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Mueller-Harkins Buick Lubricare and Body Shops

Mueller-Harkins Buick was a family owned dealership which began operations during 1916 in Tacoma, Washington. Today’s lead image was taken on June 6, 1951, in the sales agency’s new, large and well-equipped sales and service building. The business was located at 445 Saint Helens Avenue in Tacoma, Washington, in an ultramodern facility that began operations late in 1948.

The lubrication department was outfitted with a large overhead neon-lit “Buick Lubricare” sign, two-toned metal wall sections, H-beam hydraulic lifts, overhead hose reels for different grades of chassis grease, and roll-around toolboxes for each workman.

The picture below is a view of the “Heavy Repair” section of the body shop taken on December 14, 1948, shortly after Mueller-Harkins moved into the new facility. This section of the shop was used for stripping damaged sheet metal, along with frame, body and fender straightening before a car was sent to a separate finishing shop.

Share with us what you find of interest in these photographs courtesy of the Tacoma Public Library.

13 responses to “Mueller-Harkins Buick Lubricare and Body Shops

  1. The first thing that jumped out at me was the GMC pickup in the lower right corner. From back in the day when a truck was used for what it was built for: hauling stuff. I wish there was a time warp that could drop that truck right in the middle of my driveway. That panel across the shop as well….

    • In the same photograph, a little beyond the ’46 BUICK Special, is a dark 1942 OLDSMOBILE Custom 8 Cruiser Club Sedan or Dynamic Cruiser Club Sedan.

  2. This was one the places that was commemorated in the Tacoma Historical Society Auto Walk a few years ago, when they placed signs identifying where various auto-related businesses had been and then invited collectors to bring their cars to the appropriate venue. At this one a couple displayed their lovely yellow and black ’49 Buick convertible, and they were kind enough to let me photograph my daughter in it. We still treasure that picture.
    The service area was long gone, but the front area was open and there were pictures from the place’s glory days, although I don’t recall any of these specific pictures.

  3. If you can find one of those neon signs in working condition today, it will sell for well into the five figures.

    • See Lot 805 of the Dingman Collection (RM Sotheby’s ) — to be sold on June 24, 2018.

      The estimate is $3,000-5,000. No reserve.

  4. I see no Bondo dust in the body shop photo and although final finishing may not have been done there, it wouldn’t have been around since polyester body filler didn’t come along until a few years after this photo was taken. Also no rust visible due to the friendly Tacoma area climate.

  5. I wonder if this is the same dealership I’ve seen photos of on Pinterest? Showroom had to ’round ‘ areas at the corners to showcase cars, and they had gas pumps out front. It apparently was quite the dealership for 1948! I’ve seen other photos of the same place taken in about 1951-52 also.

  6. White uniforms for lubrication engineers (a term we used where I worked in 1950) One of the engineers I worked with could wear a white shop coat for 3 days and it looked better than mine after half a day.

  7. 3rd picture- just beside the pickup truck with all the parts in its bed is a 1942 Buick sedan being worked on. It is definitely a 1942 vintage either Roadmaster or Super. Note that the front door has the short fender extension ending about half way on the door. This was the only year for this as the 46-7-and 8 models had the front fender going all the way to the rear fender made from overlays on the doors sheet metal.

  8. In 1953, I worked for Campbell Buick in Long Beach CA. I was 20-years old – worked as the parts truck driver delivering Buick parts all over the city. This was a coveted job for a young man. My good friend, Sonny Kight drove truck for Hale Young Ford (same city). He drove a new ‘53 Ford F-100 V-8 – my ride was a GMC pickup with 6-cylinders and a 4-speed tranny with a granny gear. Sonny would occasionally pull up along side me at a stoplight and kinda give me a gesture with his finger (no, not that one) twirling it around and pointing forward. Of course that meant competition – drag? I declined…

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