Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Taking part in a Mobil Economy Run is the Topper movie car after many mods and changes!

  The Mobil logo on the door is interesting enough, but there is even a winged horse on the hubcap.

In 1936, prominent Pasadena coachbuilder Maurice Schwartz, constructed the “Topper” car for Hal Roach on a 1936 Buick series 80 Roadmaster chassis

 this is how the car appeared in the movie Topper.

A special car was required for the movie because in a number of scenes, the car appears to be driven by a ghost, so the “Topper” car had to be fitted with special controls which included a second hidden steering wheel which could be operated by a stuntman who was out of sight.

In 1939, Hal Roach Studios sold the “Topper” car to the Gilmore Oil Company. They saw potential for use in advertising and promotion of their Red Lion brand of gasoline. They sent the car back to Bohman & Schwartz to have a new grille fabricated from horizontal chrome bars to the full height of the radiator in order to aid the cooling when the car was driven at slow speeds in parades and special events.

In 1940, Socony-Vacuum (Mobil Oil) purchased the Gilmore Oil Company of California and by about 1948, Socony-Vacuum decided that it was time to update the old Buick and asked famed designer, W. Everett Miller, to come up with a fresh design for the front of the car. He made several proposals and ‘Mobil’ chose the one which featured a series on concentric rings above a horizontal rectangular opening with vertical chrome strips.

Chris Bohman, formerly of Bohman and Schwartz, was commissioned to do the modifications which included new upholstery, a new windshield frame and convertible top, outside rear-view mirrors, Cadillac hubcaps with Pegasus ‘Flying Horse’ logo centers, heavy Oldsmobile bumpers and new white paint with Pegasus logos on the doors. The car was used for numerous events including the Mobilgas Economy Runs.

By 1954, the eighteen year old Buick chassis had covered an estimated 300,000 miles, so Mobil contracted with Bohman and Son to revamp the ‘Topper’ car once again. A new Imperial Newport was purchased (235 H.P. Hemi engine, 131.5” wheelbase) and sent to their shop. The Imperial body was removed and the chassis / engine combo was installed under the ‘Topper’ body with some modifications to the steering and frame. The front fenders were blended into the body and the rear fenders received a Cadillac fin / taillight treatment.

Shortly after the final re-styling, Mobil sold the car to its long time retiring driver, Leon Wilson who only retained it for a short period of time before selling it to California car collector, George Warner. Upon Warner’s death, his widow sold the car to Jim Brucker who owned the Movie World Museum, located near Disneyland.

Von Dutch was working there and lettered it.

 It was on display there until the museum closed in the late 70’s. The car remained in the Brucker collection until May 13, 2006 when it was sold by RM Auctions.


  1. I lived next door to this guy about 1964 ish in Sylmar California. The car was actually the Cosmo Topper car from 1937, rebuilt in the 1950's and used by the Mobil corporation for parades and events. IIRC it was powered by a Chrysler Hemi. Originally Buick I think.

    1. The Topper car was the first thing I thought of!

  2. Thanhs for the update. Much more interesting!