A sampler from Alden Jewll’s Flickr page
What great stuff, nice 73 matador in the first shot and that delightful row of TR4s at Ken Keegan’s.
I wish I could stroll into that scene.
Thanks for the uplifting start to the morning 😃
Ken Keegan’s was in Los Gatos, PaulN’s former place of residence. I remember the name though not the dealership itself … was it still there when you lived in LG, Paul?
I used to have some postcards from CJ Motors in Berkeley, where my parents bought their Hillman and which also sold Citroen, Peugeot and English Ford over the years. One postcard featured the original (Consul) Capri which has been pictured here recently. Unfortunately, the cards disappeared long ago ☹️
I don’t think there’s one postcard where I couldn’t find something I’d like to test drive. First would probably be the TR3, then some Volvos and Saabs, probably a ’65 Pontiac…why bother naming them? I’d be busy annoying salesmen for weeks!
I’ll take the ‘72 Javelin in the lead in picture, please. Although I think I’d ask the salesman to show me one in a different color.
Haha! The rich browns of that Javelin AMX (I think it’s a ’73, by the grille of the adjacent Hornet) makes me want another cup of hot coffee.
It’s also intriguing that the Javelin is trying to wear a bunch of hats: it’s the hi-po AMX, but it’s also got that vinyl roof – combined with a *fastback* profile. The Javelin, in either generation, might be one of only a handful of fastbacks that offered a vinyl roof on the rear half of the car. I still want a Javelin.
This is a great assortment of postcards.
Don’t get me wrong, Joseph.. I love that ‘70(s) brown. I would SO want that color on a ‘72 LTD convertible.
But the AMX/Javelin needs to be in a bright color, like my buddy’s ‘74. It was about as an obnoxious shade of orange as they come, with a white accent stripe around the back window, and a Pierre Cardin interior. Shazam!!!!
I’ll have the Matador,with the police-spec 401 and Twin Grip rear end.
The Cadillac dealer, Hillcrest Motors, is such a fantastic design, it could be a movie set.
And it’s interesting to see phone numbers throughout the years; looks like here we’ve got 4 numbers, then 2 letters & 4 numbers, then 2 letters & 5 numbers, then ultimately 7 numbers.
I also love the shot of Hillcrest Motors. It was on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, so it really was catering to the Hollywood crowd, at least when Cadillacs were still seen as cool.
I really enjoyed scrolling through these dealership postcards from yesteryear. I abhor the directive that automakers have forced upon dealers to tear down or re-face uniquely designed buildings and rebuild using their uniform designs. Automakers have followed fast food restaurants and other national chain type businesses in doing this. I understand that driving down a street with many commercial businesses, familiarity with the uniform appearance a brand’s showroom and facilities wherever you are promotes turning in to the entrance of that business. But given that most communities of size have multiple dealerships, this similarity of dealership exterior appearance by brand, whether it be Honda, Chevrolet, Ford or whatever brand has just accelerated the loss of identity of local communities across the American landscape.
Here in Phoenix Courtesy Chevrolet has the “corporate” facade but has retained their 1950’s era sign in the shape of an arrowhead. It may be the only dealer in the area still in the same location and still with old-school signage.
This 99 year old Los Angeles icon I believe has its sign registered as historic, so GM cant mess with it.
Good on them!
The local former Oldsmobile dealer still has their Rocket sign. https://email@example.com,-122.2216635,3a,24.8y,344.13h,100.3t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s61v8EcKizvOf0bds3SHHMA!2e0!7i16384!8i8192 Luck for them they had picked up the AMC franchise and still had Jeep to sell. Oh wait Chrysler took that away from them when they took away the Chrysler dealer’s franchise and gave it all to the Dodge dealer when they were creating CDJR dealers.
Five Studebakers, all in a row! Was there any other place at that time that you would see so many Studebakers?
And I like the script Chevrolet over the door of the dealer with all the 61 models. So many choices here.
Freeman-Spicer, Studebaker’s South Bend dealership, probably kept a good number of Studebakers in stock.
I could scroll these old dealer postcards for hours and hours.
I just noticed that Hawley Motors (the DeSoto-Plymouth dealer in Mason City, Iowa) had signage on the front for Studebaker and Mercedes-Benz. They must have been one of the dealers who signed on to sell Larks in 1959, although there are none to be seen in the photo.
