I’ve still got some more…
A sampler from Alden Jewell’s Flickr page
I bet Wes Lasker’s dealership was every schoolboy’s dream to visit. Assuming they were tolerated.
It’s Wes Lasher, here in Sacramento, and Lasher Auto Group is still in business, though most of the brands shown there are now part of the Niello Auto Group. Here’s history from Lasher’s website:
In 1955 Wes Lasher opened his first Volkswagen dealership in Downtown Sacramento with partner Richard Niello. . Eventually Sacramento VW sales became so large that Wes split with Niello forming two separate VW dealerships in Sac, Lasher VW and Niello VW.
(end quoted material)
Lasher died ten years ago at age 88. Lasher Auto Group now handles VW, Audi, Dodge, RAM, Jeep, Subaru, Honda and Acura.
Neillo does VW, Porsche, Audi, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, BMW, Mini, Jaguar and Land Rover.
Doran Lincoln-Mercury-Comet would have been this schoolboy’s dream. Looks like me standing behind the 1962 Continental sedan on the elevated display.
My favorite Lincoln-Mercury dealership was Arkport Motors, Arkport, NY. bugged my father to drive in to drool over the Lincolns every time we drove through that town. The time frame was late 1950’s-mid-1960’s.
For those of you familiar with Son of Svengoolie or the Rich Koz show, I only have one thing to say about Suburban Nash Sales…
Apparently the location is now a Kia dealership, but the original building is no longer there.
Some nice variety of architecture here, and some familiar sights and names as well. Swanson Ford in Los Gatos, and Fremont Dodge in Fremont, both in California. It was either at that Dodge dealership, or an adjacent Mazda store, that I helped a girlfriend’s sister by a used Corolla Liftback in 1980 or ‘81, which might even be the date of that postcard, judging by the Colts and Omni’s. Towne Ford is, or used to be, in Redwood City though a vague memory suggests that showroom became a Mazda dealership. As I’m sure is the case in other parts of the country, the in-town dealerships in the Bay Area became too large for their “auto row” locations, and moved to empty land by the freeways. In our case, both Redwood City and Fremont have sprawling “auto malls” with acres of inventory off highways 101 and 880 respectively, close to the Bay.
I think the Towne Ford showroom (one of them, there were two across the side street from each other and I think even either the used car center or the body shop on the west side of ECR) became an Acura dealer. Mazda was further north from what I recall as late as 2010, much closer to or even in San Carlos in a larger building.
Well, it’s a cloudy rainy day, so I need a closed car. Think I’ll stop by Holland Lincoln Mercury and pick up a Capri coupe.
But is that a Pantera in front of the showroom?
That Van Winkle Motor Co. ad – “Lark – Pontiac – Mercedes-Benz – Tempest” – wow, those newfangled ‘compact cars’ just weren’t accepted as members of their families in the early days…
Glad you noted the Pontiac-Tempest dealer still had Lark and M-B in 1961. That was leftover from 1958-’59 when Studebaker, in its effort to broaden their dealer coverage which had been rapidly diminishing, gave franchise “Lark” contracts to Big Three dealers for 1959 on the promise of having a compact to compete with Rambler and the imports. M-B came along with the package as S-P was the U.S. distributor for their cars since 1957. Notice as well that they advertised “Lark”, not Studebaker, as did many of those dealers then who took the franchises. Studebaker was becoming the ‘kiss-of-death’, something to avoid at all cost. Even when advertising the 1959 introduction, the company promoted it as “Lark! by Studebaker” downplaying their name in association.
Its a very good likelihood that Van Winkle Pontiac-Tempest dropped the Lark franchise shortly under pressure from their sales district representative and the downturn in Lark sales. They might have retained the M-B franchise as it showed promise. No note is made of Vauxhall, which not all Pontiac dealers took on as a stopgap before the Tempest arrived.
