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Cole & Woop, George W. Cole, William Woop Co.
Cole & Woop, 1899-1912; George W. Cole, 1912-1925; William Woop Company, 1912-1917: New York, New York
Associated Firms
Smith & Mabley

Cole & Woop were one of a handful of pre-classic-era Manhattan body builders that supplied coachwork to New York’s high-class imported and domestic automobile dealers. The firm was founded just before the turn of the century by George W. Cole and William Woop in order to build light carriages and early automobile bodies. The firm made its home at 42-50 West Sixty-seventh St. which was located just east of Broadway between Columbus Ave. and Central Park West .

William Woop’s parents, Dora and Frederick Woop, had emigrated from Prussia (Germany) prior to Williams’ birth in 1866. His father was a master wheelwright who operated his own Greenwich Village shop at 724 Washington St., just north of Eleventh St. William grew up in the trade and the 1880 US census lists the 14-year-old as an apprentice blacksmith.

George W. Cole was a carriage draftsman and designer, and was unrelated to the Manhattan manufacturer (G.W. Cole & Co.) of the famous "3-in-One" oil who shared the same name.

An early 1900 issue of the Horseless Age announced that:

“Cole & Woop are building a new King of Belgium body, which they expect to take to the Paris Exposition if finished in time. It is of novel shape and seats six persons and with the auxiliary seat, seven.”

From 1902 onward Cole & Woop advertised that they made “a specialty of making tonneau bodies of aluminum.”

The first Cole & Woop electric was built in late 1901 for George Jay Gould, Jr., the 5-year-old grandson of legendary railroad magnate Jay Gould as a Christmas present from his mother, the former stage actress, Edith M. (Kingdon) Gould.

The four foot long, 200 lb., roadster was powered by a ten-cell storage battery that fed power to a ¼ horsepower motor driving the rear wheels. It reportedly had a top speed of 7mph and a range of twenty miles. It was equipped with pneumatic bicycle tires, 16-inch rims at the front and 20-inch at the rear. In early 1902 Mrs. Gould ordered a second electric, this time a Victoria, that was given to him on his 6th birthday.

A 1903 issue of the Automobile Trade Journal mentioned the manufacture of a small series of Lilliputian Cole & Woop electric cars, likely modeled after the Gould electrics. The Cole & Woop “…weighs less than 401 pounds and is fitted with special motor and batteries and sells for $500.” Additional evidence of manufacture is lacking.

Both Cole & Woop and Quinby supplied aluminum coachwork to the Smith & Mabley Company, New York’s premier distributor of European luxury cars. Known imported chassis with Cole & Woop coachwork included Isotta, De Dion Bouton, Mors, Rochet-Schneider and others.

They also built the bodies for the Ardsley, built by the Ardsley Motor Car Co., of Yonkers, New York and the Howard, another Yonkers-built vehicle designed by William S. Howard. The aluminum bodies of Walter Christie’s famous 1906-7 front-wheel-drive racecars were also supplied by Cole & Woop.

The August 10, 1905 Automobile, included a description of a Cole & Woop-bodied Ardsley:

“Ardsley Covered Car.

“An exceedingly handsome car with a luxurious enclosed body has recently been delivered by the Ardsley Motor Car Co., of Yonkers, N. Y. The chassis is the standard Ardsley chassis with four-cylinder vertical motor of 20-35-horsepower; while the body, which is of special design, was built by Cole & Woop, of New York. A canopy top extends over both front and rear seats, and the tonneau seat is enclosed by a hood that, while having the appearance of permanency, may be folded back when not required. When the hood is to be folded, the side windows are dropped into pockets in the side doors, and the large front window, which extends across the front of the enclosed portion of the car, may be left in position, if desired, when it acts as a wind-break, or may be moved out of the way. The windows slide in brass grooves, and are so fitted as to be weatherproof when raised. All the "irons" used are hand forgings of steel, hand finished, brass plated and polished. All the windows are fitted with rolling curtains.

“An ingenious ‘wrinkle,’ and one that serves a useful purpose is a leather guard stretched from the inner edge of the front mud-guard to the outer edge of the frame of the car, filling in the space between the mud-guard and the car, through which mud and dirt usually fly and accumulate on the hood and other portions of the front of the car.

