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Take a Trip on the Streets of Los Angeles in the Late-1940s

This type of short three-minute film shot on the streets of Los Angeles and sourced from the Prelinger Archives is referred to in Hollywood as stock footage; it is later used as a background behind a car filmed in a studio environment.

A 1947 to ’48 Mercury follows the camera car through the first part of the motion picture that later on swaps off to a pre-war Lincoln Zephyr. Towards the end of the film at 2:50 on the far-right an early-1930s Ford highboy roadster hotrod appears for an instant.

Enjoy the film and tell us what you find of interest in the unique film footage.


27 responses to “Take a Trip on the Streets of Los Angeles in the Late-1940s

  1. That’s a cool video but the first car is not a Ford, it is a ’47 or ’48 Mercury. The Lincoln Zephyr is a ’41.

      • Actually, it could also be a ’46 Mercury. All 3 years used the same grill and parking lights according to the best photos I could find

        • It’s a 1947 Mercury. While all three years (1946 – 48) used the same grille there was a difference. In 1946, the bezel surrounding the upper grille was painted in the car’s body color. In 1947, the bezel was chrome (as is the car in the film). I thought there was additional bright work in 1948, but one source I researched stated: “No changes at all were recorded for 1948, and the only identification for these models was their serial numbers.”

  2. Not sure the point of the clip, and before my time, but I really think, this, in addition to the “Four Friday” schpiel, would be a vintage video feature. It truly takes carspotting to a new level. @1:07, looks like a late 30’s Chevy cabover, ’47 Packard taxi, needing rings soon ( the air quality looked deplorable) and Potsie, Richie, riding around in Ralph’s hot rod. The bouncy streets haven’t changed much.
    David, think about this as a regular feature. More and more of these vintage videos are popping up. Love the videos.

  3. Driving away, in left travel lane, is either a 1947 or ’48 Frazer.

    Driving toward the camera, on the far left, is a 1946 BUICK convertible, either a Roadmaster or Super.

  4. I’m always struck by how a lot of the street scene/parking lot photos rarely show cars more than five or ten years old. I spotted a fair smattering of cars from the early thirties along the curb. Maybe you need the California climate to preserve them.

  5. I always think of floaty suspensions in 1950s and ’60s cars…. Near the end, when there’s two cars side by side on what looks like a smooth stretch of road, they’re bumping around like two dinghies in a harbor.

  6. I saw one of my favorite cars, a ’46-48 Pontiac sedanet. Love those.

    I happened on some collections of footage like this on YouTube a while back and watched several. What struck me was, in the early ’50s clips, there were still a fair number of prewar cars on the streets. By about ’57, there were virtually none. So it took about 10 years, give or take, for the system to expel pretty much all the prewar cars from everyday use.

  7. Great film. Takes me back to my teen years. The Frazer looks like a Kaiser for it’s lack of ornamental detail. The kids in the Model A bouncing over the hill was right out of our high school days. Those were the days! I thought 1940 was the last year for the Lincoln Zepher, not 1941, and that thereafter it was just called a Lincoln. But I could be wrong.

  8. My folks were married out in L.A. in 1946, not long after both graduated from UCLA. I sure wish they were still around, as I would dearly love to show them this footage, and see how many L.A. landmarks they would recognize!

  9. Couldn’t help notice the smog, and the Packard Taxi leaving a traffic light, blowing a cloud of smoke in low gear.

  10. It took a while to find but I remembered reading a post awhile back about old LA. I believe your video used to be a little longer as we are missing part of the beginning. Take a look at this description. Many of the landmarks match.
    www dot meetup dot com/es-ES/LAHistoryAndCulture/messages/24689622/

    • The license plate visible at the beginning on the Mercury is 63W348.

      The license plate on the Mercury stolen from the wedding during the getaway scene in the movie Shockprooof ( the one with “Just Married” signs and tin cans) is 63W348. That’s because it’s the same car and this apparently was footage shot during the making of that movie.

      The full movie (shockproof 1949) is posted online at the biggest video site- search for “Shockproof 1949 Full Movie “.

      Start watching the movie at 48:00 and is that the Model A with the rumble seat pulling into the gas station just before the Mercury with the 63W348 plates is stolen from in front of the church?

      A 6 minute and 12 seconds long clip which has these same 3 minutes as the clip in the TOM post can be found on the large video site by searching for “A Drive Through Bunker Hill and Downtown Los Angeles, ca. 1940s”

      • The camera work is of high quality note the pans and zooms on a few occasions, and the well stabilized camera when in motion.

        Also of note in the 6:12 long clip are the several times when passersby on the sidewalk wave at the camera rig.

        • Definitely studio-quality film-making… 35mm camera, very likely installed on a studio camera-car platform.

          I remember seeing photos of a ’49-’50 New Yorker that had been cut-down into a “cowl & chassis” camera car, no doubt taking advantage of Chrysler’s Amola-steel springs and their smooth ride. 😉

  11. Great quality footage. Noted the suspension movement and bouncing ride.
    Still amazes me lack of exterior revision mirrors – try driving without them today. And having driven 1938 dodge as teen it was hard to see out of vehicle without side mirrors.
    Thanks for sharing

  12. It’s LA alright. If the ACME street signals didn’t give it away, or the different styles of streetlamps on different boulevards, there’s the building in the distance early in the film. We pass a Richfield gas station on their right (our left) and as we go over a bump we can see the iconic Richfield Building! Gloss black with gold accents, plus an amazing neon tower on top, it was a true Art Deco masterpiece. It looks like that first sequence is heading south on Flower. Then we turn and you can see removed LA Railways streetcar tracks. There is a trolley pole guard still protecting the phone lines across one intersection.

  13. I am wondering about the solid white line that divides the two rt. and l. lanes of traffic.

    Was it legal at that time to cross it?

  14. At :50 a ’30’s Dodge humpback panel crossing the intersection behind.
    1:07 C.O.E. on the left is a 39-40 Dodge.
    2:19 The third of three 47-49 Studebakers appears at the curb on the right, this one a Starlight coupe.
    2:29 WHAT is the swoopy-fendered convertible with sidemount that appears at the right curb???

  15. The One “ding!” Bells on the Semaphore arm Go/Stop,( no Yellow light)! Signals were all dis -connected, due to bad guys dinging a bell on their car to make others “Jump the Light”. Notice that the Convertible Buick ran the light !!! then, after that, he proceeded in wandering all over the road slowly ! Borracho! Note: with no yellow light warning , these signals allowed for LA Police to “interpret your actions” in favor of a Court Summons! Note the “fancy” Lincoln Zephyr— has allowed his Houdaille Shock absorbers to experience: Low Houidaille shock absorber fluid OR Lack adjusting them to absorb shocks or both. That Lincoln is bouncing through Los Angeles like a bucking bronco! At 37 MPH, — one could “time the signals” on Venice Blvd (in those “Semaphore” days) and look out toward the Beach and See the “wave” of the synchronized signals changing!!! The “trick “was: “To ride the wave” and you rarely had to stop , 45 minutes from Atwater (near Glendale) to Venice beach and no Freeways!!! (yet). Edwin W.

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