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Mueck Auto Body Co.
Mueck Auto Body Co., (aka Mueck Automobile Body Co.) 1913-1960s; St. Louis, Missouri; 1960s-1988; Richmond Heights, Missouri
Associated Builders
St. Louis Car Co.

Best-known today as the production body builder of the short-lived 1919-1921 Skelton automobile, the Mueck Automobile Body Co. later gained prominence as a specialist in the resotration of antique automobiles.

The firm was founded by Frank J. Mueck, an Austria immigrant who was born in 1880. The St Louis Chamber of Commerce lists Frank J. Mueck as a member starting in 1913, although the firm wasn’t incorporated until July 27, 1917, the recent incorporations column of the August 11, 1917 issue of Automobile Topics reporting:

"The Mueck Automobile Body Co., St. Louis. To manufacture vehicle bodies of all kinds. Capital $3,000. Incorporators: Frank J. Mueck, J. Hoeppel and William Hoeppel."

The firm’s factory was located on the western end of the city of St Louis at 4325-4329 Papin St. which is located adjacent to US 40/I-64 near the Tower Grove Ave. overpass.

Frank J. Mueck served as president; William Hoeppel (aka Happel), vice-president and Charles W. Hoeppel (Happel) secretary-treasurer.

Business was such that the firm increased their capital to $40,000 as reported in the October 6, 1919 issue of Lumber (Manufacturer and Dealer):

"St. Louis— Mueck Auto Body Co. Increased capital from $3,000 to $40,000."

The 'Body Builders' column of the December 1919 issue of The Automotive Manufacturer reported on the details:

"Mueck Auto Body Co., St. Louis, for the third time in three years, has found it necessary to enlarge Its plant. A steadily increasing demand for special bodies for passenger cars has influenced the company to erect an addition to its plant, two stories high, on a plot 55 x 75 ft. Among the company s recent work has been the building of bodies for the new passenger car to be produced by the St. Louis Car Co. in that city."

The passenger car the article referred to was the 1920-1921 Skelton, an mid-priced touring car produced by the St. Louis Car Co. for wealthy Okmulgee, Oklahoma millionaire, Dr. L. Sherman Skelton (1865-1921).

Skelton had been a practicing Indiana physician until he moved to Oklahoma for his health in 1893 and started investing in the emerging oil and gas industry. The investment paid off, and he subsequently expanded into the glass, brick and cement business.

In the middle-teens Skelton became interested in the automobile business and made a number of investments in the retail trade which were managed by W.A. Chapman, a former Dort executive. A similar arrangement was made in San Francisco where J.W. Frawley fronted a Skelton-backed dealer group, the Leach-Frawley, and Frawley Motor Co. which were headquartered at 1417 Van Ness Ave.

Skelton provided the financing for the Los Angeles-based Leach Motor Car Co. a small producer of bespoke touring cars founded by M.A. Leach in 1916.

In 1917 the Leach Motor Car Co. bought out the English Motor Car Company, the Los Angeles King distributor, and soon afterwards added the Liberty and Premier automobiles to the Skelton stable. Skelton liked the Premier so much that in 1919 he purchased a controlling interest in the Indianapolis manufacturer.

In late 1919 Skelton introduced his own automobile, the Skelton, which was designed by Reed & Glaser of Indianapolis and built under contract by the St. Louis Car Co. in the firm’s Baden St. (#5) plant using coachwork supplied by Mueck. Production ended soon after Skelton passed away in 1921 leaving the St. Louis Car Company $2 million in the hole.

In 1923 Frank J. Mueck received US Patent number 1459740 for a vehicle body which is pictured herein. (US Pat. 1459740 - Filed Sep 22, 1922 - Issued Jun 26, 1923)

In 1925 - Mueck Auto Body Co. received a US trademark for 'The Mueco System' and 'Mueco Auto Body Finish'. The system and process were likely modeled after the recently introduced DuPont system.

The following classified ad appeared in a 1935 St Louis newpaper:


The Friday May 10, 1940 issue of the St. Charles Cosmos Monitor included the following testimonial:

"MUECK AUTO BODY - Over 25 Years of Efficient Service in Body and Fender Repairing

"This well-known firm of skilled body builders and repairers is located at 4329 W. Papin in St. Louis, and long ago gained the patronage of our people by means of their superior work in body and fender repairing, painting, top recovering, upholstering, and wreck rebuilding.

