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Four Fun Friday Fifties Kodachrome Car Images

Number One-Hundred and Thirty-Four of the Kodachrome Image Series begins this week with a late-1950s photo of four cars and a man clearing snow off of a Ford. The unusually narrow and tall houses in the background and another clue in the image are the keys to identifying the location.

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 images are via This Was Americar.

  • Preparing for a winter trip was more involved in the 1950s, the men behind the sedan are getting ready to install a set of snow chains.

  • Check out the winding tracks on the road behind this Cadillac stuck in a snow bank.

  • This man was the wisest of all, he hopped in the Buick and drove to Florida escaping all the cold and snow back home.

36 responses to “Four Fun Friday Fifties Kodachrome Car Images

  1. In the lead photograph, center, is a 1956 PACKARD 400 Coupé Hardtop, that’s seen better days.

    In the 4th picture is a 1957 BUICK Century convertible.

  2. The license plates in the first picture are District of Columbia, either 1957, 1959, or 1961. Before 1953, they used DC instead of District of Columbia. ’53 and ’54 were green-on-white, ’55 was white-on-green, and ’56, ’58, and ’60 were blue-on-yellow. 1957, 1959, and 1961 were both yellow-on-blue and could have the two letter, diamond, three number pattern seen on these license plates. The difference between the two would be the top right corner, which would be marked either 58, 60, or 62, but I can’t read the number in the photo. Since R, E, and P prefix plates were issued all three years, the most I can do is narrow it down to the winter of 57-58, 59-60, or 61-62.

    It’s also interesting that the first car is RA-355, because 1957 is the first year where R is known to have been permitted for general passenger vehicles. Prior to 1955, R was reserved for rental cars (it’s unclear what its status was in 1955-56 from the documents setting out those years’ specifications – it’s not on either a general passenger vehicle list or reserved list). It also ended after 1962, with the 1963 memorandum calling for the RA, RB, and RC series plates to be reserved for rentals.

  3. I like the 57 Century on the beach image best of all. “KC” on the 59/60 license plate tells us this man drove from Genessee county Michigan likely Flint , home to Buick at that time. An autoworker on Christmas break perhaps? Happy New Year all!

    • I agree, the Buick is a Century. Both the Century and the Roadmaster had four VentiPorts, but the Roadmaster was on a 5-1/2″ longer wheelbase (much like the difference between 88 and 98 Oldsmobiles in the same year). The Century had “Century” script above a chrome chevron above the dip in the rear fender trim. The Roadmaster had three chrome slashes roughly parallel to the kick up in the trim.

      As far as autoworker goes, he looks like middle to upper management to me, so yes he could afford a Century. Back in those days the entire auto industry out down between Christmas and New Years, plenty of time to get to FL. The industry usually ended their operating year in September then so December had no year end pressures.

  4. The second photo of the group putting chains on the `57 Plymouth remind me of Dad doing the same on a couple of snow-packed mornings. I was too little to help, but I sure learned a few new cuss words listening to Dad as he toiled with those!
    The guy in the last photo is probably snickering to himself over what us northerners were doing as he basks in the warm sun, perched on his `57 Buick! (Either Century or Roadmaster; can’t tell from this angle)

    I wanted to wish all a very safe, happy, & prosperous 2018!! I can’t wait for more of these images next year!!

    • Packards were made and sold in 57 and 58. Yes, the Studebaker-Packard corporation made them, but they were sold in Packard dealerships and the registration says “Packard.”

  5. 1st pic: 1956 Ford, 1956 Packard, 1959 Ford Galaxie and a 1952-1954 era Ford
    2nd pic: a 1951-52 era Mopar car (Chrysler or DeSoto?), 1957 Plymouth (a very beautiful car, but due to severe rust problems and terrible quality control one of the worst to have in these weather conditions) and a 1955 Chevy
    3rd pic: 1949 Cadillac
    4th pic: 1957 Buick (looks like the top model Roadmaster 75)

    • Yup, installed plenty of chains in the ’50’s and you just lay them down and drive over them if you have a light enough touch on the clutch and gas pedal. Auto trans made it a little tougher. Just make sure no one is standing directly behind the car, just in case you hit it too hard and shoot one set out the back!

  6. These images remind me why I’ve stayed in the Southern US! I enjoy the pictures, though! Thanks, David. Makes me think of days long passed, good days…

    • Mark,

      You get the prize today !!

      At first thought the ’56 PACKARD was a 400 Coupé hardtop, but as one of the faux hood scoops is showing, the car is a Caribbean as you identified.


