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Los Angeles Drive-In Featuring Unique Automated Service

Kenneth C. Purdy, an inventor from Vista, California, filed a patent application on July 2, 1948, that he described as follows. “My invention relates to a means for marketing goods, more particularly for use in mechanically delivering goods to the occupants of motor vehicles in a parking lot adjacent a retail place of business”.

Only a year later a new drive-in restaurant called “The Track” opened, at 8201 Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. Purdy’s invention, in addition to speeding food delivery also eliminated the carhop and the eatery promoted that cost-saving feature with no-tipping signage on the building. Fast food at less cost apparently was the sales line. The application drawings for the patent that was granted on Aug 25, 1953, can be viewed here.

It must have been quite a novelty the first time a customer drove in, parked and was soon greeted by a traveling hooded tray that was sent out from the restaurant much like a horizontal dumbwaiter. After it arrived, the device could be pulled up to the car window. The patent drawing shows a push button activated intercom that was used for ordering.

The photos originate from “Historic Los Angeles” along with some of the information used for this post. They found a 1951 phone book listing for “The Track No. 3” at 3816 Sepulveda Boulevard, in Culver City, California, which points to there being as many as three locations in the chain.

The photo below shows an upscaled version of the restaurants with a canopy. Who owned and operated these drive-ins and for exactly how long is at this point unknown, but in 1952 the contents of one located at 8123 Beverly Blvd. in LA was auctioned off at the site. If you can add to the story, please let us know. Learn more and view more photos at Historic Los Angeles.

Editors Note: I slipped on the ice yesterday, fell and injured my right wrist (I’m right-handed), and spent half of yesterday in the ER. Fortunately it was not broken, just severely sprained and needs to be kept wrapped up and iced. Since The Old Motor is a one-man band and using a computer is difficult, interesting posts from the past seven years are going to be featured here again for at least a part of this week, sorry for any inconvenience.

22 responses to “Los Angeles Drive-In Featuring Unique Automated Service

    • David,

      Didn’t read your “Editor’s Note” earlier this morning. Wish you well.

      Not sure if you picked it out, but in the lead photograph, in the upper left corner, is the tail-end of a 1949 BUICK.

      AML

  1. Sorry to hear about the wrist, David. Take care, and get well soon.

    And, by the way, I suspect the chain failed because people wanted human contact, even if they never got out of their cars. And if the car hops were cute girls on roller skates, well, that didn’t hurt business, either.

  2. Sorry to hear of your mishap. It’s one of the indicators of old (er) age. Did anybody see you fall? (it’s comical until it happens to you)
    What a great idea, just 50 years ahead of it’s time. Must have been a maintenance nightmare. I wonder what propelled the trays? Today, in this non-people contact, this would be a hit. Go to any fast food joint today at noon, the drive thru is lined up to the street, and you can walk in and go right to the counter.

    • “It’s one of the indicators of old (er) age.”

      Its neither, the driveway is steep in one spot on my 30- foot commute back and forth to work and it wasn’t sanded – so its my fault. I’ve been falling on the ice here for 30-years now, you would think I would learn.

      “Did anybody see you fall? ”

      Just Stanley the shop cat and one of the dogs.

      Thanks to all of you for showing your concern!

  3. Is that the same woodie from the first photo parked across the street in the second photo? Also interesting is the jeep with what looks like a chopped top wagon body. That must be someone’s unique home built conversion.

    Best wishes for fast healing from your wounds!

  4. Sending speedy recovery and well wishes (!) along with the rest of your followers, David. Not familiar with this type of fast food service but a friend of mine dated Norma Jean before she was Marilyn Monroe while he was delivering auto parts and she was working at a burger joint in Culver City. He remembered taking her on a date to the races at Gilmore Stadium.

  5. Hi David,

    Sorry to hear about your fall. Speed recovery wishes.

    I’ve seen films of this operation and the trays looked very wobbly going back and forth on the belts. I would imagine drinks were difficult to serve as I don’t believe disposal cups with lids had been invented yet.

  6. Yeah, sometimes the dumb just get dumber and they never learn. You slip and fall several times and end up this way, I crash and burn on MTBs and still ride despite several broken bones including a broken wrist. So I feel the pain in more ways than one. Speedy recovery!

