While automakers may have held the key to the ignition, it was the automotive stylists who often held the key to success. Never was this more evident than in the 1930s.

In a last ditch effort to reignite Auburn sales during the Depression, E. L. Cord made a bold, some might call it foolhardy move in 1934, spending half a million dollars to redesign the entire Auburn model line. Duesenberg president Harold T. Ames was put in charge of the company and when the new models failed to increase sales, Duesenberg’s chief designer Gordon Miller Buehrig was given a modest $50,000 and told to do what he could to upgrade Auburn styling once more for 1935. “With a $50,000 budget, we couldn’t do much,” Gordon remarked years later. “The decision was made to do nothing to the chassis or body and concentrate on the front end sheet metal and fenders.” Buehrig performed a miracle. His design for the Boattail Speedster became the most famous Auburn model ever built, a car with all the character and vitality of a Duesenberg. It was fast, guaranteed, in fact, to exceed 100mph, and so stated on a dashboard plaque which read: “This certifies that this Auburn automobile has been driven 100.8-miles per hour before shipment.” And it was signed by land speed record holder Ab Jenkins. (more…)

Hugh Chisolm was a wealthy and visionary man, who’s father came from humble roots in Strathglass Carries, Scotland. Chisolm created major East Coast businesses in the paper, railroad, power generation, and airline industries.   He purchased a huge tract of land on a bend in the Potomac River for his personal estate, and named it “Strathglass”. He commissioned one of the largest yachts on the Potomac, and used it to entertain the most powerful men in Washington. When he needed an estate vehicle, Mr.Chisolm purchased the chassis from Ford in 1934, and had this unique woodie wagon constructed to shuttle his guests to his yacht. It survives today in very original and largely unrestored condition, quite a testament to the craftsmanship of the day. (more…)

Custom coachbuilding of the 1920s and 1930s was the ultimate form of self-expression for the rich and famous. Whether it was a Waterhouse-bodied Packard, a Figoni & Falaschi-bodied Delahaye or a Murphy-bodied Duesenberg, the affluent could essentially own a one-of-a-kind vehicle. Each of these famous coachbuilders was known for their specialized workmanship and was commissioned to build custom bodies over the years. Conversely, a company more accustomed to clothing buses and trucks with their commercial styling wouldn’t be the typical choice to build the coachwork for a Rolls-Royce, yet Jonckheere Carrossiers of Belgium did just that when they re-bodied a 1925 Phantom I with what could arguably be considered the most ominous Rolls-Royce coachwork ever created. (more…)

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