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Four Fun Friday Fifties and Sixties Kodachrome Car Photographs

Number One-Hundred and Fifty-Nine of the Kodachrome Car Photograph Series begins this week with an image of a blue and white 1950s Pontiac Convertible fitted with a white interior with red accents. An unusual accessory for an American car at the time is the red tonneau cover with white trim. Tell us what you believe the source of this well made cover was, is it a Pontiac option, a J.C. Whitney accessory or crafted by an expert?

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.

  • It must have been fun to fly in and drive one of Thompson’s U-drive it rental cars.

  • Before dinner cocktails could have been served on this over-the-top continental kit.

  • This Chevrolet loaded with options and a V-8 made for a good tow car at the time. Note the object attached to the wagon’s rain gutter, looks like a peep mirror used for? 


41 responses to “Four Fun Friday Fifties and Sixties Kodachrome Car Photographs

    • AML, I do believe the Poncho is simply a Star Chief. The Bonne was never available in baby blue (except white with blue spear). As for the tonneau cover? My bet is Pontiac never offered it, but some like J.C. Whitney did. Aftermarket do-dads were all the rage in those years. You could even order `58 Dodge spinner wheelcovers to jazz up your car!
      In the second image, I’d love to have been old enough to stop in & rent one of those Impalas!! (I’d like a blue HT like Terry Thomas drove in “A mad, mad, mad world” which if you recall, was a rental car in that movie after he rolled his Jeep wagon!!)

  1. Tonneau looks professionally made, no accounting for the color choice. It certainly brought the driver and passenger together. I can see OJ dropping in to that 61 Chevy Impala convertible. On vacation, pretty girl and a dressed out 58 Mercury, what could be better? The 55 Chevy station wagon looks like a good tow vehicle. The mirror might have been set up to assist in backing the trailer. The emblem on the front fender looks like a Ford V8 emblem.

  2. That mirror points in and down. Maybe they used in an attempt to get as close to their trailer without hitting it while hitching up.

    • I agree with Tom. since the car has no exterior (factory) mirror, it’s possible the state where the car was registered required an exterior mirror to pull a trailer.

  3. I don’t ever recall seeing a US convertible with a tonneau cover. That had to be custom made. I had one on my MGB, and really liked it. Pink house, got to be Florida, mid-50’s, no war, good job ( possibly aerospace) new Poncho ragtop, girl by your side, life was good. 2nd pic, my grandfather’s 2nd new car(1st being a ’48 Packard) was an aqua ’61 Chevy 4 door, like the ones behind the bubble top. One of the 1st cars I remember riding in. 3rd pic, who has a prettier smile, the gal or the car? I suppose a continental kit would make a nice seat, and last, that’s a pretty fancy “double nickel” Chevy. The camper appears to a Jewel.

  4. The 55 Chevy wagon looks like it has chrome “eyebrow” trim on the fenders for the headlights. Additionally there seem to be non OEM badge on the front fender. Looks like the owner was one who liked to “doll up” his vehicle. Curiously there is no hubcap on the trailer’s wheel.

  5. I’m probably wrong, but could that “hotel-resort” behind the Mercury convertible be Siebkin’s in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin?

    • Excellent guess! The Siebken”s flavor is present, but for a number of reasons the physical elements don’t align with those of the late 50s Siebken’s. The early 50s road races in Elkhart Lake were wonderful.

  6. That Merc is a 1958 Mercury Convertible Cruiser with a factory Continental Kit. Standard engine was a 383 MEL engine.

    The mystery fender badge on the 55 Chevy Bel Air Wagon is from a 1955 GMC truck. The owner was proud of his new 265. The Stainless Rocker covers and eyebrows were factory accessories

    The 1957 Pontiac Star Chief Convertible’s tonneau cover matched it’s interior. I’m betting that the car was a repaint of a very special order car. I can’t see a dealer ordering a blue car with a red Interior.

    Still in business Thomson’s car rentals located in Georgetown , Bahamas

    • Interesting that the rental cars are left-hand drive (USA) even though traffic in the Bahamas keeps to the left (Britain).

        • None of the big three made right hand drive back then, Only their babies in Oz did (Holden, etc.). The 55 Chev looks a bit overloaded and probably needed an HD suspension more than chrome headlight lips!

    • The Merc could also be a ’57. The rear bumper and taillights are the same for both years. Need to see the grill to be sure.

      • I believe there was only one Convertible Cruiser in 1957 and that was the Indy Pace Car. Production geared up for the Convertible Cruiser in 57 but the cars were released for the 58 year.

    • I’ve seen some wild, in today’s eyes, color combinations- pink and white 55 Buick with a two tone blue interior, or a 57 Cadillac in a soft yellow, maroon hard top, with a green interior. I’m guessing special orders, and a sign I guess of some giddy times – where cars were a lot more colorful and creatively designed in general to begin with.

    • The Mercury is a 1957. Tail lights are different. The ’58 tail lights had a bullet/rocket shaped red extension at the top of it. Check Google for image.

  7. Great photos as always. All the 1961 Chevrolets are all wearing dog dish hubcaps. The young lady sitting on the Merc, maybe on her honeymoon. The 1955 Chevy wagon has chromed eyebrows. It may be aftermarket, or the owner put Nomad eyebrows on the wagon. The tonneau on the Pontiac was probably custom made.