  7. I have a feeling that there may have been at least two major problems with this setup. First , the maintenance costs as the conveyors are always out in the open. It does rain in California! And then there is the dust, etc. Next, being from LA I know there are a lot of rambunctious kids in that area (I lived nearby and snuck into the movie studio lots on occasion) and these conveyor systems look to be prime playthings (not to mention the security problems of sealing up the shop after hours). The lot now seems to be a Carl’s Jr.

  8. i am in upstate ny and everyone is falling. i wear my creepers. horrible long icy winter. where are you? be careful. dont fall again! love this site.

  9. I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy this site. I have always loved old cars,. Seeing them in the context of when they were not “old” really brings to light how cars are intrically bound up with our culture. Many thanks for the work you put into this, and hope you feel better soon.

    • Debbie, Thanks to you and all the others that have wished me well!!

      I think that on Thursday left-handed typing and using the mouse with the right hand will be possible for the Friday Kodachrome feature.

  10. David I hope you get well soon.

    TOM is one of my favorite sites on the internet.

    I hope the following Public Safety Announcement doesn’t violate TOM rules.

    For EVERYONE who may deal with slippery surfaces in the winter I recommend a product I have used for more than 15 years which will ABSOLUTELY give you traction on the slippery snow and ice – STABILicers Maxx – Heavy Duty Snow & Ice Cleats.

    I KNOW STABILicers MAXX have prevented numerous falls due to the many hours I have worn them over the last 15 years. On several occasions I have worn them in severe ice storms.

    I still use the same pair I bought 15 years ago, I have replaced the screws several times as needed.

    When I got them I tested them by running on a frozen pond. No problems as long as you don’t try and slide with them on.

    They are slightly inconvenient to use, but not nearly as inconvenient as a fall which may lead to painful sprains or worse. The inconvenient part is that they WILL damage any finished floor surfaces indoors or outside , and they take a little while to put on and take off.

    What I do: 1 pair left on a pair of boots at the back door- lace up and go. 1 pair in the truck at all times, in case of a sudden storm they can be put on whatever shoes or boots I have on at the time.

    I have given them as gifts, if you don’t want to fall on the ice either stay inside or wear STABILicers™ Maxx. (P.S. They are made in USA and Canada.)

  11. Top photo left to right
    Background 49 Buick
    40s GM coupe
    36 Dodge ,seen better days
    47/48 Ford convertible
    46/47/48 DeSoto
    41 Pontiac -looks nice for its age
    46/47/48 Plymouth wagon , wood body by Cantrell
    48 Olds 98
    ? Buick

  12. I wondered if this inventor, Kenneth Purdy was one and the same as the Automotive writer and journalist Ken Purdy, (one-time editor of Car and Driver) who had a great interest in cars and the people who drove them. Alas, that was Kenneth W. Purdy, this one says Kenneth C. Purdy.
    Besides vandalism, this arrangement wouldn’t work today: too much “wasted” real estate between the building and the cars.

  13. David, sorry for your mishap. I know what you’re going through from personal experience. Don’t worry about us. We’ll be OK. Feel better soon.
    I look forward to the Old Motor each week.
    Rog

  14. Bummer in the Summer! Splinter in the Winter! Younger D rive- in Restaurant Male Customers did not want : “automation gizmoes” , they wanted: live, young, beautiful, efficient Waitresses & Kitchens that provided delicious, fast, GOOD food. Examples of that would be: Van De Kamp’s , Bob’s , and Stan’s “Drive Ins” and others, – that provided excellent food & service, — all over the Los Angeles Basin ! Todays “fast food”substance cannot be regarded as a “counterpart” to the Quality of these respected establishments! “Today’s cars: are identical to todays “fast food” : “Ticky Tacky”. My 1930, & my 1951 Fords survive! Some of the old style Drive- Ins & neighborhood restaurants still survive, because: Like my old AA Truck and my Shoebox Sedan, they remain as : Respected by the community! The automated drive- in —was an answer to a question that no one asked. I’ll choose humans, every time!!! Edwin W.

  15. I have two words of advice for you regarding the perils of negotiating across icy terrain….WEAR CRAMPONS!

    While you are on the mend we can all enjoy a brief respite from new stuff with a nostalgic trip over Memory Lane.

    I enjoy the website immensely. I hope others do as well.

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