A Short History of LaDawri Coachcraft
Update: May, 1996
It has been almost 14 years since I last edited this Short History. During these years, there has remained a low-key interest in LaDawri as evidenced by the occasional evening phone calls from new people at scattered locations, and from occasional letters received. From time to time, I would see some small ad in Hemmings or other auto magazine advertising the availability of another LaDawri, but my dedication to tracking down such leads had waned over the years; due to the pressures of work and my personal life; or perhaps as a result of all the fruitless blind alleys that I had chased in my first search.
I had made a lot of phone calls, I had written a lot of letters, I had spoken with a lot of people all across our nation; and I had spent a lot of scarce spare time in the process. During this quest, I must say that I met a lot of great people and some really went out of their way to help me track down information about LaDawri and its elusive designer; Les A. Dawes.
Perhaps one of the most rewarding parts of this search has been to now hear from some of those I had contact with over 15 years ago, that like I are now retired and have found the time to ask “I wonder whatever became of —-” and then proceeded to try to find out. The families are grown and out of college, the house is paid for, some are grand parents, and through it all the continuing interest in cars has survived, returning to their consciousness the recollections of another era; the good old days of the Beach Boys, high performance rods and customs, and the LaDawri … long before Catalytic Converters and No-Lead Gas.
Over the years, I have heard a lot of different stories about LaDawri and about Les A. Dawes. Some were very contradictory, some not so nice, some very tragic, and some quietly humorous; and out of all of this I had tried to find the common thread that best told the story of it all. I am sure that I have not heard all the stories, I felt that some of the stories may not have been too factual, and I am sure that there are still a few people out there that I have not met who have remembrances of their encounter with the LaDawri, and who could yet fill in pieces of the many missing gaps in this short history.
And finally, the last part of the puzzle is, what ever became of Les A. Dawes … where is he now … where is his family …where are the employees who worked with Les to bring life to each hand-fabricated LaDawri? All, lo, any one of those elusive people could perhaps provide some critical information to finally finish the true story of the LaDawri automobile. Les A. Dawes … where are you?
Somehow, informally and without ceremony, my name has become associated with the genealogy of LaDawri, perhaps for posterity as there seems to be nobody else who has tried to find out much about where LaDawri came from, what kind of an existence it had and then what finally became of LaDawri. LaDawri owners remain a fragmented and disconnected group, most knowing nothing of any other, only a few knowing anything about their car, and most are only the current owner of a strange car that has gone through a succession of prior owners.
When I first bought my LaDawri in 1978, I had no idea what it was … and neither did the owner that I bought it from … only that it was titled as a 1954 Ford convertible. After spending an entire day at the ’78 Fall Carlisle (PA) Swap Meet talking to people, showing photos of my car, and looking through hundreds of 50’s car magazines to no avail, I conceded defeat by frustration and from exhaustion, deciding to call it a day. On the way out of the Meet, I noticed laying on the ground at a vendor’s space a color sales brochure with a picture of a car like the one I had bought … at last I knew I had a LaDawri.
There was then, as there is now, no known archive or resource for LaDawri information other than that I have collected. There exists other bits and pieces individually held, and scattered far and wide, some that I already know of. Here then is my last effort, having sifted one more time through all the notes and information I collected and put now down together as the last most reasonably concise, factual and plausible story of LaDawri, as best I know.
John Edw. Gulow
17 May 1996