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Four Fun Friday Fifties Kodachrome Car Images

Number One-Hundred and Twenty-Eight of the Kodachrome Image Series begins this week with a colorful photo of one of the Ford Motor Company’s popular Thunderbird two-seaters. It appears to be a new car photo taken by the happy new owner possibly in the springtime. This bright red T-Bird is fitted with a number of options, tell us what you know about them and the car.

As is the usual practice in this series, we ask our readers to tell us the year, make, and model of all of these vehicles along with anything else of interest in the photos. You can look back on all the earlier parts of this series here. The photos are via This Was Americar.A mid-1950s Pontiac wagon is towing a fiberglass speedboat fitted with a good-sized outboard motor.

  • This 1950s Pontiac wagon is towing a fiberglass speedboat fitted with a good-sized outboard motor.

  • Evidently this family is ready to set off on a air travel adventure; tells all about the cars and the airport.

  • Helga was known for working on her own car and could push it around the driveway with ease.

44 responses to “Four Fun Friday Fifties Kodachrome Car Images

  1. Great pictures again !!

    In the 3rd photograph, parked on the far right, is a four-door 1951 BUICK Special and in the far left foreground is a 1952 BUICK, either a Special or Super.

  2. The 1955 was, in my opinion, the cleanest and prettiest of the baby birds. Even though I own a nice 1956, there’s something about the purity of line of the 55 that gets me. The 1957 takes off in a glitzy direction that has period charm. But the 55 is just right.

    • I know that the 1955 T-Bird is a beautiful car with a design that was far cleaner than any other 1955 car made by any other American manufacturer. However, I have always rather wished that they had kept the big chrome checkmark that you see on some of the early advertising and prototypes. In this monotone age, I miss chrome.

  3. Someone proud of their new ( 55?) TBird. Clearly the neighbor doesn’t want their kids on their lawn. Saw a car just like this on a trip to L.A. a few years ago, the only classic car I saw driving around, except, I did see Jay Leno in a full classic. While I was looking at the T-bird from a distance, the owner came out of the store, and was really rude.
    Pontiac looks a bit haggered ( missing headlight ring and is that a snow tire on the right front?) Not sure of the boat make, there were hundreds, but the motor is a late 50’s Mercury Mark 58. My old man had a motor just like that on our runabout.
    Family off to who knows where, certainly no place they could drive a car to. And speaking of the cars, the parking looks a little confusing. And “No Parking”, motorcycles excepted, apparently.
    Lastly, I doubt “Helga” is pushing the car, swearing in German, perhaps?

  4. I can see what looks to be a Harley Davidson front wheel and fender poking into the airport parking picture. Might be the mode of transportation used to check on the parking situation and ticket over parked vehicles. Growing up in Milwaukee the police meter readers all used H-D’s with side cars or the little service car 3 wheelers. I can recall very well getting behind them on corners watching as they would lean into left turns picking the side car up off the road.

    Thanks for great pictures! I really enjoy them all.

    • Hi Lew, I grew up in Milwaukee, as well. Appleton and Capitol. John Marshall, 1972. Remember during the riots of ’67, some of the police bikes were painted black? That was a tense time for a kid.

  5. That is a beautiful T-Bird! Two-seat Thunderbirds seem so ubiquitous today that it’s easy to forget how great they look. The ’55s, like the one pictured, have always been my favorite Baby Birds, and they might even look better without the fender skirts.

  6. That red `55 Bird is as pretty as a picture! Seldom do I see period photos of Ford products with the factory wire covers for the hubcaps! Nowadays, T-Bird afficianados demand these. The airport photos looks to be some time around `54, given the cars. Behind the family, I see a beautiful `49 Olds fastback sedan with wide whitewalls; probably an 88. Mom & son are standing at the water’s edge with their `56 Pontiac 860 2dr. wagon, a rather rare model to find today. I’d guess that photo was snapped some time around 1959-60. I can’t make out the plate, but someone here will pinpoint the year that knows license plate colors.

  7. One other observation on the airport parking scene. It appears that the parked cars seem to be aimed in various directions. Certainly not an efficient parking arrangement.

  8. The newest cars I can identify in the third photo at airport are 1952 Buick in the foreground and 1952 Ford convertible in the back row.
    Air travel was still expensive at this time but becoming more affordable and common amount the middle class. I remember as child of this time, when traveled by air ,it was a luxury. You dressed in your best clothes like this family did, unlike the what you encounter now.

