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Kodachrome Images: 1950s and ’60s Automobile Dealerships

For a change of pace today we are featuring a set of Kodachrome postcard images of four automobile dealerships. The lead image contains a view of Carlisle-Porter Continental-Lincoln-Mercury-Edsel located in Clearwater, Florida.

The upscale Carlisle-Porter building was designed by architect John Randal McDonald and located at 2085 Gulf-To-Bay Boulevard. Since the Edsel was only built and sold between the years of 1958 to ’60 this photograph dates to that period and the second picture (below) of the facility to the early-1960s.

Share with us what you find of interest in the photos found via the Flicker Vintage Car Showrooms Group.

Lincoln Mercury Comet 1960

  • This image of Carlisle-Porter Lincoln-Mercury-Comet via Electrospark is dated to November of 1960 which was after Edsel production had ended and the new Mercury Comet model was added.

George Duffy Chrysler Plymouth

  • This late 1953 image of George Duffy’s Chrysler-Plymouth facility via Alden Jewell, was located at 7919 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. The new 1954 models are in the showroom and the left over 1953s are in the process of being cleared out.

Packard, Kaiser, Henry J Dealer 1955

  • Earl J. Lance’s Packard-Kaiser-Henry J agency photo via Alden Jewell was located at 165 Cleveland Street in Elyria, Ohio 1955. According to Alden, after the demise of both automakers, Lange obtained a Buick franchise. Note the curved glass showroom windows.

Dave Cole Pontiac 1959

  • Dave Cole’s Pontiac dealership image via Alden Jewell was located on Admiral Wilson Boulevard, at the Airport Overpass, in Camden, New Jersey in 1959 when this photo was taken.

48 responses to “Kodachrome Images: 1950s and ’60s Automobile Dealerships

  1. I love the open air showroom at Carlisle-Porter. That would not quite work out well today! Interesting to see the Jaguar sedan in the prominent spot on the used car row at George Duffy.

  2. Great pictures, every single one!

    I see in Photo #3 that there’s a two-tone Jaguar Mark VII (?) sedan sitting on the used car lot. Traded on a ’54 Chrysler maybe?

  3. Really enjoy images of vintage car lots. There was a time, specifically shown here, when the car dealer was just the bee hive of activity. Young men, with their hands on their chin, wondering what beast to buy, family’s wandering around, wondering if they are ready for the new wagon. Kids on bikes,(like me) trying to get a glimpse of the new models, ( and colors, mostly Rambler) salesmen ( sorry ladies, mostly men) handing us free stuff, knowing full well, we’d bring our parents in. Sadly, today, most car dealers are full of people, in the lounge, watching Wendy Williams waiting to get their “fault codes erased” and very few actually looking at the new cars. I saw the Jag out front of Duffy as a marketing ploy. I doubt a Jag owner would even consider anything at that dealer, but it sure caught our attention. BTW, don’t forget used car dealers of the era. It’s where most of us did our car shopping ( especially, the “back row”)

    • I’m thinking the guy who traded in the Jag probably wanted something with more room, air-conditioning, power steering, brakes, seats and windows, automatic transmission and the most powerful engine in the industry, like that Imperial in the showroom!

      • The view of that Jag owner is that he was trading hs car for something that suited his situation at that time in his life all those years ago…..

    • Howard I love your humor! ” …. Sadly, today, most car dealers are full of people, in the lounge, watching Wendy Williams waiting to get their “fault codes erased” and very few actually looking at the new cars. ” My recent Jeep purchase at a Detroit area mega dealer proved this statement quite true. While I was taking delivery the service drive thru was lined up 10 deep and the waiting “lounge” had no empty seats! Maybe that Friday morning everyone decided to get a quick oil change! For reference this dealer group retails 1500 to 2000 units a month.

    • Howard, even then dealers went to auctions for late-model cars to fill their lots–the Jag I almost guarantee was acquired that way. It’s ‘tinsel’ to catch the eye, making it appear someone did indeed trade it for a Chrysler, when we know full well they didn’t.
      I was one of those kids on a bike, perusing the dealer lots especially in late July-August when I’d spot a transporter bringing the new models. O’Daniel Oldsmobile here in Omaha knew me quite well. Bernie O’Daniel played golf with my Dad at the club, and I knew his 2 sons Mike and Tim. I have a clear vision of the INTENSELY hot August afternoon a truckload of new `68’s arrived! My friends thought I was nuts, but I was in that back lot for at least 3-4 hours, looking at and noticing the changes from `67 to `68 on all of them. A metallic marine blue Cutlass Vista Cruiser with roof windows and power everything had me in a trance. Such was that summer for this 7 year old that year!!!

