors are four
American companies which are making their salon debuts - the Fisher
Company and the C.R. Wilson Body Company of Detroit, the American Body
of Buffalo, and the Willoughby Company of Utica. The others are Blue
Brunn, Derham, Dietrich, Fleetwood, Holbrook, Judkins, Le Baron, Locke,
Merrimac and Springfield."
Also making its Salon debut was the Wills
Sainte Claire Automobile
Co. who displayed an attractive Willoughby Town Car which was purchased
floor by Mrs. Horace Dodge (and is currently in the Wills Sainte Claire
in Marysville, Michigan). Another Willoughby town car was built on a
chassis for the wife of the firm’s president, Stewart MacDonald, and a
town car was displayed on a Cadillac chassis.
By the mid-1920s, new metal stamping and
developed by Budd’s Joseph Ledwinka caused a revolution in the
closed automobile bodies. Stronger, cheaper all-steel bodies could be
10th the time that it took to make an aluminum skinned, Willoughby
effectively pricing them out of the middle price marketplace. Only the
well-heeled carriage trade could still afford their hand-built
town cars and limousines. When Rolls-Royce of America purchased
1925, Willoughby’s involvement with Rolls-Royce’s Custom Coach Work
ended and their future looked dim.
Luckily Edsel Ford came to their rescue with
a commission to
build a series of closed bodies for Lincoln’s factory custom body
starting with the 1926 model year. The repair and refinishing of
bodies combined with the Lincoln custom catalog program kept Willoughby
others) going through the depression. Considering that Central New
economy was especially hard hit in the thirties, it’s amazing that
lasted as long as they did.
In an article on fashion’s influence on
automobile design, a
1925 issue of The Automobile states:
“It was Francis D. Willoughby,
Co., who brought out most strongly the idea that the flapper has been a
influence on body design. Body design, he said, usually reflects the
of the age. Flapper psychology has had its effect on present day
design with the result that comfort has been sacrificed to style in
instances. It must be remembered, however, that chassis length is a
important factor in controlling comfort, and the trend today is in
Willoughby’s exhibit at the 1926 Salon was
previewed in the November
11, 1925 issue of the Utica Daily Press:
“DISPLAYS LOCAL PRODUCTS
“The Willoughby Company, builder of special
will have several exhibits at the automobile salon at Hotel Commodore,
York, November 15 to 22. The bodies will be mounted on Rolls- Royce,
and Wills Sainte Claire chasses.”
Specifically Willoughby showed 4 vehicles; a
Enclosed Drive Landaulet, a Springfield Rolls-Royce Coupe and a Wills
Claire Sports Sedan and Town Car. Lincoln was pushing a ‘Colors of
for its Salon exhibits and the Landaulet was painted a deep blue-green,
peculiar to the Swallow Tanager (bird) of Ecuador. The car was equipped
matching wire wheels with black moldings and a contrasting white body
Although attractive, Willoughby’s
Enclosed Drive Landaulet was boxy in appearance and Edsel Ford
Willoughby to come up with a more attractive design for the 1927 model
The new design was a straight limousine incorporating a 'Brewster
Windshield', which was popular at the time. Brewster developed it as a
to reduce the glare from street lights and the headlights of both
following cars. Several planes of glass were placed at different angles
driver's line of sight with the hope that the light wouldn’t blind him.
Brewster hadn’t patented the design and a number of manufacturers and
builders used it during the mid to late 1920s.
During 1926 Willoughby built a simple
body for a 1926 Pontiac chassis whose 2-door sedan coachwork had been
in a fire. According to its current owner, Arnold Landvoigt of Savage,
the car competed in various hill-climbs at the time and is historically
very first Pontiac used for competition.
He states that the car, a two door sedan,
serial # 3974,
produced in the first months of 1926 was sold new by the
Co., 122 Seneca St., Utica. Fred McRorie, a principal of the
up with the car after the fire, and took it to Willoughby to have a
body fitted to it. Apparently cost was a factor as a simple composite
speedster body was fitted to the stock Pontiac cowl.
Driven by Warren 'Mandy' Mandeville, a
employee, the car competed in a hill climb in nearby Sherrill, New
August 14, 1926, where it placed first in class. Painted white, the car
advertised the McRorie-Sautter dealership and included Pontiac’s logo
slogan ‘Pontiac, Chief of the Sixes’ on the sides of the rear deck.
The ‘Hill Clumber’ as it was called competed
in other races during
the year and repeated its first success at the July 30,
1927 Sherrill Hill
Climb. During the next few years the vehicle competed in various Oneida
Herkimer County hill climbs which included event at Red Hill
Sauquoit; Kirkland Hill; Deerfield Hill; and Vickerman Hill (Herkimer).
