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Parking Lot Series: Downtown Philadelphia Early-1960s

Today’s overhead parking lot view taken in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is identified as being located on the west side of the Schuylkill River south of Drexel University and the nearby railroad yard at the intersection of Market Street and J.F. Kennedy Boulevard.

The image, taken in late 1960 to ’61 contains the parking facility and a sunken courtyard in the top left-hand corner. The vast majority of the domestic motor vehicles in the lot are 1950s and early-1960s models. For the time, possibly due to the large number of students who attended nearby colleges and universities in this area of the City there is a more significant percentage of imported automobiles than typically seen.

Tell us what you find of interest and can identify in this photograph courtesy of PhillyHistory.

29 responses to “Parking Lot Series: Downtown Philadelphia Early-1960s

  1. A virtual cornucopia of offerings today! I spot on the lower right a nice `59 Plymouth Sport Fury cvt. with the top down, two `58 Country Squires, a pair of `58 Buicks parked side-by-side, heck–even a late 50s Rolls Royce! A nice `58 DeSoto Firedome hardtop parked way out in the street too.

  2. Must have been a nice warm day; not only are the three MGA roadsters wide open but the tops are down on the ’57 Ford at the curb, the ’59 Plymouth and what I think is a ’58 Olds near the Plymouth. Toward the other end is a Mercedes 220 cabriolet and an Cloud I Rolls-Royce.

  3. wow. fantastic photo: everything from metropolitan and english fords to RR and Mercedes, premium american cars and convertables, so unlike Philadelphia commuters I knew. I grew up near Philadelphia in the 60s. The four door Buick and the station wagons are more like what i would expect.

  4. It’s amazing how quickly the “fat fender”cars of the late ’40s-early ’50s got cycled out of use. Only see a couple of them here at a glance, a Buick and a Chrysler product.

    I was watching a couple of YouTube videos once shot in LA, just random street scenes. One was from about 1950 — there were a lot of prewar cars still on the streets. The next one I watched was from ’57 or thereabouts — not a prewar car to be seen, and relatively few pre-54.

    • Well, it seems car tech really advanced a lot from 1954, the end of the flatheads and intro of more affordable OHV V-8’s, a power increase that allowed the efficient use of power brakes, steering, auto trannies, etc. 1955 on must have been pretty appealing to those with late pre-war, early post war iron. We jumped from a ’48 Chevy (always overheating on long grades) to a ’56.

  5. What a great binch of Long-roofs! I spot 3 58 Fords, a 56 Pontiac, an Olds, a 59 Pontiac, two 59 Chevs and the Coup De Grace – a 55 Nomad right in front of the Rolls Silver Cloud! Lots of Brit Sports cars, too! I see MGA, Jaguar, Triumph TR3 and then there are a Fiat 600, Karman Ghia, Hillman, Nash Metropolitan! This is the best parking lot ever! Lots of great Hardtops, Converts, T-Birds. Yum!

  6. In the second photograph, foreground right, is a two-tone, four-door, 1955 NASH [between a dark, four-door, 1959 BUICK and a 1955 OLDSMOBILE].

    In the same picture, next row back and a few cars to the left, is a 1956, or newer, AMC METROPOLITAN.

  7. Can anyone identify the station-wagon-looking-thing in the next to last row beside the empty space? It dwarfs the mid 50’s Buick setting next to it.

    • That big wagon has to be a 59 Pontiac with that grille.

      I agree, this is an amazing parking lot. Besides everything else identified- 4 (!!) ‘60 Fords, a Studebaker Lark, and a Valiant. Something of a “field of dreams”.

  8. Apart from the Mercedes-Benz 220S or SE Cabriolet, the Nomad, and the Rolls-Royce, the most unusual car parked there may be the Hillman Minx. If the Mercedes-Benz still survives, it would probably be the most collectible car in that lot. Keenan Motors was the Philadelphia Mercedes-Benz dealer back then.

  9. As far as the foreign cars go, I think I spot an English Ford (?) forward and to the right of the Triumph TR3 in the first picture. In the second, I see what looks like a Jaguar XK150 rather than the third “MGA roadster”. In the third photo, that could be a Vauxhall, three to the right of the RR. The overwrought ’58 Olds and Buicks have not improved with age; Rhodesia was selling us a lot of chromium back then. Woof.

