Let’s take a look at some more vintage dealerships from Alden Jewell’s collection. The excitement about the new Edsel was palpable; too bad it didn’t turn into steady sales for this new dealer.
A sampler from Alden Jewell’s Flickr page
Benson Chevyland of Roswell, GA was known as Delta Chevrolet in the 1980’s. The building has since been torn down and replaced with self-storage units. The Dairy Queen (building with red roof) is still there.
The long-lived GM/Chevrolet branding on the pole lasted well into the 1990s at some dealers.
The showroom and service area looks very much like a farm equipment dealer. Dealer branding standards appeared to bottom out for a few manufacturers in the 1970s.
I could spend all day looking at these. They’re Dealin’ at Frank Stillwell Studebaker! But, Who in the world would have traded their T-Bird in on a Studebaker?!
Probably someone traded the Thunderbird for a Hawk. Or their fortunes were in retreat and had to trade down to a Lark.
JE French advertised Simca but had a couple of Skodas and a Fiat on the lot.
Breaux-Ballard-Warren-Proctor-Studebaker-Lark had an actual Simca.
JE French is in Berkeley, my hometown, and while I certainly remember Gil Ashcomb Rambler (shown on another card also) very well, I have no memory of the Simca Fiat store, or even the JE French name for a Dodge/Plymouth dealership. I’ll wrack my brain and maybe do a bit of searching to see who replaced French for that franchise.
I recognized the University of California’s Sather Tower in the background (I’m a Cal alumnus) which led me to deduce that Gil Ashcomb Rambler was indeed in Berkeley. It’s now a Toyota dealer (Toyota of Berkeley, with blue and gold lettering in its logo – naturally). Maggini Chevrolet was also a Berkeley auto dealer for many years.
My father bought a new ’63 Dodge Dart GT from J E French. I didn’t think much of it then, but now I kind of wish I had it.
My* 1962 Lancer was bought new at JE French!
*No longer mine; now it’s in Australia
Very appropriate JE French advertising Simca.
Intersting to see the various levels of success integrating Comet signs with the L-M signs.
Molyneaux Motors Lincoln-Mercury-Comet, Dansville, N.Y. had a prominent yellow neon Comet showroom sign glowing at night years after Comet became Mercury Comet and even after Comet had morphed into Montego.
Heh heh. Some places around Worcester I think Plymouth is still up on the signs.
If that is the Capitol Chevrolet in Nashville, and I’m not sure it is, you can read about the sensational unsolved murder of its owner here.
The facade and landscaping at Bray Oldsmobile looks remarkably modern for the late 1950s. It wouldn’t look that unusual in the 1970s, certainly not for a major maker, but as a unique signage for an independent dealer. The ‘Bray’ font looking lot like the popular ‘Countdown’ typeface introduced in the late 60s. In fact, the building itself looks okay. As those cosmic bulgemobiles on the lot look out-of-place. 🙂
It really has to be one of the first uses of computer style type in a commercial sign. I wonder if being in Redwood City, CA, was the inspiration?
Here’s a slightly different take on vintage car dealerships — I came across this sketch a few years ago… it’s of a “Mercury dealership” proposed here in Fairfax, Va. from 1965.
The architecture is quintessentially 1960s; the cars shown are of course deliberately anonymous – I’m doubt the architect had any affiliation with Mercury per se… rather it’s a generic (for the day) showroom. But very neat by today’s standards.
The dealership, incidentally, was never built.
That is a gorgeous marker rendering. Given how popular yet generic this look was, the architect could have resold this basic design to various dealership clients.
Demonstrating how common that architectural style was at the time, this is the grand opening ad for a lowly Ottawa burger joint at the time. Ironically, this drive-thru later became an Audi dealer who maintained this facade for years.
Yes, I was thinking that the architect used a standard template there. Oddly, there are/were lots of other car dealers in that immediate area, but none looked like this rendering.
I like the Royal Burger place too. And I find it ironic that the proprietor of Royal Burger was named MacDonald. I guess he couldn’t exactly name the place MacDonald’s, right?
Highly ironic you would make that point about MacDonald’s. As a MacDonald’s was built across the street from Royal Burger around 1972 and contributed to RB going out of business.
Director Bruce MacDonald is responsible for the dark comedy road movie ‘Highway 61’.
There is a shopping center near me that looks just like these. I thought it might be an old car dealer, but apparently not. It was a sporting goods store in 1970.
