LeBaron Incorporated

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LeBaron Incorporated (originally LeBaron, Carrossiers Inc.) was a design and coach building company from 1920 until 1953. American designers Raymond H. Dietrich and Thomas L. Hibbard had met while working for Brewster. Tiring of the corporate environment they started freelance work in their spare time and when William H. Brewster discovered this he fired Dietrich and Hibbard left.[1][2]

Founding[edit]

LeBaron was founded in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1920 by Raymond H. Dietrich and Thomas L. Hibbard. The company originally was called LeBaron, Carrossiers Inc., and served as design consultants. Dietrich and Hibbard were unknown outside of Brewster, so a clever new name - LeBaron, Carrossiers - was arrived at by the two partners using a list of French words that had the ring of prestige and could be easily pronounced through a telephone.[3]

Business increased enough in 1920 that Thomas Hibbard offered his friend, Ralph Roberts, who had just gotten his Bachelors of Science degree from Dartmouth, a job. Tom Hibbard met fellow designer, Howard A. "Dutch" Darrin in 1923. Hibbard and Darrin decided to go to Paris, initially to try to sell LeBaron designs but instead decided to set up their own company and founded Hibbard & Darrin. Hibbard resigned from LeBaron in 1923. Dietrich and Roberts continued operating LeBaron with a new illustrator, veteran Roland L. Stickney.[4]

In 1924, LeBaron merged with the Blue Ribbon and Bridgeport Body companies and changed their name to LeBaron Inc., becoming body builders as well as designers.[5][6][7][8] LeBaron became one of the many prominent coachbuilders in the 1920s to provide bodies for luxury cars. Until the late 1930s, most of the great prestige automakers - Rolls-Royce, Hispano Suiza, Duesenberg, Packard - often supplied only a running chassis, which wealthy buyers would outfit with custom bodywork at substantial extra cost.

Briggs Manufacturing[edit]

Dietrich received a lucrative offer from Murray Corporation, one of Ford's and Lincoln's main body builders, in 1925 and resigned from LeBaron to start Dietrich, Inc.. With both founders gone, LeBaron could have been in trouble. But Roberts continued to run the company and orders kept coming in. Walter O. Briggs began talks with Roberts in 1926 to buy LeBaron and move it to Detroit. LeBaron was purchased by Briggs Manufacturing Company of Detroit in 1926 and operated as a subsidiary. Briggs was already supplying bodies to Chrysler, Essex, Ford, Hudson, and Overland. As Briggs subsidiary, LeBaron handled special custom work, provided design ideas for the main business, and supplied exquisite custom bodies for various car companies such as Chrysler's luxury Imperial line, Duesenberg, and Cadillac. In 1932, for example, they built 28 beautiful Custom Imperial Convertible Coupes, Chrysler's top model, which rode a 146-inch wheelbase and used a 384.8 cubic-inch straight-8 engine.[9][10][11]

Thomas L. Hibbard became design director at Ford in 1947. Raymond H. Dietrich was hired by Chrysler in 1932 to become the first official Chrysler stylist.[12][13]

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