"The car is finished in black, with black leather upholstering, and the general effect, while quiet, is rich and luxurious. Long springs, long wheelbase and large tires make the car an easy riding vehicle, and the exceedingly quiet running of the motor, added to the other features, completes a machine that seems to possess every comfort and convenience.”

In 1906-1907 they supplied a small number of series-built aluminum limousine bodies to Harrolds Motor Car Co., the Manhattan Pierce Great-Arrow dealer. Cole & Woop continued supplying bespoke bodies to Harrolds as late as 1910.

In the early part of the century aluminum was the material of choice for bodying automobiles. A January 24, 1906 Horseless Age article entitled “Body Design and Construction as Seen at the New York Shows”, W.E. Decker detailed the various materials then used by the Metropolitan New York coach buiders:

“Body Materials.

“The question of whether bodies shall be built of wood or metal is still undecided. Aluminum bodies are rapidly becoming more numerous. A careful investigation of that all the exhibits led to the compilation of the following figures:

(% of cars on exhibit)
Wood bodies: 64%
Aluminum bodies: 28%
Steel bodies: 5%
Combination wood and metal: 3%

“Aside from these the Marmon and Pierce companies use cast aluminum bodies. There were also a number of cast hollow dashes to be seen. Seven! manufacturers exhibiting wood bodies stated that their cars would be fitted with aluminum bodies, their exhibits being wood only because aluminum could not be obtained. Therefore there will be in use slightly more than one-half as many aluminum as wood bodies.

“The Brewster Carriage Company feel the tendency is strong for much better bodies than have been built in this country heretofore. It seems the foreign carriage builders recognized the automobile field for body building sooner than our home builders. The latter were reticent to believe that the automobile had come to stay, and in consequence some of the finest productions have come from abroad. The above concern has carefully studied the problem and believes thoroughly in the excellence of wood bodies. They consider that any of the graceful curves that are now to be seen on automobile bodies can be made of wood.

“The A. T. Demarest Company, who are building wood bodies, state that on cars of about 30 horse power or more, carrying seven passengers, they consider the possible saving of 150 pounds not sufficient to warrant the use of aluminum, but in the lower powered cars the light eight may be an advantage. For some f the compound curves, however, they frequently use aluminum. J. M. Quinby & Co., although old carriage builders, prefer to use aluminum. Their average size touring car body weighs 350 pounds. The unfinished limousine body displayed at the Haynes Company stand weighs 600 pounds. In all these aluminum bodies, aluminum angles are used in place of angle irons, and all parts are bolted or riveted together. No solder is used. The brass decorative molding is first brazed together, then riveted on he body from the inside, thus affording additional strength. In cases of ordinary dents the repair is a simple matter. The upholstering is loosened and the dent hammered out. This firm considers the advantage in painting aluminum bodies very great. The same finish that is produced on a wood body with fourteen coats can be obtained on aluminum with bout half that number, there being no oiling coats necessary on the metal. However, it has first to receive a chemical treatment to remove all traces of oil from the metal.

“A number of the aluminum bodies in the different exhibits were built by Cole & Woop. The backs are braced inside by either aluminum bars or wood used. The following are the pros and cons for wood and aluminum. In case of accident a dent is usually easier to repair than a broken panel. If the wood is not thoroughly seasoned it will crack or open seams in the course of time. The automobile body is subjected to far more severe conditions than that of the horse drawn vehicle. The weight, speed and self contained power necessitate a much stronger body.

“At first the wood body was constructed too light, as its builders followed the practice of other carriage lines, and because the small powers of the cars demanded lightness. Both these conditions are passing, and the bodies will better stand the racking and twisting. The parts of the aluminum body, being bolted or riveted together, are very firm, lending strength to the whole. With it there is little chance for opening joints or squeaking.

"Sheet steel, not being as malleable as aluminum, is more difficult to form and is not much used, except for straight work.