The vehicle was retired from competition in
relegated to a corner of the dealership’s body shop where it remained
when it was resurrected and test-driven by the owner’s son, Fred
died soon afterwards. In 1962 ownership passed to Jerry Cooper, a
friend of Fred’s and in 1991 it was purchased by Robert Davison of
City, Maryland, who began a minimal restoration. In 1997 the car was
by Landvoigt who restored the car back to its original hill-climbing
At 6:00 p.m., June 25, 1926, a freak tornado
substantial portion of Willoughby’s Dwyer Ave. factory. The Utica Daily
included a photo of the damage to the western end of Willoughby’s
factory and the following overview of the damage in its June 27, 1926
“Perhaps the greatest freak of the tornado
was when the
suction from the twister lifted the entire roof from the La Porte
Turner Street, carried it high in the air and then sent it volpaning to
where it crashed – into the chassis paint shed of the Willoughby
automobile body builders, nearly 500 feet away. The entire section of
with the chimney intact, buried itself in the shed, shoving none too
Packard custom eight car, which was considerably damaged.
“The west end of the main structure of the
was rent asunder by lightning and the tornado, and heavy damage done to
and supplies. On the easterly end, toward Turner Street, the brick wall
buckled nearly five feet, and it is difficult to say how much of the
will have to be entirely rebuilt.
“Only one man, a night watchman, was at the
when the crash came and he was just entering the building after
day engineer. Fortunately, the employees were not working at the time
left their places at noon Saturday.
“It is the opinion of Francis D. Willoughby,
the company, that lightning struck the iron fire escape at the easterly
the building, severing the fire escape, one portion of which dropped to
ground in a twisted mass. Mr. Willoughby thinks that with the end of
ripped open, the terrific storm swept through the paint shop and
department, carrying away sections of the walls, roof and partitions
Windows all over the building were broken and water three or four
covered the floor doing extensive damage to automobiles and equipment.
sprinkler system was also disconnected and drenched the place. Among
in the building at the time were Rolls-Royces, Lincolns, Franklins and
grade custom bodies.
“By Sunday afternoon, Willoughby’s workmen
temporary repairs to the building to keep out damage from the elements.
Willoughby said the wrecking of the building would postpone business
of the business is being carried on at the old Pipe Foundry and this
enable the company to continue operations to some extent.”
The Utica Pipe Foundry was located at the
corner of Broad
Street and Dwyer Ave, sharing the opposite corner of city block
occupied by the
Willoughby factory. Organized in 1889 by Charles Millar, the firm went
in 1913 and Willoughby used a portion of the vacant structure from the
teens into the early thirties.
Small orders were built by Willoughby for
Cadillac prior to
Fisher’s acquisition of Fleetwood and Willoughby showed a LaSalle
at the 1928 New York Automobile Salon (Nov. 1927 show). Small lots of
formal Limousines and Town Cars with roll-up leather roofs and flush
winter hard-tops were built for Pierce Arrow and Packard in 1926 and
the bulk of Willoughby’s business from then on was for Lincoln.
Orders for Willoughby’s Lincoln Sport Sedan
shown at the
1927 New York Salon exceeded expectations requiring the order to be
by Murray, one of Lincoln’s regular production body supplier. Many of
catalog models started life as one-off customs that were later built by
or another one of their high-volume body suppliers. When compared to
Lincolns, Willoughby-built catalog customs had slightly larger bodies,
interiors and more luxurious upholstery and appointments.
For Franklin’s Model 11A, Willoughby
produced a small run of
boat-tail sport coupes with an integral rumble seat, one of which was
featured at Reno, Nevada’s Harrah Collection.
After a several-year hiatus, Willoughby was
called upon to
produce a few bodies for the Marmon Series 75. In their 1985 history of
firm, ‘The Marmon Heritage’, George and Stacey Hanley write:
“The Willoughby Company
of Utica, N.Y. built a 4-passenger sport sedan body ‘On Marmon 75'
in the fall of 1926. It was described as a distinct departure from
practice, having a very low belt line and correspondingly larger
windows. The window
increase was limited somewhat by having the reveals below the windows
times the usual width and painting them in a lighter shade. Windshield
were unusually slender, an English & Merrick vertical windshield
and Triplex Safety Glass used throughout. It was painted Ocean Blue and
Gray with an interior of two shades of green gray.”
At the 1928 New York Automobile Salon (Nov.
29-Dec. 4, 1927)
Willoughby exhibited a Franklin Series 12 Town Car, a Packard and two
During the late 1920s volume at the
Willoughby plant was so
great that they subcontracted a portion of their paintwork to Albert U.
Tescione, whose paint shop was located at 1216 Bleecker St., Utica, NY.
Born in Italy on December 20, 1885, Tescione
emigrated to the United
States in 1906, where he took a position with a local coachbuilder,
Willoughby, although his employer remains unknown. During the late
teens he founded
his own paint shop, the 1920 Utica directory listing him for the first
under carriage and auto painters at 1308 Bleecker St.
The 1930 US Census lists his home address as
St., his occupation as ‘Auto Painter’ in ‘Paint Shop’ also included is
Angeline A. (a dressmaker, nee Alfano, b. Nov. 20, 1892 in New York –d.
1981); and son Nicholas A. (b. Sep. 15, 1911 in New York –d. Apr. 22,
Rochester, NY) Tescione. The Census states the value of real
owned at $30,000.