I was intrigued by this one. The building signage says they sell Studebaker, but the verbiage on the card says they sell Plymouth, DeSoto, and “Lark”. Which I find odd – I think this photo shows 1959 Plymouth and DeSoto cars, and in 1959 Studebaker certainly sold other models besides the Lark.
Also, I believe that 1959 was the year that M-B ended its distribution agreement with Studebaker and opened (what would become) MBUSA. Maybe the building hadn’t been re-painted yet?
Side note… right around the time of this postcard, February 2nd, 1959, a small plane took off from the Mason City airport, in wintry conditions under which the pilot was not properly trained or licensed to fly. The result was the death of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and JP “The Big Bopper” Richardson.
Studebaker only sold the Hawk other than the Lark in 1959, and the Hawk sold in quite small quantities. The Lark was hot in 1959, and it seems quite logical (and apparent) that Studebaker would offer franchises for it alone. Car dealers were desperate for compacts, and the Lark was the answer.
The Lark was essentially a sub brand, as back then that was much more common. Before compacts came along, there was little confusion as to what a Dodge, or Plymouth or Chevy or Studebaker meant. Cars like the Falcon, Lark and Corvair were essentially sub brands; folks didn’t say I got a Ford Falcon; just Falcon. everyone knew what that was.
Hence some of William Newberg’s confusion when he overheard Ed Cole say Chevrolet was going to introduce a smaller Chevy.
S-P promoted the Lark in 1959 as “Lark by Studebaker’ which downplayed the Studebaker name hoping the public would focus more on the Lark as a new compact car choice rather than the precarious condition the company was at the time.
S-P dealership representation across the nation was pretty thin in many areas so the company signed up Big Three dealers throughout 1958 on the promise to have a compact to sell for 1959 since it was a hot market for them. When the Big Three compacts became available, S-P was right back where it started, as the franchises were dropped.
A set of truly mesmerizing postcards. Every one has so much good stuff to offer.
Like DougD, the Matador in the first picture is calling my name.
Lots of work compiling such great images! Thank you Paul!
Growing up, I was a big fan of the branding American Motors adopted in the late 60s. The vertical, white on black ‘American Motors’ topped by their clean corporate logo on their primary signage looked so fresh, graphic, and modern at the time. While the use of the tightly kerned ‘Helvetica’ font was leading edge typography for that era. AMC branding still looking fresh until the end.
Another favourite was the very distinctive VW dealer design with their use of airy glass showrooms, the roof mounted ‘VOLKSWAGEN’ set in a ‘Lubalin’-like font, along with their large crest prominently displayed. Great memories.
The dealership where I bought my new 2007 Rabbit, College Park Volkswagen, still had that design at the time; it had become the smallest building in the area selling VWs. Since renamed Darcars Volkswagen, they moved to a new location and a big modern building, but the old building still stands and now is one of their used car dealerships. A few years before they left the old building, the VOLKSWAGEN sign was removed and replaced with a 3D VW logo, the one they’re now phasing out.
Those were quite sweet. Our local VW dealer, John Mooney had one of these. He was third time lucky – his VW franchise replaced his Edsel franchise, which replaced his Packard franchise.
I agree. The AMC branding still looks good. The ceiling in the DeSoto showroom looks really dirty.
That typography/design would look fresh and modern today, I feel.
Leading off the article with the AMC postcard was terrific, not only for the modern AMC logo and great old AMC cars, but the outfits that all of the salesmen were wearing. Hard to believe, but I have no doubt those white pants and shoes, red, white, and blue tie, and bright blue sport coat was exactly what they wore everyday to work.
What a delightful walk down auto row, excellent images, all of them. Loving the Datsun mailer at the end, nobody keeps old Japanese stuff. And as Doug stated, the Ken Keegan dealership looks worthy of an easy afternoon’s worth of browsing as does the Midwest Sports Car Center. And never mind the cars, the architecture is fabulous as well across the spectrum. Thanks for compiling this!
if you google map the plymouth dealership in the second photo it’s amazing to see the bones of the dealership have become a discount pet shop
Although there are undoubtedly countless fins inside now, its a shame that none are mounted to a 59 Sport Fury.
It’s great to see all of these. Just a few random thoughts:
Having grown up in the “Chrysler-Plymouth” era, I’m always somewhat amused by seeing stand-alone Plymouth dealerships. And especially one advertising “Plymouth is our only business.”