    • Hi Dale, that’s true, air travel was for long distances in a short time and most people drove everywhere in the states. Air travel was still kind of risky. Plenty went down. My old man wouldn’t fly, and we didn’t fly as a family until the late 60’s overseas, and the old man was sweating bullets the whole way.

  9. The 1955 T-Bird appears to have the faux wire wheel covers with unusual center caps, which seem to be from a ’55 pickup . The most commonly seen center cap incorporates the passenger car “poverty” cap of the era. Love the correct non porthole top. I think that, when ordering a T-Bird new, the owner could specify either the soft or hard top as standard. The second top was an extra cost option. The porthole top was introduced in 1956.

  10. That T-Bird image is gorgeous, and in my opinion the wire wheel covers look great with the caps used! The white Pontiac wagon towing the boat is a 1956 “860” two-door wagon, a fairly uncommon model. Like other 1956 Pontiac wagons (except for the Nomad-like Safari), the “860” used Chevrolet quarter panels, which required a special wagon-only taillight design for the Pontiac variants. (The 2-door “Custom Star Chief” Safari shared the styling of 1956 Pontiac passenger car rear quarters and taillights.)

    • I agree on its being a DeSoto.
      I wish I could find another photo of one with those small lights on top of the headlights. Perhaps there was a spotlight/small lights option?

  11. The DeSoto in the last photo is a 1941 Custom Club Coupe, possibly a Sportsman addition added the Custom Series later in the model year. The Plymouth parked behind the DeSoto is a 46-48 Special Deluxe club coupe.

  12. I’m actually thinking that the Wires on the T Bird are aftermarket. The script on the center caps is wrong for 1955. Much too big. This car has a radio which was not standard equipment. One of the draw backs of the 55 was the lack of the side ventilation and vent wings. You needed both to get some air flow inside to cool you off.

  13. The DeSoto that Helga is wrestling is a ’41. Post war models had
    the parking lights down lower in the grille (that would be ’46 to
    the 1st series of ’49 models). 3rd picture at the airport, I see a
    ’53 Plymouth near the big GM fastback. I’m with the others –
    what kind of a parking lot is this? Looks like total confusion.

    • The door on the DeSoto appears symmetrical enough that the basic stamping could have been used on either side of the car simply by punching the hole for the handle in a different spot and installing different window trim and hardware. Is that possible?

      Judging by the wheel stops on the ground, I believe at least some of the parking lanes run from left to right across the photo with diagonal slots which leads to the random appearance.

  14. Hi David! Thanks again for Kodachrome Friday! My two cents, please:

    1) The 55 Thunderbird is gorgeous. The introduction brochure shows only the full-disc covers shared with the full-sized Ford for 55. The pre-introduction folder shows wire covers, but the center cap has the word “FORD” in block letters twice, at the top and at the bottom of the cap. This car has the single “FORD” with the burgundy center. The 54 Ford standard issue hub caps (not wheel covers) used that format, but I’ve never seen wire covers that looked like this in any Ford literature.

    2) The area where the Thunderbird is parked looks very much like the area where I grew up, Schuylkilll County, PA.

    3) The folks at the airport are dressed to fly. So unlike today where people think pajamas are appropriate.

    4) Helga comes from a MOPAR family. She’s pushing the DeSoto, and the car behind is a Plymouth.

    Thanks again for the pics!

  15. On the T-Bird, someone took care to index the wheel covers to make sure they were both facing straight up and in the same orientation as each other. I believe they are a Ford banner wrapped around a globe at a slight angle.

    What are the odds of both hubcaps turning out to be so oriented and coordinated, if it was a random event?

  16. Picture #2 with the boat and trailer. How does one determine that
    this is indeed an ‘860’ model. What’s the difference between the
    860 (least expensive) and the 870 (2nd most expensive) or was the
    870 series gone already (it was new with the all-new ’55s). These
    in addition to the “Safari”. Don’t think there was a “Star Chief”
    wagon. Help me out please. Looks like the memory is a little weak.

  17. No one is going to mention the picture of the ’56 Pontiac 860 Two-Door Wagon “For those who want to own a station wagon but fear high cost”. Never did appreciate the rear light cutouts from the 1955 Chevy wagon. Young father taking the picture was a proud owner, probably had a monthly payment and a secure company job.