      • The Chrysler dealer is in Hollywood, so who know what happened.
        Perhaps the Jag owner got married, had a child and needed more room?
        Or perhaps he had a change in income and had to make the switch.
        Or it just could be he ended to change his image from “sporty rake” to Imperial driving country club member.

        Two tone Jag..wonder if Barris had a hand in it?
        Remember, he worked on a few Jags in that period. A champion boxer (sort I can’t remember which…)and Barry Goldwater to name two.

        But Will may be right, perhaps it was placed on the front row very much on purpose.

  4. The building of the Packard dealer reminds me of the dealerships in Queens, New York, and Nassau County when I was a growing up.

  5. A little google street viewing finds there is a Lincoln dealership at the Carlisle-Porter Continental-Lincoln-Mercury-Edsel location. I cannot determine if it is the same building or not. What is there is a very different style but considerable remodeling might hide the remains of the original structure. George Duffy’s Chrysler-Plymouth building doesn’t exist any longer. Earl J. Lance’s Packard-Kaiser-Henry J agency building is still there and is a salvation army location. Couldn’t find the pontiac dealer’s location. Made a few guesses, if I was correct the building no longer exists.

      • I think the Lincoln dealership is an entirely new building. It doesn’t appear to me that there’s any the old building could be remodeled into the current building anyway.

        I couldn’t figure out where Admiral Wilson Boulevard at the Airport Overpass was, but Admiral Wilson Boulevard isn’t very long. It appears to me that the Enterprise Rental Car location near South Crescent Boulevard could be the same building with some remodeling.

        • You are correct. The building is now an Enterprise Location. The “Airport Overpass” was always known as “Airport Circle”. The was an airport located on the other side of the circle. It was also the location of the first drive-in theatre.
          I remember as a kid in the 50’s riding our bikes down to Admiral Wilson Blvd to peek through the fences in the back of dealerships to see the new models before they came out. The Boulevard was known as Auto Row–Chevy, Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Pontiac dealers were all there.

    • The open-air Carlisle building was torn down completely and replaced after the Auto Nation Group bought it from the Carlisles. I worked at the dealership as an electric specialist mechanic from 1988 to 1994 and the old open-air building was still there. I even had a meeting once with Dan Carlisle and his office was actually at the top of the roof under the center window. You had to climb a crazy set of stairs to get to the second level where the clerical pool was, then one more small set to the Big Guy’s office.

      It’s great seeing these two images, as it answered quite a few questions about why the front office building was like this, where the dual service drives section was behind it, then the main showroom and salesmen’s offices (a newer building) was to the right.

  6. The upper Carlisle-Porter is from 1959, the lower one from 1961. Note how Comet has a prominent posting on the sign. I believe that when Comet was first introduced it was a separate marque, like Valiant was neither Chrysler or Plymouth.

    I seem to remember this building being featured in the 1962 Ford Annual Report for the stockholders.

    I don’t believe the Jag to be a prop, considering Jag reliability in those days.

    The Kaiser-Packard dealership is an odd pairing. I don’t ever remembering that match-up. I’m guessing the Packard came later, judging by the Kaiser emblem being centered on the façade. I believe the Packards and Clippers are 1956, so any Kaisers would have to have been leftovers.

    These pics are a treat. Thanks!

    • So, what you’re saying is: This hapless dealer, seeing his Kaiser franchise evaporating, decided to take on Packards. What do you suppose would be next? I think Renault would be testing the US waters shortly.

    • The Comet was originally planned to be part of the Edsel line-up in 1960. When FoMoCo saw the writing on the wall and canceled the Edsel the Comet was introduced on its own that year. Later it became part of the Mercury line.

    • Mike and Hank, when the Comet was introduced in March of 1960, their brochures, dated March, 1960, mention “Lincoln-Mercury Division of Ford Motor Company introduces the new Comet.”
      The fact that the cars had no Mercury badging on them is often confused with them being a “stand-alone” model.
      In contrast, the Valiant was referred to in Chrysler Corporation brochures in 1960 as “Valiant is nobody’s kid brother. It stands on its own four tires…”

      • As far as I am aware the Comet was in fact a stand alone brand for two years before officially becoming the Mercury Comet in 1962, which shortly afterwards was given a larger companion model appropriately named the Mercury Meteor (which had previously been a Canadian badge name for quite some time) The 1960 Comet had in fact been christened as the Edsel Comet but when Robert McNamara, who was the head of the Ford Motor Company at that time, decided to pull the newly restyled Edsel off the market in late 1959 the Comet was sold as a Lincoln-Mercury offering but was unaffiliated with either make for a couple of years. Incidentally, the first year that the Comet came out its sales surpassed all previous sales of the lowly Edsel, and by the end of its second year had about reached the 300,000 plateau. So whatever money Ford lost with marketing the Edsel it likely made back with brisk sales of the Comet.