This was a common roofline and design for dealerships in the ‘60s/‘70s. At least two Ford dealerships in my hometown used a design very similar to this.
Under the headline: “My, how times have changed!”
The front row at Overland Park AMC/JEEP/Renault (circa 1982) is filled with Fuegos and LeCars, and other than the Wagoneer at the entrance, Jeeps appear downplayed.
The JEEPS were sold out.
LOL… This could be Fall of 1981 as even the underwhelming Spirit got greater exposure than any Jeeps.
Hard to imagine today a dealer anticipating French LeCars (with fabric sunroofs) selling better than any Jeep. 😕
No wonder Charlie Daniels felt compelled to write songs like this at the time. 🙂
I can’t imagine buying a new car from a guy working from an old converted gas station.
I can’t imagine how shocked and disappointed those window shoppers were when the Edsel was finally unveiled. What a hideous, yet mediocre, styled car. All that drama for a car that looked like that, sheesh.
Like waiting in line for a free Big Mac, then wondering what all the fuss was about after your first swallow.
How long did it take for the Grentner brothers to be proved wrong in picking the Packard franchise?
6-12 months, tops!
That advertised endorsement could have been the most profitable thing they did in 1956.
Reminds me of the prior installment in this series, which featured a dealer who was glad he switched to selling DeSotos in 1959!
Packard was having extreme difficulty recruiting and retaining dealers in the postwar years. Their better, more successful dealers were head-hunted by the Big Three filling out representation. Many used car and even farm implement dealers were signed up only to drop the franchise or switch to another when a better offer came along as Packard’s fortunes waxed and waned.
I used to deliver 7-Up and Royal Crown cola to the tiny crossroads in southern Kansas. Depending on sales, I would be there about once every two weeks. On delivery days, I sometimes felt like a celebrity. Town folks would be so interested in me, as though the hadn’t seen someone in the previous two weeks. So, I would imagine that for some of these little dealerships in these little towns, the annual styling change was a big event. A bit of the modern world showing up in a town that hadn’t seen a new building since 1929.
Charles and John Grentner may not have felt the same sense of satisfaction at choosing to become a Packard dealer a mere few years after this postcard was sent.
Wonder how the Grentner Brothers felt about picking a Packard franchise by the end of 1956? Did they continue into 1957-’58 by adding Studebaker, or take on that promising new car from Ford for 1958?
You laugh, but Grentner Brothers Yugo was a big hit in the 80s.
Don’t forget their monopoly of the Beanie Babies!
Nothing like the floating head of Tennessee Ernie Ford to sell Thunderbirds!
Country/Folk was big during these years. Andy Griffith, Peter, Paul & Mary, and all that stuff was popular along with Fess Parker, the Beverly Hillbillies and the US went through quite the craze. Tennessee Ernie Ford was a regular on TV and he had his own show. Considering his last name, it makes sense that Ford would cut a deal with him during this time. Probably not the new Thunderbird, but Ford’s major product lines. The popularity of the family wagons certainly weren’t hurt by Ford’s endorsement of Ford.
A WWII bombardier, Tennessee Ernie Ford was a megastar in the 50’s and 60’s. His defiant 1955 recording of 16 Tons was a huge hit; it sold 20 million copies despite the controversy surrounding the song and Merle Travis who wrote it. Ford’s work crossed over from country into pop and for a long time he was omnipresent on radio and TV. He no doubt helped to sell quite a few Fords.
He was an older version of Kenny Rogers, in many ways. It wouldn’t have surprised me if Kenny didn’t take into consideration what Ford had done twenty years earlier. Rogers crossed over through many genres of music throughout his career as well as Ford had.
Ford arrives on the scene with fellow chicken-fried entertainer, George Gobel. Both men were very talented musicians who mimicked Will Rogers.
Hey that one of a Rambler dealer is from Berkeley. The UC Berkeley Campanile is clearly visible in the background and then the Berkeley Hills beyond. The large building in front would be Dwinelle Hall as the 2nd largest on campus. The Lawrence Berkeley National Lab would be up the hillside. Telephoto lens cause some foreshortening but I wonder if the street is Telegraph Ave. in the vicinity of where People’s Park would be give or take.
The building which appears at the base of the Campanile looks to be either Durant or California Hall. Dwinelle Hall has a much “cleaner” facade, especially towards the roofline, though it would have been built around this time (the 1950s).
