Not quite done yet…
I like Chapin Used Cars, advertising “a complete stock of weatherproofed used cars”.
I’m sure that that weatherproofed used car reference refers to the cars cooling system. The postcard shows a New York dealership in the mid 1930’s, just around the time that ethyl glycol anti freeze was coming into mainstream use.
And I was picturing roof cement covering the rust holes.
I think it’s remarkable that Robert Duvall started out as a used car salesman, and also how he’s just not aged
I always felt special visiting BMC in San Francisco. Even if all I did was buy a part for my MGB.
I got the Jaguar X-Type serviced there a couple of times when I worked in the city. One was treated like royalty even with the bargain basement of the line and it was nice to get a rental car included even for routine same day service. All of those old dealerships on Van Ness were something special with glorious buildings and showrooms.
I believe it was built as a Packard dealership. It’s been replaced by a big modern office building. It should have been preserved as a historic site.
Hayward Dodge sure did embrace the custom van craze of the late 70’s. If they were anything like our local dealer, 5 years later that front line would have been jammed with tiny Omnis, Colts and Aries Ks. 1977-1982 were certainly game changing years for Chrysler dealerships.
They certainly did and probably made a lot of money while the Vanin’ craze was at its peak. I’m betting the had the best margins on the lot.
Oh, to go back to that time and buy some of those vans…
OTOH, it looks like I could still buy a brand new Dart or Duster, which would be my absolute first choice!
That Autohaus VW Porsche sign is just crazy. Almost looks like it was repurposed from being for something like a Motel or Restaurant.
I believe that dealership was in Tacoma.
Was there any major city that did not have a German car-related business called Auto Haus at one time or another?
I knew of one called The Old Volks Home.
Kapiolani Motors is the absolute first time I’ve ever seen Vauxhall signage on any US dealer. Google tells me Kapiolani Motors was in Honolulu. I believe Hawaiians were more amenable to the early “foreign” cars than mainlanders were. After all, Hawaii wasn’t even a state when Kapiolani Motors opened their doors in the mid 50s!
Vauxhall had a short run in the US, only the F-type Victor was imported from 1957 to 60 or thereabouts (some sources say a few ’61 FB-type Victors got in). They had a longer run in Canada due to Commonwealth tariff practices, while GM concentrated on Opel as their small-car captive import in the US. Since 1983 the Vauxhall brand has been used only in the UK, with products otherwise identical to Opel’s offerings.
Boy, could Earl J. Lance of Elyria, Ohio pick ’em or not? “Damn – Kaiser just announced they are shutting down car production. But not to worry, we’ll always have good ol’ Packard.”
And I loved Currin-Massey Dodge showing off those beautiful ’62 models. Were there ever that many people looking at a new 1962 Dodge at once in all of history?
All guys wearing white shirts. All the white collar employees in the place.
@JP: I was thinking the same thing…
Now, what’s this I hear about a merger with Studebaker?
He finally did get it right,securing a Buick franchise,and successfully operating for years after.
Packard had trouble recruiting and retaining dealers postwar. The successful ones were enticed away by Big Three sales representatives promising bigger volume and higher profits. That left the weaker, poorly financed outlets which were ill equipped to move the volume of cars needed. The Studebaker ‘merger’ was supposed to improve the situation with dual franchises but the Studebaker dealer organization was in the same lousy shape. Many took on imports in an effort to broaden their business as S-P waned. Some of the successful import dealers in the 1960’s and later had transitioned from the S-P dealer network.
Oh, hell yes to Currin-Massey, stocked up with brand-new 1962 Dodges!
What are those two imports at West Valley Dodge , just to the left of the sign ?
There are 3 cars to the left of the sign.
The red one is a late 50s or very early 60s Fiat 600.
The black one could be a Fiat 850, though not sure.
The white one looks like an early 60s Fiat 1100/1200 Europa
Those are all Fiats, a white 1100 wagon, a red 600 and the black coupe or roadster with hardtop is, I think a 1500. The dealership shown was in Los Gatos, California (West Valley refers to that side of what’s now, but was not then, known as Silicon Valley) with Los Gatos, Saratoga, Monte Sereno, Cupertino and part of San Jose.
Might be a 1500, I believe it’s a rear engined smaller car, perhaps an 850 spider, which looked so similar.
Europa, as well as Giardinetta or Giardineira (in Alfa), was a “model name” used for station wagons. That station wagon looks more like a later model because it’s line are quite straight and the front doors open rear to front, the older ones were suicide.
They look so small….all of 4 meters in length.
A Citroen dealership? How many of those were in the United States?
More than I would have thought. Here’s a 1959 ad that lists all of Citroen’s East Coast dealers.