There’s a Mercedes-Benz dealership at that location today (Park Place M-B), not surprisingly given it’s the only one of those brands/models that survived. I didn’t know some dealerships were selling just Larks but not other Studes; seems ridiculous given that Larks accounted for the vast majority of Studebaker sales at that point so it wouldn’t make much difference if the whole Stude line was offered. But why was Tempest separated from Pontiac? Unlike Comet and Valiant, Tempest was a Pontiac from the get-go.
Pontiac dealers liked to emphasize the new Tempest just sales promotion but it was always titled “Pontiac Tempest”.
The only other Studebaker during the Lark years was the Hawk, while they likely had the franchise to sell it too, its unlikely they bothered with it unless a customer specifically requested it. Selling Lark was a stopgap measure until their own brand compact became available.
They also had the Champ pickup and some larger HD trucks, and later the Avanti
I’ve been wondering about the Lark dealerships, so thanks for the explanation.
Jim Salerno Pontiac on Rt. 10 in Randolph, NJ (later Salerno Buick/GMC, now closed) had this great horse statue out front. Recent Google street views show the horse is gone now, and I wonder what happened to it.
I thought I knew a lot about cars. But my new knowledge takeaway from this series is learning how much the early compact cars were treated so differently.
By the time I was old enough to pay attention to car dealerships, let’s say 1969 or ’70, car dealers simply sold a full line of cars. But apparently in the early 60s, compact cars were so differentiated from the mainline that dealers carried signage for cars like Lark, Comet, and Tempest. I do remember that at introduction, the Valiant was considered by Chrysler to be an entirely separate marque, and that would make sense to have distinct “Valiant” signage on a dealership. But I think that only lasted a year or two, before the nameplate was folded into the Plymouth line.
The compact car was more of a sea change than I’d previously understood. Learn something new every day.
Comet was also a separate marque for the first two years before becoming a Mercury. But yes, the new smaller cars were often treated as if they were separate brands in the early ’60s and later, with the marque names often signifying only the full-size models. For example, Ford advertisements of the time for example touted the “Ford family of fine cars – Fairlane – Falcon – Ford – Thunderbird”, with “Ford” in that context meaning, you know, the real Ford, the big ones. This usage continued into the early ’80s; the 1981 Pontiac brochure gave specifications for each car line as LeMans, Firebird, Pontiac, Phoenix etc., with “Pontiac” being the Catalina and Bonneville. Chevrolet dealerships in the late ’70s had brochures for Chevelle, Camaro, Nova, and Chevrolet, the latter being just the Caprice and Impala.
The Comet was originally supposed to be the Edsel Comet. The 1960 Comet was a mid-year introduction, while the Edsel was terminated early during the 1960 model year. Some of the exterior trim parts on early Comets have Edsel code numbers.
The Comet was a big success, and provided vital business for Lincoln-Mercury dealers during the early 1960s. Whether it would have sold as well as it did if it had sported an Edsel nameplate is an interesting question.
Valiant is interesting, because it was advertised under the tag line, “Nobody’s Kid Brother,” for 1960. That didn’t last long, particularly after corporate management noticed that the new 1960 Dodge Dart had stolen so many sales from the Plymouth that the latter marque had tumbled far from its coveted third-place ranking.
Thus, Valiant sales were folded into those of Plymouth Division for 1960, and in 1961 the car was officially known as the Plymouth Valiant.
For whatever reason, Valiant remained a separate marque in Canada through 1966. The early Barracudas there were Valiants, not Plymouths.
On the Valiant being folding into the 1961 Plymouth line, Dodge dealers received their own version in the ’61 Dodge Lancer.
Here’s an intriguing question: for 1959, many Ford dealers had an Edsel franchise foisted upon them as the stand-alone Edsel dealers failed. They handled the Edsel of the short 1960 model year, of course, while the new Ford Falcon was their hot new car. But, was the Edsel franchise cancelled or was it simply rolled over to allow them to sell the new Comet as well? Can anyone produce proof of a Ford-Comet dealership for 1960-’61?
