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Automotive Americana: Webster Garage – General Repairs and Body Work

The Webster Garage, photographed in March of 1961, was located in Atlanta, Georgia at 140 Butler Street NW. It looks just like many of the older gritty automotive repair and body and paint shops in grimy old industrial areas that used to dot the land across America.

Often these establishments were the last chance for many cars and trucks that came in on a wrecker. If the owner did not want to or was unable to spend the money to repair the vehicle, the establishment at times bought the car for a low salvage value and with work turned it into a saleable used car, sold it as is to another shop, parted it out, or scrapped it. On the other hand, many of these shops had very competent mechanics and body men that could work wonders with a car reasonably and were a local treasure of sorts.

The photo gives us a chance to study the wide variety of domestic cars, a truck, and one lone import in the scene. The image also demonstrates just how attractive and timeless the 1953 to ’54 Studebaker Starliners, and in this case, a Commander coupe (front row to the left of the Ford truck) styled by Bob Bourke at Raymond Loewy’s design studio stands out from all the rest.

Tell us what you find of interest in this photograph courtesy of the Georgia State Library Archives.

24 responses to “Automotive Americana: Webster Garage – General Repairs and Body Work

  1. In the lead photograph, parked on the street, in the foreground right, is the back-end of a two-door 1955 BUICK, either a Special or Century.

    Parked in the Webster Garage lot, across the street from the above ’55 BUICK, is 1953 STUDEBAKER Commander Regal Starlight Coupé.

    • Parked behind the ’53 STUDEBAKER Commander Regal Starlight Coupé is a four-door 1950 BUICK Special [with split windshield and central radio aerial], possibly a ’51.

      • AML, right first call… the Special series, standard and deluxe models were the only Buicks to sport a split windshield… by the next model year the cost accountants had noticed their oversight and streamlined assembly, thusly…no longer!!! All series had a ONE piece.

    • In Webster Garage lot, parked on the far right, behind the two-door 1960 FORD, is what looks like a dark, four-door, 1954 CHEVROLET Bel Air.

  2. Great picture,,reminds me of “Bud’s Garage” on US 1 in Fairfield ,CT, circa 1955. A place where I spent some time as a kid, used to make coffee runs on my bike for the mechanics.

  3. I did notice that Studebaker standing out. Beautiful car.

    A high-school friend of mine, Ed, helped his father out in the family’s two-bay body shop that was part of the landscape you describe — this would be the late seventies. Throughout high school, Ed drove cars that had been declared totaled and salvaged by him and his father. One was a ’71 Mercury with a sheared motor mount. When Ed revved it, you could hear the motor bang against the underside of the hood.

    Once five of us were packed into Ed’s ’69 Chevelle, with Sam E. in the front passenger seat, talking about the quality of Ed’s workmanship. Just as Ed claimed the cars were fine, except for a few minor difficulties, he hit a bump, and all the window trim on the passenger’s side dropped into Sam’s lap. Sam turned and said, “Chalk it up to minor difficulties, Ed.”

  4. The ‘bone pile’ over to the left has some sad, forlorn older sedans probably signed over by their owners due to cost of repair vs. value. The `61 Rambler Classic wagon on the end would be nearly new then, so I bet it gets fixed. Facing us are a few cars I’d like: over on the right, a nice `60 Ford Fairlane 2dr. post. The `58 Plymouth & `56 Ford wagons both look saveable. It looks like this shop has plenty of work to go around!

  5. You are right, the Studebaker stands the test of time. I think that the foreign car is a Ford Taunus, the newest that I see is a 1960 Ford next to the truck. That truck is a Ford, maybe a 49, it is the oldest vehicle in the picture.

  6. The little car under the “G” of the word garage is one of the English Ford versions… probably an Anglia or Thames as more of them were sold in the U.S. than the other models. One of mine was a 1959 Thames, and had been used as a shop “truck” at a service station and a carpenter shop. (and this photo subjects grille looks the same best I can tell) They are small, but seem to go forever. Great photo !

