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Four Fun Friday Fifties and Sixies Kodachrome Photographs

Number One-Hundred and Fifty Two of the Kodachrome Car Photograph Series begins this week with an image of a 1960s Chevrolet. The proud owner of this bright red hardtop and whoever shot the image spent some time positioning it, so the reflection in the water was just right. Tell us all about this two-door hardtop and what has been added and changed since it was new.

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 at all the earlier parts of this series here. The images are via This Was Americar.

  • Life in the big city – the only thing moving in the right-hand lane of this freeway are the passengers, drivers, doors and hoods of these automobiles.

  • A perfect study of modern architecture and automobile styling of the fifties.

  • This appears to be the Woodstock of Corvettes in the sixties, where did it take place and what was the occasion?


61 responses to “Four Fun Friday Fifties and Sixies Kodachrome Photographs

  1. In the 2nd photograph, foreground, is a 1951 PONTIAC Chieftain DeLuxe Catalina. To the right of this PONTIAC is a 1949 BUICK convertible, either a Roadmaster or Super.

  2. In the second picture, I can understand the hoods being open — cars were a lot closer to overheating in traffic back then. At first I thought the cars with open doors were to cool off the interior, except that two of them are convertibles with the tops up.

    I’ve never owned a convertible. If they were standing still, would they be cooler with the top up (i.e. shade) and the doors open than with the top down?

    • Driving from San Jose over the Santa Cruz Mountains on the 17 to Santa Cruz int he Fifties, on a warm day it wasn’t uncommon to see cars on the roadside with their hoods ( we called them bonnets) up. Dad said they had “vapour lock,” whatever that was, from the heat.

      • Fuel vapourises in the line due to heat,no petrol gets to the carby. Had it happen once in a 55 chev just let it rest for a while and it came good.

  3. In the photo of the freeway traffic I don’t see any lane striping ? Did all those drivers just know where they should be on the roadway to make 3-4 lanes of traffic? We certainly don’t have many drivers that could deal with that situation successfully today! Also it looks like some of the autos in the far right lane are enjoying a little shade under the overpass rather than moving ahead to sit behind the other cars further up the roadway.

    • It looks like the seams in the surface are being treated as lane markers. The Colonial Parkway between Jamestown and Yorktown is like that to this day.

    • That is odd. Looks like they just used the seams in the concrete as lane markers. Bet it would be hellish at night in the rain!

      • That road was called the Arroyo Parkway. It linked downtown Los Angeles with Pasadena. If you look closely you can see the sky line of downtown. In those days and earlier times the cars would cruise the parkway at 40 to 45 and that was a safe speed appropriate for that roadway.

        Now it’s not called Arroyo Parkway but it’s a part of the Los Angeles freeway system called the 110 freeway. The nice green grass in the center has been replaced by a concrete divider; the lanes are now painted and cars whizz along at 60 – 65 mph. The parkway is still cement, not upgraded. The ridiculously short on and off ramps still exist today, no emergency lanes just short cutouts and lots of blind curves.

        • Having gone to college in Los Angeles “when the Dead Sea was only sick”, I well-remember the drive up and around to the eastern suburbs.

          • Thanks Undertaker for the laugh, I thought I had heard all the age related analogies, but in all my days I have not heard this one. I now have a new one to use.

    • The lanes are very well defined by the expansion joints in the poured concrete. I suspect paint was a luxury for street departments back in those days. On the other hand, most of today’s roads are paved in rolled-down asphalt or some variant of “black top” that has no “natural” joints of any sort, so in today’s world, there would be no clearly defined separation from one lane to another.

      • evolution of paints has something to do with this I think. Paints of that era did not hold up well to that kind of traffic at those speeds., plus the seams would get in the way.

  4. In the 2nd picture, driving toward the camera, 2nd car on the right, is a 1950 DODGE, missing a bumperette.

      • Remember now, back then all that was needed to judge the right side of the car, was to match your hood ornament to the edge. Or in this case the seam. As the road aged the oil streak ( from the road draft tube) in the center marked the lane. Certainly though, yes, when it rained the lack of markings meant lower speeds.

