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Roland L. Stickney
Roland L. Stickney 1892-1975
 
Associated Builders
LeBaron Inc.; J.B. Judkins; Rollston; J.S. Inskip
     

Roland L Stickney had worked at Locomobile under Frank DeCausse, and they both left when that company went into receivership before the Durant purchase. DeCausse set up a consulting business similar to LeBaron's and Stickney went to Locke & Co.

On 7 January 1924, LeBaron merged with the Bridgeport Body Co. with the resulting company renamed LeBaron Inc. With its new Bridgeport affiliation, LeBaron Inc. was finally able to build the bodies that Dietrich designed.  Dietrich's original partner, Tom Hibbard, had previously gone of to Paris, sold his Dietrich stock, and set himself up in the Firm Hibbard & Darrin, a French partnership with another American designer, Howard A. (Dutch) Darrin.

As Ray Dietrich spent considerable time traveling to and from the Bridgeport plant, he and Ralph Roberts, LeBaron's manager and part-owner, hired Stickney and Werner Gubitz (who worked together at Locomobile) as delineators and illustrators.

So within the year of his intial departure, Stickney was again designing bodies for Locomobile as LeBaron had taken on an ambitious contract with W.C. Durant's newest acquisition which called for the design of seven new body types  for the prestigious automobile. LeBaron soon began picking up more car companies as clients including Packard. The company also `ghosted' for Fleetwood, Demarest and Locke, and also designed bodies (with full credit) for Franklin and Rolls-Royce as well.

Another LeBaron design closely associated with Stickney is the clay scale model for the 1925 Lincoln Victoria Coupe.  The LeBaron-designed body had rather intricate shaping, with a wide center section to fit the unsusual seating arrangement of a large bucket for the driver and a two-passenger seat offset to the right rear of the driving position. The unusual interior also included a folding jump seat that emerged from under the cowl. Consequently, the unusual design was hard for Lincoln management to visualize, so Stickney made up a 1/12th scale clay model that he delivered to the Lincoln sales manager, H.J.C. Henderson.

Thanks to the relationship forged when Edsel Ford met Ray Dietrich at the 1923 New York Salon, Lincoln was now LeBaron's biggest customer. Edsel admired the talents of LeBaron so much that he invited LeBaron to become a part of the Murray Corporation, Lincoln's production body builder. So in 1925 Edsel asked Murray president Allan Shelden to try to get the LeBaron partners to relocate to Detroit. With Edsel's backing, Shelden made the LeBaron partners an offer for 51 per cent of their shares.

Initially Murray made a proposal to buy a controlling interest in LeBaron, but when Dietrich went to Detroit to finalize it, he was talked into setting up his own firm which was to be named Dietrich Inc. Dietrich decided to take the offer and sold his interest in Lebaron to the remaining partners.

Despite dire predictions, LeBaron seemed to get along fine without its original partners, Dietrich and Hibbard. Roberts would phone Stickney from a customer's office and tell him what chassis to use and which body style was required. By the time Roberts returned to the office, Stickney would have a rough sketch waiting for Roberts to show the client.

Stickney also did some catalogue artwork for the Rolls-Royce. The 1926 American Rolls-Royce catalogue is an excellent example of Stickney's incredible photographic illustrations. 

In 1927 Walter Briggs approached Roberts and the other LeBaron partners to see if they would be willing to move to Detroit as Briggs in-house coachbuilder and body designer. Former partner Ray Dietrich had become very successful as the coachbuilding division of Murray, so Roberts and the rest of the staff moved to Detroit in 1930. 

Stickney and his young assistant Hugo Pfau remained in New York to hold down the fort until the LeBaron acquisition was finished in Detroit. 

During this time period Joseph W. Graham, who with his brother had recently sold their successful truck company to Dodge, had approached Briggs to style him an entirely new car to be called the Graham-Paige. Since the Detroit studio had not yet been fully staffed, Ralph Roberts assigned Roland Stickney and Hugo Pfau who were still in New York. They created the original design including the now famous curved-front radiator shell. The design was then sent to the LeBaron office in Detroit which expanded the basic design to cover the various chassis sizes and body styles.  

Stickney decided to stay in New York City and found employment at Judkins where he illustrated some early 1930s body catalogs as well as designing some custom bodies for Lincoln and some commercial exhibition trailers for a Judkins subsidiary called Sterling that also manufactured diners.

He soon left Judkins and joined Henry Dreyfus and Associates as an industrial designer, a career which he continued until his retirement a couple in the 1960s. He was able to devote part of his time to independent work, which included some renderings for Rollston and for John Inskip during the late 1930s. Another of his private clients was the architectural firm of Harrison & Abramovitz, for whom he did a number of renderings including those for nearly all of the buildings in Rockefeller Center.

The Classic Car Club of America's Gilmore Car Museum, of Hickory Corners, Michigan has an impressive display of 16 original paintings by Stickney on permanent display in their filling station interpretive center. These photo-like renderings of one-off designs for Duesenberg, Chrysler, Lincoln, Pierce-Arrow and others, illustrate the style and elegance of Stickney, one of the best of the classic car designers and illustrators.

2004 Mark Theobald - Coachbuilt.com

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References

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

Nick Georgano - The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile: Coachbuilding

Hugo Pfau - The Custom Body Era

   
 
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