Poor little Jet. It was so awful that the Continental Kit gave the buyer something else to look at, so he didn’t have to burn his eyes by looking directly at the car. Like an eclipse reflector.
The dealer was undoubtedly trying to copy Ramblers, but it didn’t work. ’53 Ramblers were well-proportioned and looked sort of jaunty, if not sporty, with the tire. Jets just looked horrible with or without any accessory.
Pic #4 reminds me of a car version of Edward Hoppers “Nighthawks”.
Is that Vince’s Torino in Picture No. 7?
And look… Paul’s favorite car in white, a ’72 LTD!
Interesting that Bob Bauer Plymouth is apparently only selling Plymouths…by 1966, Chrysler and Plymouth were fully paired at the dealer and divisional level. I would think that most dealers would have wanted also wanted the franchise for the more upscale Chrysler brand to garner additional sales during the booming mid-1960s.
One wonders how that AMC dealer felt about spending money to expand his facilities after the 1974 Matador coupe and 1975 Pacer failed to make much headway, and he was stuck relying on obsolete Hornets and Gremlins for most of his sales by 1977. Perhaps rapidly growing Jeep sales made the investment worthwhile.
Many small town DeSoto-Plymouth dealers after the demise of DeSoto soldiered on with only Plymouth, especially if they were near larger town Chrysler-Plymouth dealers that covered much of the same territory.
Fortunately for Mr. Valiton his store was just a stone’s throw away from the Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio so he made out fine.
Bob Bauer Plymouth sure has a fine stock of ’66 Valiants on display!
I’m having no luck identifying anything like the bright, apparently metallic green on the Omni near the left edge of the Fremont Dodge pic. Neither Paintref nor AutoColorLibrary suggests anything like it was available ex-works.
That Packard dealership appears to be the one that was on the corner of The Alameda and Rhodes in San Jose, CA. The building is still there pretty much in the same condition but without the Packard signage.
I thought it looked like something in the Bay Area. I wonder if there were other dealerships along that stretch of The Alameda which has some stunning 1890’s to 1930’s architecture. By the time I was aware of dealerships in the early sixties, my town (Berkeley) had really only one classic pre-war dealership building, for Maggini Chevrolet. A small showroom and no street side lot for as long as I lived there, through the late seventies.
Yes, I think there were several dealerships on that row. I seem to remember reading about them, but damn if I can remember where now!
Lorenz Bros Buick was on the southside of Lansing MI. I remember going with my grandfather in ’88 or ’89 to buy his last LeSabre although it may have become Glen Buege Buick by then.
Apparently that became LaFontaine Buick/GMC last summer. The sign graphics have been updated and they had to add the corporate look entryway, but otherwise the 1960’s building is intact.
Their original downtown location had been replaced by a parking lot by the time I remember, and that in turn became a state office building a decade ago.
I remember Kellum Nash from their days as a Datsun dealer. Kellum Sez Sellum!
I want everything in the showroom at Benjamin Pontiac. My dad owned the Catalina (in white with black vinyl roof, 400 2-barrel) and I, later, owned the Grand Prix (SJ, dark green with vinyl roof, 428 H.O.), both bought used. I used UP that 428. Gimme a break, I was 20. Damned thing felt like a 747 pushing you. His Catalina was very nice, a pillared sedan like the one in the foreground. My favorite car year…I was 12 in ’69. Now I drive a Honda and GM is the worst car on the planet to me. And they did it to themselves, as we all now know. Sins, sins, sins. Not those ’69s, though.
Wonderful! Thanks for sharing these Paul, I spotted your post last night and excitedly saved this for my morning lockdown reading!
I too feel the love for those Capris outside The Holland dealer, they look so much more exotic in this setting in comparison to how they would have been here in the UK during my childhood in the late 70’s – 80’s – by then if any were left they were tatty old rust buckets either just about on the road or rusting away on driveways and yards!
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