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The Fleetwood Metal Body Company was founded on April 1, 1909 by Harry C. Urich (1867-1941) with several of the principals of the Reading Body Company. Reading built bodies for Chadwick, Duryea, Garford and other early automobile manufacturers. Apparently Garford was so pleased with their work that they purchased the company in 1909 and relocated it to their hometown of Elyria, Ohio.
After the Reading Body Company was sold, the newborn Fleetwood team got together and started production in the E.M. Hill's former Fleetwood Planing Mill. The Fleetwood team was as follows: Harry C. Urich (President & General Manager), Nicholas J. Kutz (Secretary) and Alfred Schlegel (Treasurer). George J. Schlegel and Jacob Kern filled the two remaining seats on the five-member board of directors and Stephen Golubics and Ellsworth P. Urich were listed as shareholders.
Fleetwood's quality and style soon lead to commissions from most of the major fine car makers, although the vast majority were from Packard. By 1920, the company was quoted as saying that it now had an order book to carry it through the end of 1921, and consequently, plans for a major new factory were begun.
Throughout the twenties, the company continued to expand, becoming the coachbuilder of choice for Lincoln, largely at the behest of Edsel Ford, a man of great taste and sincere interest in the style and design of motor cars.
Fleetwood continued as an independent automobile body builder until acquired in 1925 by the Fisher Body Company, a division of General Motors. With acquisition by the Fisher Body company, coachwork for Cadillac began to assume a greater role in the company's output. Fleetwood became a part of Cadillac in 1928. By 1929, most of Fleetwood's work was for Cadillac, and very few outside commissions were accepted. Eventually, under GM/Fisher's directives, the company also made production Cadillac models with the celebrated Fleetwood name. The company continued in Fleetwood until General Motors moved the entire operation to Detroit in December 1930.
Long before acquisition by Fisher Body Company, the Fleetwood Metal Body Company had established its reputation as a builder of fine wood and aluminum auto bodies. Its built-to-order product was sought after by many notable people in the U.S. and abroad, some of whom were royalty from India and Japan, presidents of Poland and the United States, and well-known American movie idols.
"Unique" was the magic word that attracted the wealthy. One could purchase a chassis with wheels and motor from the best builders like Isotta Fraschini, Bentley, Mercedes, Rolls-Royce, Duesenberg, Packard, Cadillac, Pierce-Arrow and Stutz. The purchased rolling chassis was shipped to Fleetwood while the purchaser met with one of the company's designers, usually in New York, where the design office was conveniently located on the second floor of the Cadillac Salon. The designers put the customer's ideas of what the finished design should be onto a drawing and once accepted, the plans were sent to Fleetwood where the body would be created, mounted on the chassis and finished in the colors, upholstery, and appointments chosen by the new owner.
When the special coachbuilding tradition diminished, the Fleetwood name was used by Cadillac to designate the top of the line trim of the Series 70 and 60 Special and from 1972 Cadillac reused the Fleetwood name as a model designation for their series produced limousines.