        • I never understood the reasoning behind FoMoCo’s claim that they lost over 250 million on the Edsel. It was mostly Ford and Mercury parts.
          I attended a car show at Amelia Island recently and a 1958 Edsel Ranger convertible was featured. It did not have the push button auto transmission. Was it an option?

  7. Great pics! The Earl J. Lance dealership did in fact become a Buick dealer and was for many years. Having lived in the area, and knowing the climate with smaller, family-owned dealerships, I suspect the franchise is now part of the Spitzer dealer network, though the building’s fate is unknown to me as I moved away about ten years ago.

    • It’s now a Salvation Army Thrift Store. A bit of a come down in market bracket from the average Buick (or Packard) buyer, But the Salvation Army does great work!

  8. Hey Mike C…. You reminded me of a joke my dad used to tell. Detroit’s building a new car. It’s a cross between a Valiant and a Comet. They call it a Vomit. It has a throw up hood, bucket seats, and a horn that goes brarff! He probably got it from the Ed Sullivan show. Sorry everybody.

    • That car combo morphed in later years to: heard that Toyota is partnering with GM’s Chevette. Will be called ToyLette. Just as bad. The thing that I remember from my childhood at car dealerships in Buffalo, NY was that the dealer would soap the inside of the showroom windows prior to the Grand Opening Day each year so that you couldn’t see the cars clearly. Just a hazy, gauzy idea of styling and colors. Made for great anticipatory excitement. On then on the BIG DAY, there would be a few searchlights in the lot. Was like the Academy Awards. Never got old to me and my brother. My father, right up to when he got too old to drive, would go to his favorite car dealer at least one evening a week. His car didn’t need service. Was like going to the Cheers Bar where everyone knows your name. And why not? Good for him. Rest in peace dad. Love you and miss you.

      • The Chevy dealer in the small town I grew up in would covet the windows with brown paper and there were always a few little “accidental” tears in the paper that you could get a peek through, never big enough to see much of anything. New model day was always a very big deal back in the late 50s when things changed a lot from year to year.

        • In October of 1956 my brother and I went to the local Ford garage to see what was up with the car out front, covered with a heavy tarp. The sign said “1957 Ford, longer, lower, and all new” We pulled the tarp back and found a 1954 Nash, sitting on it’s hubs. That dealer didn’t last long.

  9. Few things could cheer me up more than a Pontiac neon indian head at night.
    There used to be one in Orlando Fl at least up until the late 90s but it was eventually removed.

  10. David, haven’t checked in for a couple of days (down visiting the Elliot Museum in Stuart). Carlisle Porter became Carlisle Lincoln-Mercury in the 60’s, I think. Today, it’s an Autonation Lincoln dealership in the same location on Gulf-to-Bay, but the old building was demolished and replaced with stainless steel and chrome. Remember the story I sent you recently about the idiots in the Batmobile? One was Dan, the son of the owner of the dealership at the time.

      • Even smaller David , at the time I was a principal in a regional ad agency headquartered in Clearwater , FL and the Carlisles were my clients for years, we were responsible for their advertising , promotions, receptions and various sponsored events in the area… even though it was a Ford, the Carlisles were influential enough in the Ford Motor Company nationally to warrant the introduction of the widely internationally acclaimed Pantera in Florida… I got to drive it (brite, brite yellow) home one day before it was sold at a really exclusive evening reception, promoted statewide- not quite black tie, but close-and part of the deal was…it was to remain on display for a week before it was delivered. It was a big week-long event, the dealership had never had such traffic , they sold 6 that week and the other products kept pace as well The dealerships owner Mr H.H Carlisle’s son Dan ran the operation for years after his fathers retirement, and only passed this year about 3 months ago. His son Steve is still in the car business locally.

