Set of 12 automotive illustrations by the artist Vladimir Kordic
Special folio issue of the 12 prints that were also pictured in the Thompson Ramo Wooldridge, Inc. calendar for 1982. This year's calendar features 12 custom luxury autos built to the owner's taste and specifications. They were the height of extravagance and symbols of opulence and prestige:
1. 1931 Isotta-Fraschini
, Body by Castagna
In 1854, nine-year-old Carlo Castagna joined Francesco Manitti's coach building firm as an apprentice. By 1885, Castagna had control of the company and guided it from carriage to auto body construction. During motoring's classic period, he became Italy's premier custom coach builder. However, World War II devastated Europe, and Italy's postwar auto market no longer wanted Castagna's large, extravagant automobiles. It needed small, inexpensive, practical cars. Some demand for custom coaches still existed, but now it was for small sports cars such as Ferrari. Castagna's company, now led by his son, could not make the transition to small cars and went out of business in 1953. Carlo Castagna built most of Isotta-Fraschini's bodies. This 1931 Sport Phaeton has two unusually wide doors for access to both front and rear compartments. The airfoil-shaped running boards incorporate tool drawers. Although the chassis was built in 1931, the body was not completed until 1933.
2. 1927 Bugatti Royale
, Body by Henri Binder
If an automobile could be chosen as being "finest in the world," it most likely would be this Bugatti. The quality of design, the graceful styling, and superior performance place it in the forefront of automobiles. The Royale was Ettore Bugatti's answer to the perfect car. Its specifications alone were staggering. With a 170-inch wheelbase, it was the longest production chassis ever built The Bugatti was powered by an 8-cylinder, 778-cubic-inch engine which boasted 300 hp and had a top speed of 125 mph. Because of this power and luxury, the Royale originally carried a $42,000 price tag. Seven Royales were built, each with different coach work. The model presented here is the Coupe Napoleon built by Henri Binder of Paris. Because of the sleek design the large car always appears graceful. Though this model was built in 1927, it was not sold until the 1960s when Fritz Schlumph, the world's greatest Bugatti collector, purchased the Bugatti factory's remaining inventory.
3. 1927 Lincoln
, Body by Judkins
Judkins began building horsedrawn carriages in Merrimac, Massachusetts; however, by 1910 the last carriage rolled out of the Judkins factory and all efforts were concentrated on the automobile business. This 1927 Lincoln takes an interesting approach to styling by paying tribute to Judkins' heritages. It is designed to remind one of the romance of the early carriage trade, the road house and the period of elegance and craftsmanship. A one of a kind Lincoln with a rear wicker basket.
4. 1933 Chrysler
, Body by by LeBaron
In 1921 Ray Dietrich and Tom Hibbard left Brewster and Sons and together they formed the LeBaron Company. Though they both left the company in 1925, LeBaron had established itself as one of the finest coach building firms. Walter Chrysler used LeBaron bodies a great deal and this custom Imperial Dual Cowl Phaeton is a highlight of LeBaron design and the zenith of Chrysler luxury and prestige.
5. 1930 Cadillac
, Body by Fleetwood
General Motors was not satisfied with simply producing Cadillac chassis for custom coach builders. It also wanted to control the body design. So in 1925, GM bought the Pennsylvania-based Fleetwood Body Company and opened a second plant in Detroit. While the original Fleetwood plant continued to manufacture some custom coaches for other firms, most of the company's work went to Cadillac. The first American V-16 engine was introduced in this Fleetwood. It ran very smoothly but offered poor gas mileage. It is ironic that some of the most expensive and lavish automobiles were built during the early years of the Depression. This can be explained by the fact that it takes several years to develop a new automobile model. The 1930 Cadillac was being designed in the mid to late 1920s when the economy was booming and extravagant automobiles were in vogue.
6. 1924 Hispano-Suiza
, Body by Nieuport
Nieuport created this speedster for the French wine magnate and racer Andre Dubonnet, who drove it in the famous Italian road race, the Targa Florio. The automobile's body is built solely of wood with joints held together by hundreds of copper rivets.
7. 1936 Mercedes Roadster
, Body by Sindelfingen
This spectacular automobile was first introduced at the Berlin auto show in March, 1934. Some experts believe it is one of the most beautiful cars ever built, and it is in fact a very limited production automobile. This is the Special Edition roadsters with a supercharged 8 cylinder 5.4 liter engine churning out 180 hp.
8. 1935 Duesenberg Speedster
, Body by LaGrande
The model SSJ speedster was strictly a limited production automobile. In fact, there were only two of these short wheelbase Duesenbergs built - one for Gary Cooper, the other for Clark Gable. Duesenberg was one of the few American companies that followed the European auto manufacturing tradition - it built only chassis which were sold to custom body companies. The LaGrande Body Company was part of the E. I. Cord empire and was housed in the Central Body Company plant in Connersville, Indiana. The LaGrande name was a take-off of LeBaron. The Cord people wanted a car with LeBaron's prestige but not its high price.
9. 1934 Packard
, Body by Dietrich
While Edsel Ford was president of the Lincoln Motorcar Co., he wanted to secure the services of a highly skilled custom coach builder to build bodies for Lincoln. In particular he wanted Ray Dietrich. Ford lured Dietrich away from LeBaron and helped him start his own firm. One of Dietrich's finest designs is the convertible sedan, which is presented here. The Dietrich Company built its last custom coach in 1938.
10. 1930 Cord
, Body by Weymann
In France, the Weymann Body Company came up with a novel idea —instead of building auto bodies of steel or aluminum, using cloth to cover a specially constructed wood frame. This technique eliminated the need for metal artisans and painters, while providing a body which was light, extremely flexible, and quiet. The head of the design was the unique frame, which consisted of wooden beams connected by metal plates. Since no two pieces of wood ever touched, the body never squeaked or rattled. Along with building custom bodies himself, Weymann patented his innovative process and licensed it to other firms. The first Weymann body appeared at the 1921 Paris auto show. He later opened a factory in Indianapolis, but the cloth bodies which were popular in Europe never caught on in the American market. The Model L-29 1930 Cord chassis was as unique as the body it carried. It was the first popular American automobile with front-wheel drive.
11. 1936 Bentley
, Body by Gurney-Nutting
The J. Gurney Nutting Company Ltd began building custom automobile bodies in 1919. In 1924 they purchased the rights to produce the Weymann fabric auto bodies. They were very successful and the Gurney Nutting Bentleys were sold to royalty: the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York and Prince George.
12. 1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom I
, Body by Brewster
Rolls Royce opened a factory in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1920 to build chassis and acquired the Brewster Co of NY to supply the bodies. From 1920 to 1926 the Springfield plant build a left hand drive Silver Ghost and from 1927 to 1931 the Phantom I. Though most of the Rolls Royce's components were manufactured in Britain and the chassis assembled by British trained workers, the American consumer wanted the authentic British made model. This slackening demand forced the only Rolls plant outside of Britain to close. Ironically today's collectors highly regard the Springfield Rolls. The model presented here is known as the "wind blown coupe," because of the unique reverse slant of the rear roof line.