Unfortunately Tescione died on May 20, 1930,
at the age of
44, the 1930 Utica directory listing Angeline A. Tescione, wid. Albert
1216 Bleecker St. In 1931 their son Nicholas enrolled in the Pharmacy
at SUNY Albany, and Nicholas and his mother moved to Albany, where they
at 180 Delaware Ave until his 1934 graduation, when they moved to
where Nicholas took a job as a pharmacist. The 1940 US Census lists her
with Nicholas A. (28yo) and his wife Evelyn (nee Zacaroli, b.
Tascione (21yo), who had recently married, at 48 Bock St., Rochester.
The building that Tascione built at 1216 Bleecker
St. remained a vital piece of Utica's automotive history, serving as
the launching pad of the region's largest dealer group (Carbone Auto
Group) and the home of Utica's most famous dragster, the 'Custom Auto
Body' funny car.
The 1932 Utica directory lists Boleslaw (aka Benny)
Naruc at 1216
Bleecker St. under ‘Automobile Repair’. He’s no longer listed in the
directory having been replaced by William E. and Nina F. Walker.
occupation was conductor for the New York Central railway, so he likely
occupied the apartments on the 2nd floor.
The 1934-36 Utica directories list the C
& S Garage at
1216 Bleecker St. under ‘Auto Garages.’ The 1938 Utica directory lists
C & S
Motor Sales under ‘Automobile Dealers’ at 1216 Bleecker St., but no
includes Willoughby, which constructed their last body in 1937.
Joseph A. Carbone (b. Oct 7, 1909-d. May 12,
1992), the C in
C & S, is better known as the founder of the Carbone Auto Group,
central New York’s best known dealership groups which today operates 25
at 11 separate facilities in Central and Eastern New York State and
With $40 in hand, 19-yo milk-man Joseph A.
Carbone and his
friend, auto mechanic Phillip J. Sacco (b. Jan. 28, 1909-d. Jan. 1986),
established the C & S Garage on Wetmore St. (near Albany) in Utica,
1929. The 1925 New York State Census lists Carbone’s occupation as
handler’, the 1930 US Census lists it as ‘truck-driver’ on a ‘milk
afterwards they started dealing in used cars, purchasing a used
Cadillac to use
as a tow truck. In 1933 they relocated to 1216 Bleecker St. where
automobiles were added to the mix. In 1938, shortly before Graham-Paige
out of business, C & S took on distributorships for Studebaker and
International Trucks. Shortly thereafter Carbone bought out Phil Sacco
the business Carbone Motor Sales, which concentrated on the sales of
cars & trucks into the late-1950s.
During the next few decades
family, which grew to include his wife Inez E. (Paolozzi – they married
8, 1936), and two sons, Domenic (aka Don) and Alexander (aka Al) lived
second floor. In 1957 Carbone acquired a Whitesboro, NY Dodge
in 1963 closed down the Bleecker St facility consolidating the
operation into a
new structure located on Commercial Drive in Yorkville, which was
Carbone Dodge City. Ford and Pontiac were added to the mix during the
today the group handles Buick, Cadillac, GMC, Chrysler, Jeep,
Honda, BMW, Nissan, Toyota, Subaru and Hyundai automobiles and
and Buell motorcycles.
When the Carbones relocated to Yorkville in
1963, 1216 Bleecker
St. was taken over by the Castronova family, who established Custom
a successful body shop that kept the four Castronova boys, Fred, John,
Vic out of trouble for the next half decade. Custom Auto Body sponsored
well-known funny car in the 1970s that was piloted by Phil Castronova
number of AHRA/NHRA victories. The business was recently closed down
and the property
offered for sale.
Across the street at 1207 Bleecker St was
Durante’s Froglett Tablet Co. The Durante family lived in the building
manufactured the tablets on the first floor. Organized in 1922 by Marie
Durante in order to manufacture cough tablets and candy by the 1930s it
known as the ‘Froglett Tablet and Candy Mfg. Co.’ Her grandson, Phil
who now operates Durante Signs out of the same building, supplied the
information that Albert U. Tescione painted bodies for Willoughby in
the 1920s. Phil’s
father was friends with the guys who painted Willoughby's bodies, many
were painted across the street from the Durant’s store at Tescione’s
by the following craftsmen; Frank LaPaglia, Buzzy Joquil, John Lucas
and Joe Giambrone.
Willoughby had been a long-time member of
the Society of
Automotive Engineers and the minutes of a meeting held during 1928 were
included in the December 1928 issue of the SAE Journal:
“F.D. Willoughby, of the Willoughby Co.,
remarked that style
at any particular time is relative but that beauty is everlasting. He
with Mr. Northup that the beauty of the ensemble is the objective
with Mr. Thomas as to the necessity for considering psychological
idea expressed by Mr. Northup of the necessity of the cooperation of
engineers and chassis engineers was approved by Walter A. Graf of the
Co. H. Pfau, of the LeBaron Co., differed with Mr. Northrup regarding
beauty of the tendency to think that the lower a car is the better it
said that a psychological effect must be considered in this connection;
instance, if a person sitting in a car has his eye-level below a
and is looking upward into the eyes of someone who is standing
car, he has a certain sense of inferiority. For this reason Mr. Pfau
there is a danger of making an automobile too low. He mentioned that
often say that they want the outside of their cars to look as small and
as possible and the inside to appear as large as possible. He believes
large effect for the interior can be obtained psychologically by using
making the gradations from dark at the bottom to light at the top,
from dark at the back to light at the front.”