“The Pierce and Marmon exhibits contained some excellent specimens of cast aluminum bodies. These are said to weigh the same as wood bodies, but possess the advantage of greater strength. It is said to be quite impossible to break up a defective casting with a 2 pound hammer. A heavy sledge is always used. Decorative moldings are cast on the parts, as are also the lips by which the sections are bolted together. Bosses for the tail lamp, etc., and pedestals for hinges, locks and various handles are cast with the parts, thus making simple and very strong attachments. Screwed to cast bosses are strips of wood to which the upholstering is attached.

“In the accompanying illustrations of Marmon parts these attachments can be seen. These castings are most uniform in thickness throughout. They can, of course, be made to take any curves or angles desired. As the art of casting aluminum advances this type of body must become much more popular.”

A display ad from the October 7, 1906 New York Times advertised Cole & Woop-bodied Pierce Great Arrow limousines:

“Great Arrow Limousine Cars

“We have six Pierce Great Arrow Chassis upon which we propose to build Limousine bodies and deliver them complete this fall. Any one who desires one of these luxurious cars, and who orders one in time, can have the body trimmed and painted according to his own taste.

“The cars are 28-32 horse-power. The bodies will all be built by Cole & Woop.

“This will be the only opportunity to secure one of these Pierce Great Arrow Limousine cars this fall.

“It is unnecessary to tell you what the Pierce Great Arrow Car is. Even men familiar with motor-car building in this country and abroad have been surprised at the luxury and finish in the appointments of these Limousine cars which we have been selling this fall. The car itself has been known from the start as the American car, built for American roads, American conditions and American temperaments. The limousine body which is built upon this Pierce Great Arrow Chassis has every appointment that even the most luxurious taste can suggest. Any individual ideas in regard to color or treatment can be carried out if your order is placed now.

“As far as we know these are the only Great Arrow Limousine cars in the United States that can be had this fall.

“Harrolds Motor Car Company, Broadway, 58th to 59th St., New York”

The December 22, 1907 issue of the New York Times listed the firm as exhibitors at the upcoming 1907-08 Importers Auto Salon at Madison Square Garden.

William Woop held three US patents, one of which was for a carriage top for an automobile body, US Patent No. 938933, filed on Jan 30, 1909.

Included in the October 1, 1910 classified section of the Auto Club of America’s Club Journal was the following ad for a Cole & Woop-bodied 1909 Pierce-Arrow:

“No. 655—1909 Pierce Arrow. 60 H. P., 6-cylinder; five-passenger; close coupled touring body, especially built by Cole & Woop; painted light brown; fully equipped; Warner speedometer, clock, Klaxon horn, extra 20-gallon gasolene tank. Absolutely first-class condition. Driven about 10,000 miles. Cost with extras $7,000. Sell $4,500”

In 1912 the partners appealed a previous Supreme Court decision that is of interest today as it describes in great detail the process of ordering a custom-built body when no chassis is present. Despite numerous documented attempts to please their out-of-town customer, a Mr. Charles B. Manville of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it appears that they were ultimately unsuccessful. The following transcript appeared in the West Publishing Co.’s Feb 19-April 8, 1912 New York Supplement and State Reporter, Vol. 133:

“Cole et al. v. Manville (Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department. February 2, 1912.)

“Sales (§ 166)—Performance Of Contract.

“Where a contractor to construct for another an automobile body for a chassis according to a blueprint and sketch built a body which contained a body extension which the blue print and sketch did not call for, and which did not leave a space of three inches between the floor of the tonneau and the frame of the chassis as called for by the blue print and sketch, the purchaser was not required to accept the body or allow the contractor to make the necessary alterations, especially where the time for delivery of the body had expired, since the contract was within the class of contracts involving the personal tastes of the purchaser of an article in which strict compliance is required.

“Appeal from Trial Term, New York County.

“Action by George W. Cole and another, copartners, trading as Cole & Woop, against Charles B. Manville. From a judgment entered on a verdict for plaintiffs and from an order denying a new trial, defendant appeals. Reversed, and new trial granted.

“Argued before Ingraham, P. J., and McLaughlin, Laughlin, Clarke, and Scott, JJ.

“Burt D. Whedon, for appellant. Malcolm Sundheimer (A. Maurice Levine, on the brief), for respondents.

