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Manny, Moe, and Jack hit a Home Run Selling Auto Parts

Many of you learned about the history of Pep Boys during the recent buy out offer from the Bridgestone Tire Company last year, followed by a winning bid and purchase of the stores by investor Carl Icahn this past February. For those of you, that missed learning about the chain, the first Pep Auto Supplies store was opened in Philadelphia by four friends in 1921. Meeting with success, that store eventually became a part of forty other stores in the Philly area. In 1923 the name was changed to “The Pep Boys – Manny, Moe, and Jack.”

In the thirties, the first store on the West Coast was opened in California, which led to further expansion in the State and today’s lead image taken on August 19, 1940, of a new store just before it was opened there. It is followed by interior views two other stores there pictured below.

Never having shopped at a Pep Boys store, it appeared to me to be a good time for to open up this post to readers that have, and ask them to tell us about their experiences buying auto parts and supplies or having a car serviced by the chain in the period leading up to the mid-sixties. If you have, please leave a comment about your experiences back-in-time.

The photos are courtesy of Pep Boys and were taken by photographer Jacob Stillman.

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  • Enlarged view of the lead image of a new store on August 19, 1940, shortly before it opened. 

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  • View of a new store in Santa Ana California on May 29, 1942.

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  • Postwar opening of a store in Bakersfield, California on April 13, 1948, above and below a circa 1930 view of an early store that also sold gasoline at the curb.

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36 responses to “Manny, Moe, and Jack hit a Home Run Selling Auto Parts

  1. Many places sold distilled water for filling batteries. I had a glass bottle of Pep Boys battery water. The paper label said, “Conforms to the chemical formula H2O”. I always thought that was pretty funny! (It’s water, after all!) I’m guessing that this was to awe the lesser educated of the day.
    Pep boys was my “go-to” place for bicycle parts. They had it ALL – and at very low prices that a kid like me could afford.

  2. Love the pictures and the inventory of the Pep Boys store. I could prowl auto parts stores by the hours for accessories for my cars as a teenager. I see a 1936 Buick fastback sedan with sucide doors and a 1939 Chevrolet coach in the first picture That Buick migfht be a ’35 with those doors suicide, tho.

  3. I recall going to the Pep Boys store in York, Pennsylvania, in the early-to-mid-1950s. My brother and I bought bicycle parts and accessories (lots of accessories!) there. They stocked stuff you didn’t even know you needed. Later we kept my brother’s ’28 Ford running with parts from that store and via mail-order from J.C. Whitney. Somebody should write a book about Pep Boys!

    • Frank, I’m trying to recall where the Pep Boys was in York back in the day. It seems I can’t place one before the current one out on US 30. I’m thinking that I do remember a Joe, the Motorist’s Friend on S. George across from the post office, though I could be imagining that. I wasn’t allowed to stray too far from home on my bike in the ’50s, and was too far from any stores to ride to them.

  4. Notice that in the first photograph, Manny has a large cigar protruding from his jaw. Alas, in today’s p.c. world, the cigar has vanished. Wherever Manny may be, he is, no doubt, very annoyed.

  5. They were fun because of all the neat doodads and shiny bits on display. For serious parts the counter man would look it up in a 10 ft row of catalogs, and bring it from the rows of shelving in the back. Those guys knew their stuff, and often just a glance at the greasy blob in your hand would send them off to fetch the right part.

    Then came computers and button pushers. I was leaving the local PEP Boys one day and noticed something hanging underneath my car. The fan belt was coming apart and the outside layer had separated. Luckily it hadn’t been lost and had the part number on it. Wow, I’m at PEP Boys and I have the part number, what luck.

    I went inside and showed the button pushed the part number, and he starts, make, model, year, options, etc. C’mon, here’s the belt, if you don’t have the brand, cross it over.
    ” No sir, I have to follow procedure.”
    OK, so I give him all the information to fill in the blanks on his screen.
    He brings me a belt that’s a foot to long, and I tell him that.
    “You must be mistaken Sir, the computer says that’s the belt.”
    Grrrr!