"We are pleased to recommend their Service to all St. Charles motorists. The large plant, which is owned by Mr. Mueck, is well equipped in both modern mechanical appliances and skilled mechanics for the care and repair of all styles and sizes of motor cars.

"Mr. Mueck has had over 25 years of experience in this specialized field, starting when the automotive industry was in its infancy by building special bodies which were shipped to all parts of the world. His long years of experience in this  field enable him to handle your job at a reasonable cost whether it is large or small.

"In these days of real efficiency no one wants an apprentice or an unknown firm to experiment with their job, but are seeking the advice of an expert and experienced specialists. This firm has long been known as the leading repair specialist in this locality and the charges are no more than you would pay to a smaller firm who does not have the equipment and the mechanics.

"There is no longer any excuse to drive' around with dented fenders or smashed-up bodies when we have the capable work of Mueck Auto Body Co., at our service. We find pleasure in paying this compliment to this organization and we are glad to refer all readers to their outstanding services. They will appreciate your business and gladly give free estimates on any custom work or repair jobs."

After the Second World War Fred J. Musck retired and control of the firm passed to George A. Buerke, the eldest son of Mueck’s step daughter, Elizabeth M. Buerke. Fred J. Mueck was the second husband of Mary Buerke (b. 1871 in Germany) who had a daughter, Elizabeth, during her first marriage. The 1920 US Census lists 29-yo Elizabeth as a member of the Mueck household.

Genealogy for the Buerke’s follows:

George A Buerke (b.1897-d.1969). Spouse: Gertrude M. Buerke (b.1898). (Daughter) Ruth E. Buerke (b. March 23, 1920-d.December 24, 2008) Frank Charles Buerke (b. 1929-d.1988)

An article by M.J. Mitchell in a 1960 issue of Autobody and the Reconditioned Car highlighted the firm’s successful antique automobile restoration buisiness:

“Antique Car Field Don't Overlook It, Says St. Louis Body Shop.

“Body shop operators who are complaining over intense competition, minimal profits, and other troubles may find a welcome solution in setting up special services for antique car rebuilding and repairing, according to George A. Buerke of Mueck Auto Body Company, St. Louis, Missouri. One of the oldest and largest such shops in St. Louis, established in 1915, the Mueck organization is in the unique position of having handled body repairs, upholstery, top work, and paint on such "classy cars" when they were new everyday automobiles. In fact, some of the scrapbooks in Mr. Buerke's offices show the shop filled with automobiles of vintages which would gladden the eyes of the usual antique car collector today. Such experience going back 50 years, carries a lot of weight with the antique car collector who is invariably 'afraid to let the machine get out of my hands.' During the past two years, there has been a steady parade of classics into the Mueck shops in midtown St. Louis, many of them for a single operation, but still more for multiple operations which include almost every service which the Mueck shop provides. Typically, in the past few months the shop has handled body and top repairs on a 1913 Cadillac limousine, Buick touring car, a 1911 Model T, Fardall and a St. Louis, an automobile built in St. Louis at the turn of the century.

“In numerous instances, classic car owners have simply transported the car direct to the Mueck shop after locating it in a barn, a junk dealer's yard or sale and commissioned the body shop to restore it throughout. This includes scraping down of all metal, leading in badly corroded parts, putting on a new paint job, upholstering the interior, installing new tops, replacing glass, etc. Because of the completeness of the shop, the Mueck concern can ??? practically any operation, with the possible exception of re-chroming of original parts and a few ??? of dash board instrumentation, etc. Because the average classic car collector is more interest in producing a handsome, eye-catching automobile than in the cost, profits in this field can be high. On an elderly Cadillac, for example, the bill ran to more than $900, with the owner paying…”

A 1971 industry listing shows Frank Buerke, president, Mueck Auto Body Co., 8131 Dale Ave., Richmond Heights, Missouri. The firm’s new location was located a block south of US 40/I-64 in the suburb of Richmond Heights, approximately 6 miles west of their old Papin St. facility.

Frank Buerke passed away in 1988 and control of the firm was transferred to his older sister Ruth. Listings for the firm disappear at about the same time, and Ruth E. Buerke passed away in 2008.

© 2012 Mark Theobald -







Four Wheels, No Brakes - A History of Automobiles in St. Louis and the Part That City has taken in the Development of the Automobile, St. Louis Society Automobile Pioneers, pub. 1930

Andrew D. Young & Eugene F. Provenzo - The History of the St Louis Car Company, pub. 1978

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

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