Imagining the Stories Behind Old Photographs of Cars That Weren’t That Old Yet


Even for a non-car-loving person, a new car can be a point of pride or pleasure. How many of us have photographs of ourselves with our new cars shortly after we got them? Perhaps that’s why this smiling woman was photographed with her 1966 Falcon. The Kodachrome slide from which I scanned this image is dated October, 1968, so if my guesses are right she bought this car used.


This slide from January, 1967, shows that the same family also bought a brand new 1967 Mercury Colony Park. At least in the late ‘60s, this family was loyal to Ford. About 30 years later I bought a Mercury wagon, too – but it’s the only car I’ve owned that I never photographed. I wasn’t terribly excited to own it so I didn’t take a “look at my new car!” photograph, and I didn’t own it for long enough for it to end up in the background of a photograph of something else.


Our cars do commonly wind up in the frame as we photograph the scenes from our lives. This young couple, newlyweds perhaps, look to be ready to load this box into their ’50 Chevy. The ’64 Falcon that lurks in the background of this undated slide makes this Chevy a very used car, just the kind of thing two kids starting out would own.


Just-married kids who do well eventually move up to a newer car and a starter home, like this ’60 Ford parked in this driveway. Not that this Ford was all that new; this slide was taken in February of 1967. But this photo is just the perfect image of the kind of suburban conformity that was starting to be challenged at this time.


Kids come sooner or later, and of course we take copious photographs of them. Sometimes our cars are the backdrop, or are even an integral part of the photo. This fellow proudly holds up his child in the cab of his ’65 F-100 in a slide dated July, 1968. This kid is about my age now! Of course, this young’un lived a more rural experience than the suburbanites above. And you know he’s from Illinois because it says so on his truck. I guess it was the law in Illinois for many years that farm trucks had to have such identification painted on the door.


This undated slide of a Karmann-Ghia looks to have been taken on a military barracks. Could this be a German-spec Karmann photographed on a US base in Germany by a soldier who decided not to ship his car back home and wanted to remember his good times driving it? Probably not; the cars in the background don’t look very European. But it’s fun to imagine the stories behind old photographs and slides that you find.


I recently bought an inexpensive negative and slide scanner to quickly scan in all my old negatives, which go all the way back to 1976. It doesn’t do pro-quality work, but it’s good enough for my shoebox full of snapshots. I plan to review it on my personal blog, which is mostly about film photography, and so I bought these old slides on eBay for a few dollars to round out the review. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to find old slides featuring what are now very old cars. I saved what I think is the best for last – the oldest slide I bought, undated but based on the style of the slide mount from no later than 1952, of this woman showing off her 1950 Pontiac Silver Streak convertible. My smile would be a mile wide, too, if I owned such a gorgeous car. Any guesses on what that car in the background is?