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Four Fun Friday Fifties Kodachrome Car Images

Since “Old Man Winter” has finally arrived here in Vermont, Number One-Hundred and Thirty-Two of the Kodachrome Image Series this week features cars out in the snow. The lead image contains one of the Ford Motor Company’s most significant mistakes – an automobile the buying public did not want, that was built at the wrong time, which suffered from reliability problems. Tell us all about this red and white two-door hardtop.

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.

  • This 1950s Cadillac Coupe appears to be equipped to handle the snow and harsh weather that a Connecticut winter can dish out.

  • This circa-1960 parking lot scene apparently was taken at a government facility of some sort out west.

  • And finally, it appears that a race between a Mercury and a Chevrolet is staged and ready to start.

65 responses to “Four Fun Friday Fifties Kodachrome Car Images

  1. Great pictures again !!

    In the 3rd photograph, in the lower left corner, is a green, four-door, 1950 BUICK Special. In the same photograph, in the far end of the parking lot, is a white over blue 1956 BUICK Riviera [either a Special or Century].

  2. Funny how that 1959 Edsel Ranger Hardtop Coupe looks less odd over time, and more charming, from a purely HELLO SMILEY viewpoint.

    • And the 1958 cadillac coupe deville probably has a couple of bags of sand in the trunk to a) add traction when driving and b) aid traction when extricating from a snowbank.

      • “What if I could sit in my warm Cadillac and call for a tow…without leaving my warm Cadillac…if there was a way to have a telephone in my car…and no more stopping to make calls on a payphone…Cadillac could sell the heck out of this option…someone could make a buck or two with this idea…”

        “Either that or a dispenser that squirts a sticky traction compund under the tires when all they do is spin on the ice…no more waiting for the kids to give you a push…”

        • Both GM and Ford has the “sticky traction compound ” idea around 1970. In both cases a can of “stuff” was in the trunk at each wheel. The driver pushed a button on the dash, the stuff squirted, the driver (as I remember it) was to spin the wheels for even coverage, wait a minute and then drive slowly out of whatever.

          Yeah, my guess is that it didn’t work so well. I never saw a car so equipped, and I don’t ever seeing it offered other than 69-70.

      • I do not believe the ’58 Cadillac is a coupe deville. I think it is a straight “62” coupe. No lettering on the front fender.

  3. Wonder if the photo of the ’58 Chevrolet and ’55 Mercury sedan are awaiting new owners, from the side lot of either a mechanic shop or sales lot, in view of the lack of front plates.

  4. In the third picture with the beautiful mountain panarama, it seems like an MGA is hiding just inside the frame on the right, and that must have been a chilly ride. Dress warmly!

    Regarding the Edsel, I think the ’59 model is a pretty sharp looking car, nothing embarrassing about it. Unfortunately, the writing was on the wall and the car was nowhere near as “special” as the ’58. A great book about the Edsel is Thomas Bonsall’s “Disaster in Dearborn: The Story of the Edsel.”

    These winter pictures are good reminders to get the snow tires installed for us northern folk. I just bought a set for my wife’s ’12 Mustang, and it’s amazing the difference they make.

    • There’s a slim chance the MGA is a fixed head coupe. I worked for a British car dealer (MG, Austin, Lotus) in the late 60s and we had one customer who regularly brought in his FHC for service.

      • I worked at Falvey Auto Sales in the late 1960’s. They were located in Ferndale, Mich. and were the Great Lakes area distributor of MG, Jaguar, Austin and Rolls Royce cars and parts. I worked in shipping and receiving area unloading partsin large wooden containers from England. Then we filled the orders from dealers in Mich, Ohio, Indiana, etc. Maybe I filled some orders from the dealership where you worked?

    • Aaron, “Disaster in Dearborn” is a great book. I think the great point he makes is that the biggest reason for Edsel’s failure was the Eisenhower recession of 1958. In those days a dealer was only able to hold one franchise, and in fact, had to live in the town where the franchise was located. Car sales in 1958 were about 1/2 of what they were in 1957. In a car dealership, the profit has always been in the Service Department. Edsel dealers simply did have the loyal service customer base to carry them through tough times. After all, the cars were no uglier than other 58 models, and the quality was no worse or better than any other car of the times.

    • Interesting how the cars in these pictures, (and even up to a few years ago) needed only a pair of winter tires on the drive wheels. Now we are all told we need four winter tires. Were drivers (or cars) that much better back then?

      • I don’t think you NEED four winter tires, since modern all-season tires are pretty good, but our Mustang is now WAY better in snow than our Focus is. It accelerates with very little wheelspin and it stops with very little ABS interference. You could probably just put winter tires on the back, but they help the car stop so much better that if you’re going to install them at all, you may as well install all four if you can.

