CC Architecture: Recycled Automobile Dealership Buildings

What uses are there for an old automobile dealership building?  Sure another dealer could make use of it but there are times that simply may not be practicable.

A few years ago, upon returning from the CC Meet-up in Nashville, Tennessee, I drove around my birthplace of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, capturing how the various dealerships of my formative years of the 1980s looked like in June 2016.  Let’s take a trip.

Since the current Cadillac-Buick-GMC dealership is shown at the top, let’s start there.  However, things aren’t so easily sliced and diced.  This building was the prior Buick dealership building for years, the standalone Van Matre Buick.  The Van Matre name remains but they have obviously taken on Cadillac and GMC at some point while at their current location.

Looking at the old building from a less penitentiary looking angle, it has been converted into a family counseling facility.  The advantage here is this building is next door to the Cape Girardeau Police Department so juvenile delinquents, and other miscreants, don’t have far to go.

This is the old Chevrolet dealership building.  My maternal grandparents bought their 1977 Chevrolet Impala from here when it was known as Jim Bishop Chevrolet.  They also purchased my uncles 1976 Monte Carlo from here and likely their 1979 Chevrolet Scottsdale pickup came from here, also.

Later, the dealership name would change to Coad Chevrolet.  Their advertisements featured co-owner Tim Coad, a young and animated gentleman, who talked about the “Coad of the Road”.  That’s a pretty good name for an advertising tag line.

A flash flood in 1986 flooded this building and ruined their entire inventory of cars and pickups. This building sits directly across US 61 from the current Buick-Cadillac-GMC dealership.

Also sitting across US 61 from the old Chevrolet dealership, and two doors down from the Buick-Cadillac dealer is the current Kia dealer.  In 1990 this was Town & Country Motors Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge.

It was from here my paternal grandmother purchased her 1989 Dodge Aries.  When she purchased the car in 1990, I was 17 and accompanied her to take delivery.  It was in this building we were subjected to the 20-something Miami Vice wannabe salesman with the horrific mustache and his sales pitch about extended warranties.  He was ready to choke me as I walked out after flippantly rebuffing the heavy-handed tactics he was using on a stupid appearing teenage boy and his sporadically naive gray-haired grandmother.

I still chuckle about it.

The previous building was the second location of Town & Country Motors.  This is their prior location and this is where my parents purchased their 1983 Plymouth Reliant.

This building had to really suck for being a car dealer.  The amount of outdoor parking is still the same piddly amount as it was thirty-five years ago; no wonder they had so many cars parked in the showroom.  After the Chrysler dealer relocated this building became a furniture store.  My wife and I purchased a mattress and box springs from this building soon after we married in 1998.

It appears to have underwent another transformation since then.

Sometimes these old car dealership buildings maintain a similar purpose.  Such is the case here with the old Cape GMC-Pontiac dealership.

Having left the area in 2001 I’m not sure at what point in time Cape GMC-Pontiac ultimately folded up.  If I had to guess it would be toward the end of Pontiac’s tenure.  We need to remember General Motors is still a force to be reckoned with in the Midwest and it wasn’t that long ago a person couldn’t sling a dead cat without hitting a Pontiac Grand Am.

It’s still a dealership, but of a different variety, as evidenced by these service vans found for sale.

Down the street is the old Cape Toyota building.  It was at this building in 1985 where my father foisted off his 1970 Ford F-100 in exchange for a 1984 Ford F-150 that had a mere 2,200 miles.  The undercarriage on the ’70 was so rotted the body had fallen onto the frame and dad had shimmed it with a few 2 x 4s.  The exterior didn’t look too bad and nobody ever noticed his handiwork prior to the papers being signed.

For those who think the dealer was doing a brisk business at this time, you could be right.  But the business, at that time, appeared to be primarily in used cars as their used inventory outnumbered the new inventory by a sizable factor.  At the time dad bought the pickup there was a 1939 Buick Special sitting in the showroom next to a new Toyota MR2.  Talk about vast differences.

This building is now a cosmetology school.

Of course there was a Honda dealer, which is now a bicycle shop.

Let’s be honest for a second.  Some surnames don’t play well with professions.  When I lived in St. Joseph, there was a doctor named Bonebraker.  It is not a harmonious relationship, similar to, say, a pest control guy named Roach.  This dealer was Weiser Honda, pronounced “wheezer”.

The name at the new location is Cape Girardeau Honda.

While I have skipped the Oldsmobile, Mazda, Volkswagen, Porsche, and Ford dealers (the Ford dealer is in a bad spot to get pictures and I was driving my ’63 Ford around to take these, so it’s not like I’ve totally ignored the Blue Oval), here’s a bonus of sorts.  It’s been three years since I took these pictures, and Studebaker went belly-up long before I was born, so I’ve had to verify this being the old Studebaker dealer.

This building is located at Sprigg Street and Morgan Oak, not far from the Mississippi River, and I’ve driven by this building countless times.

Yep, I was right, it’s an old Studebaker dealer.  The Studebaker information website shows there having been three or four different Studebaker dealerships in Cape over time, with this ad being from 1944.

Why don’t you go in for a spring service?  The door is open.

In researching this I also stumbled upon this picture which shows a piece of the later Weiss Studebaker dealership building, on the left above the 1949 Ford, in 1956.  Don’t confuse Hutson with Hudson, another independent brand; the Hutson building seen here is a furniture store.

One of the other Studebaker locations was along Broadway, but I’ll confess to this being Independence Street.  That would be a much better street name for a Studebaker dealer.

I hope you enjoyed taking a brief tour of some of the old auto dealerships in my birthplace.  What old dealerships do you still have around your home?