Playboy Automobile Company

The Playboy Motor Car Corporation, headquartered in Buffalo ( New York) was an American automobile manufacturer who brought in 1948 under the brand name Playboy one for that time unusual, three -seater small car with a retractable metal roof on the market.

Company History

The company first founded in 1947 as a Midget Motor Car Company was located at the domicile of 1941 closed body shop Brunn & Company at the Ellicott Street 988 in Buffalo (New York). President and CEO was Louis Horwitz, Vice President and Secretary Charles D. Thomas and acted as Chief Financial Officer Norman Richardson. The share capital of U.S. $ 50,000 came from the private assets of the three partners. These had had before, although already to do with automobiles, but were inexperienced with regard to their production: Horwitz had a Packard representative and a used car trade and Richardson operate on the Brunn - premises a body repair shop and had some gas stations. Thomas was an engineer who had previously worked at Pontiac and in 1939 built an unconventional, very modern prototype, whose series production, however, was not achieved.

The plan was a small car, to be sold in the U.S. as a second or third car. The goal was ambitious: 100,000 cars were to be built each year. The need for capital, they estimated at 20 million U.S. dollars. Investors were sought in an ad campaign from mid- 1948. As Preston Tucker with his new Tucker Torpedo Horwitz also tried to acquire this capital through a franchise system. For the investor this was associated with a high risk, but for now he was little more than the promise of a Playboy representative as soon as the car would be ready for sale. The money should be used to cover the purchase and adaptation of an aircraft engine plant in Buffalo, but the funding did not materialize. Therefore, the production started in the second half of 1948 and to a much more modest frame.

The Thomas Special from 1939

The development of the Playboy started according to the manufacturer in 1940, which is probably related to the project mentioned by Charles Thomas in 1939. Its a coupe constructed with remarkable foresight small car actually took many elements of the Playboy anticipated. The in Batavia (New York) made ​​vehicle was somewhat bizarre shaped and very modern. It was carried out in a self-supporting structure with pontoon body and had a rear engine, independent suspension, a padded safety interiors and a periscope on the roof instead of a rear view mirror.; sometimes even of an automatic speech.

The prototype from 1946

The capital of the new company was invested largely in a prototype. He came outside the later production cars quite close and was well received by the audience during his presentation in the fall of 1946. This took place in Buffalo, Hotel Statler. He had a housed in horizontal, rear -mounted engine with a displacement of 2.6 liters of unknown origin [note 1] and a three-seat roadster body in fashionable pontoon shape. The black-painted vehicle has been restored and still exists at the Saratoga Automobile Museum in Saratoga Springs (New York).

In addition, another prototype of a two-door station wagon was, in this series, however, did not work.

Playboy A48

The external changes included retouching at the front, a deeper set- hood with the brand logo instead of the "Playboy" lettering and a fold-down metal roof instead of the fabric roof. A form for the rear wheels belonged to the standard equipment, the heating had to be paid extra, but was common in larger cars.

In a survey conducted by the Society of Automotive Engineers among young engineers of Playboy [note was rated as the most innovative U.S. automakers. 2]

The Playboy cost U.S. $ 985 FOB Buffalo; transport costs were therefore at the expense of the buyer. Between 1948 and 1949 only 97 cars were produced, then had to close the company and production was stopped.

Combination Roadster

The retractable metal roof was a catcher. It consisted of two parts, to open the front portion has been folded. The rear part has been folded back. It was designed so that it could be sunk in the hollow behind the seat. Now the front roof part was the final body similar to a tonneau cover. Anyway suitable only for children - - rear seats not available were thus in the open state. The roof was indeed balanced with counterweights, yet it may have been too sluggish to be operated from the driver seat. Closing required are a very strong person. A vulnerability was the numerous rubber strip as a seal; they tended to leak. The idea for this solution probably came from the Peugeot Eclipse models; the execution of Playboy was designed but less expensive. The manufacturer described the vehicle itself logically as Combination metal -top convertible coupe which simultaneously Business Coupe, Club Coupe or Convertible Coupe could be used as.

Engine and transmission

The car had initially a bought-in, side-valve four-cylinder engine from Red Seal Continental with water cooling, a displacement of 1491 cc (91 ci and 40 hp ( 38 hp @ 3400 rpm. Resp. 29,828 kW). [ Note 3 ]

The standard was a manual transmission by Warner with initially three courses and optional Warner overdrive. [Note 4] All three courses were synchronized. Playboy used a single-plate dry clutch Borg & Beck.

Chassis and suspension

The vehicle was designed to be self-supporting; the frame was welded to the body. It seems that the suspension has been largely taken over from the prototype. She was running forward and independent with coil springs. , Came to hydraulic shock absorbers. Back there was a rigid axle of Spicer with hypoidverzahntem differential and coil springs.

