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California Parking Lot Filled With 1950s and 1960s Vehicles

Parking lot images are interesting because they show a representative slice of what people were driving on the road at the time. This photograph and the enlargeable views of it below were taken of a Santa Ana, California City facility lot of some sort late in 1959 or 1960, and it appears that at least two of newest cars in the view are a Plymouth Valiant and a Ford Falcon.

American cars and trucks make up the majority of the vehicles although imports were becoming popular in California the time and about ten of them are visible, including a tiny BMW Isetta, a number of Renault Dauphines and an MG. Tell us what you find of interest in this view, and if you enjoy spotting cars in parking lots, there are a number of them to peruse here on The Old Motor. The photo is courtesy of the Orange County Archives.

Orange County california parking lot 1950s automobiles

california civic center parking lot 1950s automobiles

Southern california parking filled with 1950s automobiles

40 responses to “California Parking Lot Filled With 1950s and 1960s Vehicles

    • Including, what appears to be, in the 1st row, 3rd from the bottom, in between the DeSoto and the wagon, a Henry J or Sears Allstate. I’d say that’s the strangest one.

    • Not quite. There isn’t a single 1959 Ford in the lot. No sedan, no convertible, no wagon….not a one. A 59 conv. red over black was my 1st “newer” car. Wonder why that year wasn’t popular in this photo?

  1. I think its more like late 1960 . That is a 1961 Mercury ragtop to the right of the T series MG in the foreground, so it must be just after the new car intro in October 1960. The juxtaposition of the 1955 Bel Air and the 1957 T-Bird at the top of the photo is pretty cool, too.

  2. I am impressed with the slide-in camper, split-window beetle, Willys wagon…hey waitaminnit! What am that parked quietly beside the Willys? Are it an exot-o-mobile of some badging?
    Very good series; always enjoy starting the day with snapshots of yesterday like this one.

    • Three pickup trucks, one with the slide in camper, and one Willys wagon.

      If a time traveler had tried telling the average joe parking in this lot that in 50 years 1/2 and 3/4 ton pickups (many with 4 wheel drive) would rule the dealer lots and highwaysn and be the most heavily optioned and most expensive vehicles for sale…not to mention turbocharged diesel duallys with a computers running the engine and transmission and entertainment systems…

      • As a 16 year old grocery worker I drove a new 1950 Willys delivery wagon like the one shown, with the four cylinder Fhead engine. A sprightly rig with manual transmission with which I learned to shift without a clutch. After I left the job the new driver got the blame for a new transmission.

        • The cost of a mis-spent youth. We all have those unpaid bills someplace in our Karma.
          Big fan of the Willys. But then I am a big fan of many.

      • Big changes. No one could’ve predicted the steep ramp of innovation in all areas of our lives. A fabulous photo exists of Oville Wright in the left seat of a Lockheed Continental (Maybe a SuperG?). Bookends to an era of prop-driven airbeasts.

  3. In the lead photo, next to the `47 Studebaker sedan is a `61 Mercury Monterey cvt., so the image is slightly newer; maybe fall of `60 at the earliest.

    • Parked to the left of the Beetle is an Isetta and next a Renault Dauphine, to the right of the Beetle next to the Chevy is a Fiat 1100 Millecento. Five car to the right of the Fiat there’s a Mercedes Ponton 180-190-220?
      But what’s parked in front of the Fiat, doesn’t look big enough to be American?

      • It looks to me that there are three Dauphines, the one mentioned, one at the opposite end of the row with the camper, and one in the street. I didn’t think that they were that popular. That rivals the Beetles.

      • I am still puzzled by the fastback two spots to the right of the workmanlike Willys. Any thoughts or did I miss a comment?
        Great snapshot of the cars of our lives circa 1960.

    • Well, the Buick could seat six or seven in a pinch and carry all their luggage, so I guess there should be a size difference. Also, the MG was built with the garage tinkerer in mind, one how didn’t mind dealing with all the electrical and mechanical problems he could look forward to…..LOL. I wonder when Lucas earned the badge “Prince of Darkness”? Finally, the city is Santa Ana (Saint Anne), not Santa Anna.

    • So what model and year is the MG? I say it is a TD. The year is nearly impossible to tell exactly, but it appears that the taillights are rectangular and the top two bow, so it is a ’50-’52. ’53s had round taillights and three bow tops. The license plate seems to have been moved to the bumper. It should be up to the left of the spare tire. If the headlight buckets are chrome, it may indicate that it is a ’50 or ’51, though that isn’t for sure. The top has been replaced, as they came from the factory with tan ‘hoods’. The spare tire cover is an aftermarket accessory, maybe added when the hood was replaced. White wasn’t a factory color, so the car could be ivory or was repainted.

      • A Popular Mechanics article in June 1952 shows a white TD. This could be a color that comes off as white in monochrome film, but I am not sure. Maybe something like an ivory. I would imagine this one in the parking lot is not a repaint job.

  4. On the right is a 55-56 Dodge pickup with a logo on the door, probably government vehicle. The two-tone pickup “below” the pickup with the camper is a 58-60 Dodge. Nice representation for a slow selling era for Dodge commercial vehicles.
    Amazing size difference between the ’56 Imperial and the Fiat next to it. Wow. Pure class vs. pure economy.

  5. the MG is a TD. Disc wheels and low radiator, thus not a TC. Has separate headlights, thus not a TC which had the headlights faired into the guards.

  6. The protruding hood tells me the Valiant looking car is a Dodge Lancer , sold in 1961 and 1962 model years.
    The first year 1960 Valiants were not Plymouths and were also sold by Dodge dealers same as Desoto and Chrysler dealers.
    For 1961 Valiant became a Plymouth model, and Dodge dealers got the Lancer.

  7. Looks like a bunch of lowline rubber-mat-special, Ford “fleet” vehicles. City? County? Possibly painted sickly pale green.

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