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Moments in Time Captured on a Los Angeles Freeway in 1959

Editors Note: We will be taking the Columbus Day holiday weekend off and will return again on Tuesday morning. Today’s Saturday feature is a look back to a pair of very popular articles posted here three years ago featuring freeway scenes in Los Angeles.

Last week a very popular photo of a freeway in Los Angeles taken in October of 1959, was featured here and today we return with four more images that are a part of the same batch. The press photos are courtesy of the USC Libraries and are titled “Venice Freeway” which has lead to some confusion since a reader commented that this is the Santa Monica Freeway. Perhaps these additional scenes with landmarks in the background will result in the location and roadway being identified.

Today’s images contain a number of interesting vehicles that date from the late-1940s up until 1959. Interestingly both a Chevrolet Cameo pickup and a 1959 Chevy El Camino are in one photo. Last week’s photograph contained a Mercury that was “nosed” (trim removed from the hood) and today a customized Studebaker coupe that has been “decked” is in one of the views. Do share with us what you find of interest in these images.

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50 responses to “Moments in Time Captured on a Los Angeles Freeway in 1959

  1. In the 2nd photograph, on the right side driving away, is a 1951 or ’52 senior PACKARD.

    In the 4th photograph, driving on the left, is a 1950 BUICKSUPER DeLUXE SEDANET.

    • Yes, I agree. Appears to be a 1952/53 “Patrician,” or “Cavalier.” 1954 senior Packard offerings did not have the three-piece rear window.

  2. In Photo #1, there’s a ’57 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser 4-door hardtop (w/retractable rear window) in the rear of the photo & another ’57 Mercury w/the standard wraparound rear window in right front. There’s also a late 40’s Mercury sedan & a ’55 Dodge 2-door hardtop.

    In Photo #4, 3 from 1959: an Oldsmobile Super 88 Holiday 2-door hardtop w/spinner wheel covers, a black Ford Country Sedan wagon & a Chevy El Camino.

    • The aptly named Turnpike Cruiser caught my eye, as well. But wouldn’t it be a ’58? It doesn’t have the backward-slanting backlight of the ’57.

  3. I sure would like to see another view of that Studebaker in the third picture. Although those coupes always did look more low and sleek than other American cars of the era, this one likes a bit lower and has a shaved trunk lid. it seems to be a mild custom. I really enjoyed these four pictures. A look into automotive history.

    • I agree about the light custom work on the Studebaket. In addition to the shaved trunk emblems, there might be shave door handles as well.
      Even Stude factory hubcaps (the clean raised discs with a concave center) were cool.

      (A repost, my first attempt disappeared).

  4. I question this being 1959… The last shot shows 3 “brand new” 1959 cars… what are the odds? Notice in the first shot, the Mercury Turnpike Cruiser has thin-whitewall tires, and so does the Buick in the last shot. Could you even buy thin-whites in 1959? I know they existed, since Cadillac used them on their Fleetwood Brougham, but were they commonly available in the aftermarket?

    • ’53 Pontiac Chieftan…looks like the ’50 Chevy has had some encounters as well… California freeways are not the safest places to drive ; a careless mistake plus a few seconds can result in multicar pileups and hours of lost time…not pretty, lots of flashing red and blue lights , ambulances and tow truck wreckers.

  5. Nothing but the curb of a traffic island separating the flows of traffic, and we thought nothing of it at the time. Construction was always under way on the LA freeway system in the 1950’s and 60’s. That could be my mom driving the 1958 Ford convertible. That’s what we had at that time, plus the 1952 Ford Country Squire station wagon. No traffic jams either. The roads and population were balanced in those days. Nobody saw the population tripling in just a couple of decades while the roads stayed the same size.

    • This isn’t high speed traffic, at least in the first photo. Two drivers, at least the one in the ’58 Impala.,would not be comfortable with their arms outside at speed.

  6. Two of these photos show just how much progress was made in cars in a short period of time. In the first picture compare the 47 or 48 Mercury with the 57 or 58 (I believe it has 58 wheel covers) Turnpike Cruiser. in the second picture compare the 58 Fairlane Sunliner with the 49 or 50 Chevrolet behind it.

