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James Melton & Gus Reuter (Museum to Autorama)

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I am working on a book project about James Melton and famed automobile restorer Gus Reuter (my wife is Gus' granddaughter).  In search of old photos, slides, letters, stories, etc. related to James Melton or Gus Reuter to enhance my research.


By 1948, James Melton ‘America’s Favorite Tenor’ had assembled one of the country’s prized collections of antique cars – models ranging from the lumbering, unwieldy vehicles of 1896 to such novelties as New York’s first horseless hansom cab into the James Melton Museum in Norwalk, Connecticut. Melton was a famed opera and radio singer as well as the former vice president of the Veteran Motor Car Club of America who would later (in 1953) open the James Melton Autorama in Hypoluxo, Florida. Melton’s collection of automobiles were reconditioned, painted, polished and lovingly cared for by Gus Reuter, proprietor of Reuter’s Coach Works in the Bronx, NY. These two men represent the source behind of some of the most unique and sought after antique and historic automobiles.


I presented my research on Reuter's Coach Works at the International Drive History Conference in Allentown, PA back in 2019 (see attached). Still need to update my research on cars such as the 1928  Mercedes-Benz Type S since I have unpublished photos of this car when owned by Mrs. Bedford.


John O'Leary  (SAH member #4677)



Edited by John OLeary (see edit history)
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I know Austin Clark had material on both James Melton who was his friend, and I believe he used Gus Reuter to do some work on his cars. Austin's material and library went to the Henry Ford museum before he passed away , you may find something there but I can not tell you under what file etc it may be if indeed that was given to the HF Library besides all the original material he had. I have nothing on either person, I did work for Austin Clark in the early 1970's in his library and knew there was correspondence etc from both parties mentioned but that was 40+ years ago so can't be specific as to what and how much.

Walt Gosden

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During the mid-1950s James Melton visited Vancouver, B.C.  I'm not sure why, but there was a photo session at Vancouver City Hall with Mayor Fred Hume.  These photos were staged with a 1910 Russell car that belonged to an early B.C. car collector named Phil Foster (wearing cap and goggles on the other side of the car).  Phil lived on Vancouver Island but I was told that he brought this rare Canadian car to Vancouver in the hopes that Melton would want to buy it.  There was no deal made and the car is still in use locally.


Here is a link to the photo in the Vancouver Archives:



I have attached another image of the event.






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Walt - Austie Clark, Briggs Cunningham, Ed Jurist (Vintage Car Store), Peter Helck, Ken Purdy and Alec Ulmann were just a few of Gus Reuter's clients. I have many old great photos of the L.I. Auto Museum as well as cars like Austie Clark's 1933 Pierce-Arrow (Silver Arrow) at Reuter's Coach Works in the 1950's'.


Peter - thanks for the link to the Vancouver Archives. My research has taken me to some great places (like the NYC public library) and has introduced me to some fascinating people with incredible stories. Attached is image of James Melton (and his two dogs: 'Socks' the Boston Terrier and 'Etzel' the German Sheppard) in the 1898 DeDion Bouton from the 1940 World's Fair.


-John O'Leary



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  • 4 months later...



If not already known to you, it might be of interest to note that James Melton made prominent visits to Detroit at least twice during 1946, in connection with his antique car hobby.


The 1959 biography, "The Story of George Romney," by Tom Mahoney, reports that after an arrival delayed by heavy rains, Melton sang his part in the city's June, 1946 "Automotive Golden Jubilee" pageant without rehearsal. He also drove a White Steamer in the parade of antique cars on Woodward Avenue that was also a part of the celebratory activities.


In August, 1946, Melton returned, this time leading the Glidden Revival Tour in his 1907 Locomobile. He and the other tour participants were hosted both by Ford Motor Co. and General Motors while visiting the area, and they put on another parade, on Michigan Avenue, while they were here. (At your request, I would be happy to send you via private message an archival digital clipping of a nice article from an August  1946 edition of The Windsor Star newspaper, about the Glidden visit and parade — it mentions James Melton several times.)


I also have some notes referring to the spectacular and enormously large LHD 1950 Daimler DE36 "Green Goddess"-style cabriolet owned by James Melton, indicating it yet exists and is currently owned by the Jaguar-Daimler Heritage Trust. It is one of seven DE36 chassis fitted with such a body. I have a digital image of the Melton car, saved from an unrecorded source, which I can share as a lo-res image file with you for reference as well, if it is new to you.


Searching my computer for the above references, I additionally found I'd saved at some point the attached downloaded Texaco ad image featuring James Melton and his car museum. It probably dates from 1953 or so.


Even way out in Wichita, Kansas, I knew of James Melton and his antique car collection when I was a very young old-car enthusiast in the early 1950s.


Good luck with your interesting project.


Terry Boyce





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