Tag Archives: Don Lee
Earl C. Anthony is perhaps best known as the Packard distributor for the state California from 1915 to 1958. Our top photo shows him at the dawn of his interest in the motorcar. It was a thoroughly respectable, if primitive, effort for one so young and inexperienced. Built in 1897 when he was just seventeen years old, sources say that he fabricated his own batteries and half horsepower electric motor to power it.
After studying engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, Anthony returned to southern California and opened one of the first car dealerships in Los Angeles. He became a distributor for eighteen brands and by 1905 had secured the Packard franchise. That same year, he was one of the founders of the Los Angeles Motorcar Dealer’s Association and in 1907 was a principle organizer of first Los Angeles Automobile Show.
A long trail of innovations would follow. Anthony and a group of fellow entrepreneurs opened L.A.’s first full service gas station in 1913 after becoming frustrated by the difficulties his customers experienced obtaining fuel for their cars. He was first in the country to use neon signs to advertise his business and founded radio stations KFI and KECA, the former eventually becoming one of the first “clear channel” powerhouse operations in the United States.
In subsequent years, he would expand his operations throughout the state including the spectacular location in San Francisco seen above. At one point, his dealerships sold one out of every seven Packards purchased in California. By the time our last photo was taken, Earl C. Anthony had been doing business for thirty years. He had become an institution in the car culture of the state and provided the sharp Packard 120 to lead the Flag Day parade that opened the Los Angeles baseball season in 1935. Photos courtesy of the Larz Anderson Museum, the Detroit Public Library and UC Berkeley.
In our last post on The Art and Colour of General Motors, we covered the Earl Automotive Works, Harley Earl and a very attractive custom bodied 1920 Cadillac designed by him. That car was built by the custom body shop of Los Angeles dealer Don Lee, after he had bought the Earl Automotive Works and kept Harley Earl on as the director of its custom body shop.
A short time later Lawrence P. Fisher, general manager of the Cadillac division, was visiting Cadillac dealers and distributors around the country, including Lee. Fisher met Earl at Lee’s dealership and observed his work. Fisher, whose automotive career began with coachbuilder Fisher Body, was impressed with Earl’s designs and methods, including the use of modeling clay to develop the forms of his designs.
Fisher commissioned Earl to design the 1927 LaSalle for Cadillac’s companion marque. The success of the LaSalle convinced General Motors president Alfred P. Sloan to create the Art and Colour Section of General Motors, and to name Earl as its first director.
The 1927 LaSalle was a run away styling success and put both Art and Colour and Earl in the limelight, that would soon also shine on other future designs.
Left to right (above) The LaSalle radiator shell and mascot, actress Clara Bow in a 1927 LaSalle Roadster, and a Hispano-Suzia H6 of the type from the Nethercutt Collection that inspired Earl to design the LaSalle.
In our next installment we will look at another later Cadillac along with a LaSalle. In the mean time you can visit Coachbuilt Press and learn much more about The Art and Colour of General Motors. You can also learn more about Earl at coachbuilt.com. You can also enjoy more of Michael Furman’s work here on The Old Motor.
The Talbot-Lago, is a French automobile that originated from the Talbot-Darracq, which became a subsidiary of the Rootes Group in England after the Sunbeam Talbot Darracq group failed. Like many auto makers, the company fell on hard times during the depression and was saved by Antony “Tony” Lago who purchased the company, with the help of a subsidy from the French government.
Lago was a trained engineer who first worked at Isotta-Fraschini, he then went on to become the director of Wilson Self-Changing Gear, in England. Lago’s engineering background helped there with the development of the well-known Wilson pre-selector gearbox.
When Lago took over the company, he and his engineer Walter Becchia set to work on a combination of the most exquisite coach work of the time and high-performance racing engines and chassis in a semi-production car. The 3996 cc engine was a resigned inline-6 with an aluminum, rocker-arm actuated, two-valve hemi head. This engine is backed up by a Wilson pre-selector gearbox. The chassis features a wishbone independent front suspension with a transverse leaf spring. The live rear axle was located by semi-elliptic springs.
Lago and Becchia also built racing cars with higher-tuned engines in the same chassis and entered racing in 1936. By 1937 they placed first, second, third and fifth in the French Grand Prix, which immediately gave the fine cars they had crafted world-wide exposure. In 1938 a T150 coupe placed third in the 1938 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Joseph Figoni in 1935, joined forces with Ovidio Falaschi (Figoni et Falaschi) and went on to develop a very sensuous teardrop shaped coach work in 1936 on a Delahaye 135 chassis, that was a hit at its debut at the Paris Auto Salon. Figoni’s fine sense of design and color was a highly successful combination. He then went on to design this tear drop coupe for Talbot-Logo.
Fourteen of these beautiful coupes were built and thirteen of them have survived. There were two versions produced, the notch backed Jeancart and this model which is referred to as the New York, after its very successful debut at the 1937 National Auto Show in New York City. This coupe was bought new by Tommy Lee, the sports car and dry lakes racing enthusiast son of Don Lee, the very successful coach builder, car dealer and radio station owner in Southern, California.
Tommy Lee died in 1949 and the Talbot-Lago was well taken care of by a succession of owners afterward and ended up in the Brooks Stevens collection. The care that has been lavished on the coupe over the years, has left it the best preserved of all of the survivors. It is largely in original condition and other than a repaint in 1979, it still carries its original interior, drive-train and coach work.
The car has been in the JWR Auto Museum since that late Jack Rich purchased it in 2009. Rich and curator-restorer Mark Lizewskie wisely chose to preserve and maintain it in fine condition which it has survived in.
This series of fine photographs of this remarkable car are courtesy of photographer and publisher Michael Furman of Coachbuilt Press. To learn more about fine French styling and coach building, be sure to see the Coachbuilt book, French Curves which covers the Delahaye, Delage and Talbot-Lago cars in The Mullin Automotive Museum.