“Laughlin, J. The plaintiffs have recovered on a contract whereby they agreed to make and deliver to the Milwaukee Auto Engine & Supply Company, at Milwaukee, Wis., for the defendant an automobile body for a chassis which said company was making for him. There is some conflict in the evidence with respect to the description of the automobile body which the plaintiffs were to make for the defendant; but a letter written by the plaintiffs to the Milwaukee company under date of March 16, 1909, shows that it was to be made according to a pencil sketch made by the plaintiffs for the defendant and a blueprint drawing of the chassis made by the Milwaukee company, which was delivered to them by the defendant, and in the letter, which was written in reply to a letter from the Milwaukee company asking for a drawing with measurements of the body to be made by the plaintiffs, and by which the plaintiffs were expressly informed that there must be an unobstructed space of three inches all over between the bottom floor of the tonneau and the frame of the chassis, and particularly requested that the front end of the body be made according to measurements as shown on a sketch which they inclosed, so that they could "give the front part of the same shape on chassis," the plaintiffs informed the Milwaukee company that they had followed the blueprint in making the body, and that, if the blueprint was correct, "you will have no trouble with this body when you come to put it on your chassis." The blueprint plainly showed that the body of the automobile was to commence on the front line of the front seat and extend back therefrom, and that the extension of the body from that point forward, known as the "gun-stocks" or "body extension," was on the chassis and part of it, and also showed an unobstructed space of three inches between the floor of the body or tonneau, and the frame of the chassis, and one of the pencil sketches made by the plaintiffs showed the same. The plaintiffs, in accordance with the Milwaukee company's request in said letter, sent two sketches of the body which they were to make. One of these was of the front end, and by its measurements and form indicated to the Milwaukee company that the plaintiffs understood that the body extension, or gunstocks, was to be on the chassis; but it indicated a departure from the blueprint in that it showed that the body of the car ended, not at a perpendicular line at the front of the driver's seat but 15 inches forward of that point. The Milwaukee company by letter to plaintiffs under date of March 19, 1909, accepted this departure from its blueprint and notified plaintiffs that it would construct the body extension to conform with the change and not according to the blueprint. Neither of the sketches showed the dimensions of the moldings on the sides of the body. The superintendent and general manager of the Milwaukee company wrote on the sketch of the front end the dimensions of the molding seven-eighths by three-eighths to correspond with the molding which was to be on the chassis, and also made a drawing on the sketch of the body extension and wrote on it, "This part is on chassis and made of aluminum," and then returned the sketches to the plaintiff. It appears that, on these sketches being returned to the plaintiffs, the one on which the changes were made was marked, evidently for the guidance of plaintiffs' workmen, "Make this to below sketch."

"The evidence introduced on the part of the plaintiffs tended to show that the defendant gave them the order for the body shortly before Christmas in the year 1908, and that on the part of the defendant tended to show that the order was not given until the 3d day of February, 1909. It is fairly to be inferred from the evidence that, at the time the plaintiffs received this letter from the Milwaukee company inclosing the sketch, they had commenced to make the automobile body, and it was completed and shipped to Milwaukee on the 8th day of May thereafter. One of the plaintiffs testified that the body shipped by the plaintiffs did not contain a body extension or gunstocks and complied with the blueprint and plaintiffs' sketches as amended, but his testimony shows that he did not claim that the three- inch space existed as the floor was placed; and plaintiffs' automobile body builder, who built this body, and who was called by the plaintiffs, testified generally that the automobile body shipped by plaintiffs was made according to the blueprint and sketches made by the plaintiffs based thereon, containing some alterations which were accepted by the Milwaukee company as already stated and some alterations made on the sketches by the Milwaukee company which were apparently accepted by plaintiffs, but on being particularly interrogated with respect to whether it contained a body extension, or gunstocks, he said that he could not tell whether he put the gunstocks on or not. Other testimony, however, given by witnesses called on the part of the plaintiffs, tended to show that the three-inch space was not left, and that the gunstocks were on the body; and the superintendent and general manager of the Milwaukee company, who received and examined the body shipped by plaintiffs, testified positively that the gunstocks were on it, and his company so notified the plaintiffs, as did the defendant also. The evidence also shows that the body shipped left a space of from one inch to one inch and three-quarters only between the frame of the chassis and the floor of the body. It appears that the space of three inches between the floor of the body and the frame of the chassis was required to afford room for the transmission and other parts of the machinery of the chassis, which extended 2 1/4 inches above the frame of the chassis.