        In general, to answer the last question, I’d say drivers were more focused on the road back then, but that’s a generalization that’s probably not totally true.

    • No need to remenber here in Qc , snow tire are mandatory starting 15 décember of each year . There even police checkpoint each 15 dec to give you big ticket if you didn’t put yours yet .

    • I was told that the Edsel was effectively canceled by the day it was introduced and the only reason it lasted three years was because of dealer agreements. What I don’t understand is the huge losses blamed on the Edsel, as it shared so much with Ford and Mercury.

  5. Both the Edsel and Caddy look remarkably clean. They must have been taken out of the garage just for the picture.
    By the looks of the snow piles behind the Caddy it has to be in snow country. That beautiful car probably rusted to nothing in just a few years and was junked.

    • In the late seventies I owned a 1958 Cadillac Sedan Deville in eastern Montana where the climate is dry and road salt wasn’t used. The car had lots of miles, zero rust and was still going strong many years thereafter. It took a combination of high humidity and road salt contamination to destroy those cars within a few years so the one in the photo, depending on local conditions, may have lasted a long, long time.

  6. I could be mistaken, but the red `59 Edsel Corsair in the first photo appears to still have it’s Monroney label, i.e. window sticker. If so, this was probably shot the same day these folks drove it home! The `58 Coupe DeVille in photo #2 no doubt carries the weight to get it through a moderate snow. I like the `55 Mercury Monterey sedan in the last photo; Yosemite yellow/black was a popular color combo on Mercs that year.

  7. The designers at Ford tried to repair the Edsel’s image by “dumbing down” and smoothing out the center grill, but prospective car buyers probably couldn’t get used to the idea of Over-paying for what was essentially a Ford, dressed up with a few gimmicks like that whirling cylindrical speedometer, and push-buttons in the center of the steering wheel — though Ford wised up and got rid of that unreliable Teletouch system for 1959. Ah, maybe it’s a matter of timing. After all, the 1969 and 1970 Pontiacs had a (hideous) center element to their grill yet they still sold. Maybe the Edsel was merely a high-profile victim of Ford’s war for supremacy with GM in the 1950s.

    • Edsel was supposed to be slotted in between Ford and Mercury. I saw a YouTube some time ago from 1957 on how the Edsel could compete with GM and Chrysler. Basically it was to do battle with Dodge and Pontiac and maybe even Oldsmobile.

      • There was too much overlap between Edsel and Mercury. In ’58, the cheapest Edsel was $93 less than the cheapest Mercury, and only the Mercury Park Lane was above the Edsel Citation’s price range. The Edsel Ranger mostly overlapped the Mercury Medalist’s price range, the Pacer was almost the same price as the Monterey, and the Corsair and Citation both overlapped the Montclair. On the Ford end, the Fairlane’s price range went from slightly below a Ranger to slightly above a Pacer. Instead of being between Ford and Mercury, it ended up competing with its sister divisions.

        There really was no middle ground between Ford and Mercury, since the Ford Fairlane had a broad range of prices ($2410-$3138) that covered the entire price range of both the Mercury Medalist ($2547-$2617) and Monterey ($2652-$3081). If they had cut one model from each brand (Fairlane, Citation, and Medalist), it would have made the target markets more clear, since there would be no overlap between Ford and Edsel, and the higher-end Edsels (Pacer and Corsair) would only overlap with the lowest Mercurys (Monterey and the cheapest Montclairs). It may not have worked due to the collapse of the medium-car market in the late 50s, but the structure they had in place was (in retrospect) nonsensical.

    • I recall there were several years of pre-introduction teasers and hype about how the Edsel would be “all new” and being disappointed to discover they were just warmed-over Fords and Mercurys. They might have had more business success if they brought down Meteors and Monarchs from Canada and sold them through Ford and Mercury dealers rather than bring out still another brand name with a separate dealer network.

      • It would not be fair to say the 58′ Edsels are “badge engineered” There is not much of body parts used on these Edsels . Glass, window regulators, etc. To me, badge engineering is simply adding name plates or a piece of trim to an existing design.

    • I beleieve the ‘58 was the only year Edsel that had a front hinged hood. A local restorer was doing one and explained the challenge to me. The two hinges were either side of the horse collar rather than at the outer edges which makes adjusting the hood a very finicky chore. Plus the only reliable way to close the hood is by supporting it in the very center of the back edge until it is about 6” from closed and letting it drop from there. If you hold it at either side as most folks would do, it will rarely close properly and if you start forcing it closed from there you’ll be back to readjusting the hood very soon.

