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Parking Lot Series: Disneyland Grand Opening July 1955

Disneyland, located in Anaheim, California was created by Walt Disney, who was a talented and highly skilled businessman, illustrator, animator, and filmmaker. The preview and dedication day was held on Sunday, July 17, 1955, and televised nationwide by ABC TV, a major investor in the project. The grand opening was on Monday, the 18th.

Today’s lead image and the enlargeable version of it below shows a parking lot filled to capacity on one of the attractions first two days in operation. In the center foreground, is what appears to be a radio truck with a generator on a trailer behind it, apparently used by Disney personal or a subcontractor for communications. The rest of the lot is filled with 1940s to 1950s cars and trucks and a few from the pre-war era.

Tell us what you find of interest in this photograph courtesy of Tom Simpson.

28 responses to “Parking Lot Series: Disneyland Grand Opening July 1955

  1. Looks like the guy in the Chevy? convertible is going the wrong way.
    Note: Many vehicles that were left unlocked with windows open and tops down.
    This would never happen today, all your belongings would be stolen and long gone!

  2. In the center of the picture, 5 rows back, is either a 1947 or ’48 four-door STUDEBAKER, parked between a 1954 BUICK and a 1953 PACKARD Clipper Deluxe Club Sedan.

    • In the 3rd row, 6th vehicle from the left, is a monotone, four-door, 1955 HUDSON; 8th car from the left in the same row is a 1955 PONTIAC Star Chief Custom Catalina.

  3. Wow! A car spotter’s dream. In the 8th row back, toward the left, you will find a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, parked adjacent to a ’55 Nomad.

  4. I have been to the Fla. park and it is absolutely amazing how fast the car get parked there.
    No sooner than you get the car shut off and pick up your sunglasses up, there are at least 30 cars parked next to you on your right.

  5. Just like today, all the cars are white, black, silver and gray. Thankfully, we got brighter colors and more diversity in the Sixties and Seventies.

      • Agreed. I believe that if this photo were in color you would be astounded at all the colors, and all the two-tones. If fact, you would find very, very few white (except for the contrast on a two-tone), black, silver or gray cars at all.

  6. What an assortment of beautiful cars! I wish I could go back in time and spend a couple of days walking thru the parking lot. To me, there’s more attraction there than inside the park.

    • Volkswagen of America was established that year, resulting in a 500% sales jump to 28,907 units. Prior to 1955, about 11,800 Beetles had been imported to date.

  7. Probably the biggest difference from today is the small percentage of pickups and SUVs. Obvious because the vast majority of US production at that time was of standard size cars.

    Still a small number of pre-WW2 cars there.

    What is the small convertible next to the two pre WW2 coupes – centre left? Partly obscured by the roof rack on the circa 1950 Chevrolet sedan.

  8. Driving toward us is a rare 1952 Oldsmobile “Deluxe 88”, distinguished from the much more common “Super 88” by a rubber, rather than chrome, stone guard ahead of the rear wheel opening and lacking the Super 88’s slanted chrome trim piece running from near the belt line behind the front door down to the top of the stone guard. The two models also had different tail lights. Approaching behind the ’52 is a 1948 “Futuramic” Oldsmobile 98, last of the straight-8 Oldsmobiles that preceded introduction of the “Rocket” V-8 in 1949.

  9. We were taken to Disneyland soon thereafter. Dad had spent part of his youth in Brooklyn and he was a frequent Coney Island attendee, so he continued to compare that with Disneyland. Lack of drinking fountains, dearth of benches, no place to eat food you brought to the park, long walks from the back of the lot to the Park, etc. But the big one was no roller coaster like rides! Disneyland was pretty tame back then and it was built in Orange County when there really were oranges grown there. You can see them (and smell them) at the edge of the parking lot. Disney finally put in a system of shuttles to the park and added a number of ‘thrill’ rides, but it was still the stuff of dreams to us kids in 1956. As noted above, a lot of the cars were left unlocked and open, but another sad loss is the propensity of companies to take advantage of ‘Company Days’ for employees, where all the rides were free….no book of coupons! Oh yeah, still go there today.

  10. Is that a tiny Metropolitan Convertible in the middle of the 6th row, facing the camera and hidden behind the Pontiac? It’s smaller than the cars Walt put into his “Autopia” attraction!

  11. My family moved from the east coast to L.A, in December of 1955 and so like one of the posters above I was an earlier visitor to the park, too. I think the most exciting ride for me as a 13 year-old were the small mechanized automobiles which we got to drive around a track. There other rides but sadly I don’t remember any of them. Took my kids to Disney World in Florida in the 1990’s and enjoyed Epcot Center; there seemed to be more interesting rides available in the Florida park then there’d been in 1956 at the original location in Orange County. Thanks for the memory.

  12. If you go straight up from the bed of the dark Chevy pickup, to the right of a Ford station wagon, there is a dark car. It appears to be a 53 Studebaker coupe. Now I know these were low-slung cars to begin with, but this one is really low, and appears to have a chopped top, the windshield being shorter than stock. An early custom? It IS southern California…

  13. The truck is a WW2 Chevrolet 7000 series 1.5 ton Signal Corps K-51 Radio truck, complete with its original K-52 Ben Hur PE 95 generator trailer.

    These trucks were made as plain panel vans during WW2, then the majority were contractor-converted to K-51 Signal Corps units, meaning that surviving plain panel vans are even rarer.

  14. This must be one of the all-time great spotting photos. I know many of us are looking for our favorites. One of mine is the ’54 Mercury Monterey convertible, two to the right of the pickup in row 3.

  15. The original Pioneer of Remote TV Broadcasting (in the whole Los Angeles Basin) (including Anaheim) was: KTLA Channel 5,( an Independent!), under the guidance of: Their Transmitter Engineer, Will Jewell, also W6 NAH, (his Amateur Radio License) , who built their Main Transmitter on Mount Wilson , who also designed their Microwave Link from Remote Locations( like the one you see here) — (All over a lot of Southern California —that was: “line of sight” to the Main Transmitter. Their “Announcer/ Interviewer would have been someone like: Stan Chambers, Dick Gardner, or Dick Lane., speaking. This Channel 5 KTLA was the first (and still the best!!!) of : “The Rose Parade” TV remote Transmissions and the first of Color TV to have all of us: Car Buffs of ANTIQUE & CLASSIC Cars &Trucks —able to see them in “Living Color! Oh: Will lived in our neighborhood and made the long journey from our part of Los Angeles —up the: “Angeles Crest Highway” and the narrower, twisting: Mt. Wilson Road at over 5,000 feet , all seasons — in a (36 H.P. ) 1954 Volkswagen Beetle — for many years! (for the sake of : reliability in Winter Ice &Snow Conditions. All of this was the Creation of: Klaus Landsburg . Edwin W.

  16. The Caddy sedan next to the mobile comm truck could be the limo that brought my grandmother & I to the park on opening day…..courtesy of Walt himself. That’s because Gran sold about 50 acres of her orange groves to Disney for part of the parking lot! (She kept another 100 acres they tried to buy….then later sold it to developers).

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