      • That’s a hood ornament, in the correct place and in the correct shape. A 400 to be sure, as all Caribbean Hardtops had Hypalon covered tops, a la Derham.

  7. The ’57 Buick convertible is a Century. The Special has 3 portholes. Super has three “hashmarks” back at the lowest point of the side trim where this car has a model name and a “checkmark”. The Roadmaster and Roadmaster 75 have a Roadmaster nameplate with a shield style emblem at that low point in the side trim. This car pictured has the emblem in the “checkmark” that will say Century.
    Enough rivet-counting for today.

  8. 1st pic, going by what Steve says, got to be 1960. The ’59 Ford looks pretty new. Packard looks a bit tarnished, but the ’56 Ford looks great.
    2nd pic, I don’t see any evidence of tire chains, especially in a city setting like this. I think it was just a flat tire, very common in the 60’s, and judging by the lean on the ’55 Chevy, it might have one too.
    3rd, I think these hooligans were screwing around with dad’s Cadillac, and it got away from them. Who here can say they’ve never done this with dad’s car,,,mm-hmm. Usually we’d pick an open parking lot, but a back road would do.
    And lastly, no need for Florida. 55 and sunny in central Colorado today. Conversely, -9 in N. Wis. today. In honor of that, I think I’ll take a slow ride through the mountains on the GoldWing today.
    To all OM stalwarts, Happy and above all, a safe New Years to all..

  9. The black ’57 Buick convertible is a Century. See
    checkmark and name in the sidesweep, There never
    was a ’57 Roadmaster 75 convert., also Roadmaster 75
    used no logo, only lettering. Early ’57 Roadmasters used
    a logo Could someone point out the hood scoop(s) on the
    Packard? All I can see is part of the standard hood or-
    nament used on the 400s. Not meaning to be picky.

  10. The guy with the Plymouth is probably getting ready to chain up. Looks like a shovel standing nearby that he doesn’t want to use anymore. And a bumper jack on snow. Dangerous combination.

  11. My latest theory.
    Tire chains are not involved, he is putting on snow tires.
    Note the tire on the right rear is a snow tire and has no snow attached. The left rear tire still has snow attached and needs to be swapped for another snow tire.
    Note the car on the right has snow attached to the tire.

    • Very good observations! It also looks like that car has not moved since the overnight snow based on the remaining snow that wasn’t fully removed from the roof, windshield, etc.

  12. Yikes!!! it’s: Port-a-vents —not Vent-a-ports !!! Oh, well , — same thing, (You know when you get in it —to start it — that nothing will happen —until you: turn the ignition key on, and press the gas pedal to the floor! ( which sets the choke IF cold —and clears a flooded carburetor if warm , and remember how the hood opens on each side — if that doesn’t work! (The (Intake Manifold “vacuum present”controlled )— starter control switch — was on Buicks for many Years! both: Pre & Post WW-2. Edwin W.

  13. I’ll betcha that: The Ford in the foreground —If its special: Ignition Coil Ballast “resistor wire” Cold (or warm) Start Bypass via extra (starter solenoid terminal , is functioning will start better in the cold than the other cars without that technology! The other “Culprit” is: that the: Radio- Noise Prevention Plug wires (“rag- wire” ) – (Graphite impregnated linen instead of Copper!) eventually goes bad at about 20,000 miles!!! ( A standard part of a Major tune-up — is to measure the “condition” of these “rag wires ” with an Ohm-Meter : “Good = 10,000 Ohms per foot or less! A World- wide problem for older cars! I hope some “Old Motor” fans read this . Oh: If that same (built into the loom!) ballast wire “opens up” : ( it’s: F.O.R.D. : Found on the road , — dead!) (“Y- block” Fords) Edwin W.

  14. The first picture, as stated earlier is a good looking 56 ford, 56 Packard, a 59 ford Galaxie 500 ( Mid year upgrade from Fairlane 500 still stated on the trunk) and a 52 thru 54 Ford sedan. I had a 56 Ford club sedan in 62.

  15. Hi guys,

    Looks like the guy basking in the sun on his sharp ’57 Century is actually on Daytona Beach. Aren’t those perhaps the only public beaches where one can park or drive a car onto them? (maybe not so anymore??). He is also “wearing” his own military style haircut “whitewalls”! Maybe a weekend warrior (Reservist or Guardsman). He has crazy city shoes and socks for the beach, probably just got out of the car after long drive down highway from cold Michigan to sunny Atlantic coast Florida(?). ‘Spose his honey snapped the shot?

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