    • But in the photo with the ’53 Studebaker, it’s just the opposite. The Stude is the oldest car in the picture, but the sleekest, most streamlined car by far. At least from a stylist’s point of view things were headed in the wrong direction!

  7. Curious, out of all the cars in all the fotos the only “luxuries” are the ’51 Senior Packard going away, foto 2 and the ’59 Continental in the crowd under the flyover, foto 3… strange in California, yet and not a Cadillac to be seen/found.

  8. Again, the road in the photo is not the Freeway per se, that is the overpass being built in some photos. We can see the wide boulevard heading north towards the Wilshire District or Hollywood, not sure of which of several streets this is. My bet is either La Brea or La Cienega. The ‘Venice ‘ Freeway was another name for the Santa Monica Fwy, but never gained much traction among Angelenos, basically since it fed into Santa Monica and and the Pacific Coast Hwy north of Venice. There is now a short Marina Fwy (renamed due to political ramifications with the first name) but it only crosses one major blvd nothing like those in the photos. It does drop off near Venice though. My guess is La Brea Ave. as it still has 6 lanes and runs perpendicular to the overpass.

  9. I’ve done some perusing of Google Maps and Street View and I’m 95% certain that the photos were taken on Interstate 110 (The Harbor Freeway) at the point where it passes under the then-under-construction Interstate 10 (Santa Monica Freeway). In the picture with the custom Studebaker you can see a rather big multi-story building directly above it, framed in by the farthest-from-the-photographer overpass; I’m convinced it’s the Crescent Arms, which still stands on the northwest corner of West 8th Street and Beacon Avenue.

    • I believe that this is the correct identification. The last photo shows the Malinow & Silverman Mortuary that was at 850 Venice Blvd. The Salvation Army Divisional Headquarters in the same photo was at 824 Venice Blvd.

  10. 57 Turnpike Cruiser in the first photo shows how warm it was on this day. Window down, vent window turned to “scoop” in as much air as possible. Too bad this driver didn’t lower the rear breezeway window to allow the air to pass through the interior as Ford had engineered!

  11. The truck coming at us in #3 is a late ’50’s ( although, they changed little) International R-190 probably with a Red Diamond 450 in line 6 gas job, pulling a “Thrifty Cut Rate Drug Store” wagon with the A/C on full blast ( wing windows wide open) Apparently, Thrifty/ PayLess Drugs were pretty big there. I agree, the Poncho got stuffed pretty hard in the door. I remember lot’s of cars years ago, were still driven after a major accident like that, as long as it rolled. Don’t see that anymore. And the milk truck appears to be a late ’50’s Chevy Low Cab Forward ( 5400 series ?)

  12. Tom makes a lot of sense. The last pic shows the road as being elevated, something I missed. Harbor Freeway sounds about right, though it is pretty bleak without a real center divider. However, the Harbor Fwy had just such a low level divider at first.

  13. The 59 Lincoln in the third picture is Contineltal MK. IV it oo has the retractable rear window like the Mercury Turnpike Cruiser

  14. Surprised that no one mentioned the Chevy Cameo in picture number 4. A pretty rare take away truck from the GM Motoramas. It’s even being used as a truck!

  15. Looking thru the rear window of the Ford in the second picture is a 1959 Plymouth, and I think, based on the grill, that it is a 4-door Savoy. We had a 59 Savoy in the mid sixties looked just like that. Ours had a white top and was “dusty rose” everywhere else.

  16. 3rd. photo Webb & White Const….Webb owned the NY Yankees I believe……fourth photo, silverman Mortuary is still there, but now it’s Manilow & Silverman…I hear people are still dying to get in there…..

