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Used Car Dealers Moving the Metal in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

“Moving the metal” is a term for used for auto sales that originated in the early to mid-1900s in the “Motor City,” Detroit, Michigan. The expression is still in use today in new and used car sales field, although over time, for the most part, has transformed to “moving units.” Selling new cars in good times is generally easier than selling used cars, as many buyers usually know what brand and model of car they are interested in and making a sale usually ends up with getting the options and color the customer wants quickly at a favorable price.

The used car sales business is different in that a successful dealer needs to know what brands, models, and colors are the most popular to the majority of the buying public, and then find these “units” and purchase them at price where a profit can be made by reselling them.

Today we take a look at early-1950s photographs of two used car dealers storefronts and their inventory in the Brookline neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Saw Mill Run Boulevard, State Highway 51, which has long been a haven for used car dealers. Both dealerships handled late 1940s to early-’50s cars.

Power’s Motor Sales Inc. “Safe Buy Used Cars” seen in the lead and enlargeable photos at the top was located at 125 Saw Mill Run Boulevard and apparently handed both low and mid-priced clean late model used cars in front of the offices with an open-ended display spot between them in middle. Al Schwartz just above sold “The Finest Used Cars In Town” at 2334 Saw Mill Run Boulevard and handled a more middle-of-the-road inventory of basic used cars although the facility had a good-sized indoor showroom.

14 responses to “Used Car Dealers Moving the Metal in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  1. In the top photo, nearly all the models are 1950; a couple `49 Mercurys and a Pontiac tossed in for variety. My pick would be the DeSoto cvt. on the far left; If I knew then what I know now, I’d mothball that baby!

    Al Schwartz’ lot shows a few more late 40s models, like the Chrysler sedan, and the `49 Studebaker Champion sedan. By `49-`50, it was still very much a seller’s market on cars as Americans were hungry for the latest in style & comfort.

    • I most certainly agree with you about the Desoto. When I was a boy, the Desoto of that vintage was one of my favorite cars. . . Why; I’ll never know, but I still love them today. Also, I believe it was the taxi driver’s choice in the early ’50s but again, I don’t know why.

  2. Judging from the height of the roof of the light colored ’49 or ’50 Merc that’s cut off at the far right of the first pic, I think that it’s a station wagon; it appears much taller than the dark Merc next to it. Thanks for these pix from the ‘burgh.

    (BTW, Pittsburgh (in PA) is spelled with the “h”.)

    • And to this day, that’s the only Pittsburg, or other …burg, in the US with a final “h.” Back in the late 1800s, the United States Board of Geopgraphical Names was established to bring consistency to place names, if for no other reason than to make life easier for the postal service, much like the four continental time zones were established to bring sanity to railroad schedules. Among the commission’s decisions was that thereafter all “…burghs” would lose the final “h” and join the rest of the just plain “…burgs.” Some years later, Pittsburgh mustered enough political muscle to be granted special dispensation to restore and retain its final “h.”

  3. First pic. Second car from left. 49 Lincoln Cosmopolitan. Only single piece windshield in both lots. Is that a beat up Kaiser at Schwartz’s place? Second from right.

  4. Both great pictures !!

    In the 2nd photograph, parked on the right, there is a four-door 1947 STUDEBAKER Champion. If I were visiting this used car lot in the 1950s, I’d keep walking, the vehicle has a slight tilt to the passenger side and missing at least the front passenger hubcap.

    • Hi AML, I saw that too. Probably in the “under $100 ”
      dollar category. Apparently, Al had his “beaters” too. Conversely, that Pontiac next to it looks pretty sharp.

  5. In the top pic, I want to see what’s behind the fence, and if Al Schwartz has the nicest , I’d hate to see the poorest. I think the young man is going for the Chevy.

  6. The Powers Motor Sales picture is apparently of a satellite location as Powers was a Lincoln-Mercury dealership on W. Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh at this time.

    “Safe Buy Used Cars” was also the slogan used by Lincoln-Mercury dealers for used cars , similar to Chevrolet’s “OK Used Cars”, Buick’s “Double-Checked Used Cars”, etc.

  7. My Uncle, Bernie Nellis, was a used car dealer in Beltzhoover, a neighborhood in Pgh. He had a lot beside his house
    that held 6 or 7 cars. H e had a lot of Buicks. I used to go to auctions with him as soon as I could legally drive, 1952. He bought a 6 cylinder Ford that he immediately put in the garage and removed the I6 emblem and replaced with the V8. I followed him down to his buddy, Al Swartz on Saw Mill run where he sold the car to Al. On the way back he said that his phone would be ringing off the hook. It seems that Al never opened the hood and thought he
    was buying a V8. They remained friends and I’m sure Al had got him , or would. Great memories about Red Harris,
    the Leviski brothers, Top Dollar Johnny and Square Deal Andy.

  8. The Powers Used Car Lot has: a revealing feature : Most Car Lots used 25 Watt Lightbulbs . ( Note the Al Schwartz Lot: (25’ers! ) Note the Powers lot: At least : 100 Watters (!!!) — on the Strings. Note what’s sold at Powers, Note what’s sold at Al’s.

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