Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


WHAT A great use of advertising dollars! Here we are, about to celebrate the start of the year 2013 and, at the same time, remembering an advertising campaign that began in 1935. That it’s for Labatt’s Beer is part of the story. There’s a Russian Count involved as well.


Canada endured national prohibition of alcoholic beverages from 1918 to 1927, both dates earlier than those of U.S. prohibition’s Volstead Act, 1920 through 1933. Like other Canadian breweries during prohibition, Labatt Brewing Company in Ontario had to exist on numerous exemptions including “for export” provisions. It was part of the game that these exports were often just illegally across the river to Detroit.

With repeal came establishment of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, together with bizarre subjectivity applied to “good” versus “bad” imbibing. Also, advertising of alcoholic beverages was tightly restricted.


An excellent source: A Different Road: A Memoior, by Arthur Labatt, British Psychological Society, 2012. Both and list it.

Labatt’s response to the advertising restriction was artful and clever. In 1935, the company commissioned Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky, auto stylist and technical editor of Esquire magazine, to design vehicles that would serve dually as delivery trucks as well as rolling advertisments.


Count Alexis Wladimirovich de Sakhnoffsky, 1901-1964, was as elegant as his designs.

The Count had left his native Russia in 1919, to avoid being caught up in the revolution. Within ten years, his design for the Cord L-29 had won the Grand Prize at the 1929 Monaco Concours d’Elegance and Grand Prix d’Honneur at the 1929 Beaulieu Concours.


Count de Sakhnoffsky turned his talents to marques other than Auburn, Cord, Packard—and White: the Steelcraft pedal car, above; the American Austin/Bantam, below.


In 1929, de Sakhnoffsky relocated to the U.S., where he expanded his work in industrial design. In addition to his Labatt’s commission, automotive clients included American Austin/Bantam and Steelcraft pedal cars.


Except for the running boards and fender skirts, the first Labatt’s Streamliners had rather conventional cabs.

In total, 18 Labatt’s Streamliners were delivering beer by 1939, when one of its second series earned a design award at the New York World’s Fair. A pair of third-generation Streamliners appeared shortly before World War II.


One of the second-generation Labatt’s Streamliners was a 1939 New York World’s Fair design award winner.

The bodywork of each Streamliner was fabricated by Smith Bros. of Toronto, with aluminum sheathing tacked to a wooden superstructure. Beneath this were a White Motor powerplant and Fruehauf drop frame chassis. The Streamliners were the first trucks in Canada to feature air brakes.


The trailer of a Labatt’s Streamliner enclosed a volume of approximately 825 cu. ft. or 8 1/2 tons of beer.

Streamliner drivers were specially trained to be Good Samaritans, offering aid to motorists. In return, when motorists sent in postcards detailing the aid, the drivers got bonuses.

The fourth de Sakhnoffsky design—and most striking—appeared in 1947. The last of the Streamliners continued in Labatt’s fleet until 1955.


The fourth and last of de Sakhnoffsky’s designs was the most flamboyant of Labatt’s Streamliners. One is restored and making the show circuit.

Imagine the stunning impression Labatt’s Streamliners made in the 1930s. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2012

3 comments on “LABATT’S BEER AERO

  1. Rb
    December 31, 2012

    Cheers! Always loved this design. Makes me want to run out and buy some Canadian beer, eh?

  2. Felix
    December 31, 2012

    I think it might make a good runabout for a certain “flight” simulator….

  3. Bill Urban
    December 31, 2012

    From, a comment for this post as well as the last – quoting the June 20, 1937 Motors and Motor Men column of the N.Y. Times, regarding tests made by transportation engineers for John Labatt, Ltd: ” Two trucks, one streamlined and the other conventional but of the same model and carrying identical loads made a 125-mile run between Toronto and London. Heading into a fifteen-mile-an-hour west wind, the streamlined truck reached its destination using 9 per cent less gasoline, making the trip approximately ten miles per hour faster than its conventional mate.”

    The headwind certainly compounded the effect, but . . . everything old is new again.

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This entry was posted on December 31, 2012 by in And Furthermore..., Classic Bits and tagged , , .
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