  6. We never had a Pep Boys in Wisconsin ( I believe the closest one was Chicago). The bicycle appears to be a “Derby Deluxe” sold at Pep Boys , I think made by Murray. It sold for $42.95, or almost $700 today. ( that’s a lot of newspapers) Used to be fun going to auto parts stores, now I dread it. It never is a good day when going to the auto parts store. And since we’re talking auto parts stores, you know what REALLY grinds my gears? You go all the way in person, standing there, while the phone gets top priority. Once I jokingly said, ( after the 2nd interruption), maybe I should call you on my cell. Truth be known, just about every auto parts store I’ve been in lately, they are always understaffed. A) either nobody wants to do that kind of work anymore ( years ago, we thought the auto parts store would be THE coolest job), or B) nobody knows enough about cars to begin with. 2/3’s of all those products we see are probably outlawed by now.

    • Right there with you, I would rather take a beating than go to the parts store these days for the same reasons! I worked in REAL auto parts stores from 68-94(except 71-73 when Uncle Sam needed me) Loved the job, hated it when the computers took over and decided I needed something to build some retirement on so the last 21 years I carried mail up and down the street, hated it but the money was good and retirement is great. I have one go to store that is decent and a couple of the guys there are not complete numskulls. I have the best luck when I can give them an old parts number to go by.

      • This is my opinion of Auto Parts Stores……….crap. I have been buying parts in the professional capacity for 40 years or more and lived in the times when gentleman would be proud to serve the customer and jobber with respect and professionalism. The parts counter person has gradually went from awesome to flatliner since the onset of computer based parts dealing. Gone is the intelligence of the counter person and here to stay is a glorified convenience mart counter person. Do yourselves a favor if you don’t own a repair business invent one. Call yourself Bob’s Auto repair and you get to talk to the commercial salesperson in the back. If your lucky it will be a female they are your new pros. Both of my go to parts stores have woman as the parts managers and they run circles around the boys up front. As for Pep Boys…..coming from a Pennsylvanian……..not good.

  7. I lived in the Philly area and spent plenty of time in Pep Boys. They were the only parts store that was open late on Saturday and on Sundays.

  8. I spent a lot of time in the Santa Ana Pep Boys. My father and grandfather would shop there for tires and accessories and I would buy bike stuff. Later on I bought tires as they were usually the cheapest for a high schooler’s budget. When I was in my early teens I would always check out the “brodie knob” selection with the pictures of the naked women in them.

  9. I remember going into the store at 6701 Market St, Milbourne, PA. Just outside the Philadelphia border. Used to go in the store with my grandfather. As a child I was under the impression that it was the original store.

  10. Years ago I broke the alternate air door cable on our Aeronca built (under license) PT-19A airplane. The cable moved a flapper door taking hot air from around the cylinders (not the exhaust like a normal airplane) and ducting it through the carburetor for anti-icing on the Fairchild Ranger 6-440-C5 under head valve engine. A quick trip to Pep Boys and back in the sir again. Airplane is still flying, although I don’t own it any longer, probably with the same cable,

  11. I never had the opportunity to shop at a Pep Boys store either, but if there was one that looked like the one in your first photo where I lived, I sure would have checked it out. The exterior design and details are just spectacular.

  12. That was the go-to store for anything I needed, and I need a lot for a ’40 Ford with a ’48 Merc engine. Broke two rear axles when I tried using 6-inch shackles. Settled on 4-inch.

    • When I was at UCLA (Undertakers College of Los Angeles) in 1981-82, The Pep Boys were still running strong. Sounds trite, but true nonetheless, but I enjoyed going to the store for a decent dose of nostalgia, in addition to seeing things I never conceived existed! And the meaning of the word “service” was evident in the personnel. They knew their wares.

