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Samson’s Used Car Lot – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

A part of successfully selling new cars is taking in good used cars at less than retail prices and selling them at a profit, and thereby make money on both ends of the deal after covering the overhead. Often a dealer will take in a used vehicle it has no interest in just to get the deal done and then send it to an auction or sell it on the wholesale market.

Large dealerships like Samson’s Buick located in Pittsburgh, PA, generally set up a used car lot in a separate location. The main reason for this is to not tempt a new car sales prospect at the primary new car location to get interested in a previously-owned car or because of a lack of space at the main location.

In this case, Samson’s went all-out on this lot by using attention-getting signage. Note the over-the-top neon-lit marquee supported by columns of semitransparent architectural glass and masonry, and the steamers of incandescent lights used back in the period. On both sides at the front of the lot are also odd-looking-lamp-like objects that hopefully a reader can identify.

Tell us what you find of interest in this circa-1951 photograph courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh Library.

 

22 responses to “Samson’s Used Car Lot – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  1. In the lead photograph, on the far left, parked on the street, is a four-door 1950 BUICK Roadmaster. In the lot, on the far left, is a 1950 BUICK, either a Roadmaster or Super and next to it is a 1950 BUICK Special with a split windshield. On the right, between the OLDSMOBILE and CHEVROLET, is either a 1947 or ’48 BUICK, either a Roadmaster or Super.

  2. Wow! How can you switch a buyer from used to new with an off site used lot? That sure isn’t the way business was done when I sold both new and used. The greatest profit was in the used vehicles. New vehicle sales nearly always held a smaller final margin after the dealing was done. Of course the factories give incentive bonuses to the dealers tied to the number of new units sold in the first half, the last half, and the total for the month. Dealer will also go deep into the invoice to squeeze out another unit at the end of the month and get it back in the bonus. Profit on the new unit, profit on the trade in, and auction purchased used units, and profit in the service department are the only ways a dealership make money. By the way, I hated auto sales.

      • Gents, I think you also want to take into account that having large inventories of new cars on the lot began in the 1950’s with the Ford vs Chevrolet sales war, where both factories simply shipped cars to dealers. Prior to that the “show room”, usually located in prime downtown real estate displayed new models, and customers ordered their cars. Service was located there as many customers worked downtown. There wasn’t space to display large inventories. Used car lots were usually located in more outlying areas.

  3. On the corner 49 Lincoln Cosmopolitan . Third from left Chrysler? Rest are GM. Buick, Olds, Chevy. Nice selection of large Detroit iron.

    • Hugh, not a ’49 Cosmo… baby Lincoln (shared body w/ Mercury) and the Mopar is a Dodge (’46-early ’49)… Interesting , no ’49 Buicks ( maybe the split windshield Special , however it’s an early ’50 debuting in the spring ’49) but all the rest are 1950 or ’47-8s, including the Sedanette behind the Lincoln… BTW the Oldmobiles flanking the Art Deco pillared entry are, respectively a ’49 and a ’48. As you say , “Nice selection of Detroit Iron!”.

  4. Samson may have gone all-out on that lot because their main building was destroyed by an explosion in 1948. The dealership was founded by Hudson Gilmore Samson, a World War I veteran who went to Princeton after the war and died 3 April 1960 according to Princeton Alumni Weekly. The most recent reference I can find to Samson Buick is a court case from 1993, Pistella v. WCAB (Samson Buick Body Shop), although it was an appeal of a decision made in 1990, so from my quick and shallow internet research, they were open at least until 1990 and possibly later.

    • Great snowcatchers but in that mode the light output was seriously degraded. Surprising result for a product designed in Michigan.

  5. I’ve always wondered if there was anyone that liked the styling of that Lincoln. I’m sure they put up with it, because it was such a fantastic road car. Looks like old man Sampson steppin’ pretty lively there.

  6. Those vertical lamps on the flanking post were fluorescent tube fixtures. Some service station used those on the pump islands rather than the typical shaded incandescent types. They were quite affective as they had six or eight fluorescent tubes to flood light the driveway. Love that neon and glass block entry gate, bet it was pretty at night.

    Nice selection of new Buick trade-ins. The 1949-’51 ‘baby’ Lincoln was the successor to the Lincoln-Zephyr competing in the upper medium-priced segment versus Buick and Chrysler. The tunneled headlight bezels were a stopgap measure when the hidden headlight units proved unreliable and too costly per unit.

  7. There is every possibility that : The fluorescent bulbs and the 25 Watt (Car lot strings) bulbs, and the “sealed beams ” were made in the Westinghouse Fairmont W.V. Bulb, Lamp & Fl. Tube Manufacturing Plant. As to the Columnar structured sign, the (stacked & cemented) Architectural Glass blocks became “popular” in 1939 and very possibly were also made in W.V. A decorative “gob” of that same glass type, is on our porch. Before “sealed beams ” many W.V. Glass Factories had contracts with “Detroit” for the molded glass lenses for: Headlamps , tail lamps , stop lamps, spot lamps , interior lamps, spot lamps & auxiliary running lamp housings. This spanned all of the 6 Volt era and the earlier part of the 12 Volt era. Many of the lamp lens & door styles, – clear & colored remain in: W.V. Glass Factory Museums. Edwin W.

  8. Samson used cars are something you can both depend on and rely on. It says so right on the wall.

    Come in for the deals, drive away in something stodgy and conservative. I think I see a fastback along the side though.

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