The following Willoughby-penned article
appeared in the December
1928 issue of Autobody:
“Color and Body Design
“Color Should not be Merely Decoration but
an Integral Part
of the Design, Contributing to the Planned Silhouette of the Car
“By FRANCIS D. WILLOUGHBY, President,
Willoughby Co., custom
body builders, Utica, N. Y.
“COLOR has had always an important part in
and present, offerings show the tremendous increase in the use of
attractive shades as compared with the conservative darker colors of
blue, maroon, black, and green, that were the standards of the early
of the vehicle, prior to the automobile.
“In recent searches for color treatment, car
and paint-and-lacquer companies, have turned to bird plumage, minerals
nature's big storehouse of flowers, for color blends which have
shades that were hitherto unthought-of, for this purpose.
“In the matter of combining the use of
colors to properly
portray the design features of the body, and the whole car 'and,
the designing of the body features toward the type of color treatment
applied, I feel that the ultimate has not been reached and that there
left to do.
“Too much in the past have we designed
reveals, and moldings to form a balanced mechanical picture and a good
"eye line" and then have selected color to decorate the job. The
proper use of color families, and combinations have a definite purpose,
have governed perhaps the designer's hand in connection with the ideas
which the design is created.
“THE ‘FLASH’ EFFECT
“I feel there has been too much attention
paid to intimate
or minute effects of the exterior lines, moldings, etc., of the car,
enough attention to the bolder picture effect that should be the basis
“The elements of beauty also should not be
those of static
beauty as of the car standing still (with the possible exception of the
showroom floor) but as of the car in motion. The factor of control
design for the exterior should be the portrayal of motion dressed as
attractively as possible. This means the use of only the bolder and
lines, and the proper accentuation of such lines to "give the flash
effect" of the main motif, properly set into relief by colors—fine
hairline striping has no place in the "silhouette" or
“Also, only convention and history are the
reasons why body
upperworks should be black. Solid-panel backgrounds of one color, with
picture-frame and silhouette effects in a contrasting color, have an
new usage in our idea. Black in lacquer finish is now one of the most
attractive colors for this purpose, especially when combined with
other colors such as silver, gold, orange or green.
“ORIGINALITY AND ARTISTRY REQUIRED
“To obtain the ideal of this thought in
elimination of the intricate and small details of the exterior, and the
inclusion of bolder accentuation of the motif of the car design—there
required greater skill in the design layout. It thus demands a
of ideas but a greater originality in conception. Under this idea the
the panels, the turn-under of the sides, the roof crown, the molding
proportion of the reveals and all items that enter into a mechanical
plus the color-design conception, must be correct in detail and
must replace, through their sheer beauty of simplicity and perfect
the attempt to attract through an artful trick-up of fancy panels,
without a purpose and color and stripes added as "decorations."
“In other words, the entire scheme of the
eye appeal of the
car exterior should be thought out thoroughly, and expressed by the
all the way through to the very finish in color treatment.
“INTERIOR MAY BE FINELY DEVELOPED
“On the other hand I would put into the
interior all the
fine beauty of detail and intimate character that is to reflect the
home of the-'owner. Added to the appeal of a comfortable luxury of deep
cushions and backs should be portrayed the attractiveness of fine
accurately and precisely done. This can be expressed in simple or
fashion and include touches of period effects as may suit the whim of
“There is not a thing within the interior of
the car that is
not within intimate nearness to the occupant and therefore there
'should not be
a thing that will not serve its place, in the whole scheme to please.
again the correct effect cannot be produced with cheap or homely fabric
decorated with fancy hardware to lend it "class," but each part in
detail should be properly worked together to produce a complete picture.
“IDEAS EXEMPLIFIED IN SALON EXHIBITS
“The bodies exhibited by the Willoughby Co.
in the current
Salon of four distinct types contain an effort, with some limitations,
these things. Into them has been put the conception of color treatment
making the designs. Perhaps one of the most striking examples of this
Lincoln "town sedan" in which two shades of green have been used on
the exterior and interior. Their complimentary arrangement in
connection with a
simple exterior treatment of lines has the intention of carrying out to
degree, the ideas that I have presented. This model has been selected
customer as the basis of a new design from the lines of which some of
regular production at its plant is being built.
“The Packard 'sedan-limousine,' in a bold
with the sportif effect, combines a cracker-buff and blue combination
extreme contrast. The Franklin town car, with a combination of tan and
and black, shows a departure from the previous conventions in the use
darker and lighter colors. The Lincoln limousine, with two tones of
by carrying the upholstery color to line out the reveals that frame the
into the interior, exhibits a large job of exceeding height and length
the attempt is made to reduce the appearance and size into h pleasing
treatment. In this again the conventions that have surrounded a car of
kind are being left alone and a new thought has been attempted.”