  10. I’ve never owned a ’59-’60 full size Chevy but at a car show a few years ago I looked one over that was for sale. It was remarkable to see w-i-d-e they are. The ’58 facing the camera is a really big car but the ’59 next to it by the light pole looks at least 6″ wider. The doors are close to 10″ thick. No wonder they found the need to downsize a lot for ’61 even though the frame stayed the same size. I often wonder if the designers ever thought about the size of people’s garages and parking spaces when designing such oversized cars.

    • All the pick-ups, at last the Fords, were in Texas! Usually parked right next to some big engined Olds or Pontiac! Only preachers and oil wives drove Caddies…at least to my young eyes at that time!

  11. I love how that tiny sedan (Simca? Dauphine?) is surrounded by all those GM heavyweights. A minnow among the whales. So many makes and modelsin this scene. Even a panel truck and a bus. It looks like the taillights of an Imperial on the car about to pass the Valiant. So many Buicks. I agree with Andy: this parking lot is exceptional. Each time I look at it, I find several models I had not noticed before.

  12. I think the wagon in question is a ’61 Pontiac. Also there is a ’60 Olds in the crowd. ’61 is the latest model I see.
    Great photo.

  13. Set the time machine for this parking lot! In addition to the wide selection of interesting cars and the lack of late ’40;s – early ’50’s cars is the contrast in sizes. In the second photo is a Studebaker Lark parked between ’57 and ’59 Cadillacs, the Lark looks half a long! That Fiat in the third photo is tiny compared to what were considered standard sized cars of the times.

  14. I found another very rare import, in the first picture, fourth row from the street, next to the vacant space is another English Ford Zephyr Mark II but convertible, these bodies were a conversion performed by British coach builder Carbodies at Coventry.

  15. Fiats 600s and Beemer Isettas were popular with drunk servicemen serving overseas to play pranks with.Picking them up and putting them in bars and restaurants,etc.
    We put a 600 in a fountain once.

  16. This is a candy store of “rare” wagons — from a ’55 2-door Nomad a car away from a ’56 4-door (both Bel Airs) with a full-length (aftermarket?) roof rack, to five (or more!) ’58 Country Squires (one with stone [OEM?] wire wheel covers?) and one with a short (also aftermarket?) roof rack, on to one of the rarest: a ’57 Olds Fiesta Holiday — the rarer of the 122″-WB twins in ’57, and even rarer now.

    Both had the same body built by Ionia, but Olds had rear leaf springs and 14″ wheels; Buick had coils and 15s. More Buicks (the total of Special Riviera and of Century Caballero Estates) were built than were Fiesta Holidays, and more Buick hardtop wagons survive (even if not as many as Nomads, built for 3, not 2, model years [or even “built” years later by Nomad lovers, as were ’57 Black Widows and FI Corvettes…]), so that Olds would be almost as uncommon now as would be a 2-door Pontiac Safari, which, for 3 years, was built in half the count as its A-body Chevy twin.

    And to make it even more Special (as in “Church Lady,” not as in “early muscle-car” Buick that is), a 2-tone, 2-door, 4-hole ,’57 hardtop that could be worth more than 2 or 4 or 40 times its MSRP.

    Series 70 Roadmaster Riviera was $3944, with your choice of 1-piece or 3-piece rear window. 4-door hardtop was $4053 (either window); 2-door [duh] convertible was $4066. (Caballero was, unlike Nomad, cheaper than, at $3706…)

    If links were allowed here (for fact-sharing and for illustration [how can anyone discuss old cars without SEEING them??], we could look at some auctions and SEE what those cars can cost now.

    Pennies can’t buy much in today’s candy store.

    PS – Car behind light post with sun glare off its bumper may or may not be an Imperial (likely a New Yorker ‘tho its tailfins are “imperially” tall), but it is a Chrysler, which puts its neighbors into an historical “line” Nash and Buick and Chysler.

    I’ll let someone else write something on “Why?”

    a Caballero

    • ’60 Imperial LeBaron, with technology the Mercedes wished it had and ride, quiet and luxury the rolls could only dream of…

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