  8. I would say those are the Wasatch Mountains as seen from Federal Heights in Salt Lake City, more or less above the University of Utah

    • Actually the Wasatch mountains would be behind the photographer, the mountains in the photo are the Qquirrh Mountains that make up the western border of the Salt Lake Valley. The Rio Tinto (formerly Kennecott) copper mine is in those mountains, the largest (or 2nd largest depending on who you believe) copper mine in the world.

    • Even though I have been a life-long Minnesotan I do get out to SLC frequently and that was my first thought. SLC is such a beautiful place.

  9. Apparently the Mercury and Chevy picture has been corrected. I see the steering wheels on the left. And they look like they might be waiting for a tow.
    The Edsel has several stories about its origin. One is that son Edsel just wanted to have a car with his name on it.
    The parking lot picture is great! So many cars I would like to have sitting in my shop.

    • Edsel Ford died in 1943, long before the E-Car project. Legend has it the Ford family was not happy at all with the name choice.

  10. I have a 1959 Edsel Conv same colors has the sedan above, it is a very nice car and people love it when a take it to the car shows

  11. Photo was taken from the University of UTAH looking west. Large white building to the right is the back side of the old Pioneer Memorial Theater on President Circle. As stated Oquirrh Mountain to the west and also showing is the Utah Power & Light power plant.

  12. The Chevy and the Merc. might be from West Virginia, (trees look right) No front plates for many years, (including now) , an excellent opportunity to display a 1930 WV plate on the front our ’30 AA Ford Truck).

  13. Note that the Cadillac is not wearing: “Fender-skirts”! Darn good idea — in case one has to: “hang Iron”: (Snow/Ice)Chains)

    • I thought it was a ’41 Cadillac Series 61 sedan… that was the only fastback I could think of that had that much chrome on the hood. It seemed logical that a college campus student/attendee would love that large lumbering sedan? Tho scarce, it would’ve been around.

  14. I don’t rememberEdsel having a worse reliability reputation than typical for 1950s cars.

    The third picture to the left in the street – looks like a white’61 Buick wagon, maybe the latest model car .

  15. Funny how everybody drove rear-drive automobiles in those days, and got around just fine in the wintertime with snow tires (hopefully studded) and sometimes sand bags in the trunk. Today’s sissy drivers think they have to have 4WD or AWD, and “short buses” with large tires, or they’ll DIE!

    • I’ve been driving for over 30 years, never have owned a FWD or 4WD vehicle, never owned snow tires and never owned chains, only got stuck once …while driving my ’76 Chev pickup with bald bias ply tires in a foot of snow. Northern Utah may not be as bad as the northeast but it can get bad here and people can’t believe I only drive RWD cars and ask me how I don’t get stuck, my reply; “I don’t drive stupid”.

    • Or . . . they no longer want to bother with tire chains. Or their towns are no longer dumping tons of salt on the roads any more. Or they want to drive faster than 20MPH. Or they were simply more tolerant of danger.

      I remember driving those old RWD cars, and sliding around quite a lot, unable to get up certain hills. Now I’ve got an AWD Subaru with four studded snows, and I go where I damn please.

    • My dad was a good Winter driver and taught me, but there were times our ’69 Fairlane just could not get up some steep hills in town -even with sandbags in the trunk and snow tires. We did try studded tires on the rear and they helped, but the tendency was to leave them off until needed (usually too-late). Our ’73 Mercury Marquis was way worse in the snow: a 429 cu. in. engine, numb steering, and over-boosted brakes resulted in all sorts of control issues. I don’t need an AWD bus, but I sure like my FWD sedan with traction control/ABS and four dedicated snow tires!

    • A cynic would point out how the sample of ye olde-skool drivers who think they can get by with RWD in the snow is self-selecting, because the ones who couldn’t are now dead and no longer in a position to hold the opposite position. A statistician would point out that motor vehicle fatalities per 100,000 US residents has declined from 20-23 in the 1950s to 10-12 in the 2010s, and the deaths per 100 million vehicle miles has gone from 5-7 in the 1950s to 1-1.5 in the 2010s. Possibly the increased focus on safety has reduced the mortality rate by half on a per-person rate and by 75% on a per-mile rate?

  16. 58 Cadillacs did not come equipped with skirts. The only 58 model that had fender skirts was the model 60-S. Very cool car.

  17. Wait! I just figured out the Edsel photo. The building in the background looks like a church building, note the stained glass windows. The car is amazingly clean. I’d bet it was the grand prize in a fund-raising raffle.

  18. A standout in the crowd of third photo must be the ’58 Chevrolet. As a one time avid ’55 Nomad consumer, I always get a vibe from that tomato red. It ( the color ) speaks of macho performance.

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