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Ford Valve Job $4.95 – Luther’s Automotive Los Angeles California

Luther’s Automotive service, located at 2012 West Slauson Avenue in South Los Angeles, California, is featured today in a set of promotional images taken in 1932. The outfit specialized in vehicles made by only two automakers, which inspired confidence in motorists passing by on the busy main thoroughfare, who owned automobiles produced by these manufacturers.

The $4.95 valve job advertised on a sign on the front of the building was for labor only and baring complications, adding a new head gasket and sundries to the work probably cost about $5.00 in total. With inflation added in, today’s price for this service would be about $93.00, which is a bargain as the labor for the same job today done correctly would be about $300 plus parts.

In addition to the clean and freshly painted building, the owner also placed a small building with signage, an open air lift, and a Pennzoil lubrication system seen in the second photo below right in front of auto drivers passing by on the busy main Avenue. Amazingly the building has survived intact including the skylights and today is Slauson Auto Restoration.

Tell us what you find of interest in these photographs courtesy of the USC Libraries.


36 responses to “Ford Valve Job $4.95 – Luther’s Automotive Los Angeles California

  1. One aspect of days gone by I never got to experience, were open-air repair lanes. They wouldn’t fly here in the snow belt, but must’ve been common on the west coast.

  2. I’m kind of curious why Plymouth seems to be added to the list of Chrysler products as an afterthought. Plymouth and DeSoto were introduced within a month of each other in 1928. Were there, perhaps, no Plymouth dealers in the neighborhood, and hence few Plymouths on the road?

    • Plymouths were sold at all three tiers of Chrysler dealerships (i.e. Dodge, DeSoto, and Chrysler all sold Plymouth cars), so there should have been *some* on the road, particularly since Plymouth was the third-highest selling marque in 1931, behind Ford and Chevrolet. It’s certainly odd that it would get so little signage space.

      Also interesting is that they’re advertising only for Model A Fords, since it’s 1932, the year Model A production ended and Model B and Model 18 production began. Either it’s relatively early in the year, or they figure advertising to repair (slightly) older cars will draw more customers than the newest Fords.

      Hyvis had specific formulations of oil for different mileages – Hyvis 3 for vehicles with less than 1,000 miles, Hyvis 4 for 1,000 to 9,999 miles, Hyvis 5 for 10,000 to 30,000 miles, and Hyvis 6 for more than 30,000 miles. Hyvis was headquartered in Warren, Pennsylvania, and advertised that they only used Pennsylvania oil in all their products. I can’t imagine people now putting up with four different formulations of oil depending on their engine mileage!

  3. I would like to see the motorcycle image enlarged. I can’t quite identify the make using the limited enlargement I know how to do.
    Regardless, this looks like a nice clean and well organized garage. I am surprised at how close the residential properties are in many of these old service station scenes. Poor zoning or No zoning enforcement?

    • Probably no zoning. The small town in far upstate NY where I was born had on filling station, right across the street from our house and just steps from the front door of the owners house. pretty common at the time.

  4. Referencing the Google street view,; how far we have come from those days of the deep depression…………I’m curious about the Plymouth add on too , David….they took the time too make the other four distinctive to their brand.

  5. I see the shops three-wheeler ready to be attached to a customers car for delivery back home. Talk about service! I would like to know more about the car parked outside the shop in the lower right. I’m not very good about determining the make of this era but what I do see looks like a “luxury” brand with landau irons on the top, dual spare tires on back and what appears to be a golf club door on the side and beautiful artillery wheels supporting white wall tires.

    • That coupe caught my eye, too. It looks like a Chrysler from 1927-28, one of the larger models like a 70 or 72. Being several years old it is exceptionally well cared for well equipped with a rumble seat, whitewall tires and dual rear spares. Personally, I like dual spares better than sidemounts on the old cars. It gives them a longer, sleeker appearance. There also appears to be some sort of visor over the side windows. The spot in the center of the door is probably the owner’s monogram as was often seen on luxury cars of the day.

      • Thanks DLYNSKEY/BILLY/ANDERS. I’ve looked at my google search results and I now see the resemblance to a late 1920’s Chrysler model. I’m embarrassed to admit I retired from Chrysler and I couldn’t recognize one of our early products! Oh to go back in time and step into that picture.

      • I went back and looked at the 27-29’s. The crestline of the hood from the door seam to the radiator is a straight line on these older ones. The hood and side of the cowl, likewise are flat. This looks to have a curve in the cowl that matches the ’31.