  11. No window price stickers in the early Carlisle pic, but the later pic has the federally mandated stickers in place. Up until then, no one had any idea what the list price of a car was and some dealers printed fake price lists to show customers. There was a Buick Dealer in Newark, NJ, in the late fifties, (one of several Buick dealers in Newark at the time) who advertised that if a customer bought a new Buick at list price, they could come back in the following year and trade it in for a current model year, exactly the same, for no extra money, They sold lots of Buicks using this ploy, then folded shop before the next year models came out. This was before the list price stickers were required. Don’t remember if there was any prosecution of the principals of the dealership though.

  12. At right i see an early Jaguar MK VII.
    Happy to see an example of this magnificiënt car
    I drive a car like this (1960 Jaguar MK IX) since 1993; even Route 66 shipped to USA.
    They saved Jaguar cars from beïng extinct after the war.

    Henk van den Berg, Netherlands.

  13. Architect John Randal McDonald (first photo) was originally from southern Wisconsin. In 1970-71 a friend and I rented his former Russet Street home in Racine. It was a beautiful split-level home but had a bit too much glass and was not well suited for such a cool climate. At the time we lived there I believe McDonald was living in the US Virgin Islands, but he may have been in Florida for a while as this image suggests.

  14. ALDEN! Thank you, thank you, thank you. Incredible photos, and a lot of work on your part. You definitely contribute time, talent, and expertise to the rest of us. Much, much appreciated.

    • Mike, convex windows better allow you to see what’s behind them…unlike the reflected images seen on the adjacent flat windows
      Among those reflection on the right might be a pale blue ’54 Mercury.

  15. Love the photos and the stories in the comments that follow. Growing up in a small town, we had a Ford dealership that was one of the first Ford dealers in Virginia. The show room only held 2 cars. I can remember each year when the new models came out, going down there and pleading with the owner to give me one of the now last years scale models. I was successful in getting first pick of the models for many years.

    • I remember those models. A couple years they did kits and I got a Model A once. Sure wish I’d kept those things

  16. It’s early 1955 at the Earl J. Lance Kaiser-Henry J-Packard dealership, both the red and white 400 hardtop and two-tone green Clipper sedan are 1955 models. The Clipper shows the early production color configuration which had a down-swept trim change on the door to allow the area to color match the upper. That happened because the original pattern was deemed too similar to the ’55 Pontiac.

    Both Kaiser and Henry J were already dead, makes that seems so promising when the sleek Streamlined Moderne tile and curved glass showroom went up. Packard’s dealer network was in shambles by this time, new ones being signed up as quickly as old ones threw in the towel. So many had suffered years of waiting for restyled or all-new cars and the V8 engine while trying to peddle stale merchandise. Even worse, waiting for the next model year while lots were overstocked with leftovers caused by overproduction. It wasn’t a happy time to be a Packard dealer…and it would get worse.

    • 58L8134, I’ve seen the pictured version of the original ’55 Clipper Sedan (Custom and Deluxe)-only side trim in a Packard brochure as well as on a full clay proposal, which, as you say, does have a similarity to the ’55 Pontiac. To alleviate that, they added the down-swept enclosing trim you wrote of on the lower part of the front fender and door, somewhat like the forward portion of a typical Buick’s side trim that began with the 50 Roadmaster.
      In the same brochure, that piece of trim already appeared on both the Constellation and Panama hardtops. So later Clipper Sedans merely borrowed the Constellation/Panama hardtops’ trim design theme.

      But the Sedan and Constellation/Panama side trim proportions are not the same. On the Sedans, the upper portion extends straight ahead about 10”ahead of the rear fender bulge…before curving upward to the A-pillar. And the lower enclosing portion ends about 18” ahead of that bulge on the 4-door’s shorter front door. On the Constellation and Panama, the upper part of the trim begins its curve towards the A-pillar at the lead edge of the bulge while the lower portion extends farther to the rear, ending at the rear edge of the 2-door’s longer door. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s there nonetheless.

      Interestingly, the design of that front fender/door-enclosing trim was apparently a part of an earlier-rejected proposal in the Packard studio…one that included a front to back straight piece of trim, just above that enclosure…which gave the proposal a three-tone separation, later used on the ’56 Caribbean.

    • In Newark N.Y. (small town upstate, on the Erie Canal) in 1955, the local Packard dealer was also an International Harvester dealer.

  17. The photo of Carlisle brings back memories of my time at Northgate Lincoln Mercury across the bay in Tampa. It also had a open air showroom. Every one was required to wear a suit and tie and the fashion at the time meant a vest also. Talk about sweating ! I used to go home at lunchtime just to change because I was soaking wet. The dealer principal was Jack Parks, great person ,and thought me how to act like a professional not like a typical car salesman. Thanks Jack

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