A peculiar 1929 Lincoln Model L 4-Door
in the collection of the Gilmore Car Museum, Hickory Corners, Michigan
a number of custom features. According to her son, its original owner,
(Emma E.) Stein, of Greenwich, Connecticut, refused delivery of the car
she didn't like the restyled 1929 Lincoln fenders and grill. The dealer
the car to Utica where Willoughby replaced the offending fenders and
shell with 1928 units. They also moved the side-mounted spare tires to
rear, providing the owner with additional cushioning in the event of a
collision. Other custom features include a roof-mounted brass luggage
tinted windows and deleted rear jump-seats which were replaced by
For the Duesenberg Model J chassis
Willoughby produced a
variety of closed bodies in four styles including 1 town car, 20
clubs sedans, with the remainder being 5-passenger Berlines and
limousines. Historian Fred Roe believed 49 Duesenberg chassis were
with Willoughby bodies, though only a handful remain, as most of the
and limousine bodies were replaced by trendier phaeton and roadster
their second and third owners.
Willoughby also supplied all-weather
town car bodies
for the 1929, 1930 and 1931 Pierce-Arrow. Martin Regitko recalled:
“The Pierce Arrow Town Car which we built in
small lots of
10-20 jobs. This job had to be designed and built in nine weeks. It had
roll-up leather front roof and a flush fitting mountable hard roof.”
The February 1, 1930 issue of Automotive
that the principals of Lincoln’s custom body suppliers were seen at the
“Custom Body Builders See Evolution in
“Detroit, Jan.21 – No revolution, but an
evolution in color
effects and interior designs is predicted for the automobile industry
leading custom body builders who were here for the Detroit Automobile
“Hermann A. Brunn, president of Brunn &
Co., Inc. of
Buffalo, and Francis Willoughby, president of
the Willoughby Company
of Utica, together with John B. Judkins, president of the John B.
Company of Merrimac, Mass., were visitors at the exhibit here last week
each expressed gratification at the exhibits and the crowds in
“Mr. Brunn has just returned from France,
where he attended
the Paris Salon and while in nowise disturbed over the progress made by
French body builders he nevertheless paid unqualified tribute to the
the continental designers.
“Mr. Willoughby, who has devoted special
attention to colors
in his custom built bodies, was of the opinion that the higher class
continue to show the same refinements and dignity, but that still
combinations would be attempted in certain other productions.”
The 1930 US Census lists the Willoughby
Father, Francis D. Willoughby (b.1888);
mother, Delia C.
Willoughby (b.1889); daughter, Mary F. Willoughby (b.1922); daughter,
Willoughby (b.1824); daughter, Barbara J. Willoughby (b.1927); Francis’
Ernestine B Willoughby (b.1886); and their maid Flora J. Hardiman
In 1931 Willoughby began making an
two window Sport Sedan for Lincoln and by 1934 the body was included in
Lincoln's "Salon Body Types" catalog. From the Depression on, the
number of series-built custom bodies required by the automakers was
reduced, and an individual order of 10 to 25 was now considered a large
The November 30, 1931 issue of the Utica Daily Press highlighted the
appearance at the 27th annual New York Automobile Salon, which was held
through Dec. 5, 1931:
“Willoughby Exhibits Three Bodies at
“Francis D. Willoughby of the Willoughby
yesterday for New York to attend the opening of the automobile salon at
Hotel Commodore. This annual display brings together the exhibits of
custom-built coachwork submitted by the best body makers of this
Europe. There will be about 60 cars shown.
“The salon, being concerned chiefly with
will attract unusual attention this year. Mr. Willoughby said. Interest
by the public in these exhibits is expected to indicate the trend of
business and tell whether there will be an active demand for the
“Certain preliminary indications suggest a
for business of this kind, Mr. Willoughby said, although he added that
would have to be reserved until the salon had given the public a chance
express its desires.
“The Willoughby Company is showing three
bodies. One on a
Duesenberg chassis is a five-passenger sport Berline, elaborately
fitted with walnut trim. It sells for about $17,000. The other bodies
the new 12 cylinder Lincoln chassis. One is a panel brougham and the
inclosed drive limousine. These cars will probably be priced around
“This salon is the 27th annual event of the
Unfortunately economic conditions dictated
that the 27th
Salon would be the last, and from 1932 on the few coachbuilders that
were absorbed in to the January New York Automobile Shows.
The Lincoln Panel Brougham was an attractive
limousine that was built in small numbers into 1937. Marginally more
were Willoughby’s attractive fastback coupes limousines and touring
1937-1938. Very similar to Lincoln’s standard coupes and sedans, they
much more luxurious interiors and appointments, and a price to match.
Although it was undoubtedly the most
attractive Model K
available, only five 5-passenger Willoughby Sport Sedans are thought to
been built between 1937 and 1939. The Sports Sedans included
adjustable front and rear seats, the latter equipped with a folding
armrest, which allowed seating for five in a pinch.
