Minerva was one of the highest quality motorcars of the early days of motoring. The company was founded in Antwerp, Belgium in 1897, and like others, began by manufacturing bicycles. Motorcycles followed soon after, and in 1899, Minerva displayed a small voiturette as well as a delivery vehicle at the Auto Salon in Antwerp. This was followed by a number of chain-driven two, four and six-cylinder models. In 1907, the great 40 CV type K was introduced, fitted with modern shaft drive and a 6 liter T-head six-cylinder engine that made a powerful 60 horsepower. This quality chassis was good for 60 mph or more, even when fitted with heavy formal coachwork. In 1908 Minerva introduced its first model, the 4 cylinder 38 CV Type S, to use the infamous Knight sleeve valve engine, an engine configuration that the company would become synonymous with until its end.
Throughout Minervas entire existence it was one of the best quality luxury cars and in the 1920's it was perceived as being on the same level as Hispano Suiza, Isotta Fraschini and Duesenberg. Also at this time Minrvas home market in Belgium became flooded with other foreign makes such as GM, Chrysler and Citroen giving buyers a less expensive alternative for transportation so Minervas export markets were very important to them. Its best market was in the United States. While Minerva offered complete cars with in house coachwork, they also offered bare chassis for custom coachwork to be fitted. Many Minervas were fitted with fantastic custom bodies because their chassis were of such high quality.
Paul Ostruk was a Czech immigrant who arrived in the United States in 1908 took up work with coachbuilders such as A.T. Demerest as well as J.M. Quinby & Company where he quickly learned the skills of a high quality coachbuilder. Also during this time he became acquainted with Emerson Brooks who was a designer for Quinby. They teamed up and created the Brooks-Ostruk company in New York where they would design custom bodies for high quality chassis. By 1923 Brooks and Ostruk parted ways and Ostruk created the Paul Ostruk & Co, New York where he essentially became a dealer for high quality chassis with custom coachwork such as Minerva. While at this time he was not building his own custom bodies, but he was smart where he would have custom bodies created for him by noted New York coachbuilders such as Locke & Co. and later with Raymond Dietrich and Tom Hibbard's LeBaron plant and put his own nameplate on them: "Custom Coach Work Especially Designed for Paul Ostruk Co Inc., New York, USA"
THIS CAR, a fantastic and very beautiful 1926 Minerva Type AF town car is one of those cars that was created especially for Paul Ostruk. Although it proudly wears the "Especially designed for Paul Ostruk Co." plates on the body, this custom coachwork was done by the famous coachbuilder Hibbard and Darrin, but sold through Paul Ostruk. A stunning custom designed town car with a beautiful and low cast windshield, raked back divider window, and beautiful and high quality cabinetry work throughout the passenger compartment. Showing many telltale signs and design ques specific to Hibbard and Darrin such as the Hibbard and Darrin patented windshield, oval locks, Hibbard and Darrin specific belt molding, door handles and the wood veneer treatment behind the front seat. The restoration was carried out some years ago, but presents incredibly well and is in beautiful condition. It would be welcome at any major concours event. The 5.4 liter Knight sleeve valve engine runs incredibly well and the four speed gearbox shifts as it should.
Besides having a great presence and obviously being a great car, it comes with good provenance and known history as well. Collector Jacques Vander Stappen purchased the AF from Seymour Rappaport of Teaneck, New Jersey around 30 years ago in May 1988, as detailed in the extensive file of correspondence with the car. When sold in 1988 Mr. Rappaport wrote to its buyer stating the car has just 17,000 original miles at that time, and today it has just over 20,000 miles on the clock. This is a fantastic custom Minerva that should be welcome in any great motorcar collection.