  13. In the last picture, is that a 1924 Packard second series 226 six factory touring parked in front of the store, behind the large moving sedan? Has hood flutes and what look like the final batch of headlights shaped like the top of the radiator. Also I see front wheel brakes and I think the last of the wood wheels mounted with split rims and high pressure straight sided tires. If it’s a factory body, the owner seems to have bought a set of cowl lights from the Pep boys on a previous visit

  14. Grew up in Hollywood in the 60’s. Went to Pep Boys store near by and could purchase anything for one of several 50’s cars I owned. They sold mechanical fuel pumps for less than $5.00. They would last a month or two. I’d take it back and they’d give me another rebuilt pump for even exchange.

    Too bad the NY investor Carl Icahn bought the company. Wonder how long it will be before he dismantles Pep Boys like he has done with so many others of his “investments”

  15. PEP boys was important to me as I graduated through BICYCLE parts, Certain Motorcycle parts ,and car parts for my old Fords & Chevrolets . You learned: what to buy and what NOT to buy at Pep Boys, in Glendale , LA County, California. Now, we live in Fairmont , in the HILLS, Mountains & “Hollers ” of North Central West Virginia: We receive all of the television ads from PEP BOYS on our CABLE Television : Frustrating. QUESTION: Where, and/or when do we GET a Pep Bays Store here??? WHY do we get the AD barrage with NO STORE!!!??? (lost $$$!) I t would be nice if a PEP BOYS Executive — who supports the car HOBBY and who just might be reading this — at OLD MOTOR NEWS— might consider a store here, — or nearby. Thank you ! “Pretty-please with sugar & rubber tires on it”!!! (WW-2 Civilian talk) WW-2 is over, where is our store !??? Many Veteran cars here — yearning for Pep Boys !!! How about at LEAST a STUDY?

  16. Your opening story states that Pep Boys was started by four friends but after some reorganization there were only three friends. Anybody know what happened to the fourth “friend”? Was he bought out? Kicked out? Didn’t like the reorganization? What?

  17. Back in my hot rod days (late 40’s thru 50’s) PEP BOY was known as a JUNK parts store for there cheap items they had. The standard joke was “Where did you get that – PEP BOYS. There was one thing that we all bought from them and that was “flex pipe” for making spaghetti headers on our drag and lakes cars. I got a comeuppance in the early 2000’s when I was building my 36 Ford tudor. I went to one here in Tucson and was surprised at the selection of quality parts. It definitely wasn’t like the “old” days.

  18. i live in the S.F. Bay Area and had never heard of Pep Boys before a few years ago. Just checked their site and the closerst store to me is about 15 miles away, so they’re still not as big a player as some other shops .

  19. Yep, we had PB in the LA area and I used to visit them on occasion for Ford parts in the main. But we had a neighborhood auto supply place that was the real place to do business for serious players, Comet Auto Supply. They weer bought out by a Bangladeshi years ago and he had no idea what was what so I used another local place that had a big inventory of parts and knowledgeable counter folks. PB was used for other ancillary items like wiper fluid, etc. Here in Japan there are two major auto suppliers, Auto Bacs, where I usually go, and Yellow Hat. Auto Bacs has a huge store about 7 miles away and the variety is pretty impressive. Still, the bi-annual safety inspections keep most modifications down to a more mundane level, nothing like the stuff we could do out of Comet! Times do change!

  20. I see the store I remember from the 1960’s is still in San Fernando, CA. We learned a new phrase. Our dad said their stuff was “mickey mouse”. Gyppo. We always thought of them as chrome that would quickly peel. Retreads; 4 for $80 bucks. Their better tires were always out of round, a trait Sears seemed to share with them. We used them for some things. Rebuilt fuel pumps, starters, etc. on cars we were going to flip. But we liked Sturtevants. You paid a bit more but got decent quality. In the 1970’s I could still get USA made quality valves for a Model A Ford at Sturtevants.

  21. In the 60’s, Fullerton, CA PB was a great place to go for standard parts and shiny Hot Rod parts. Today, for the most part, just another generic store.

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