    • ‘Jeepers, if no one else is going to,claim that 55 Olds hardtop I sure will! Interesting that the Servicyle is owned by the WebsterGarage, I always associate them with the police. Wonder what they used it for? Pickups and dropoffs? Not really since they’re hardly a two seater. Parts running I suppose., as long as the parts are small and light. I’d agree that sure looks like an Anglia in front of the garage.

  7. This type of garage was my favorite place to look for older cars especially independent makes as a kid. Wish we could see what cars are in the side and back lots. All but Studebaker were defunct by this time. Even orphans in good condition were relegated to the back lot, because as everyone knows , “Ya can’t get parts for ’em”. Next stop for most of those 5-6 year old sedans is the either the “$5 Down/$5 a Week” car lots or junkyard.

    Of note is the ’53 Studebaker Starlight coupe, an early ‘tri-star’ model by the hood emblem. As an eight year old independent must have been in great shape to warrant a front row spot. That would apply to the Ford pick-up too; a 1946-’47 model, being the oldest vehicle present.

    Someone got into a fender-bender with their new ’61 Rambler Classic station wagon. The body-fender shop probably was waiting for the AMC dealer to supply a new hood, fender, et.

    Thanks for posting, great photo.

    • The “Tri-Star” emblem being dropped (from most, but not all usage) mid-year due to Daimler Benz claiming copyright infringement. And Studebaker was the US distributor for M-B…

  8. I believe the import is an Anglia or Prefect. My old man had one. The Rambler took a heavy hit. Looks like it broke the trunnions off the unibody. I’m pretty sure that is a Servicar, year unknown, not sure who else made 3 wheelers, but the City of Milwaukee Police had those in the 60’s. I remember, they were painted all black during the riots. Not sure what the lot used it for, maybe to pick up and drop off cars with that bumper tow thing. Otherwise, just a hodge podge of cast offs. My old man always had his cars fixed at places like this. I learned a lot going with him.

    • Harley Servicars were used to chase parts, and usually had a tow bar that would bolt to the back bumper of drivable cars that were being picked up or returned.

  9. I was hoping someone from Atlanta would be able to identify the location. Google Earth doesn’t show a Butler St. As I look at the two tall buildings in the background I believe this location to be about where the GA Dome / Mercedes Benz stadium is today. Anybody know?

  10. Butler St in Atlanta is now called Jesse Hill Jr Drive. Atlanta has a penchant for re-naming streets.

    There is no 145 Jesse Hill Dr that exactly matches 145 Butler St. That area is close to Grady hospital and Auburn Ave with its various MLK landmarks. It’s also a couple blocks from Georgia State Univ. Since this pic was taken before the downtown connector was built (I-75 & I-85 are connected, as it passes thru downtown Atlanta), it’s possible this area was completely rezoned and rebuilt.

    A search of Google Street View does not reveal the multi-story building in the upper right corner of the pic.

    • The building in the upper right of the pic with the wrecked Rambler and Servicar, that’s the AT&T Communications Building at 51 Peachtree Center. Used to be the Southern Bell Telephone Company building, once the tallest building in Atlanta. The buildings in the other part of the pic are not found. Probably razed when Grady hospital was built or expanded.

  11. Like the grill saver on the Ford pickup in the front row. The 3 wheeler probably is a Harley, the shell later Union station I worked at in 1950 had one and I put a few miles on that. We had a bumper hook up and would tow it for deleivery of a vehicle and then ride it back. The trunk held a battery and cables for jump starts which were plentiful during the winter months, lights on hard cold starts and short runs coupled with a generator made for poor battery service.

  12. No one has mentioned the early ’50s Cadilac in front of the 2nd , from the left, bay dppr.
    Surprised by the comment from Kurtruk on the ’53 Studebaker tri-star. Remember that
    change and the reason for it. Things like that are very important to a Jr. High aged car nut.
    Thought I was the only person who remembered such trivia. Thanks

  13. I like the 1959 Chevy Bel Air 2 dr sedan, (next to the Studebaker) having owned the same car in ’62. Mine was fully customized with a fullie V/8 and a 3 spd manual transmission. Great cruising car. Of course the one above might be a sign of bad things to come with a right front flat tire before it leaves the used car lot.

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