Not Durant as it has only three floors of windows and it is a square building. Shot is towards the north east, from the south west, while California Hall is west of Sather and ever so slightly north. Cal Hall also has a copper roof. So I’ll still go with Dwinelle, built in 1952, comprised of seven floors since it is on a slope. and it the 2nd largest on campus after Life Sciences. Had a class in Dwinelle, Wheeler, and Life Sciences back in 1977 when I started my four years in Grad School. Spent all my time after at the east side of campus when I wasn’t in Sproul Plaza watching the girls.
Gil Ashcomb was on Shattuck, where most of the car dealers were. Cross street was Channing, I think. Maggini Chevrolet was further north, closer to the University, on the east side of Shattuck at Bancroft, in an old building with a tiny showroom. The VW dealer was in an even smaller, old building on Shattuck. As I recall, of the major brands, only Golden Bear Ford was not on that auto row. I remember going to that Ford store when I was 6 or 7 to get a promotional model of a Ford Falcon, 1962 or ‘63. Of course, with just a few models to show in those days, showrooms didn’t need to be very large.
Another wonderful assortment to draw me down the rabbit hole again!
Capitol Chevrolet intrigues because it’s right at the end of the only-full-size era.
Edsel, Packard: I feel bad for dealers who jumped in when they did–and then the door closed only a few years later.
Bray Motors (Redwood City, CA): Led me to poke into early OCR (for checks and so on), developed 1950s by places like Stanford Institute and GE. Looks crazy-modern in your photo, and seems even more out-of-sync with the cars on the lot in this postcard (below).
BTW, my Bray search led me to learn that Bay Area car salesmen were AFL unionized in the 1950s, with some 200 of them striking at one point. Is that still a thing anywhere?
That’s an interesting question about unionized auto sales people. I wonder if car salesmen worked off of commission in the 1950s when that took place? Seems it would be mighty tough to unionize a commission-based workforce. I know some salaried shop workers (service personnel in auto dealers) used to be unionized, so I wonder if in some cases, the same unions expanded to the dealerships’ sales forces somehow? I’m curious about how that came to be, and what union represented them.
Eric703, I know nothing of this—all of it new to me today. Here’s a 1954 clipping that provides some info, though:
Fascinating. I had no idea. But then unionization was drastically more common in the ’50s; probably its high point. No; there’s no such thing anymore!
Thanks; I knew nothing about this either. I did some digging, and it seems that the Auto Salesmen’s Union was affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represented a fair number of retail workers.
Looks like the Auto Salesmen’s Union was around through the 1980s, as I found court cases coming as late as 1989. Every reference I found was from California, so I suspect that unionized car sales staff may have been a localized circumstance, though I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if there were unionization efforts elsewhere at some point, as well.
The guy at Stewart Avenue Chrysler-Plymouth is standing beside an identical copy of a ’73 340 Challenger that I had….except that we didn’t have a C/P dealer on our Stewart avenue, we had a Dodge dealer; and I rescued my Challenger from a junkyard! 🙂
For an outfit flyin’ such a big 3-pointed star, Nemeth seems to be completely filled and surrounded by no Mercedes cars whatever.
It is full of *real* Mercs. 🙂
Apparently this was a Lincoln-Mercury dealer in St. Catharines, Ontario. The MB star is indeed curious.
My college’s alumni magazine did a video feature some years back on some of the buildings on and near campus that formerly housed auto dealerships; the Boston Cadillac-Olds building was one of them.
Another great assortment. I think my favorite is the Chrysler-Plymouth dealer featuring a brand-new B5 blue 1968 Road Runner coupe (Magnum 500s and whitewalls!) on the lawn out front.
It’s funny how all the modern day “restorations” skip the whitewalls. They’d make you think they all had redlines back then
I think there’s another one in silver, or possibly a GTX, on the street.
Another interesting tidbit is that 1968 might have been the last year for the OEM chrome rim Magnum 500 wheels. At some point, they switched to the ones that had a matte-finish aluminum trim ring. Don’t know if the chrome rim was still around in 1969, but it was definitely gone by 1970.
To me, it’s kind of like the elimination of the vent windows, i.e., a passing of an era.
That little Ford dealer in Portland Indiana – I have never heard of them, but there had to be at least one of those in every county seat town across the country going back to the days of the Model T.
Interesting to me to see the ‘Cadillac Oldsmobile’ brand allocation in some of the photos. Growing up in Canada in the same era, the dealerships I remember were ‘Chevrolet Oldsmobile’ and ‘Pontiac Buick Cadillac’. Can’t remember who got the GMC brand.