Looks like the dealer in the postcard (Ward & Wallace) had two locations in Maine… in Brunswick and Auburn. I’m surprised that a dealer in a non-metro area would have a Citroen sign and six actual Citroens. I wonder what other makes Ward & Wallace sold?
Appaently, enough Citroen’s were sold in Maine to influence Stephen King to chose a Citroën to be Ben Mear’s car in his second novel “Salem’s Lot”.
In the “Foreign Cars” lot pictured above the Citroens, I recognize the Jags and MG’s, the Borgward and the Austin A35 (and also Standard?) sedans, but what’s the red car next to the gold Karmann Ghia?
Original Nash Rambler (’51-’52). Not quite foreign, but a compact.
Thanks, even after going back just now I don’t think I would have guessed that. Somehow the total lack of any tuck-under from the belt line down to the rocker panels is unlike anything I can think of from the Big 3 or even from France.
Dad got a new ’77 Monte Carlo at Shonlaw Chevy. I think they were on Sunset in Hollywood.
British Motor Cars – Celebrating 50 Years of The Same Leaks. (“The cars may change, but the drips remain the same”).
Import Motors (below the Citroen dealer card), there’s a blue TVR (and possibly a red one in the showroom, sleuths?) I can’t imagine inflated numbers of those ever reaching the former colonies, especially very few were cranked out in the Old Country. Given the rarity, I wonder if it is still with us?
Great stuff as ever, but it should have ended with the immensely drab Hyundai dealer pic, filled as it is with those bloody awful Excels and the future. And fade to black.
Or, now, to the eternal metallic grey.
Looking at some of the early import dealerships, you have to wonder what it was like selling non-domestic cars in domestic auto-centric environments. Was it a tough sell?
Wasn’t this back in the day when parts had to come from the manufacturer’s originating country? (“Well, we have to order a part and it won’t get here for two weeks.”)
Did they face any backlash from the public during recessions?
How many cars did they sell compared to their Ford and Chevy competitors? Enough to keep the lights on at least.
The demand for imports grew strongly all through the ’50s, for two reasons: many Americans were unhappy with how big the domestic cars were getting, and GIs that had been exposed to European cars during the war developed a taste for imports. Sports car racing and rallying was a hot activity on weekends.
It was all a reflection of how an increasing segment of America wanted to be different and express individuality, a foreshadowing of the 60s and 70s.
Import dealers came in three forms: the captive domestics (Opel, Vauxhall, English Ford, etc.) that were sold as a sideline at existing domestic dealerships. They didn’t have to, but many chose to add the imports for additional volume as import sales grew.
Then there were the better established multi-line import dealers, who usually started out right after the war with sports cars and expanded their lines. These dealers were usually fairly well capitalized and could offer knowledgeable service.
The last group were the little fly-by-night dealers, commonly gas stations or very small garages that took on obscure import brands that were eager for any kind of distribution. These little shops were pretty notorious for not having adequate parts and service, and gave many of the soon to be failed import brands a bad name.
VW was the shining example of how to do it right, forcing their dealers to invest in excellent facilities and service. But then VWs were hot sellers.
Import sales rose all through the 50s, and peaked in 1959 at some 10% of the market. In 1960 and 1961, import sales crashed (except for VW and a few other well established brands) due to the domestic compacts and the bad rep so many of the obscure imports had by then. Many of these little cars were not suitable to American conditions (much higher speeds and greater annual mileage), as well as the crappy service at these little dealers. Most of these small dealers folded up.
The 1958 recession caused a huge spike in import sales, as Americans wanted cheaper and more economical cars right at the same time American cars got even bigger than ever. That recession was very influential, as it also boosted Rambler and triggered the Big 3 to build their compacts. Americans wanted a wider variety of cars including smaller ones, and they got it.
Import buyers then that bought the makes which were ill-suited to American conditions and had poor dealer and parts support, soon found themselves at the “foreign car garage”. This was a single bay dingy garage with a solitary mechanic who was willing to work on foreign cars which many garages wouldn’t because ‘you can get parts for those.” It was easy to identify such places, there was a sea of broken-down foreign cars of all makes surrounding the building, many being cannibalized for parts in an effort to repair others. The most common response when the car owner ask how soon he could get his car: “In six to eight weeks, if I can get the parts.”
These places were still around into the early 1980’s, though the DKW’s, Borgwards, Austins, Morris’, Renaults, Citroens, Vauxhalls, etc. had generally been sent to the junkyards,
That should be “you can’t get parts for those.”
Ralph Oldsmobile in my hometown, Smithtown NY. That’s where my dad bought his 1973 Ninety Eight LS hardtop sedan. This a picture of my brother Timothy, me and my sister Jean getting into backseat.
That’s just Tim, this one is the three of us.
Great collection! Thanks!
Import Autos – ideal for an ID Saturday!
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