  5. That 1960 Impala looks like it has SS wheel covers. SS came out in ’61. 2nd pic clearly must be California (black and yellow plates? Hazy skyline) and it’s HOT. Wonder who the big shot in the convertible (Lincoln?) is, late for the studio, like everybody else. Figures, a person that would buy a ’58 DeSoto would live in an unconventional style house, as well. California again?And
    last, that’s a lot of Corvettes, California again?

    • The first photo is very grainy and hard to identify much of the detail. I too thought those wheel covers were from an Impala SS, but a ’64 model. On second glance, I’m thinking they might be Dodge “Lancer” wheel covers, popular then and now with customizers. The fender skirts were not standard on that 1960 Impala.
      Regarding that Desoto, it is NOT a ’58… rather a ’57 model. Those two years are VERY similar, however, the one styling cue I always use to determine 57 from 58 is that the slim and functional, horizontal exhaust bumperettes on the 1958 models have a small pinch at the top center. (See and search Desoto, 1957 brochures.)
      This model is the entry-level Firesweep. All other models have a more elaborate sweepspear on the flanks.

    • That’s exactly what I was thinking. I don’t see any newer then ’65. Some COULD be newer but can’t be sure.

      • There may be some feline interlopers in the Corvette Corral (backed up to the fence in the back row) shown in the fourth picture. That picture has a number of feature which give it a southern tint imo.

        As this same image was on the back cover of “Corvette News” Volume 9 Number 5 (Copyright 1966 by Chevrolet Division of GM) and there is extensive coverage of the 1966 12 Hours of Sebring within that issue, I think the date of the fourth picture was race day- March 26, 1966. Further comment on that day’s events might begin with the dangers of the day for both drivers and spectators, which included poorly equipped or non existent safety and corner crews, and facilities which were woefully inadequate for both participant and spectator safety.

        The issue may be viewed online with a search.

      • If you can tell the difference from a 1964-1967, you’re a better car spotter than I. The only way I can tell a ’63 is from the fake (I believe they are fake, not sure) twin hood vents on either side of the center raised section. Except for that, I don’t know of any exterior details that separate them, other than possibly minor badging… especially in this grainy photo with so many crammed so close together.
        I’m thinking perhaps the dual, recessed sections on the hoods of the black and red cars in the foreground may be an indicator.

  6. A nice ‘Kitchy’ image of the modern ‘Zesta Saltine box’ house, with a period correct `57 DeSoto Firedome sedan that looks practically new! The pivoting-open windows on the house make me think this is in FL., or southern CA.

    • Will,

      Agree the ’57 DeSOTO is Firedome, but the most base, mono-tone, four-door sedan. There is the simplest side-molding ending in the middle of the front-door and the single rear radio antenna. The car looks good, but is missing the “D” in DeSOTO above the rear license plate. Wide-white-wall tires look great on ’50s cars !!


      • Chrysler was certainly not proud of their entry level models. Checking the brochures on both the 1957 and 1958 DeSotos with a dozen images of the 1957 models in the sales brochure, the only models illustrated were Fireflites and Firedomes. A google search for 1957 Desoto “images” turned up a “Firesweep” coupe with that minimal side trim. Interestingly enough, the seller explained, “Introduced in 1957, the Firesweep was an interesting styling exercise that merged DeSoto’s signature tail fins with the front clip from a Dodge Coronet and a DeSoto bumper and grille. Unfortunately, the model struggled to find a market and was gone after the 1959 model year.” I’m thinking his words “introduce IN 1957” may be a clue that the model was introduced late in the year and the brochure was an early printing.
        That said, the 1958 brochure shows 20 images of all three lines, Firesweep; Firedome and Fireflite, but ALL have the more elaborate sweepspears, even the Firesweep models!
        Things that make you go “hmmm”!

    • I had those awful jalousie windows on my similarly styled 1953 house. When the wind blew, the heavy drapes would move despite the tightly closed windows, and if you forgot your house key, using only your hands, you could pry the panes open a bit and lift them out by pushing in as you lift the rear edge. That delightful, delovely DeSoto actually has half wide whitewalls that appeared about 1956 and were replaced with thin line in the early sixties. There were exceptions, my 1960 Peugeot came with full width wws. I put the unused spare on the ground at eight years and the tread crumbled off in a couple of days.