I don’t remember ever seeing a Sunbeam sign, either in person or in pictures. Of course, seeing such signs include just a simple red “S,” I could easily have missed it.
I love the Mid West Sports Car Center building… I tried to look up exactly where this dealership was – looks like Omaha. If I have time, I’ll try to figure out if the building’s still around.
My favorite postwar building here must be the Hillcrest Motor Co. mid-century modern building.
The Tackiest Dealership Award definitely goes to the Simca dealer.
I grew up in the “Chrysler-Plymouth” era too, so the neon sign at Guy Pine Inc. hawking PLYMOUTH VALIANT looks odd to me – what, they don’t sell Belvederes and Furys too? But in 1960 only, Valiant was a separate marque, not a Plymouth. Those are ’61s inside the showroom so the dealership had just spent the money to put up a VALIANT sign that would soon have to be torn down.
I’m surprised to see Simca (and Citroen) having its own building at all. My recollection from the ’70s was low-volume imports usually being sold either as appendages at Detroit 3 dealerships or multi-make import dealerships, not stand-alone buildings. I recall only VW, Mercedes, and sometimes Toyota having standalone dealers at that point; even some of the more popular imports like Datsun and Volvo were sold at dealers that primarily sold something else.
“Plymouth is our only business”
At the time, any Chrysler Corporation dealership could sell Plymouth (I’m not sure how much exclusive territory this involved) so there were lots of Dodge-Plymouth and DeSoto-Plymouth as well as Chrysler-Plymouth dealers.
Summit Ford is still there after all these years. It’s perched north west of Toronto beside an arterial highway. I used to drive by there when I had a spare period in college. A buddy of mine and I would go to a mall nearby and shoot pool.
One thing that stands out is the way dealers tried for maximum variety in the window or front row. Even when the products were uniform, they used different colors and different positions. Smart selling. If you don’t like this one, maybe you’ll like the next one.
The ’51 Plymouth-DeSoto dealer even used variety in the showroom furniture. 1920s on the left, 1950s in the middle.
My auto-sentience only existed in time to remember our AMC dealer (similar to the top photo), but an ex-Pontiac dealer building, long gone out of autos, had the neon head profile logo sign as shown here, for what seemed like decades afterwards.
This is a fantastic collection. Love the cars, the architecture, the settings. Really fun to see.
Anyone else get the “Open The Door At RICHARD” reference for Richard Chevrolet?
I did! McVea did it first but Count Basie did the most popular version, the only one that hit number one on the Billboard best seller chart.
The picture of the Citroën dealership is the former head office/garage/showroom of Citroën Nederland in Amsterdam, closed in 2014.
Today it looks like this.
That’s interesting – I thought that one might just be artistic fantasy on the basis that the likelihood of having a post 68 DS Decapotable and a pre 57 Traction Avant in the showroom together seems to me to be slim. But if it was in Amsterdam (Citroen Nederland HQ?) then maybe anything is possible…
Poor Mr Spear, I’m betting he regretted switching to De Soto for 1959. Would love to know what brand he dropped.
The import car places are some of my favorite. It seems as though there were a number of dealers who sold what ever imported cars they could get their hands on and it seems w/o the traditional franchise agreement. You have to wonder about warranty work if you purchased from one of those dealers.
Speaking of imported cars the huge neon Tannus sign at Schuss Lincoln Mercury along with a showroom full of them is quite interesting. It looks like a stand alone box. Possibly built just for the imported cars?
Love all the images, but the import stores are my favorite as well.
As a kid, I remember going with my folks to a place in Santa Fe that sold Saab’s and BMW’s and another European make, I think. Saw my first Saab Sonnet and we sat in the new BMW Bavaria. Quite a machine and quite a price. We piled into a Saab 96 wagon for a test drive. My Dad wrote it off pretty quickly due to the odd seating position. He said you had to sit at a funny angle to get to the pedals due to wheel well encroachment. My first time seeing the ignition key between the seats, as well.
Dad came close, but couldn’t quite pull the trigger on a new BMW 1600. Within a few months, he was driving a new Fiat 124 Spyder from Olds-Cadillac-Fiat of Santa Fe. We all know Olds & Cadillac was a common combo, but Fiat didn’t quite fit in, IMO. The Siata Spring parked next to the Eldo in the showroom was an odd juxtaposition.
