Derham bodied Packard, Pierce and Cadillac

I purchased these images of coachwork by the Derham Company of Rosemont, PA at Hershey last year. Derham's history extended far past the lifespan of most other coachworks and they survived through two world wars. Amazingly, two out of the three cars pictured here are known to have survived.

The company was founded by Joseph Derham as the Rosemont Carriage Works at 1234 Lancaster Avenue in Rosemeont, PA - only a few miles west of Philadelphia in an area known as "the main line". Enos Derham, the youngest of four brothers that followed their father into the firm, would end up running the firm at the time these cars were built. According to Mark Theobald at coachbuilt.com, Enos graduated from Cornell in 1922 and took over the production responsibilities of his oldest brother Joe, who had passed away the same year. The Derham Company built bodies on the finest domestic and foreign chassis, but like many firms, suffered greatly during the depression.

1936 Pierce-Arrow Twelve with body by Derham

Regardless, they continued to body significant cars such as the 12-cylinder, 1936 Pierce-Arrow that the Pierce-Arrow Company sent to Derham to body in the style of the Brunn Metropolitan Town Car. It's unknown why Pierce sent the car to Derham, but by the time the car was finished, so was Pierce-Arrow (they went out of business in 1937). The car was first registered in 1937 by Charles Walker of MA and the car stayed in the northeast until it showed up for sale in the New York Times (around the late 1960s or early 1970s). The car was restored in 1977, and again in the early 1990s, more recently being sold from the Ray Warshawsky collection by RM Auctions in 2007 - it sold for $231,000.

1938 Packard Twelve bodied by Derham

1938 Packard Twelve bodied by Derham (photo credit: Dave Mitchell)

This 1938 Packard Twelve (model 1608) is said to have been bodied for Frank B. Wentz Jr. of Philadelphia. Delivered in 1939, the Derham body is recorded as costing $4,132.10 (that's on top of the price paid for the car). By this time Derham was only producing a hand full of bodies a year, but in 1942 they recieved a much needed contract from the Army that got them through the war years.

1942 Cadillac bodied by Derham

The last car in this group, a 1942 Cadillac convertible sedan, is interesting for a couple reasons. First Cadillac dropped the convertible sedan body style in 1941 - this Derham body is quite similar to the work they were doing on Chrysler chassis of the same period. The other reason this image is unique is that it's written that Derham only bodied three 1942 Cadillacs - all in the town car style?

In 1956, Enos' brother James died. The business and building was finally sold in 1964 with Enos and his partner Grotz continuing on doing antique automobile restorations up until the the building became the home to Chinetti & Garthwaite - the US distributor for Ferrari. Enos died in 1974, but the building still remains as the home to Ferrari of Philadelphia.

The Derham bodied 1936 Pierce-Arrow today (photo credit: Richard Spiegelman)

The Derham bodied 1938 Packard today (photo credit: conceptcarz.com)

4 comments:

  1. I was reading the Popular Science issue from August, 1951 when I first heard about Derham. You can read any issue online-great fun.

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  2. The 1938 Packard 12 1608 convertible victoria was built for Daniel Bertsch Wentz of Rydal, PA who was a "coal operator" - president of numerous coal companies. He ordered the car in Nov of 37 and took delivery in 1938 when he was 35 years old. It is now restored back to the specifications and colors detailed in 26 pages of documents and letters between Derham and Wentz.

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  3. Thanks for your comment - it's a fantastic car. Would you happen to be the owner?

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  4. We restored the 38 Packard in my shop and I found quite a bit of history on it and about Daniel Wentz who died of cancer in 1940. Dave Mitchell My email is packard12s@hotmail.com

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