As sales of the Lincoln declined Willoughby
searched for new
products, and although there’s no evidence it was actually constructed,
existing Willoughby blueprint depicts a 1936 Cadillac police patrol car
designed for a 160” wheelbase Cadillac commercial chassis for the
Motor Car Co., a Cadillac dealer located in Binghamton, New York. The
car coachwork looked similar to the high-headroom Cadillac-based
cars offered by others and it’s entirely possible that Willoughby
hearses, ambulances and patrol cars in addition to their well-known
limousines, although the evidence is lacking.
During 1937 and 1938 Willoughby built a
handful of Lincoln K-based
7-passenger touring cars. One 1937 Lincoln Model K Willoughby Touring
purchased by the city of New York for use as a parade car. Dignitaries
Howard Hughes rode in the car during the ticker-tape parade that
91-hour trip around the world in July of 1938. The ex-New York City car
seen at the St. Louis Museum of Transportation. A similar vehicle was
the State of California for use as Governor Frank F. Merriam’s parade
For a number of years the Gilmore Car Museum
Corners, Michigan owned a 1938 Lincoln Model K Willoughby Limousine,
only 5 known to have been constructed. In their final few years of
Willoughby built less than 50 bodies per year, fully 1/10 of their peak
mid-twenties. From 1936-1938 Willoughby was relying upon Lincoln for
livelihood and sales of the expensive and overweight Model K were
non-existent by 1939 and Willoughby was forced to close its doors. A
Willoughby-bodied 1939 Lincoln was built using a leftover 5-passenger
Sedan. Priced at $6,900, it was also one of the last Model K’s
line being retired in 1940.
Unlike many of its competitors, Willoughby
bankruptcy and Francis D. Willoughby tried desperately to sell the
the end of January 1939, it was obvious that no buyers were
forthcoming, so he
decided to separate the plant from the equipment, with the later to be
in a February 2, 1939 auction by Samuel T. Freeman & Co., Boston
Starting in mid-January classified
placed in regional papers. One published in the Utica Daily Press on
31, 1939 follows:
“ALL MATERIALS MACHINERY
“Will be sold at Public Auction. 1 day.
Thursday, Feb. 2,
Starting at 10 a.m.
“Over 600 lots, including thousands of
direction of Sam T. Freeman & Co., Auctioneers. Inspection invited
sale. Catalogue on request.
“Willoughby Company, DWYER AVE. and TURNER
A more detailed advertisement was placed in
“LIQUIDATION SALE AT AUCTION
“Woodworking Machinery; Metal Shop
Machinery; Equipment and
“WILLOUGHBY COMPANY (Automobile Bodies) on
DWYER AVENUE and TURNER
STREET, UTICA, N.Y., THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 1939, AT 10:00
“WOODWORKING MACHINERY: 2
Baxter Whitney No. 47A Electric 2 Spindle
Ball Bearing shapers, Baxter Whitney No. 23 Electric Surface Planer,
Electric Saw Table, Fay & Egan No. 501 A Vertical Hollow Chisel
Smith Tenoning Machines, Rogers 16" Jointer, Boot Vertical Electric
Vulcan Electric Brazer, Edmund No. 1B Drill Press, Hip Saws, Swing
General Electric 10 K.W. Frequency Changer Set, etc.
“METAL SHOP MACHINERY; 4 Pettingell Power
Spring Hammers, Pettingell
5’ Rotary Throat Shear, Keene Vertical No. 131 Metal Shear, Beading
Kick Press, 3 Haskins Electric Flexible Shaft Polishing Machine.
“FACTORY EQUIPMENT: Dry System Sectional
Ingersoll Rand No. 20 Air Compressor, DeVilbiss Spray Guns, Regulators,
Electric Drills, 1000 Steel "C" Clamps - 3" to 12", Saw Blades,
1350 Hand Files, Anvils, Vises, Forges, Work Benches, Factory Trucks,
Heaters, Belt Lapers, Welding Rod, 10 Singer Sewing Machines, Eastman
Cloth Cutter, etc.
“SUPPLIES: 1100 Boxes Chrome, Nickel, Brass,
Machine Screws, 1,500 lbs. Aluminum
500 Feet Cowhide and Kid.
“10,000 FEET KILN DRIED TOUGH ASH, Rubber
Duck, Wire, Tacks, Nails, Automobile Body Accessories, Handles, Locks,
Switches, Hinges, Vanity Sets, Clocks, Lacquer, Enamel Pumice, Colors,
“By order of Willloughby Company, Owner.
“Descriptive Catalog on Request to
“SAMUEL T. FREEMAN & CO. AUCTIONEERS, 80
BOSTON, MASS. Established NOV. 12th, 1805.”
Unfortunately, a blizzard swept through
Utica the day before
the auction and many of out-of-town bidders failed to attend. Others
to keep the prices low, and refused to bid against each other (a common
practice that still remains to this day). The only item kept by Francis
was a large high-wheeled omnibus built by his father in the early days
firm that featured a glass-enclosed passenger compartment with an
luggage rack and the driver’s seat mounted high over the front wheels.