The Volvo dealership I worked at in the early through late 1980’s had been Volvo-only since early- mid-1970’s, but started as Volvo, Peugeot, Renault in early 1960’s. I seem to remember one of the older techs, who was my mentor and was there in the beginning, telling me they sold Triumphs for a while as well. To your point Scoutdude, lots of places sold whatever they could get until some of the brands were big enough to stand on their own.
Thanks for the dealership tour, Paul!
And, remembering a documentary I watched years back, when Datsun was trying to get a foothold in the U.S., the famed Mr. Katayama often started with established used car dealers to pitch the idea of selling Datsuns.
I was thinking of the poor dealer having shelled out all that money for that fancy Taunus sign, for how many years of sales? Certainly less than 10. His accountant can’t have been happy…..
Scoutdude, I was curious too and poked around a bit. (Chardon OH is NE of Cleveland, my hometown)
Spear Motor Sales had (apparently) been a Packard dealer that went over to DeSoto in 1958; added Plymouth a year or two later; DeSoto disappears, and it’s Plymouth for a while, then Chrysler-Plymouth. I see it selling Chryslers up to 1991 (this ad). There was a “Spear Motors” that was selling Rupp motorcycles in Chardon around 1980—I have no idea if/how related. Today I found “Spear Tractors” there, so perhaps a persistent connection.
By the time I was around in the late 70s-early 80s most dealerships had standardized on certain types of signage. The Fallon Ford pic is typical- the Helvetica free-standing letters and that rectangular 2-panel Ford sign were on every Ford dealer, whether it was Bert Weinman on Ashland, an old city building, or a brand-new building out in the burbs. So seeing a lot of these older pics is super interesting.
Whenever an older person tells me they used to live in Chicago, one of my first questions is, “What was located at 3535 North, on Ashland Avenue?”. Anyone who watched WGN on any given Sunday (especially the Cubs before Wrigley Field got lights) would know the answer.
Longtime Home of Bert Weinman Ford, they closed in 2006.
Late night TV ran his ads live!
I seem to remember they even had the used car live on the air, with Bert gushing the merits of that 65 Crown Vic!
Yep, good ole Linn “And, This Is For You!” Burton for Bert Weinman, your tv Ford man. Besides the Cubs games and late night tv, there was always Family Classics with Frazier Thomas.
It was funny how a good wash and those bright studio lights could hide the blemishes on those used cars. If you looked closely, you spot the rust on the rocker and quarter panels.
Ha, that’s awesome!
Sadly, the old lot is all condos now.
Here’s one of the old ads.
“All with A/C and winterized!”. Seems like advertising a used car in Chicago in the winter, having a working heater would be a lot more important.
As we all suspected, the high-trimmed “small” Fury was a year newer than all the others at that $2488 price.
I’m not sure if any Ford dealers in the US adopted this unlamented exterior design in the 70s. But this rather unattractive design graced a number of Ontario Ford dealers from the 70s through the 80s. With the letters in the dealer name appearing in individual illuminated ‘blocks’. With a black corrugated background facade surrounding the top of the showroom exterior. And roof mounted Canadian and Ford flags. The design looking exceptionally cheap, reminiscent of a quickly rebranded remnant carpet centre showroom.
That picture brought back memories of the now defunct Schwister Ford in Menominee Falls, Wi. They had the exact same building and had a model T on top of a poll out front.
The former Atchley Ford in Omaha was built new in the early ’70s and shared some characteristics. Where your dealer picture has that dirty yellow color, Atchley used brown, and it was not such a stark contrast against the brownish brick.
My Dad bought his ’76 LTD here….
The images made my otherwise gray, cold n cloudy midwestern day and sort of reset my bucket list of priorities. Indirectly, your collection reminds me that I should have gone to Woodstock when I had the chance and the 1960 Falcon to get there, and I should buy and enjoy a post war Plymouth convertible, like the red 1951, since as we all know, Father Time is undefeated. Thnx!
While I understand the value of corporate branding, it is unfortunate that the character of so many dealerships has succumbed to said branding.
I trade at the dealership in the picture, I have no idea how this living postcard has escaped the suits in the Glass House.
Hotel Astor, New York City, Auto Show (1918):
Being rich was so much more glamorous 100 years ago. Not to say that I wouldn’t mind trying it today but it’s still not the same.
For the Simca dealership, research indicates in was located Jacksonville FL (“35 Years Serving JAX’ as written over the entrance of the building).
Note the read Isetta at far right in the photo.
