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Clayton Co.
Clayton Company 1905?-1932 - New York, New York
Associated Firms
LeBaron Carrossiers

Super automobile salesman and real estate investor Harry S. Houpt took over the Metropolitan New York City Hudson distributorship in 1915 forming the Hudson Motor Car Company of New York.

Houpt had started in the automobile business in 1905 as the Manhattan distributor for the E.R. Thomas Automobile Company. He believed racing was a good way to move product and sponsored his own racing team which successfully campaigned the Buffalo-built vehicle in numerous motor races on both sides of the Atlantic. He later distributed the Lozier and Herreshoff automobiles and in 1909 produced his own luxury car, the Houpt (aka Houpt-Rockwell), which was built in New Britain, Connecticut by Albert F. Rockwell and his brother-in-law DeWitt Page, principals of the New Departure Manufacturing Co.

In April of 1910 Houpt sold his share in the motor car building operation to his partners and concentrated on selling vehicles built by others, namely the ALCO and Mitchell automobiles.

By 1915 he had installed his new Hudson dealership in a magnificent new Broadway showroom. Houpt was well aware of C.T. Silverís recent foray into providing Manhattanís elite with mid-priced chassis bearing custom coachwork, and set about getting similarly-bodied vehicles for his new Hudson showroom. As he did not have the facilities enjoyed by the competition he enlisted the help of two small and little-known Manhattan coach builders, the Clayton and Walton Body Companies.

The Clayton Company was the better known of the two, having produced carriages, wagons and commercial bodies since the early part of the century. By the mid-teens the firm had established a reputation for building high-quality medium-priced limousine and town car bodies.

Claytonís early clients also included Grover C. Parvis, the custom body manager of the New York Packard Co. and Inglis M. Uppercu, the Manhattan Cadillac distributor. The firmís first workshop was located at 14-16 West End Avenue and was leased from the Checker Cab Sales Corporation.

In 1917 Clayton produced a smart-looking panel brougham (aka town car) on a Hudson Series J Super-Six chassis. The carís custom built fenders and louvered hood made it easily distinguishable from Hudsonís production town car.

In 1918 built a collapsible formal town car (landaulet or town cabriolet) on a Hudson Super-Six chassis. The car was featured in the January 1918 New York and Chicago Auto Salon brochures and included a large built-in underfloor heater which could be identified by the large iron grate embedded in the floor of the rear compartment.

For 1919 Clayton built an attractive enclosed-drive sedan on a Hudson Super-Six series M chassis that featured a completely flat roofline as opposed to the sloping roof of the production Packard sedans which were built by the Fisher Brothers.

LeBaron Carrossiers sublet some of their early closed bodies to Clayton in the years immediately preceding their merger with the Bridgeport Body Company. By that time commercial bodies were their main line of work and in June of 1922 they leased the recently vacated Garford truck distributorship. The June 30, 1922, New York Times reported:

ďThe Clayton Company, Inc., builders of Cadillac, Packard and other national automobile bodies, have subleased from the Garford Realty Company (a holding company for the Garford Motor Truck Company of Lima, Ohio) the eight-story and basement fireproof building on plot 69 x 100 at 427 to 431 West Forty-second Street, for a long term of years at an a aggregate rental of approximately $300,000. The Brett & Goode Company was the broker in the transaction.Ē

Building commercial bodies and the occasional refinishing job kept the firm going into 1932 when their creditors forced them into bankruptcy. At that time they owed over $100,000 in unpaid taxes and assignments.

The firmís 14-16 West End Ave plant was subsequently occupied by a succession of auto-related firms which included C.L. McGuire & Company, the В. Kramer Body & Equipment Co., and most recently Potamkin Honda. Claytonís 427-431 W. 42nd Street facility was later turned into an office building which was eventually razed and replaced with a parking garage.

© 2004 Mark Theobald -







Don Butler - The History of Hudson

Hugo Pfau - The Custom Body Era

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Car

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Era

Beverly Rae Kimes - Packard: A History of the Motorcar and Company

Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark Jr. - Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942

Hugo Pfau - The Coachbult Packard

Walter M.P. McCall - 80 Years of Cadillac LaSalle

Maurice D. Hendry - Cadillac, Standard of the World: The complete seventy-year history

George H. Dammann & James A. Wren - Packard

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