  17. How about: THE MARINA DEL REY FREEWAY??? A FREEWAY FROM NOWHERE TO: NOWHERE: IN THE EARLY SEVENTIES, I WOULD USE THIS ROAD FOR MY PORSCHE- AUDI technical CLASSES , SO WE COULD USE THIS EMPTY FREEWAY FOR HIGH SPEED PEREFORMANCE TESTING AT FULL THROTTLE OR LESSER . A SAFE, FREE TEST TRACK with NO wear (other than German hot rods!!!) REAL TIME REAL APPLICATION TESTING plus no one around to write citations for 115 to 145 MPH PERFORMANCE TESTS! Thanks ! It made an excellent “Chassis dyno”!!! Edwin Winet

  18. In the 5th picture [4th expandable photograph], on the far left & traveling to the left, is a two-door 1950 BUICK Sedanet, either a Super or Special DeLuxe. Following this ’50 BUICK is a four-door 1956 BUICK Special.

  19. In the 4th photograph [3rd expandable picture], to the left of the STUDEBAKER in the foreground, is a four-door 1955 BUICK Riviera.

  20. In the 3rd picture [2ndexpandable photograph], driving toward the camera & to the right of the “Thrifty” truck, is a 1953 BUICK.

  21. Damn I say! Its only 9:30 am and already there are no less than 30 responses. Absolutely amazing, that is until I noticed the dates on all the posts. They are from late November or early December of 2016. Nearly three years ago! Oh well, at least I can enjoy looking at the photos – which is the most important thing.

    • An addendum: I didn’t bother to read the editor’s note which occurred to me only as an afterthought. After all it is Saturday morning!

  22. The lead image shows us one of the first Chrysler cars completely designed by Virgil Exner, a 1955 three tone Dodge. Exner gave Detroit stylists fits during his relatively brief tenure at Chrysler. His 1953 Desoto Adventurer remains a timeless classic in spite of being scraped.

      • Have to wonder if the model was a LaFemme, which targeted women buyers. It appears as though the driver is a woman, but to my knowledge the LaFemme markings were only on the forward —no pun intended— end of the front fender, out of sight in the picture. A small makeup kit and an umbrella were included with each car which really must have boosted demand, right? In the West Allis suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin there were three Plymouth dealers within a three block radius of S 60th Street and W Greenfield Avenue: Doering Dodge Plymouth, Hub Chrysler Plymouth and a Desoto Plymouth dealer the name of which I can’t recall at the moment. Each noon hour my friends and I would eat our bag lunches while heading to one of the three to inspect any new arrivals.

        • Hi Robert, the “LaFemme” had fancy spinner wheel covers that I don’t see here. I believe the Plymouth-DeSoto dealer you speak of was John Lubotsky on Greenfield Ave.

          • No Howard, don’t think it was Lubotsky, although he was a Desoto dealer back when. The place I have in mind was on the SW corner of 62nd and National. The beautiful curved pieces of showroom glass have long been replaced by concrete blocks and cement. It may have been Buran Desoto.

    • Without the word “Mercury” in script on the side of the hood, the Merc’s a ’46; notice the visor and the accessory spot light on the driver side. In 1959, all my buddies from Paul Revere and Emerson Junior High School in West L.A. had just received or were about to receive a supreme treasure, their driver’s license. For those of us who could entertain the thought of getting a real (not a project) car, the affordable and popular choice was something produced in 1950: Oldsmobile was a first choice for many but the ’50 Merc, Pontiac, or Chevy, along with the by then rare Studebakers were right up there. I can imagine a couple of my old friends from Paul Revere in that lowered Studebaker in the next to last photo. My pals and I had only begun to notice the smog in L.A. a year or two before this photo was snapped.

  23. Oops; on 2nd thought that Merc’s a ’42, not a ’46. My father was a partner in a Lincoln/Mercury dealership right after the war and would drive a different Mercury (usually) home from work every day. These were mostly used cars and my “job” was to rifle through the glove compartment and look under the seats for anything the previous owner might have left behind. In those years Mercury was a favored car of police officers and I sometimes found live 38 caliber shells which had gone astray in the glove compartment all of which I dutifully handed over to my father to be returned to the officers who had left them behind when they traded in their car. The 1942 Mercury had an easily identified double strip of molding on the front and rear fenders; how I missed seeing it in the above photograph is beyond me! Sorry if I’ve led anyone astray.

    • Now I’m completely flustered, the ’46 Merc’s had that double strip of molding on the fenders, as well. Please forget my misleading comment to the contraire.

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