      • I think it’s a 1927 Chrysler Series 70. It’s a late 1927 model because it has four lug wheels with 30 × 6 tyres. they were known as Chrysler “Finer 70’s”.

        • Yes, it looks like a 70 Royal Coupe. I wasn’t looking far enough back and was getting frustrated because the 72s dropped the lowest part of the landau irons below the fabric, where the car in the photo (and the 70) had the irons completely within the fabric portion of the roof.

  6. Just to be clear, the “valve job” was probably not what you are thinking of. On most of these flathead’s, they probably pulled the head (s), lapped in the valves with compound, a quick scrape of the piston tops, and probably REUSED the head gasket. ( and still turned the car out in a couple hours) Not like today, where it’s easier to replace the entire engine, than take it apart.

    • Plus scraped the carbon out of the combustion chamber, and readjusted the valve clearances.

      Heads are still removed for valve, head, and ohc camshaft service today, but due to hardened valve seats and modern valve alloys they seldom need a valve job anymore.

      • That’s true, but it’s the head gasket replacement that’s the Achilles Heel. ( and most people waste the motor in those situations) I was quoted over $2,000 on a head gasket replacement ( and that was one of the cheaper estimates) on a ’05 Honda Civic, when I could get a whole used motor for $800 bucks. ( probably with a failing head gasket, tho) Needless to say, I junked the car.

  7. $4.5 is $74.41 today ,seems very reasonable labour .Is that a Servicar ?the front forks look a little different to the pics elsewhere of HDs.

  8. Direct Injection of the new engines unfortunately bring back this problem . BMWs, VWs, Audis and Kias seem to show up with this problem more than others . Crushed walnut shells can be blasted into the intake ports by compressed air to relieve the problem or simply using seafoam , dependings on the amount of the build-up .

  9. That looks like a homemade side car rig versus a factory servicar. It does appear to have a towbar set up tho. An interesting machine for sure.

  10. The sidecar rig is most likely a Indian Big Chief 1925
    or thereabout with towbar mounted on front forks
    To hook up on serviced car for delivery to customer.
    So service personell could go back to service station
    on ”own” wheels. Nice pictures !

  11. Yep, it is a Pick-up & Delivery setup on the front of the “Coffin” Sidecar- Rig. This works best – if the Coffin has two batteries, paralleled, — for Sidecar weight & “jump start” duties , (Both) , – easy to attach to the spring steel bumpers of that day by “clamping on” ! The lube rack , “out in the open” is because: It’s the Los Angeles Basin area , a mild climate with occasional rain and no snow, (normally), the temperature being better, outside, than inside a typical metal gas station! That area of Slauson Blvd. was a neighborhood territory , but notice that: Like much of the L.A area, – that there is pavement, curbs & sidewalks ! The first block of a Blvd . is “dual zoned ” on each side of the block, the homes near commercial (Blvd.) 4- lane streets are typically less expensive, as they are next to traffic noise. Note: That there is enough traffic to merit: “Semaphore Arm” : “GO – STOP” Traffic Signals. Note the (Blvd. )3- phase 33 to66 K.V. commercial (higher) power poles are only there , and that the lower neighborhood power distribution is 4.2 K.V. and 120 Volt house usage, before 240 Volts was in neighborhoods. Also note that: The Street behind the Blvd. has: Standard L.A. area: “Torch head” decorative glass Street -lamps. The Blvd. lighting is not evident , but in may areas it was lamps with”wavy” porcelain shades , green with white on bottom, strung across the Blvd., at intervals, or at least at intersections . If more of Slauson Blvd. was shown , it might have revealed these or other features. Each Blvd. was an “open air conduit” for electrical A.C. distribution, plus D.C. Power distribution For the Blvds. that also had Electric Streetcars, all over L.A , County and surrounding Counties. A.C. power was well established, before World War one . Many paved streets for automobiles were, also. A lot of Los Angeles was designed for Automobiles , early-on. Oil in the L.A. area was discovered early -on, and Standard Oil’s Second huge (Calif) refinery (& its town) : ” El Segundo ” appeared , ready to fuel Cars & Trucks in the L.A. area Basin! Edwin W.

  12. The motorcycle is a 1928 short frame Indian Scout. I often post comments but I don’t know if any of them ever get posted.

  13. Other details that indicates ’28 and not ’27 are dash panel and “bullet” head light both of which were introduced and featured on the 1928 Indian.

  14. The $4.95 valve job sounds like a real deal. I have a Ford flat rate manual for early Lincolns. Their valve job was $18.00 for the L V8.

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