I assume it was a sales & profit distribution calculation for each country. Oldsmobile may have been the lowest seller (after Cadillac), so pairing it with top seller Chevrolet probably made sense. I think ‘Cadillac Oldsmobile’ dealers would have had a tough time in the great white north.
There was no specific pairing of brands in the US. Some dealers just sold more than one brand. In Iowa City, there was a big Chevrolet-Buick-Cadillac dealer, and two smaller dealers selling Pontiac and the other one Olds. The pairing thing seems to be a Canada thing, due to the low population density.
Some GM pairings did seem more common though. Olds-Cadillac seemed common in western Iowa and Nebraska.
The Canadian dealer structure was Chev-Olds and Pontiac-Buick-GMC. Cadillac could be paired with either.
Here in Western New York, Chevrolet-Oldsmobile dealers were the most common pairings. In the larger prosperous towns, there were Oldsmobile-Cadillac dealers. The other most common GM pairing was Pontiac-Buick. Only one odd pairing of Pontiac-Cadillac together. GMC trucks were never paired with Chevrolet for obvious reasons, usually with any of the others.
Many new car dealers didn’t handle GMC because the truck market, especially for those heavier tonnages, was considered a specialized segment best handled by GMC-only dealers. We had a few such operations in the rural smaller towns. Unlike now, GMC’s reputation was for building heavier-duty trucks, far less for their half-ton models. Many old-timers swore the GMC was a better heavy-duty truck than the Chevrolet. We even had a GMC franchise held by a DeSoto-Plymouth dealer!
In the US Cadillac was usually a stand alone store, but I have seen other Cadillac Olds dealers. Chevy dealers were also usually stand alone stores, but I’ve seen a fair number of Chev-Olds stores. There were also a number of Olds-GMC and Pontiac-GMC, likely going back to when GMC trucks used engines based on the Pontiac and Olds designs. Pontiac-Buick-GMC was also pretty common.
However you rarely saw Chev-Pontiac, Olds-Buick or Buick Cadillac. I’m sure this was intentional since a the top model Chev could cost more than the bottom rung Pontiac and that top rung Poncho was into Olds territory.
Oldsmobile-Cadillac dealers were fairly common in smaller cities of the midwest. There wasn’t enough Cadillac business in those places, but there was enough that Cadillac couldn’t ignore it. Even in a city the size of Muncie, Indiana (which had a big GM manufacturing presence) bought its Cadillacs where it bought its Oldsmobiles (Bradburn Oldsmobile-Cadillac).
Great cards once again.
Some bring home how bad a bad dealership experience can be for the dealer. Can you imagine investing in Packard regalia for your store in ’55 or Edsel in the fall of ’57?
Got to be Capitol Chevrolet for me.
Agreed… I’ll take that ’58 Impala on the far right if that’s the only one you have.
But could I possibly see one in red and white, Mr. Salesman?
Liked the big sign over the Rambler dealership, “Our top salesman is Mr. Satisfaction”!
Fascinating photos. I, too, could drool over them all day.
Waco Datsun was located in Waco, Texas. They have moved twice since then, changed the name to Waco Nissan, and stayed in the same family up until about 5 years ago. I once worked with a feller that bought a new 280ZX from them in 1980, and as far as I know he still has it, waiting for some repair work that may never happen. The building in the photo was a Pontiac dealer before Datsun moved to town, and perhaps another dealer some time in the past. The building is still there housing a non descript business.
Very nice, thank you! I miss those days, the current crop of dealerships with their enormous, sterile environment and coffee bars do nothing for me.
See, isolation ain’t so awful, is it folks?
How wonderful this stuff is. A tumble through time and wishful nostalgias and then into reverie in every single card.
Amongst a lush choice of places to stop and wonder, it’s the b&w Hudson and Essex dealer interior from the ’20’s for me.
Potplants on stands, lampshades, carpets, a pressed-metal ceiling, fake pillars and a velvet curtain drawn over the mucky business of buying and finance, why, it’s a soundstage and a film set for sure. A gin and tonic and a Hudson it’ll be, my good sir.
What dignified way to get motoring.
I found this link, looking for the Boston Cadillac Co.
Not surprising the dealer is gone, but the article is a fascinating then and now look.
You can see cars on the second floor in the picture. The building (still) has ramps for driving cars all the way to the fifth story.
This one just hit my desk. It’s got a Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge dealership, a ’62 Lancer, and a Sinclair station with its unbeatable green dinosaur logo.
That’s in Grand Ledge, Michigan.
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