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LeBaron

LeBaron

LeBaron Carrossiers Inc. was founded in 1920 by Thomas L. Hibbard and Raymond Dietrich. When they decided to set up shop together, they settled on a location and a name. The location - 2 Columbus Circle, New York City - was more than they could afford, but they decided it was essential to their image. Coincidentally, it was also home to Fleetwood's design offices. They chose the LeBaron name because it sounded French and would lend a sophisticated air to their firm. Most interesting was that they chose to have only a design office, without coachbuilding facilities. Not only was this practical - they had no coachbuilding skills - but it allowed them to work independently from (and with) both chassis manufacturers and coachbuilding firms.

Work began to flow in, and soon the pair were approached by Ralph Roberts, who knew Dietrich from his time at Brewster. Roberts wanted to design cars, and when he applied for a job, Hibbard and Dietrich liked him enough that they offered him a full one third partnership - but with the provision that he serve as the firm's business manager.

Hibbard wanted very much to work in France, and in 1923 he left for Paris to look into establishing an office there for LeBaron Carrossiers. While in Paris he met another American designer, Howard 'Dutch' Darrin. The two hit it off, and decided to start their own company, Hibbard & Darrin. Hibbard sold his shares in LeBaron to Roberts and Dietrich and moved to Paris.

At this point, LeBaron hired Werner Gubitz and Roland Stickney as draftsmen, designers, and illustrators. Dietrich continued as chief designer, while Roberts managed the business. Before long, Dietrich was recruited by Murray, and he too left the firm. LeBaron, meanwhile, continued to prosper, even after the loss of its two founders. Ralph Roberts proved to have a good eye for design, and excellent rapport with LeBaron's clients. He and Stickney made a great team, with Stickney refining and implementing Roberts' ideas.

In 1927, LeBaron was acquired by Briggs, one of Detroit's largest body building firms. Briggs' clients included Chrysler, Ford, Overland, and Hudson. LeBaron continued to operate within Briggs, whose strong Detroit connections soon lead to prestigious custom work for Lincoln, Cadillac, and Pierce-Arrow. In effect, LeBaron became Briggs' in house design label, as Dietrich had become Murray's.

Shortly afterwards, Briggs hired designer John Tjaarda, and he and Roberts assumed joint responsibility for running LeBaron. Together with their in-house design staff, the two were responsible for LeBaron's designs for the next several years. LeBaron was ideally positioned to take advantage of the burgeoning demand for coachbuilt bodies that developed in the late 1920s. Factory design work included the legendary Model J Duesenberg, for which LeBaron bodies were among the most prolific. In addition, LeBaron designs graced the top of the line CG, CL Imperials, as well as the remarkable Marmon Sixteen. 

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More info: www.coachbuilt.com/bui/l/lebaron/lebaron.htm 

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