On the right had side of the photo near the corner of the building is the phrase “Best Import Car of the Year”. The name below looks like Tom McCahill from Popular Mechanics. Can’t track down the corresponding article.
@Paul: My first thought when seeing the title, was that this was going to be an article including closed or abandoned dealerships, such as The Collier AMC dealer in North Carolina: https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Collier_Motors It’s always enjoyable to see pictures of the old dealerships! 🙂
Did anyone else think that the entrance signage for Pilgrim Plymouth were ‘PARTS’, ‘SERVICE’, and ‘PILGRIMS’?
My favorite dealership growing up in West Los Angeles was the W.I. Simonson Mercedes Benz building in Santa Monica. Designed in the Spanish revival motif in the 1930’s it featured large “PACKARD” letters above the front entrance, which remained for decades even though the dealership converted to Mercedes after the demise of Studebaker/Packard. It was always such a treat to pass by that building and see those letters reminding you of that long gone luxury marque. Sadly, the building was destroyed in a fire in 1986, but rebuilt in the original architectural style a couple of years later. The “PACKARD” letters were not returned to their place of honor, unfortunately.
The rebuilt Simonson Mercedes building, no “PACKARD” letter restoration, though.
Readers might also like this:
You opened a rabbit hole inside this rabbit hole there! Excellent.
These are great, Paul. Looking at the standardized AMC graphics reminds me of how Chrysler became the first US automaker to come up with a modern corporate identity system. Lynn Townsend, early in his tenure as Chrysler’s president, went on a tour of dealers. When he came back, he told his staff he wished Chrysler had as many dealers as Holiday Inn had motels.
His staff did some checking and found Chrysler had three times as many dealers, but because they all had different signage and buildings, you would never know.
The reason we closed our dealership in 1967 was because Chrysler was pressuring my Great Aunt to build a new, standardized building on the outskirts of town. Another guy was willing to do so, and we said fine. He was bankrupt by 1973.
Oh, these are just sweet! I’ll add this:
And finally, this:
Oh, how superb. Just the thing for these times.
How about a purchase from the House Of courtesy in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1949?
Lots of really good stuff here! A couple standouts to me:
Hillcrest Motor Co. Cadillac ~1962 looks really classy!
Town & Country Ford in 1958 looks so inviting. They have 2(!) Country Squires, including a reddish one inside that looks fantastic.
The last photo, De Lamar Chevrolet in Arkadelphia, Ark. circa ~1930, it’s not a photograph, but assuming it’s accurate with the large covered drive through awning, large square footage showroom and offices. It looks like a really nice set up for that time period, especially for a smaller town.
The Ellis Garage – Graham postcard is a real gem, its so rare to see any images of their dealerships. The Graham at the gas pumps is a 1935 Six Model 74, their lowest priced line, the front of one is also visible in the showroom.
The Graham in the door opening is a 1930-’31 and the one to the right is a 1932-’33 model.
The ’65 Pontiacs got me. Especially the Grand Prix behind the red Catalina.
A delight to see these, and the “look” is something I’m old enough to remember, especially the lit-up-at-night thing.
Not hard to guess what year this one was, that last year before Corvair and the other compacts appeared:
That first shot of the AMC Dealer – are car salesman or waiters at a golf club?
Wow, two R10s at the same dealership (with looks like a Peugeot between them).
I don’t well remember Almartin motors where my Dad bought his ’68 new, except it was nondescript, more like a repair shop than a dealership….and it was located near the airport in South Burlington. His prior car (’59 Beetle) was totalled outside our house by son of a neighbor (and it was pretty rusty by ’68 in Vermont) so he had no trade in.
He had it about 6 years, but it had very low mileage on it….only used to go back and forth to work. My Mother didn’t like it, neither that it had standard transmission (though she learned to drive on a semi-automatic car, she never really was comfortable with anything but an automatic. When she went to Poland/Slovak republic in 1998 with her brother, she wanted to be a backup driver for him (he sometimes had weird things happen to him on trips, though he drives standard fine)…so I took her in the parking lot of an abandoned Walmart with my ’86 GTi and tried to reacquaint her with driving standard…she was passable, but not comfortable. She also didn’t like how the Renault looked, it was almost symmetric front to back (and had 4 doors) such that you
might think someone could try to get in the back seat to drive. However, the rear windows slid side to side in the back, where they rolled down in the front, so you looked for the divider in the window slide frame to know which was back seat window.
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