Willoughby’s designer, Martin Regitko,
1981) went to work as a stylist for Edsel Ford at the Lincoln design
He was given the assignment of working up the full size draft and clay
of the 1939 Lincoln Continental prototype, which was designed by Bob
It was then transferred to Lincoln Body Engineering which was headed by
old custom builder – Henry Crecelius formerly of Rollston./Rollson.
prototype was under construction, Regitko showed Edsel Ford a modified
moving the spare tire inside the trunk, as was the styling trend of the
Luckily Edsel rejected the idea saying” It’s very nice, but I want it
The February 5, 1939 Utica Observer-Dispatch
picture of a horse-drawn Willoughby omnibus with the following caption:
“Utica-Made Omnibus Salvaged from Auction
Sale for Museum:
“That relic of another generation, once a
omnibus or "station wagon" built at the Willoughby Company here 30
years ago and never used, was intended for a swank hotel or country
estate to meet
guests arriving by train. It was salvaged from the company's
auction sale last week and may find its way into a museum. Nick
shown admiring the vehicle while Rufus DeSantis, a company' employee,
sits in the
high driver's seat. Upper inset shows Addison B. Freeman, Boston,
while lower inset is Francis D. Willoughby, president of the company,
paid the highest wages of any local industry just before closing last
The February 5, 1939 Utica Observer-Dispatch
the results of the sale:
“Auction Scatters Valuable Equipment of Once
“Once a flourishing Utica industry doing an
of $1,500,000 in the building of custom-made automobile bodies, the
Company, now in process of liquidation, reached a climax in closing its
with an auction sale that disposed of machinery, equipment and
“From a financial standpoint the sale on
disappointing to Francis D. Willoughby, president of the company, due
unfavorable weather which kept many out-of-town bidders away.
“Auctioneer is Delayed
“The plant at Dwyer Ave. and Turner St.,
which at times
employed from 50 to 300 skilled woodworkers, has been closed since last
Although stripped of its machinery, the building is still equipped with
heating system and shafting and may be leased for other industrial
Some machinery and equipment, unsold at the auction, will be disposed
privately during the next few days, it is expected. But as far as
concerned, his plans are undecided.
“Addison B. Freeman, one of the three
brothers of the firm
of Samuel T. Freeman & Co., Boston auctioneers since 1805, was
adverse weather in arriving for the sale, scheduled for 10 a.m., but
aid of several assistants, he moved swiftly from one department ot
three floors of the building and called the bids on 529 item.
“Among the 300 bidders were junk men,
dealers in second-hand machinery who were buying for speculative
contractors who required tools and supplies in their business.
“$2,500 Machine Brings $475
“That some of the bidders apparently had
agreed in advance
among themselves on what items they particularly wanted and would not
against one another was evident. Then the successful bidder would
he wanted the article transferred to some other person’s bill.
these friendly bidders would gather in a corner and quarrel because one
other had boosted the price of a machine when it was about to be sold
“One of the most valuable single pieces of
machinery was an
electric surface planer, considered the finest type of woodworking
made, and purchased originally for $2,500. Bidding opened at $100 and
successful bidder obtained it finally for $475. Other machines brought
ridiculously low amounts, such as $3 for a foundry grinder which cost
new and 25 cents each for a dozen four-wheel caster body trucks, used
heavy objects around the factory.
“Nearly a ton of aluminum belt molding was
sold as scrap for
15½ cents a pound, and about 1,500 lbs. of rustless gutter channels
only 3 cents a pound. Band saw blades 36-inches long were knocked down
for 30 cents
each, compared to the original cost of $3.50.
“Imported automobile clocks that cost $8
each were sold for
$1, with vanity cases, and a big assortment of steel screw clamps went
5-and-10 cent store prices.
“Old Bus On Hand
Some relics of the early days of the
company, when it turned
out luxuriously appointed carriages and sleighs, were retained by the
and may be sold later to museums or as properties to motion picture
“Among them was an unused omnibus build
about 30 years ago
and kept in storage for more than a quarter of a century. It is a
affair known as a “station wagon” which at one time was in demand by
large country estates or swank hotels and used to meet their guests at
stations. The compartment for guests is enclosed in thick plate glass,
the driver’s seat is mounted high over the wheels. Luggage is carried
overhead space similar to the style of stage coaches.
“Edward A. Willoughby, father of the present
conducted the business alone and also as a partnership with William H.
before the Willoughby Company was organized in 1903. The building had
erected 50 years ago by the Utica Carriage Company whose liquidated
was taken over by the senior Willoughby. Three generations of that
been in that line of activity.
“Closed Bodies Were Special
“In the transition from carriages to
automobile bodies at
the turn of the century, foreign-made chassis were fitted with bodies
Willoughby plant. The first quantity order for car bodies in the United
coming from a New York manufacturer of electric vehicles was split
and the Willoughby firm obtained a share.
“Most of the automobiles manufactured in the
early days were
touring car models, so that closed bodies had to be made specially. At
the Lozier Company, pioneers in the field, went stripped chassis, with
motors and transmissions, to be assembled at the Willoughby plant. The
company also made special bodies for Cole, Franklin, Studebaker,
Rolls-Royce of America, Packard, Cadillac and Lincoln cars.
“Former President Coolidge used two Lincolns
bodies and the family of former President Hoover had three of them.
