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Lot 401: Ford Model 40A Brewster Towncar

Motorcycle and Motorcars, Bonhams & Butterfields (14 November 2009)

Brewster began building carriages in New Haven in 1810. Their artistry was recognized internationally, including a prize won in Paris in 1878. Like many carriage builders, they segued into automobile bodies in 1905. By 1911 they had moved their atelier to Long Island City, New York, perhaps to be closer to the financial center that provided the customers for custom coachwork. Their reputation was such that even Rolls Royce were shipped to America for Brewster bodies. It was no surprise that when Rolls-Royce began production in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1919, Brewster was chosen to build many bespoke bodies on their chassis.

Like other manufacturers of luxury goods, the Depression was not kind to Brewster. The firm faced the challenge by reaching an agreement with Ford. Their management knew Edsel Ford because of the many Lincolns bodies Brewster had built. Furthermore, Ford's chief of design, Bob Gregorie, had worked at Brewster.

The agreement between Ford and Brewster resulted in Ford chassis being clad in Brewster bodies in styles including Limousines, Town Cars and Convertible Sedans. Celebrity ownership at the time included Al Jolsen, Fred Waring, Vincent Astor and Cole Porter. Porter was impressed enough to add the lyrics, "You're a Brewster body" to his song, "You're the Top".

The subject car is a Limousine built on a Ford 40A chassis with a V-8 85 engine, Ford's most powerful. It has the heart shaped Art Deco grille that was these cars' trademark. The color scheme has black fenders and a green body with black accents. The black theme is continued with the interior leather in the chauffer's compartment. The passenger space is done in brown with tan carpets. Black spoke wheels complete the visual impression. The chauffer's compartment has an ingenious convertible top that folds and fits into a section of the passenger compartment roof above the passenger space. This is a rare opportunity to own a car that touches on so much American automotive history.

This car encompasses history dating to the turn of the 19th Century. This is not an idle comment, as Brewster-bodied Fords are the only Ford V-8-powered cars to have earned Full Classic status with the Classic Car Club of America.

Lot Details
Auction Motorcycle and Motorcars
Bonhams & Butterfields, Los Angeles
TypeCar
Lot Number401
Estimate$30000-$35000
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price$34000
Hammer Price (inc premium)$39780
Year1935
Condition rating0
Registration number
Mileage-
Chassis number18-1139104
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors