Few things are more fascinating than the unrealized dream. In the 1930s, one man tried to reinvent the taxicab, only to disappear into obscurity. Daniel Strohl of Hemmings Blog takes this look at his plans. —Ed.
Though he was at one point described as a "famous industrial artist," we've so far been able to discern little about Lynn Brodton outside of his patent filings, which chart a varied 20-year career in industrial design and included concepts that would have married the past and future of taxis.
In 1933, Brodton, a resident of Collingswood, New Jersey, first applied for a patent, on a multiband radio indicator. He eventually assigned that and another radio indicator patent to RCA, where he apparently worked for much of the 1930s as an industrial designer, achieving a level of significance enough to address RCA's dealer body on at least a couple occasions. However, the first patent he was awarded was for an automobile design (above, D100,755, yes, it's screaming for an Ace and Gary joke) in August 1936. Another design patent he applied for at about the same time, for a landau-type top (D107,902), shows similar design language, but the automobile design is noteworthy for its envelope styling and flush headlamps.
The landau-type top patent recalls similar tops used on Checker cabs at that time, and that's where Brodton's mind would eventually wander. Still living in Collingswood, Brodton produced a small series of flashlight designs in 1941, one of them assigned to the Flashlight Company of America in Jersey City, New Jersey, but then didn't apply for another patent until after World War II. Presumably he took part in that conflict, though we've yet to turn up any records of him doing so.
In 1947, Brodton sent in applications for two very similar taxi designs on the same day. Both were awarded in 1949 and both show him now living in New York City, but they both also exhibit the flush headlamps and envelope styling of his 1936 automobile design (D153,851 and D154,742). What is interesting about them is that they both place the driver separate from and above the passengers, much like the Electrobats and other early taxis, but they also place the driver forward and center, under a protruding bubble, much like the 1941 Futurliners. Brodton wasn't the only designer taking inspiration from the Futurliner and applying it to taxis: Dick H. Williams of Oak Park, Michigan, (whose other patents all were assigned to GM) applied for a similar design patent in October 1953 (D174,727).
The one thing Brodton's first two taxis didn't offer that the landau top provided was a a view for the passengers. Brodton must've gnawed on that issue for the next five years, until he came up with this design, which still placed the driver front, center and above the plane of the passengers, but also opened up the roof with a plexi bubble over the passenger section. Coincidentally (or not), Brodton applied for his patent a little more than a month after Ford introduced its line of 1954 cars, which included the Skyliner hardtop, with its plexi bubble inserted in the roof. Brodton, now living in Trenton, New Jersey, was assigned the patent later that year (D172,464).
Brodton later moved to Levittown, Pennsylvania, where he assisted Van Dyke Hill with his patent for a race ticket printing apparatus a couple years later. We see no record of Brodton's death nor of any of these designs leaving the drawing board.
Hemmings Motor News strives to enhance the experience of the collector-car enthusiast by publishing high-quality magazines and offering one of the most comprehensive classic-car classifieds in the world. Daniel Strohl is an associate editor with the company.
This story originally appeared on Hemmings Blog on July 1, 2010 at 8:09 AM.