      • Agree on the “awful” adjective on the jalousie windows. They should have left off the “ja” part and simply called them “lousie” windows! Our starter home was a small ranch in north St. Louis County… in a cracker-box subdivision of 1,600 homes, one looking much like the next. Our, however, had a breezeway between the house and the tiny garage, with jalousie windows at both ends. And weren’t those windows fun to clean!!!!!

      • Those jalousie windows were common in Florida when I first moved there as a teenager in the mid-50’s. Might have been fine in SOUTH Florida, but in the Orlando area and north, where it actually does get cold (sometimes even below freezing) in the winter, they were horrible.

  7. I cant say where, but I’ll bet the last picture is a “Corvette Corral” at a race track. Specified parking for a variety of enthusiast makes was made available, especially if the racing involved that make. Taken no later than the summer of 1967 . What a beautiful sight it must have been !

  8. 3rd pic one of the prettiest cars of the 50s: a 1957 DeSoto. I think it’s a mid-range Firedome sedan, for the chaeper Firesweep had Dodge-based headlight bezels and the more expensive Fireflite had more chrome trim. Too bad quality control was not at the same level as the styling…

  9. in the 1st pic, a slight angle in the grade, a posi-trac and a little wet grass could make for a very different picture. Never-the-less, its a beautiful car, add some curb feelers and we’d be all set. As always, a great set of pics, fantastic site!

    • Per Dave’s original posit… one thing that’s been added to the ’60 Impala are the ’55 Ford Fairlane trim on the nonstock fender skirts… as Robin states the aforementioned conditions, if changed ever so slightly, OMG!

  10. Hmm, the ‘Vette gig kinda’ looks like Carlisle, Penn. I think they’ve had an annual Corvette event
    there since the mid-sixties, maybe longer.

    • Can you imagine trying to locate your car at the end of the day… A pennant on the antenna, maybe; and then how would you get your ‘Vette out?

  11. The first show at Carlisle was in the fall of 1974. They called them Post War events because Hershey was mostly pre war at that time.

    • “Post-War 74” was the name of the very first one. AACA’s Hershey Region had been getting increasingly rigorous on enforcing their restriction on what could be sold in flea market spaces, which was bounded at WWII. Chip Miller and Bill Miller decided to create a venues for everything else. It worked…

    • It’s a Firedome. Firesweep and Fireflight both had pronounced ridges on the lower front edge of the fender above the tire. Firedome’s Dodge fenders didn’t have that ridge. Easy to spot the difference if you google images for 57 Firesweeps and Firedomes.

      • Aaargh – I meant to say that Firedome and Fireflite had ridges on their fenders and Firesweep’s Dodge fenders did not. Senior moment. . . .

  12. At five years old I would fondle our 60 Impala,squint my eyes and imagine flying it through space.
    Black with white conv. top,red interior.

    • My ’60 Chev was a turquoise 2-door; V8 with Powerglide. Not super powerful, but a great ride. Would love to have her back today (along with the pretty girl who used to sit next to me on the wide bench seat haha).

  13. A Mid-Century Modern home and a Forward Look DeSoto! What a vision of the middle class ideal of the times. Seeing all the cars with their hoods up suffering overheating reminds us of what was once common but now rare.

  14. What is the best way to get detail (zoom) on these photos?
    I can’t be sure if there is a driver in the Chevy by the levy. I hope he left or plans to leave by the passenger door.
    I know the Arroyo Parkway was the official name, but the Pasadena Freeway was what it was called. It opened the year before I was born and I traveled it countless times.
    Working swing shift in Downtown LA in 1962 and coming home on its curves to San Gabriel at midnight in my AC Bristol was a treat .
    Many of the on ramps were from a standing start with a stop sign right before you went.
    I can imagine Corvettes exiting that venue into the next day.

  15. The DeSoto is in charcoal gray. Very distinctive for the time, but today charcoal blends into traffic like a lane divider.

  16. Question: “What is the rarest 1963 Chevrolet Corvette” Answer: A 63 Corvette split window that was converted to a one piece window.
    Some ‘63 owners took their coupe either to their Chevy dealer or to a body shop and had the split removed and the 2-piece rear window assembly replaced with the ‘64 coupe’s rear window and trim. Urban Legend or not?

    • Between George Barris doing it to the Bob Nordskog Asteroid Corvette in 1962 and the how to being in one of those little books in 1963- not an urban legend.