  18. David, thanks for the T-bird pic to show my wife. You just made up my mind on what to do with my ’56 with K-H wires on it that have a vibration problem. At Lakeland Carlisle today, I was talking with a T-bird parts supplier about getting standard rims from him and using the optional wire covers/ . I have one on my spare and like it. I’ve tried everything to get the vibration out of the K-H’s. I’m told there were some bad lots back in the late 90’s when the previous owner bought these. I’ve got about two years left on the Diamondbacks on the car now, so it’s time.

  19. What’s the decal in the corner of the T-Bird’s windshield? Not sure Helga’s really pushing the DeSoto; the hood appears to be ajar, so maybe she had just pulled the hood release (if it had one inside). The airport shot might be Dallas, given the Braniff connection; the Convair billboard is cool–I got to fly one once in the 1970s.

  20. Good Evening. Regarding the ’55 Bird.
    First, I want to compliment you on an interesting approach to a theme. This is the first time I have seen it and it was recommended to me by a friend of 60+ years. My take regarding time of year would be early Spring. The grass hasn’t greened up and the Hydrangeas still have last year’s blossoms in place. Also, the old chevy (’52 or 53?) lumbering down the street lends credence to the period the picture was taken.
    I have been a ’56 owner since ’63, and intentionally so. I agree the ’55 is the purest example of the two-seater design, but like every early entry into a competitive market, some things get missed. My interest was to build a FoMoCo world beater hot-rod. The ’55 was the lightest of the breed but possessed some shortcomings. The ’55 was a 6volt system while the world was moving to 12 volts. Ford forgot: fender vents, wind wings, and sun visors. They also neglected to put into production safety measures that were already developed, such as seat belts, safety padded dash, deep dish steering wheel, safety door locks.

    Yes, the ’56 had all the good stuff but the ’55 still looked better. Simple, take off the connie kit and put the spare in the trunk. Use a ’55 rear bumper and associated pieces and Voila, a pretty car with all the good stuff. I have been involved with Thunderbirding, holding many posts over the years including CTCI president, technical editor, regional director, concours master judge, and convention chairman. The reason I mention this is I am quite nervous regarding the fake wire wheels. Since this appears to be a genuine photo, it is unlikely a brand-new owner would mess around with piecemeal wheel coverings. This jumped right out at me, the cap properly used behind the Mickey Mouse wires was the low rent small cap with the FORD name in the area between the raised center and the large flat chrome section. One FORD name was upright and another was opposite and upside down. The areas adjacent the FORD markings were red for ’55 and white for ’56. Never a straight block lettering scheme. This could be another example of a quick put-together feature that was never fully baked.
    KML; Nice catch on the Hudson. I also believe I spy a ’53 Ford soft top in front of the Braniff sign and a ’50 Chevy to the right and 3-4 cars closer to the camera. TomTarowsky, I’m not wild over port holes, I think the tops look better without them. You also realized you couldn’t get the ports in ’55
    Pete S

    • Peter I say Welcome, and thanks for the great insights to a car model that has always, from first glance, always had my heart. My problem though is it’s a fickle heart that has fallen for most all personal vehicles.
      However the first time I encountered an example of one, it was parked on the street, my heart stopped, and I thought I heard angels singing. I’ll never forget that moment.

  21. I am by no means an expert on Thunderbirds, but have a picture of a ’55 which I took at a Barrett-Jackson auction and the wheel covers are identical. Of course that doesn’t mean either picture is period correct. Did anyone notice the words ‘FORD’ are identically lined up for the shot. And is it an optical illusion or is the rear whitewall narrower than the front?

  22. The airport picture. Don’t think the folks pictured were the passengers at all. They have no luggage, not even a carry on. (remember those? You could carry a whole overnight bag, with all sorts of now forbidden goodies stashed inside, and no pawed through it!) That lot may just have been for short term parking while departing/incoming passengers were dropped off or met by family or friends. Car styles have changed, dressing styles changed, even the curb at the parking lot crosswalk would now have a wheelchair ramp, probably painted yellow, with grit in the paint, but the “NO PARKING AT ANY TIME” sign looks identical to the new ones at any location where parking is prohibited. When this picture was snapped, it was not unusal to see billboards advertising not only an airline, but also the airframe manufacturers touted their latest and greatest as well. The piston liners were doomed, as Boeing was working on the prototype 707 at this time, and DeHaviland already had the Comet developed, and possibly even in airline service by 1953.

