The Shanghai Body Builders of the 1920s

In an earlier post, I have written about the Shanghai Horse Bazaar & Motor Co. Ltd.(龙飞汽车马车行, SHB).
The SHB was one of the most important of the Shanghai body builders in the 1920s and 1930s, but there were many others. Thanks to the Oriental Motor magazines of 1920-1921 I could make an inventarisation.

Briscoe chassis, Auto Palace body.

I counted nine companies importing cars or having a car dealership, involved in body building. In this article I will introduce them  in alphabetical order. Besides of these body builders I found 20 other garages, workshops, dealers, agents, importers. It is possible that some of these 20 made bodies, but I am not aware of that.

1. The AUTO PALACE Co. (利威汽车行 = Liwei Automobile Co.)

362 Avenue Joffre (Huaihai Middle Road), represented Briscoe and Renault, they were dealers of Austin, GMC, Bedford, Chevrolet and a lot other makes.
Established in 1904. Another source gives number 484 in the Avenue Joffre.
Another address is 100 Route Cardinal Mercier (Maoming Road)/ 400 Rue Bourgeat (Changle Road).
The building at Maoming Road was opened by Hermanos Levy in 1903. In 1915 Auto Palace was bought by mr. R. T. Ryton. In 1930 it acquired SHB. The company closed in 1949.

Auto Palace building, 100 Maoming South Road.
The same building, nowadays. (photo by Lesley).
Again the same building at Maoming Road. Don’t know which photo is older.
Advertisement: they name themselves “British Experts”. Auto Palace was also called “Rytons Garage’.

The building was special: on the roof was a test track.

Auto Palace building.
Renault with body made by the Auto Palace: “Stylish Shanghai built body on a Renault chassis”.

2a Jinkee Road (Tianjin Road)/ 9 Hong Kong Road (Xiangjiang Road)
Dealers of Austin, Angus Anderson, Chalmers, Mercer, Morris, Overland, Sunbeam, Templar, Willys Knight.

Central Garage, Jinkee Road (Tianjin Road).
Chalmers, ‘with hot spot and ramshorn’.
Morris Oxford, ‘this is the car where you have been waiting for’.
Overland, ‘Soft riding on hard roads’.
Templar, ‘Boost for Good Roads in China’.
China built Willys-Knight body by the Central Garage.

3. CHINA MOTORS, Ltd. (中华汽车公司)

125 Bubbling Well Road (Nanjing West Road), also 702 Bubbling Well Road (either moved or the numbers have changed).
Founded in  1914 by mr. Leon Friedman, company ended in 1941.
Chandler, Cleveland, Dodge, Hupmobile, Imperial, Oldsmobile, Premier, Kenneth Staley.

China Motors advertisement, 1922. Before 1920 China Motors was named Shanghai Garage Co. Ltd., Shanghai Garage was founded in 1918. The China Motors office and main plant were in the Star Garage, 125 Bubbling Well Road. China Motors had another branch: the Eastern Garage. Strangely the name Shanghai Garage was in use again in 1921.
China Motors, Eastern Garage, Shanghai Garage and Star Garage belonged to the same group.

The Star Garage, 125 Bubbling Well Road (Nanjing West Road). Built in 1912. China Motors Head Office.

China Motors was not only active in Shanghai, but also in North China, Manchuria and Siberia. The managing director in 1920 was captain J. E. Inch.

Paint room, China Motors, Ltd.
China Motors including Star Garage and Eastern Garage. Building to the right is the Star Garage.

3a. EASTERN GARAGE (东方汽车公司), belonged to China Motors.

Eastern Garage body on a Cleveland chassis.
The Eastern Garage. Don’t know the address. Main entrance to the right, behind the car.
Eastern Garage, entrance. Chinese name: Dongfang Automobile Company. Note China Motors sign above the door.
Eastern Garage body on a Hupmobile chassis.
Eastern Garage body on a Renault 11.9 chassis delivered by Auto Palace.

Chandler chassis, Eastern Garage body.

3b. STAR GARAGE Company (飞星汽车公司), belonged to China Motors.

Another photo of the building at Bubbling Well Road 125 (Nanjing West Road).

Nanjing West Road, the exotic Star Garage building is still there. Now you can eat here.. The building was designed by the Spanish architect Abelardo Lafuente García-Rojo.

Inside the Star Garage.
Star Garage body, Hupmobile chassis.
‘Super-sport model’, design Kenneth Staley, bodywork Star Garage on a light six chassis.

“Every one a Star”.

3c. The SHANGHAI GARAGE Company, Ltd., belonged to China Motors.

4. The FEI LUNG Company
together with the Shanghai Automobile Co.
153-4 Hupeh Road
Commenwealth, Dixie Flyer, Elgin Six, Jordan and Mitchell.

Fei Lung Garage Showroom.
Commenwealth, ‘the car with a foundation’.

The body building took place at the Bubbling Well Shop.

Jordan Suburban Seven.

Mitchell Sixes.
4a. SHANGHAI Automobile Co., belonging to the Fei Lung  Garage.
1787 Bubbling Well Road (Nanjing West Road).