“Immediately on the receipt of the body by the Milwaukee company, the plaintiffs were notified, both by the company and by the defendant, that it did not conform to the contract in these and other respects. One of the plaintiffs thereupon went to Milwaukee and interviewed the superintendent and general manager of the Milwaukee company and the defendant; and, according to his testimony, the superintendent and general manager of the Milwaukee company referred him to the defendant, who refused to accompany him and point out the defects. The defendant, however, testified that the defects were stated, and this plaintiff admitted that mistakes had been made and offered to take the body back to New York and have the defects remedied, which the defendant declined on the ground of the delay that would be caused thereby, and that the defects could not be remedied and have the car appear as it should and as it would appear if properly constructed originally. The body extension, or gunstocks, on the chassis to be made by the Milwaukee company, and which according to the evidence introduced by the defendant was made and ready for the body, except for some parts which could be attached only when the body was on the chassis, was made of aluminum, and the body extension, or gunstocks, on the body delivered by the plaintiffs, was of wood, the same as the rest of the body. The plaintiffs claimed and offered evidence tending to show that the body extension, or gun-stocks, if on, could have been cut off the body furnished by them, and that the floor of the tonneau was not permanently in place and could have been elevated to afford the requisite space of three inches, by inserting under the sills of the body strips of wood, known as shim rails, which are sometimes used, at a comparatively small expense. The plaintiffs, however, neither attached nor furnished shim rails, and it is not claimed that either the blueprint or the sketches showed that shim rails were to be used. It is manifest that, if shim rails were used, the car would not present the same appearance as if deeper sills were used to accomplish the same object. It also appears that the molding on the body furnished by the plaintiffs did not conform to the sketch in dimensions, and therefore would not match the corresponding molding on the body extension, or gunstocks, which was part of the chassis. We do not deem it necessary to comment on the controversy with respect to providing a door to the tool box under the rear seat, for there is a fair conflict in the evidence on that point. Shortly after these interviews with one of the plaintiffs at Milwaukee, defendant shipped the body back to plaintiffs, who refused to receive it, and it was stored by the railroad company.

“If, as the preponderance of the evidence shows, the body shipped by the plaintiffs contained a body extension, or gunstocks, which according to the blueprint and sketch it was not to contain, and did not leave a space of three inches between the floor of the tonneau and the frame of the chassis, the defendant was under no obligation to accept it and make the alterations in these respects, or to allow the plaintiffs to make them, for the reasons already stated, and for the further reason that the time within which the plaintiffs were to deliver the body had expired. This contract bears no analogy to building contracts, where the rule of substantial performance obtains, but falls rather within the- class of contracts involving the personal taste of the purchaser, in which strict compliance is required.

“It follows, therefore, that the judgment and order should be reversed on the ground that the verdict is against the weight of the evidence, and a new trial granted, with costs to appellant to abide the event. All concur.”

By the time the case was decided, the two partners had parted ways and established separate businesses. Woop moved to Ossining, Westchester County, where he established the William Woop Company Inc., while Cole remained in Manhattan and became a free-lance body designer. Although he’s unknown today, his independent design work pre-dates that of J. Franklin deCausse, George P. Harvey, Leon Rubay and LeBaron Carrossiers by a number of years. Only Klein & Mercer (and later George J. Mercer) had established an independent Manhattan design studio prior to Cole's.

After consulting with the customer either at the dealership or at his office, Cole would create a series of renderings which would be turned into full size body drafts once approved by the customer. He would then arrange to have one of Manhattan’s numerous coachbuilders create the body, which would then be mounted on the customer’s chassis and delivered either directly to the customer or to the dealership where it was ordered.

Although little was heard from Woop after the split, George W. Cole remained a force in the Manhattan custom body field into the mid-twenties. The 1913 ACA Journal classifieds included 2 G.W. Cole-bodied/designed vehicles, an Isotta and a De Dion Bouton. The August 22, 1915 New York Times included a picture of a sedan body designed by Cole:

“Special Body With Unusual Features For Comfort

“A special, four-passenger body designed by George W. Cole is here shown. The weight of the body complete is 135 pounds. The top of a one-man type is fastened to patent locks on the windshield. All the mountings are silver plated. Back of the rear seat is an accessible and roomy luggage compartment.”