    • Back then the rental companies ordered their fleet with hubcaps instead of wheel covers, probably due to concerns over theft. I am surprised to see the whitewalls as they were not common on rentals.
      1961 was pretty much the last year for the wide whites.

  8. Hi Bill, just so you know… ( I’m sure you forgot 😉 )
    While the ’58 Merc rear fender looked similar to the ’57, the ’58 tail light was topped off with an extra appendage looking like a rocket-and red tail light lense-exhaust flame. I always prefered the look of the simpler ’57.

    • The insert in the rear bumper of the ’57 Merc had the cross hatched design that is shown in the picture. The ’58 had a curved grill design

  9. I think that mirror was so the driver of the tow vehicle could monitor the front upper edge of the trailer. Anyone who has towed a trailer down a tree-lined lane knows what it’s like to be startled by the BANG-THUMP-BUMP of low-hanging branches!

  10. The ’61 Chevs are sweet and a great year, style-wise. My high school bud’s dad had a ’61 conv, red with a 283ci. We styled in it until he traded it for a…wait for it…Renault R8!

    • Oooh. An R8. Now that would be fun. Like the modified Lamborghini and R8 that were playing around on the streets of Las Vegas on one trip. Most exciting thing I’ve ever seen in 37 years of Las Vegas vacations.

  11. The flimsy window shade with green corrugated fiberglass-pure gimcrack Florida.
    I cant help but notice that the fins on the Merc were angled at a 45 just like a 58 Impala’s are.
    That cover reminds me that the JC Whitney catalog sure has shrunk compared to what it was in the 60s.The hood ornament section went on for 3 pages if I’m not mistaken.I read somewhere that old body dies that Detroit didn’t want anymore cuz they only make spare parts for a set amount of time were shipped to South America and used to make spares for Whitney and others.Was that why you could buy a complete grill for a 37 Ford back then.Sounds like a tall tale.
    Can anyone make out what state the tag on the Merc. is.

  12. I’ve got a 47 Plymouth p15 special deluxe convertible. Originally shipped to Massachusetts (verified by Chrysler archives) and stayed here all it’s life. The original owner was a physicist and teacher at a woman’s college in western MA, that eventually went onto work at MIT, and was involved in the Manhattan project. He was a prolific collector of American shaker furniture later in his life. When I bought the car it had been sitting since the late 70’s. I brought it home and found some very odd fittings on the cars dashboard that I knew where not original to the car. Upon further investigation in the trunk of the car I found a folded and fully functional tonneau. It shows eveidence of a lot of use and I suspect the professor had it on more than off summer. I’ve just had a new roof installed on the car and have decided to recreate the tonneau as well. It is well made, heavy duty hertz cloth fabric and has a zipper for single driver use. When closed it has a custom pocket that covers the steering wheel. Really is a fantastic look on this model car. If there’s interest I would be willing to have more made from my pattern.

  13. Tonneau covers became popular on English sports cars because the only way to erect the top was to assemble the frame and stretch the canvas over it. Hence, a tonneau could keep the rain out of the passenger and was far easier to use than to assemble the top.

  14. I’m still waiting for an explanation as to why Mercury Automobiles of the mid – & beyond fifties Manifested ! (WHY???) and then — Wait for it!: —Up pops the Edsel(!) , which did an excellent job of promoting Mercury sales . ( well — sorta – kinda). 1956 to 1959: “up- scale “FoMoCo products were tough to look at & tougher to explain, just like 1958 Thunder- feather-beds were, versus : 55 – 57 T- Birds that were all impressive!, in comparison. Something like the intro of the mid -thirties Chrysler Air flow products An answer to a question that few ever asked. ( or bought ).

  15. Do the wheels on the Impala convertible look extra deep ? They look to me like the station wagon wheels used for the SS option. The car does not appear to have any ’61 SS markings. Perhaps they could be ordered by themselves?

    My father had a ’56 210 wagon with a 265 , 3 speed stick, posi. rear. Rubber floor cover. (No carpet ) but, padded dash. I’ve seen very few padded dashes for the 55-57 models over the years. — I know it had posi. because I saw him take off once in a super hurry and tear up about 20 feet of dirt with both tires to go after our dog who was spooked by a fireworks explosion nearby and bolted from our yard.

    • Ahh; thanks Keith. Didn’t realize that. That ’56 was a good tow car and my 6 years older Brother easily put down second gear rubber. I was about 12 when he taught me to drive on that car.

  16. Ahh; thanks Keith. Didn’t realize that. That ’56 was a good tow car and my 6 years older Brother easily put down second gear rubber. I was about 12 when he taught me to drive on that car.

  17. YEP I’d call that a ”peep mirror ” In Australia around the late 50’s early 60’s most cars had their mirror attached on the drivers front door frame or on the door skin itself , however those who towed a ”van ”…caravan as in the pic , quite often placed another mirror up high , aiming down so as to see that your van wheels stayed in side the centre line .Remembering that in Aus we only had narrow roads ……. If no traffic , no lines , no cop ……please yourself …
    Also a lot of our ”vans” were marine grade 3 plyl on a light pine frame over a hardwood base with an angle iron draw bar …….risky now days

  18. Love this site ….. I have saved every email received since joining …….when bored I just go here to the file and go back in time ………………………..LOVE IT …………………..thanks guys
    Kind regards Dave PERTH WA Australia

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