Vintage Dealers: Lots Of Larks In Iowa – The Whattoff Motor Co.

Here’s a nice bunch of Larks at the Whattoff Motor Co. in Ames, Iowa. And if this image from 1959 compels you to shout ‘fleet cars,’ you’d be right. These Larks are soon to join the ranks of the Iowa State Highway Commission.

Like a lot of auto-related businesses, the Whattoff Motor Co. started as a gas station. They also provided a number of auto-related maintenance services, eventually adding a Studebaker dealer in 1947.

The Whattoffs apparently went for some eye-grabbing promo displays to get Stude sales going, which started rather slowly. By ’51, however, sales finally picked up and the company moved to a new location in 1955.

Despite the newfound prosperity, promotional stunts remained part of the company’s practice. When Studebaker’s new V-8 Lark appeared, the Whattoffs had a salmon-colored unit permanently cruising Ames’ streets. Its mission was to impress the locals, with the new Lark leaving stoplights at an astonishing pace.

However, the Whattoff’s main claim to fame was their ‘Trailer Toter’ division. An invention of Vernard Whattoff, that provided telescopic frames for the truck business. Studebaker, International and Ford were some of the brands the company worked on. A link to the Whattoff’s history is available online, though it’s hard to navigate (the links don’t work, and typing the page number is necessary).


Further reading:

Curbside Classic: 1959 Studebaker Lark VIII Royal Hardtop Coupe – Studebaker’s Last Hurrah