  23. Terry Boyce said: “[T] he “860” used Chevrolet quarter panels, which required a special wagon-only taillight design for the Pontiac variants.”

    That explains why they were a direct, bolt-on replacement for the stock 1955 Chevrolet tail light housing. My ’55 Chevy was the only one I ever saw with that mod.

    As for the air port: Seems to me the Plymouth is older that a 52 model year. Looks like a ’53 to me?

    Also in that day and age, people did actually go to the airport solely for the enjoyment of watching planes take off and land. Midway Airport in Chicago used to have a observation deck for this exp;licit purpose; and it was free!

  24. The early H- D “Servi-Cycles” have 2 rear wheels and Can BE Unstable at anything over 25 mph !, — as they are not designed for anything over 35 mph! Do NOT let GO of the handlebars!!! Also: they are very “Tip- able'” in either a Left or Right turn “at Speed” ! H- Ds or any other Brand of M/C & Sidecar “Combos” on the other hand —(if they are “***set up for a Left Hand Drive country” ( Like the USA) —- are attached on the Right Side of the M/C only — and will turn LEFT like they are: “Glued to the Ground”!!! on Right turns — the Rider (“Pilot”) and the Passenger (“Monkey”) have to shift their bodies (!!!) to compensate for the Sidecar being “temporarily too light”— causing IT to LIFT! This is opposite!!! in ***Right Hand Drive Countries Like England, as the Sidecar is on the LEFT! *** ( for passenger protection) ! Motorcycles are ” Ridden” (Counter-steered) Like a Bicycle! Sidecar Rigs and Trikes are “Driven” Like a car! This is why poor instruction or NO instruction Do Not Mix with Sidecars or the older Trikes !!! Heed my words!!! 90 +% of Sidecar or older Trike wrecks are from Lack of Sidecar or Trike training ! Edwin Winet . The United Sidecar Association can help you with this!

  25. Thanks to Mr. Canfield for the phrase “dressed to fly.”
    As late as the early ‘60’s, when I first began to travel by airplane ( from Louisville KY to Princeton, NJ), gentlemen wore coats & ties, ladies wore suits & gloves.
    Amazing today.
    Kelly Scott Reed
    Savannah

  26. I can always tell the ’55 T/Birds from the 56’s by the added fender vents on the 1956. 1955 owners complained about the heat build up inside so the air vents were added. Of course the design was perfected in 1957 before the car was sadly and completely redesigned in 1958.

  27. Really grateful for this informative, fact-filled and fun website. I really do look forward to visiting it every late Friday night or Saturday morning. The input from other readers is never snarky, always positive. Thanks to David and all you readers/participants for adding to others education and entertainment. Rare combination these days.

  28. I was just a tyke when the first baby T-Birds appeared, and it became my dream car. Driving was still years away for me, but I remember collecting the small plastic F&F cereal box premium cars in colors—just to get the pretty little pocket-sized T-Birds. Flash ahead to 2002; We bought the retro new T-Bird two-seater in red with the bolt-on port-holed hardtop. It still has the T-Bird magic—a lovely car! We keep it tucked away for special drives, and it still is like new. It’s funny how life can complete a circle started a half century ago, and dream cars can come true. I still go out to our garage just to admire and polish it.

  29. The very early design of the 1955 Ford Thunderbird did not have the bubble in the hood. In the early 1950’s my dad worked for a company called Industrial Wire Cloth Products located in Wayne, Michigan. They designed and manufactured air cleaners for engines, air compressors, vacuum pumps and anything else that needed clean air. Sometime prior to August, 1953 (that’s when he quit working for this company and we moved to California) my dad was told that Ford was coming out with a two passenger car and they needed an air cleaner for the engine. Dad worked on the design for about 2 weeks and finally told his boss that there just wasn’t enough room under the hood for the size of air cleaner needed for that engine. Ford was told of this problem and how much more room was needed. Ford said to go ahead and design the air cleaner and they would do something with the car. Hench, the bubble in the hood. I don’t know if Industrial Wire Cloth also manufactured the air cleaner or just did the design work. Dad said at the time he just couldn’t imagine why anybody would want a two passenger car. Poor dad. Years earlier he designed a check valve for the “Manhattan Project” Shhhhhhhh, (the atom bomb).

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