Owner's Club International.
automobiles in the Netherlands. A modest contribution towards the historiography
of Graham cars.
Visiting your site on the Internet I came across an article of a fellow-countryman, in which a picture of him as a toddler sitting in a rather uncomfortable position, viz. on the sheet metal apron of a 1934 Graham in front of the lower part of the radiator grille just at the gap in the centre, between the - in two parts divided and V-shaped - front bumper. The article written by a certain Mr. Bishof from Amsterdam, includes an interesting, and a - at times - nice story, concerning his father, a Dutchman, who already before, during and in the early post-war years owned a 1934 Graham car, (which had survived the war in a hide-out, often a farmer's haystack). It describes the owner's experiences in a then transport-starved Holland, which had - besides other things - been robbed of nearly all rolling means of transport by the German occupying forces. In those days there was a predominance of American cars in this country. And there certainly were importers (distributors) of Graham cars, as well as official or authorized dealers overhere, the latter in most of the large principal Dutch cities, but also in smaller towns, even in small villages. Note - for that matter - the picture (in your own photo gallery) taken in the Dutch village of Soest, where you may see the premises of an official Graham dealership during a local festivity in the late twenties or the early thirties. Another piece of evidence is provided by the Dutch Graham distributor's adds included in my writing. This distributorship (the Nefkens Brothers) had its commercial headquarters in Utrecht, but also a branche office at 26 Jac. Obrechtstraat in Amsterdam. In the second half of the thirties (the period of the REO Wolverine bodies on Graham chassis) there was another Dutch firm (NIMAG) that also acted as a distribrutor of the Cavalier, Supercharger, and Crusader Grahams. They had their premises in Voorburg, a suburb of The Hague. Both firms do still exist to-day. The Nefkens firm as a Dutch Peugeot distributor (as early as the “Graham days “) and Nimag (aka Louwman en Parqui) as a Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep and Toyota distributor. During the early fifties of the last century I often passed the premises of Gebr. Nefken's Automobiel Maatschappij (former Dutch Graham-Paige distributor) located along the Eastern approach/exit route known as Biltstraat in Utrecht-City. At that time the Dutch keydealer for Cadillac and LaSalle the Internationale Automobiel Centrale (aka Landeweer), had its establishments just a block away from the Nefkens firm along the same road, and I also recall the Oldsmobile name on their showroom windows. Remarkable but true, right up to the fifties, former distributor Nefkens in Utrecht still had the old-time Graham sign (with the three helmeted warriors) out front up over its workshop entrance doors! During a short time in 1951, I drove a 1934 Graham Custom Eight Sedan. I recalled it had an aluminium cylinder head and sported an aluminium centrifugal blower, denominated supercharger. Its handbrake which ought to actuate a brake system by means of a drum with brake shoes located between transmission and propellershaft, failed owing to a leaking oil seal of the transmission tailhousing.This provision appeared to be a common weakness with cars in those days. The Graham's battery tray was housed beneath the driver's seat. This Graham, designed by Amos Northup, rode a rather long wheelbase and had a gracious body style with skirted fenders and rounded sweeping lines. The rear fitted luggage carrier - when folded up - leaned towards the cars tail-end. Its pleasing front-end and especially the nicely sloping grille resembled in some way the Hudson and Studebaker grilles of that same year. In a word, it was a handsome car. In the huge collection of a recently opened prestigious car museum in Voorburg, suburb of The Hague in Holland, is a neat 1934 Graham coupé, that hauls a genuine Graham-made housetrailer! On show are - besides European makes - many American-made cars under which even: Auburn, Chrysler (Airflow), Cord, Duesenberg, Franklin, Hupmobile, Nash, Marmon, Packard, to mention some of them. When, in the late thirties my father used to take three of his young sons out for a Sunday afternoon walk, we occasionally passed the Graham showroom of the Rotterdam dealer (for those interested; Van Gorp's Automobiel Maatschappij aka GAM, on the corner of de Beyerlandselaan and Slaghekstraat). Upon seeing the amazing “sharknose” Graham back in 1938 or 1939 we considered its model rather eccentric because of its forward leaning radiator grille. Because of this conspicuous feature there appeared to be not much acceptance of the “sharknose“ styling by the general public. Although the buzz word of the day was “streamlining” then, there was also talk of overdoing it. Remember the Airflow Chryslers and Aerodynamic Hupmobiles of the mid-thirties? Grahams “sharknose “ was not entirely unique, for Willys had adopted the same styling in those years. On the other hand I did like the novelty of its square-shaped headlamp lenses like those of the Opel Kapitän (aka Super Six) of those days. By the way, there has also been another Graham dealer who had a showroom in a prominent spot in central Rotterdam who was known as Van Zetten, Coolsingel, Rotterdam. This firm also ran an engine overhauling shop in Southern Rotterdam. As late as the nineteen fifties the Utrecht taxicab company (Citytax, Koekoekstraat, Utrecht) still used a “shark nose “Graham in its fleet. This car, travelling fast through the crowded city streets during the rush hours was – apart from being a rare sight - always an eye-catcher. At the railwaystation's cab-stand too, it became an object of interest for many old-car enthusiasts, and I admired the vertical lettering (after the fashion of those days) of the marque's name on the front of the protruding cowling beneath the radiator grille. In 1948 I was employed by the Rotterdam branche of the Internationale Automobiel Maatschappij, the Dutch distributor of Studebaker cars and trucks. In addition to these Studebaker cars, I remember, in our workshop we sometimes serviced an orphaned Graham car (that had become so after the final demise of its factory in 1941). In 1954 this Studebaker Rotterdam-branche merged with the local and neighbouring Packard and Nash dealership.
