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Parking Lot Series: Kentucky Derby at Church Hill Downs

Today we travel to Lexington, Kentucky, for a view of one of the parking lots at Church Hill Downs filled to capacity on Kentucky Derby day. Judging by the appearance of the cars in the lot it appears that the image was taken in the late-1930s. Included in the mix are a number of Packards, a Pierce-Arrow, and a 1934 Lasalle convertible coupe with thin dual bumpers in the same layout as the wings on a biplane.

Expandable views of the lead image and the entire parking lot can be seen below. Tell us what you find of interest in the photographs courtesy of the Wayne State University Libraries.


20 responses to “Parking Lot Series: Kentucky Derby at Church Hill Downs

  1. Wow- that’s a parking lot! Among the more pedestrian makes , as you noted, there are senior Packardss, Cadillacs, a LaSalle convertible, Pierce Arrow, even an Airflow Chrysler and a three window 36 Ford coupe the customizes would love a few years later. I have to keep looking, there are so many great cars in this huge lot!

  2. David, lovely picture of the dirt track, what a litte emotion you must have had!
    I had the honor of riding as a mechanic in a full out race for two seater open wheel vintage racing cars. This was on dirt track used for horse racing, an oval. I will never forget the roar of the 20 odd cars, the visibilty was nill, and the tail was hanging out on the turns, let me confess I was a little worried.

  3. It would take all day to identify all the cars in the parking lot but a couple stood out to me. In the second row from the railing, there’s what I think is a 1935 Buick trunk back sedan that the owner must have thought the trunk wasn’t large enough and put a luggage rack with another trunk on the back to carry all their stuff. What appears to be a 1931 Pierce coupe is well kept for a 6-year old car. Love to have that car today in that condition.

  4. In the lead photograph, on the left, parked beneath the sitting soldier, is a medium-colored, four-door, 1937 BUICK, either a Special or Century.

  5. I think you ought to do a feature on one of those cars you fix up and give us a play by play of start up and zooming around the track. I am sure I’m not the only one that’s envious!

  6. In the row facing us, first car is a 1936 Buick, can’t see enough to say which series. Next a ’37 Ford, the previously mentioned Pierce-Arrow, then two 1935 Chevrolet Masters, easily distinguished by the suicide front doors. There is one hidden behind one of the Chevs which we can’t identify but next to it is a ’37 Dodge (or is it a ’38?). next to that is a big series 1934-35 Buick. Because of the Cadillac next to it I think it is a Series 60 (I think the 90 would look bigger). I think it is a Model 61 Club Sedan, (the same model as the car in the foreground of the picture with a truck behind the trunk). Next to the Cadillac is a 1934 Packard and then a 1932 Packard Light Eight. Between that and the LaSalle convertible are a 1939 Cadillac (the newest car there?) and a Junior Packard – the hood side trim says it is a 1937 Six.

  7. The sedan just in front of the ’36 Ford coupe is a 1934-35 Buick Series 40 Model 41 trunkback sedan (only three hood side strips, the big series car had four). I am intrigued by the 1929-30 era sedan with the landau irons next to the Buick with the extra trunk. Do those moulding on top of the hood say it is an Auburn?

  8. Why do you never see many Hudsons in these 1930s photos ?
    I can only spot one or possibly to here.
    They were always in the top 5 or 6 makers in that period.

    • They fell off a lot during the 1930s. They produced 300,962 cars in 1929. In the 1930s, their peak was 123,266 in 1936, when the top three marques (Ford, Chevrolet, and Plymouth) combined to sell about 2.4 million cars. As far as production rankings go, they were 5th in 1930, not in the top 8 in 1931, 4th in 1932, 8th in 1933, 5th in 1934, 7th in 1935, 8th in 1936, and never in the top 8 again. While they were technically a top marque in multiple years, the drop-off from third to fourth was usually around 50% in the 1930s, and the top manufacturer (usually Ford) was typically manufacturing around 8 times as many cars as Hudson, regardless of which position Hudson was in; even at Hudson’s peak in 1929, Ford built 5 times as many cars. They were moderately common, certainly, but not as ubiquitous as other marques.

  9. This picture certainly is evidence of the fact that rag-tops were truly out of style by the late 1930’s . I can only spot one or two but I’m sure there are more.

    • And it would just be gauche to drive a pickup truck to the races. Today, the derby parking lot would probably be filled to more than half with pickup trucks.

  10. I see the ladies were into the big hats back then too. It would be a disgrace for a lady to be caught at the derby without a big hat.

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