The rear axle was from the factory 3.73: 1 or on request 4.1: 1, hydraulic brakes were purchased from Wagner; the brake drums delivered Budd, and the steering came from Ross. Both worked, of course, without power assistance.

Electrical and Treibstofförderung

For the vehicle electrical system was drawn mainly from General Motors components: Auto -Lite supplied starter motor, ignition and 35 ampere alternator, AC petrol pump. The 80 - amp battery auto -Lite was housed in the engine compartment. The fuel tank in the rear took 10 gallons (about 38 liters). The manufacturer made ​​no secret of the fact that major components were bought and mentioned several of them in the Prospectus, interestingly, not the manufacturer of the engine. He laid emphasis on the finding that almost exclusively parts would be used for production cars respected suppliers, which should simplify maintenance.

Dimensions and performance

Playboy is 3937 mm (155 inches) long, 1473 mm ( 58 inches ) wide and 1372 mm ( 54 inches ) high. [Note 5] [note 6] The wheelbase is 2286 mm ( 90 inches ), the front track and rear 1194 per mm (47 inches).

The storage space includes the roof closed 25 cubic inches ( 707 921 dm ³) volume; in the open state, there are still 13 cubic inches ( 368 119 dm ³). With a weight of 923 kg ( 2035 lbs), he brings it to factory specifications on " over 65 mph (105 km / h) " with a " conservatively measured " consumption of 25 mpg (9.4 l/100 km). This information and performance figures the factory specifications with Hercules engine.

Record attempt

Robert McKenzie from Buffalo drove his son Robert Jr. in 62 hours 20 minutes from New York to Los Angeles. The goal of the distance of 3114 miles ( 5011 km ) back down faster than the fastest train, also was not fulfilled due to bad weather. After all, this means best time for a vehicle of 2000 lbs (907 kg) class and brought welcome advertising, for example in the Buffalo Evening News of 18 April 1948. Views or their own advertising material.

Playboy B7

The A48 underwent gradual technological changes. [Note 7] It seems that the Continental engine was soon replaced by a larger Hercules Engine Company. This also side-valve four-cylinder engine had a displacement of 2179 cc (133 ci) and made 48 bhp ( 35.8 kW). [Note 8] Nevertheless, the car weighed only 826 kg ( 1900lbs ).


In February 1948, Tom McCahill tested a Playboy Roadster for the magazine Mechanix Illustrated. Obviously, these were already around the B7 with Hercules engine. McCahill measured the acceleration from 0-30 mph (48 km / h) in 6 seconds and 0-50 mph (80 km / h) in 17 seconds then quite mormale values ​​in this class. The specified factory top speed of 75 mph (121 km / h) he failed to clear with 71 mph (114 km / h), but kept the new car credit, he was not yet retracted. Even when consumption continued all the factory specifications: instead of 35 mpg according to 6.72 l/100 km, he scored only 30 mpg ( 7.84 l/100 km). The driving characteristics he found satisfactory with concessions to the low weight on rough roads. [Note 9]


In early 1950, the company was facing insolvency after first take over negotiations with the industrial magnate Henry J. Kaiser had failed and after a second attempt to finance itself through a public share sale, was unsuccessful. It finally came to public auction.

Attempts at resuscitation

Surprisingly bought a Chinese company controlled by the nationalistic businessman Dr. Sing Chang Hu, the Lytemobile and China Corporation, the largest part of the inventory and presented in 1951 a slightly larger prototype before.

Now the Willys Go Devil engine was used. Developed for the Jeep four-cylinder made ​​from 2199 cc ( 134.2 CI) all of 60 bhp (44 kW) at 4000 rpm, a marked improvement. If any, was no significant production too.

Recently tried to Alvin Trumbull of Hartford ( Connecticut ) at Playboy. He presented a study of an open sports car before its road performance with the optics probably could not keep up. The fiberglass body was allegedly destined for a Saab. He, too, gave up and sold the inventory in 1964 to the collector Donald Moore from Massachusetts who had at that time endeavored to provide a substitute.

Playboy today

The total built by the Playboy Motor Cars Corporation pre-series is given by all sources with 97 vehicles. Another was started but not completed. This Roadster, Car No. 92, was found in New York State in a dilapidated condition and has since been restored.

The Club brand is estimated that about 45 vehicles have been preserved. This is a surprisingly high value; which are approved about 15 copies. Less than five with the optional searchlight on the windscreen frame are known.


Apparently Hugh Hefner was brought by a former employee of the Playboy Motor Car Corporation in the name of Playboy for its 1953 it launched magazine.