5. Grand Garage FRANÇAIS (宝昌公司 = Baochang Company)
310 Avenue Joffre (Huaihai Middle Road), corner Avenue Joffre/ Avenue Duboul; earlier address is 228 Avenue Paul Brunat (name change into Joffre in 1918), maybe the same address. Also 356 Avenue Joffre.
Company erected in 1914.
André Citroën, Delage, De Dion Bouton, Haynes, Mathis, Renault, Talbot-Darracq.

Grand Garage Français.
Grand Garage Français, some years later.
At the 1921 Shanghai Auto Show Grand Garage Français was present. Note the Citroën logo upside down.
Grand Garage Français Citroën service vehicle.
Grand Garage Français body, De Dion chassis and engine.
De Dion Bouton, ‘the Best Known Car on the World’s Market Today’.
Grand Garage Français body, Haynes chassis and engine.
Grand Garage Français body, Mathis chassis and engine.

6. H.S. HONIGSBERG & Co., Inc.
40 Bubbling Well Road (Nanjing West Road)
25 Medhurst Road (Taixing Road)
Buick, Cadillac, Packard, Stewart.

Honigsberg had a staff of 121 people in the Midhurst Road plant. It started in 1910 and designed its own models. Beside Shanghai Honigsberg was also active in Nanjing, Beijing, Tianjin, Qingdao, Dairen and Harbin.

Wonderful Honigsberg building. This building replaced the one-store building in the next photo.

Honigsberg started in 1910. In 1913 it moved to the Bubbling Well Road. In 1914 expansion demanded more space, the Medhurst Road building was obtained.

40 Bubbling Well Road (Nanjing West Road). In the background the YMCA building., still present today, it was contructed in 1926, so this photo is some years newer than the rest of the photos in this article.
25 Medhurst Road (Taixing Road).

The Medhurst Road facility can be called a motor car plant: battery, paint and varnish, body building, machine, storage, assembling and other departments are here present.

Buick, ‘The World’s Favorite Car’.

Honigsberg staff was composed of four Western managers and 117 Chinese and Filipino workers.

Showroom, 40 Bubbling Well Road.
Honigsberg body, Cadillac engine and chassis.
Medhurst Road: Painting, Varnishing and Finishing Rooms.
Chevrolet F.B.
H.S. Honigsberg, ‘The Largest Distributors of Motor Cars in China’.

7. The HUDFORD Garage
89-91 Rue Montauban (Sichuan Road)
Corner Avenue Edward VII (Yan’an East Road) and Thibet Road
Essex, Ford, Hudson.
including Dodge & Seymour (China) Ltd., sales agents on the same address.
The name Hudford seems to be a combination of Hudson and Ford.

Hudford Motors, the workshop.
The main building. Note the first car in progress.
Ford Sedan, ‘The car for Women’.

Showroom Rue Montauban.

Body Hudford Garage, chassis and engine Ford.
Repair and Service Department, Hudford Garage.
Advertisement for the Hudford Garage made Ford Touring Car.
Hudford Motors booth at the Shanghai Auto Show 1921.
‘Hudson Super Six is known the world over as America’s smartest and most reliable car’.
Hudson Ultra Sport Roadster.
Hudson and Essex participated in the London to Edinburgh Trial.

7a. DODGE & SEYMOUR (China) , Ltd.
belonging to Hudford Motors. The address in the Rue Montauban is the same.

Essex sold by Dodge & Seymour (China), Ltd.

8. SHANGHAI HORSE BAZAAR & Motor Co. Ltd. (龙飞汽车马车行)
I wrote about the story of this company before.

9. UNIVERSAL Motor Car & Body Works
8 Kung Hsing Road (?), Chapei District (Zhabei District)
21 Dalny Road (Dalian Road)

Different from the other companies who used their own imported cars, Universal Motor made bodies for the others: for Hudford, Franco-Asiatic Trading Co. (importer of Auburn, Fageol, Rolls Royce),  China Motors and more.

Universal Motor: ‘We build up to a Standard- Not down to a Price’. 

At the 1921 Shanghai Auto Show Universal Motor bodies on Ford and Hudson chassis and engine were shown by Hudford.

As I told in the beginning, there are probably more body builders under the 20 garages which were named or advertised in the Universal Motor magazines in 1920-21. I was surprised by their number; nine companies found. Yes, these are English, American and French companies, but nearly all employees are Chinese.

Shanghai Horse Bazaar: I counted (I suppose I made some mistakes, sorry) 135 Chinese looking people and 4 Western looking men. (that makes 3% foreign employees.)

Those who are interested in these magazines can find them on the web, thanks to the Smithonian Libraries:

As always, give your reactions!

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Have any of these cars survived the years?

Leo Breevoort

Hi Erik,
Is “The Auto Palace” the same company as “Baochang Company” and later “Liwei Automobile” that I get from google-translating some Chinese sources, and thus the predecessor of Shanghai Automobile Manufacturing Plant? The address seems to indicate that.