Incredible survivor with just 11,715 original miles. Three owners from new, one repaint in the 1950s. One of 473 built and fewer than 25 remain. Recently serviced, runs very well, beautiful in every detail!
This 1920 Brewster-Knight Town Landaulet is a remarkable piece of history that demonstrates the remarkable quality and style that was unique to Brewster & Co. It was repainted once in the 1950s, when the second owner purchased it from the estate of the first owner, apparently an industrialist from Pittsburgh, PA. His name is lost to the sands of time, but the car remained in the second owner’s possession for nearly 50 years before being sold to the most recent owner in the early 2000s. That second owner repainted the car in its original dark blue livery, which accurately replicates the bespoke colors and varnishing techniques Brewster used. There are, of course, some minor signs of age but the 70-year-old lacquer is holding up beautifully and could almost pass for original itself. Of course, they replicated the original white pinstripes that outline the ornate coachwork and highlight the “Brewster curve” ahead of the rear doors. The round radiator shell is practically a carbon copy of the Delauney-Belleville, and for an expensive car, the use of bright trim is restrained. A few nickel fittings such as door handles and headlight rings dress up the Brewster, but this was a vehicle that didn’t need to call attention to itself with excessive jewelry.
The interior is a familiar combination of utilitarian and lavish. Up front, the driver was treated to black leather, which was durable and weatherproof, while the rear compartment is trimmed in expensive wool broadcloth that could be tailored to each client’s individual tastes. The 100-year-old leather in the front compartment is obviously showing its age and has been amateurishly repaired using black duct tape, and that might be the biggest demerit on the entire car. There’s a full array of instruments, from the Warner speedometer and 8-day rim-wind clock to an ammeter, temperature gauge, and oil pressure gauge. The roof over the driver—in fact both front and rear roofs are collapsible—tucks into the header above the driver’s seat, but there is no other weather protection for the front seat occupants. The rear compartment is lavishly appointed with expensive looking and feeling wool broadcloth and it’s in remarkable condition with few signs of age. Brewster is largely credited with inventing roll-down windows as we currently know them, and there are cranks in the doors plus one for the divider between front and rear compartments. The well-finished headliner neatly disguises the fact that the top does indeed fold fully and the window frames are hinged to swing out of sight, making this an open 4-door touring car (obviously we did not attempt to fold either of the 100-year-old leather tops). Other accoutrements include a speaker system for communicating instructions to the driver, an overhead reading lamp, and a Waltham clock.
Brewster licensed the Knight sleeve valve engine design but the 276.5 cubic inch 4-cylinder engine was of their own specifications and manufacture. Not designed for speed, it is nonetheless smooth and torquey, requiring minimal shifting and the sleeve valve engine is as smooth and quiet as you would expect. Thanks to a 12-volt electrical system, this Brewster spins to life almost instantly and settles into a smooth, quiet idle without a lot of drama. On the road it pulls nicely, but again it is important to remember that this was a city car and effortlessness was the goal. As a result, it is comfortable at about 35 MPH—there’s more on tap, but it settles in nicely at cruising speed and pulls easily from low RPM in high gear.
The 3-speed manual transmission is not synchronized, so it requires some familiarity and a quick double-clutch to master it, and it seems to work better as it warms up. The steering is shockingly precise and it tracks straight with minimal corrections required to keep it on course. Brakes are effective and more than adequate for the car’s modest performance. It does emit a wisp of smoke at speed, but it is well within acceptable levels for a sleeve valve engine, and it has been recently serviced by early car expert David Heinrichs. It does run a little hot after a longer drive, so we might recommend servicing the cooling system before using it for extended touring, and those 35x5 tires are probably 70 years old themselves, so replacements might be in order.
We did not expect to like this car as much as we do. It’s presence is imposing—it is not another one of those spindly, delicate-looking early cars. The craftsmanship is tangible in every single part and the driving experience is far less primitive than you would expect. Master its idiosyncrasies and it is a delightful machine that will always attract attention, regardless of the event. Call today!
For more details and photos, please visit www.HarwoodMotors.com
Harwood Motors always recommends and welcomes personal or professional inspections of any vehicle in our inventory prior to purchase.