Presidential cars were always dark blue with a narrow striped
upholstering, and the chief executive’s coat of arms applied to the
When the economical Coolidge retired from the White House he bought one
these used Lincolns and took it to his home in Northhampton, Mass.
“1,000 Bodies Ordered
“In 1914 the Studebaker Company, then
located in Detroit,
gave the Utica company and order for more than 1,000 bodies - a million
order. To fill it within a year the company had to rent out side space
staff of employees was increased from 150 to 300 with a weekly payroll
than $10,000. Skilled labor at that time received from, 50 to 85 cents
considered big pay back then. The Willoughby Company had the reputation
paying the highest wages in Utica at the time it closed last July.
the years of operation, the company was free from labor trouble.
“Wages paid by the Willoughby Company ranged
to $500,000 a year.
“While the automobile industry has forged
ahead rapidly in
turning out stylish stock models at popular prices, there were always
particularly among the wealthy, who demanded special bodies that
utmost comfort and these were built by the Willoughby Company among
lines which remained in style for several years. But economic
changed in the last few years and the trend has been in favor of
“Some day, when the financial status of the
becomes more stabilized than it is now, Willoughby believes the
swing back to a vogue of deluxe bodies with special appointments for
particular motorist, especially among the older folk. Just now,
aren’t enough of those people demanding them to make the business
A number of Willoughby employees remained in
its chief designer, Martin Regitko, found employment in Detroit, and
Mendel formed the King’s Body Works in Rome, New York. Unfortunately
sets of the owner were no longer in demand and Willoughby left the
business for the insurance business, finding employment with the Utica
Insurance Co. His beloved wife, Delia, passed away in 1942 and
following a long
illness Francis D. Willoughby passed away in 1955. Willoughby was
his three daughters, Mrs. Donald C. Claeys, Mrs. Robert I. Cullen, and
John D. Newlove (all of Utica), and over 20 grandchildren.
As a coachbuilder, Willoughby always
enjoyed the highest
reputation. He supplied at least five cars to the White House (during
Coolidge and Hoover administrations). At its peak, Willoughby employed
craftsmen and, as the Depression wore on, Francis Willoughby refused to
his standards and perhaps felt too reluctant to let his people go.
The following obituary was published in the
August 15, 1955 Utica
“Car Body Maker F.D. Willoughby Dies at Age
“Francis D. Willoughby, 117 Proctor Blvd.,
died August 13,
1955 in St. Elizabeth Hospital after a long illness.
“Mr. Willoughby was associated with his
father, the late
Edward Willoughby Body Works which pioneered in the making of
“The Willoughby firm produced carriage
bodies and was an
outstanding Utica industry before the advent of the automobile. It
the production of automobile bodies and custom bodies, including those
Lincoln Motor Car Company.
“As president of the company for 20 years
death of his father in 1916, Mr. Willoughby made frequent trips to the
car producing centers in Michigan. He continued as the company was
1938. Later he became associated with the Utica Mutual Insurance Co. in
he continued active up to the time of his illness.
“Mr. Willoughby was born in Rome, April 30,
1887, son of
Edward A, and Mary Bingham Willoughby. As a child he came to Utica with
family. He attended local schools and was graduated from Utica Free
graduated from Hamilton College in 1909.
“He was married to Delia C. Callahan who
died in 1942. He
leaves three daughters, Mrs. Donald C. Claeys, Mrs. Robert I. Cullen,
Utica, and Mrs. John D Newlove, New Mexico, as sister, Miss Ernestine
Willoughby, Utica, and 13 grandchildren.”
The former Willoughby plant still exists on
the North side of Dwyer Avenue between Turner and Pitcher Streets.
During the early 1970s a fire swept
through the top floors and the owners had the top two floors removed.
later used by the Associated Paper Products (1975), Abelove Linen
Myers-Laine Corp., and although it’s unrecognizable, the main structure
remains, and was
recently remodeled by Cobblestone Construction
Services, who use it as their headquarters.
© 2012 Mark Theobald -
Coachbuilt.com with special thanks to Thomas M. Tryniski and Ed Fiore
The grandson of a former Willoughby employee
sent me the
“Two Custom Bodies by John Motycka
"Saw the writeup on your project in Hemmings
thought you might be interested in the attached pictures. I am
particularly interested in the Willoughby Auto Body Company as my
(after whom I am named) worked for Willoughby in Utica, after he
this country in 1901. I believe he was a shop foreman or
pictures are of my father in cars whose bodies I am quite certain were
the Willoughby shop, perhaps by my grandfather after hours? I am
certain of the Model T one, and suspect the Mercer as well due to the
similarities. The bodies were made by my grandfather for my
I have a diary of my father's that mentions his father telling him to
model T home for a semester (Cornell U) as he wanted to do some work on
later entries where my father remarks about the new body on his
"Fliver" when he returned home (ca. 1920).
"Notice the similarities to the Pontiac Hill Climber as well.
"I very much enjoy your research and writings.
John Motycka, Coventry, CT."
(John Motycka’s August 11, 1935 obituary
states he was a
foreman at Willoughby)