      Back in the day 35 cents bought you Peterson Publishing Company’s Spotlight Books number S540: “Custom Corvettes”.

      Right on the cover you knew this had all the hot tips you needed!


      Also featured in S540: Bob Nordskog’s Asteroid by George Barris.

      As described by Hemmings :George Barris’s Asteroid Corvette heads to auction
      Kurt Ernst on Oct 31st, 2013

      “When Chevrolet introduced the second-generation Corvette for the 1963 model year, Nordskog quickly placed an order for a Stingray sans paint. His intention all along was to deliver the car to George Barris for a bit of customization, which ultimately included an revised nose; headlamps hidden behind a custom grille; headers that passed through the front fenders (and terminated in sidepipes, of course); deletion of the rear-window divider; a pearl white Naugahyde interior (stitched by Don Ferrara, Bob Nordskog’s brother-in-law); and the addition of a metallic copper livery that gave the car its “Asteroid” nickname.”

    • I too have heard that rumor and must confess, I’ve spread it a time or too, but no proof it was factual. I could see where people would want to do that. Just one year old and your Corvette is dramatically outdated overnight! Plus, the post in the middle was an annoying and distracting image in the rear view mirror. I would imagine those cars were devalued substantially after the amputation.

  17. The Los Angeles “Arroyo Seco (dry canyon) Parkway” went into service at the last of the 30’s. “IT and I”, — were born in the same year, It was a sample of the USA beginning to copy the Nazi Germany High Speed Autobahns , (NO speed limit in the fast lane!!!) Parts of the City’s: “Elysian Park” property were sacrificed for it. It originally started in L.A. City and squiggled through Arroyo Seco also bisecting another City Park , on its way! Tunnels. & a major bridge were required for the route; At the other end of it was: “The Rose Bowl” (Pasadena) and farther yet, was the newly built Cal tech Jet Propulsion Laboratory , initially doing JATO Rockets R & D, at Devil’s Gate Dam. (NASA came later). The Parkway was “bad from the git-go”!!! Speed limit 45 MPH , STOP signs at ON & OFF Ramps, !!!which over the years, caused mayhem as the ramps were TOO short and had Stop sign versus car’s ability to easily be a “sitting duck”!!! I haven’t driven t for decades, but: ‘ll betcha — that It’s still killing folks because they upped the speed to 55 ( Wrong!!!!) to “qualify” it for Freeway Status!!!The flat curves ARE not in keeping with its “55” signage!!! Edwin W.

    • I drove this route (southbound) recently and found it perfectly usable and drivers were courteous. One major point, no large trucks (beyond ordinary pickups) are allowed, so it is still pretty safe. Large sections of it are resurfaced in asphalt now for smootness. Median barrier and fencing is subtantial.

      Far right lanes and shoulders are now limited so that on-ramp (drag race style from dead stop side streets) is much safer for merging into traffic. It does require a driver who knows how to actually drive a vehicle without distractions.

      Drainage is no problem on wet days and scenery is interesting (too interesting perhaps). There are no effective alternate surface vehicle routes from Downtown L.A. to/from Pasadena due to very hilly terrain and canyons. The Arroyo below on east side of highway is part of a major flood relief channel to carry storm rain water safely away from the hills of Pasadena and local area out to sea via elaborate Corps of Engineers flood control system for greater Los Angeles basin. Silly people today want to convert it to navibable river (ho, ho) and rip out all the concrete linings of the levees making it “natural” again. Oh yeah………When those channels are full in a downpoor for several days or when snow melt is rapid from local mountains (yes, that happens too), one might want to reconsider that nonsense.

      There are no tolls on this northernmost section of the 110 “freeway”. Further south past downtown interchange, there are toll commuter (HOV) and dedicated bus lanes along with 3 separate wide open use lanes on the 110 for many miles (no toll plazas involved, transponders and license plate cameras are used for automated billing to make traffic flow freely, no stop/go as on oler turnpikes in other systems around the country).

      Remember, with a population nearing 40 million in California, there are now 29 million vehicles. Driving here is a responsibility we all have to take seriously and courteously to make it work as well as we can. Public transit is still growing rapidly, but distances are relatively large for many commuters. California is the fifth largest economy in the world at present.


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