1949 PLAYBOY: THE LAST ONE
By David Kaplan
The 1949 Playboy production car. This car was the car that Playboy would have produced if they had made it into full production. In a letter that Louis Horwitz sent out to all Playboy associates on December 15, 1948, he stated that they had completed all the developmental work necessary to get the Playboy car into production. They had completed 94 cars in the pilot production run and were within sight of completing the production/engineering of the car. The manufacture of the dies to build the the 1949 Playboy production car are now under way.
Horwitz also stated in the letter 28 improvements that had been made to the 1949 model car. Some of the changes mentioned were a completely restyled exterior and interior giving the car a bigger and more dashing stream-lined effect. Overall width of the car is increased by 2” and 1’’ of headroom has been added. Improved convertible top sealing with built in drain gutters, larger gas tank, new tail and stop lights, a new exhaust system, and single control windshield wipers were among some of the changes made to the car to add to the driving and qualities of the Playboy car. Horwitz also stated that 2 hand made models of the production car incorporating these improvements would soon be on the road.
Unfortunately, on April 14, 1949, Playboy filed for bankruptcy. At this time one 1949 playboy, as well as car serial # 100 and one 1949 station wagon, serial #101, were completed. The second hand built production model was never completed and was sold on February 15, 1950, with all the rest of the Playboy assets to Lytemobile Corporation of New York City. Lytemobile tried to set up production in Connecticut in a building owned by Alvin Trumball. When they closed down Alvin Trumball took over the remaining cars and kept them for many years, before selling them to a former Playboy dealer named Donald Moore. Included in this purchase was the never completed 1949 hand built Playboy.
I purchased this car in 1989 from Donald Moore, and just recently started the completion of the car. When I purchased the car, the engine and transmission were installed in the car but never wired. The hood and trunk were with the car but weren’t attached. The car was missing all of its chrome work and wiring harness, and the seat was never installed in the car. This car presented many challenges due to all of the changes made to the car. The hood is much larger and longer than the pilot production cars’ hood. The trunk has an outside hinge setup that was never completed.Needless to say, since this car was hand built and never completed, it was a challenge every step of the way.
After a 2 year restoration this car made its debut at the 2014 Hemmings Motor News Concours D’Elegance on September 28, 2014, in Saratoga, NY. This car drove onto the show field for the first time in its life and proudly took its place next to the 1947 Playboy prototype and Playboy car #94 owned by Lee Singer. The Playboy cars were a huge hit, with the largest collection of Playboy cars assembled at one show since 1948.
After 65 years, the last chapter of the Playboy Motor Car corporation has been written. The last car has been completed and Lou Horwitz’s dream is complete. There are so many people to thank that it would be impossible to do so here, but special mentions need to be made about 3 people who are not with us today.
Donald Moore was an original Playboy dealer who lost money on the company but loved the car. He kept the Playboy dream alive for me. I truly believe that he was waiting for me to come to him to buy the cars and keep the Playboy dream alive. I had a truly special relationship with him, and without his love for the cars this dream would not have come true.
Louis Horwitz was a special man with a dream and a vision. He was also my grandfather. Unfortunately he passed away when I was 2 years old so I really don’t have much memory of him, but we will always have a great bond between us. The 1947 Playboy prototype, the first Playboy that I restored, has the license plate TRIBUTE as a tribute to my grandfather.
Milton Kaplan was a special man who taught me many things, but especially of the importance of family and the love of cars. He purchased the family’s first Playboy when I was 13 and started me on the Playboy dream. He was always there for me to lean on and guide me. He was very excited about the restoration of the last Playboy, but unfortunately he passed away in August before this car was completed.
A very last special thank you to Ed Howard. He is very passionate about the Playboy motor car company. He has done an excellent job of producing and maintaining the Playboy website and is a great resource for every Playboy enthusiast. (Webmaster note: Thank you David for this nice compliment!)
Here is a factory rendering of the 1949 Playboy car
This is purportedly the last unfinished car back in the day when the factory was still around:
David's 1949 Playboy "The Last One" before restoration:
The same car after its restoration:
Three Playboy cars gather at Saratoga in September 2014:
Playboy owners gather at Saratoga. From left to right: Michael Cohen, Bill Bicknell, Lee Singer, David Kaplan and Michael Kaplan:
Copyright Ed Howard All rights reserved.