Brewster & Co. of Queens, New York is one of America’s oldest and most storied coachbuilders. Originally formed in 1810 in New Haven, Connecticut, Brewster was America’s premier constructer of high quality coaches and wagons. At the turn of the 20th century, the horseless carriage was beginning to find favor among the wealthy, so with a move of operations to New York they began to focus their attention on building motor bodies for New York’s elite. By 1911, all carriage building had ceased and the company turned entirely to bodying the best motorcars in the world. It is perhaps a fitting testament to their quality that the first petrol powered car to wear a Brewster body was a Delaunay-Belleville; widely regarded as the very finest car of its era and of which Brewster would become the North American importer in 1905.
In 1914, Brewster was selected by Rolls-Royce, Ltd. as sales official agents and by 1919 were the preferred body builders for their American market chassis built in Springfield, Massachusetts. This set Brewster on a pedestal above all other American coachbuilders. Concurrently, they began to offer cars of their own construction, mainly town cars of more compact proportions that were designed specifically for chauffeuring their clients around New York’s tight streets. Using a proprietary chassis, Brewsters were powered by expensive but exceptionally smooth Knight sleeve-valve engines and were instantly recognizable by their distinct oval radiators. Brewster pioneered many innovations in car building such as roll up windows, disappearing jump seats and the canted “Brewster Windshield” which reduced the glare of city street lights for chauffeurs. By 1925, Rolls-Royce bought the entire Brewster works outright, going on to sell nearly 450 cars with Brewster bodies. Led by John S Inskip, the designers at Brewster produced some of the most striking automobiles of the era.
Following Rolls-Royce’s withdrawal from US production in 1931, Brewster was saved by Inskip (who was also the outgoing chairman of Rolls-Royce North America) and new, more affordable chassis were sought to keep the workshop busy. A partnership with Ford was initially promising, however that failed to materialize into long term success. Brewster continued to offer bodies for individual clients on mainly Ford and Buick chassis, though they could not recapture their earlier magic and the company was closed in 1938, leaving behind a legacy of exceptional quality and tasteful, beautiful styling.
Likely one of the very last Brewster cars ever produced, this 1938 Buick wears an unusual and fascinating town car body by the famed Long Island coachbuilder. Finished in an attractive two-tone color scheme of blue main body sides over black fenders and hood, this Buick has been nicely restored and well preserved over the years and is ready to be enjoyed. The quality of the restoration is very good, with attractive paint and finishing. The Town Car body features an enclosed passenger compartment with a tan faux-cabriolet roof and disappearing roof for the front compartment. The rear passengers are treated to lovely gray broadcloth armchairs and panels, and a pair of occasional rear seats folds neatly into the floor – a Brewster signature. Bud vases, wood trimmed door caps and a sliding divider window add to the air of luxury. The quality of presentation is very good, clear evidence this car was properly restored and has been very well tended-to since then. The chauffeur’s cabin (this is a town car after all, and would have been exclusively chauffeur driven) is trimmed in black leather, which is appropriate as it was harder wearing for the duties of driving. A disappearing roof panel slides out to cover the driver in case of inclement weather. The dash is a handsome mix of painted metal surfaces, wood-grained panels and elegant Art Deco detailing.
Buick’s trusty 248 Cubic Inch Dynaflash straight-eight presents well under the hood with proper graphics adorning the valve cover and presented well in Buick green paint with satin black ancillaries. The engine runs strong and the car has benefitted from a recent mechanical freshening. This rare and interesting Buick represents the end more than one era in automotive history- as one of the very last cars produced by Brewster, it marks the end of one of America’s great car builders. Also, as bespoke automobile bodies were falling out of favor, the outbreak of WWII and subsequent economic troubles would be the death knell for the industry as a whole. Thankfully, this Buick with its rare, high-quality and lovingly restored Brewster body has survived through the years as a monument to a bygone era.
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