During the twenties and late thirties there were many importers of American passenger cars in Holland such as ; Auburn (A.C.D.) in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Buick in Rotterdam GM. Cadillac, key dealer in Utrecht and Amsterdam. Chandler in Rotterdam. Chevrolet Rotterdam GM. Chrysler-Plymouth-DeSoto in Amsterdam and later Chrysler-Plymouth in Rotterdam. Cord (A.C.D.) in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. DeSoto (Chrysler) in Amsterdam. Dodge (Chrysler) in The Hague. Duesenberg (A.C.D.) in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Durant in Rotterdam. Elcar in Rotterdam. Essex (Hudson) in The Hague and Rotterdam. Ford in Rotterdam and later assembly plant in Amsterdam. Franklin in The Hague and later Amsterdam. Graham-(Paige) in Amsterdam and, Utrecht. During the late thirties also in Voorburg (The Hague). Hudson in The Hague and Rotterdam. Hupmobile in Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam. Jordan in Rotterdam. Kaiser-Frazer in Rotterdam. The Dutch Kaiser-Frazer Rotterdam plant assembled the Kaiser, Kaiser Jeep, and Henry J but never Frazers. The first series of Willow Run made model 1947 Frazers built in calendar year 1946, were in fact Graham-Paige's final automotive products! Kissel in The Hague. LaFayette (Nash) in The Hague. LaSalle (Cadillac) keydealer in Utrecht and Amsterdam. Lincoln (Ford) in Amsterdam. Locomobile in Amsterdam. Marmon in Amsterdam. Mercury (Ford) in Amsterdam. Moon in Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam. Nash in The Hague and Utrecht. Oldsmobile key-dealer in Utrecht and Amsterdam. Packard in The Hague and Amsterdam. Peerless in Rotterdam. Pierce-Arrow (Studebaker) in The Hague, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Pontiac in Rotterdam GM and Amsterdam. Reo in Amsterdam, Haarlem and Rotterdam. Studebaker (SPA) plus Erskine and Rockne in The Hague, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Terraplane (Hudson) in The Hague and Rotterdam.Willys-Overland-(Whippet) in Amsterdam.
I recall a stormy day when I drove one of the last collected and to be delivered new Packard Patrician, a 1955 V8 model with torsion bar level ride, from Englebert's Automobielhandel, (Dutch Packard and Nash distributor at the Hague) to our Rotterdam dealership. I also drove our first imported Studebaker Hawk 1953 Model from the head-quarters premesis of the Internationale Automobiel Maatschappij, Dutch distributor of Studebaker, established in the Hague, to the Rotterdam branche of this firm. Some years later I worked for the Dutch assembly plant called NEKAF, an abbreviation of Nederlandse Kaiser - Frazer Fabrieken, where initially we overhauled the MB 38 wartime Jeeps and later assembled the NEKAF army jeep (powered by the then novel i.o.e. engine), as well as the Kaiser and the small Henry J.
Kaiser's counterpart the Frazer car, was rarely seen in the Netherlands. Some last of the line Dutch- built Kaiser models bore the subname “Rotterdam de Luxe”.
In addition to the afore-mentioned activities I also worked for a GM as well as for a Ford dealership, and as a translator of workshop manuals for the automotive industry.
Alexander H.N. van Essen.
Goor, The Netherlands.
Frank van der Heul, Auto advertenties uit de jaren 1890-1940, Uitgeverij Elmar, Rijswijk 1991.