A George W. Cole-designed 1916 Scripps-Booth Model D town car exists today in the collection of the William E. Swigart Jr. Automobile Museum in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. The V-8 powered car was built for tennis star Eleanor Sears of Boston, Massachusetts, who wanted a car with “the luxury of a Rolls-Royce, the size of a Model T and the beauty of a Mercedes.” The reported $17,500 vehicle was included in Scripps-Booth’s 1916-1917 New York Automobile Show display. As a standard Scripps-Booth town car only cost $2,625, delivered, I believe that the $17,500 price quoted by the Museum is about $10,000 too high.

The all-black vehicle featured silver-plated trim and custom-built pointed radiator shell, which made the car look exactly like a ¾-scale Benz town car. As was the custom at the time, the leather upholstered chauffeur’s compartment was totally exposed to the elements, and was built without a windshield of any type. By comparison, the rear tonneau had seating for two upholstered in mohair brocade, with mahogany and silver-plated trim and ivory door pulls and handles.

The May 1920 issue of MoToR included pictures and the following description of a Cole-bodied Packard:

“Just emerged from the body plant of George Cole, New York, is a sedan built for Caleb Bragg, the well-known racing driver and aviator, on a Packard chassis. It is interesting as an expression of the individuality of the owner who took an active part in its design. In addition to the body itself the radiator, hood, headlamps and fenders are special. The radiator is high and narrow with the sides of the hood slightly in-swept just un­der the hinge line. The body is painted blue with black upper structure, fenders, radiator and running gear. It is a two­-door design, access to the forward seats being obtained by swinging the back of the front passenger's seat, which is hinged at the center and fitted with a regular door latch, as shown in the detail illus­tration. Both front and rear seat cushions are low, as is evident by the low height of the top, and there is a correctly tilted toe-board for the rear occupants, which means much for touring comfort. But the most striking feature of the design is the rear end, which slopes forward to an equal and opposite de­gree with the windshield, making the side view of the body a practically symmetrical layout with the door in the center.

“The large space behind the rear seat cushions as a result of this back slope is ingeniously util­ized as a roomy tool compartment, accessible from the outside, while the upper portion fur­nishes ample space for vanity cases and similar small receptacles for gloves, etc., accessible from the inside. Below the rear end of the body proper is a large elliptical case finished the same as the body, which contains the gasoline tank and also a large leather pocket ca­pable of accommodating two suit­cases. When used for this pur­pose the curved lid is removed and stored on the inside of the hinged door of the tool compartment, which has a similar curvature. The arrangement of the tools is such as to make roadside repairs almost a joy. Each tool has its own private felt-lined resting place, the jack is securely held in a special clamp and alongside are compartments for tire chains, tubes, plugs, 'etc. The faintest rattle from this end of the car is a very remote possibility.

“Inside, this vehicle is as unusual as it is outside. All of the interior side panels are aluminum, sprayed with gold, leather being confined to the seats and cushions. Contrary to what one might suppose, this un­common-not to say expensive ­treatment of the panel surfaces does not produce a showy result. The effect is a pleasing dull bronze. The windows are raised by straps which after use may be slipped through slots in the side panels, out of sight. Interior illumination is furnished by two lamps sunk in the shelf containing the vanity cases behind the rear seat. There are no roof lights.

“The large window area, and in particular the full-size rear window, will appeal to those drivers who know the ease that comes of un­interrupted vision in all directions. In this re­spect the car is practically the same as an open touring model. Seating is for four or five passengers. No auxiliary seats are fitted. The interior height of the body is 50 inches and the wheelbase 135 inches.”

Cole remained active in the Manhattan body building business at least into the mid-twenties while Woop ventured into other areas, taking out a patent for a wood and aluminum flexible window frame and sash in 1926.

Both men dropped out out of sight at about the same time and I was unable to locate their death notices.

© 2004 Mark Theobald -







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

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