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Dodge Coupe and Curtiss “Aerocar” Sell Gas Refrigerators

Today’s feature image contains a 1937 to ’38 Dodge five-window business coupe being used as a tow car to pull this streamline trailer. We will leave the exact identification and date of the coupe to the Dodge experts in the audience.

We have posted photos of a number of Curtiss “Aerocar” trailers manufactured using aircraft construction methods and materials in past features, although this unit the shortest one seen to date. It was used by the Mortenson Sales Company of Weslaco, Texas and traveling salesman John William Wilson Sr. to demonstrate Servel “Electrolux” gas refrigerators on his sales route.

Share with us what you find of interest in this photograph from contributor Benjamin Ames.

26 responses to “Dodge Coupe and Curtiss “Aerocar” Sell Gas Refrigerators

  1. David,

    Think it’s a 1937 DODGE. The position of the head light and design of the hood side vent and are a give away.


  2. Servel has refrigerators were all recalled. If you have one, get rid of it before it kills you. If the burner gets full of soot it will put out carbon monoxide.

    • I remember having a LP gas refrigerator in our travel trailer in the early ‘60s. It barely cooled anything and the trailer had to be perfectly level for it to work, and yes, the pilot went out frequently.

      • The Servel functioned much better and may have worked on a different pricipal. We had one just like that one on the trailer in our kitchen from my earliest memory up until it was replaced sometime in the 50s. It served just fine as a refrigerator but the freezer portion was barely large enough for two ice cube trays and maybe a pint or two of ice cream. Once frozen food came into fashion a replacement was deemed appropriate. Didn’t know that I was a Servel Survivor! Have to add that to my CV.

    • I had a Servel included with my first house purchase in 1965. Never used it as a fridge, converted it to a beer cooler with a tap on the side. Never had a problem, it’s probably still in use somewhere.

  3. The clever use of a refrigerator door on the trailer would probably not be tolerated today because people would worry that kids might get the idea that it was OK to climb into the fridge.

    • Frank, you’re right about the current concerns about kids getting into a fridge, but kids back in the day were smarter, at least I like to think so, as I was one of them.

  4. The Aerocar had a unique coupling device, called, oddly enough, the Aerocoupler. It was a gooseneck “pin and socket” type, but the socket part was in the center of a Goodyear airplane tire mounted to the tow vehicle. It supposedly gave an outstanding ride.

      • The tern “fifth wheel” had it’s origins in the horse and buggy days. It was a forged iron circle, or part thereof, that allowed the front axle of a four wheeled wagon to pivot horizontally.

  5. The early gooseneck trailer is very interesting. I have a Servel gas refrigerator just like that one in my basement rec. room. I’ve gutted it for eventual conversion into a display cabinet for my old gas station memorabilia. It did almost kill members of my family in our log cabin decades ago so was replaced with a newer (’50’s) second- or third-hand Servel. That one worked great for 40 years but made the CO detector chirp one day so has also been retired. It probably just needed a decent cleaning but now we just use coolers and purchase ice when at the cabin (still no electricity).

  6. After admiring this photo for a minute it struck me that the entry door is on the road side rather than a more typical curbside location. That would require your potential customers to step into a traffic lane to enter unless there was another door on the other side. I guess we’ll never know. Thanks for another great and very interesting photo.

  7. Tom,

    Are you saying the entrance is through the refrigerator???

    I thought that was one of three possibilities 1) Entrance, 2) The refrigerator is a demo that you can display through the side of the trailer, or 3) it’s just a dummy fridge that is an attention-getter.

    Like you, I would expect the entry door to be on the non-traffic side.

    I do see the outline of a door around the fridge, but that could be for maintenance or servicing of the display fridge.

  8. Rick,I had a second closer look at that door and now notice the seperate door opening as well and if you look closely at the right side of that fridge door and just below the belt line trim piece there is a regular door handle. That would indicate that the white fridge door is indeed only fastened to the side of the trailer as an attention getter..
    This Aerocar exterior also seems to be covered with quite a bit of leatherette material .It is evident where the trim pieces are fastened to the side to the left of the door. You can see that padded leatherette material is compressed inward where those pieces are attached.

  9. As the 5th wheel penetrates the rear deck, I will assume that it has some form of weather boot while in service and that the mechanism sees the frame of the car for anchoring. Great for Business Coupes and Travelling Salesmen and Technical Folks who have to go remote places! This was also at a time when many folks were also in the trailer when travelling — when speeds were slower and sometimes safer. Those days are over!!! As for the flame blowing out — many camper/trailer manufacturers neglect good design baffling to prevent this problem. SOME gas refrigerators are safely designed for motion & wind, — some are not ! The ones that are in el -cheapo trailers & campers are usually the ones that blow out and they are also the ones that are NOT designed to shut off the gas if the flame blows out! Different states or countries have different manufacturing rules or none! — for gas flame powered refrigerators. Know what you buy!!!

  10. At the same time Servel Kerosene Refrigerators were being promoted in a similar fashion. The photo at the link below shows an almost identical Curtiss Aerocar trailer being pulled by a 1937 Pontiac coupe but with kerosene wording. The left side door is open in this photo, and you can see that the refrigerator door is actually a dummy mounted to a larger opening door. Replace the two instances of the word “dot” with a period to see the photo.

    http://3.bp dot blogspot dot com/-UM-d1PUP9lg/TeRoya_z7jI/AAAAAAABky8/e0Cy9–TO94/s1600/DSC_0054.JPG

    Other newspaper photos show that the right side was identical to the left side of the trailer, and it also had a refrigerator door mounted on another opening door. A story from the May 11, 1937 Brownsville Herald, page 10, is below. The photo mentioned in the piece is very similar to the photo here on The Old Motor. Of further interest is that salesmen who sold five or more refrigerators in one day became members of the Servel Electrolux Quintuplet Club.

    “DISPLAY CAR BROUGHT HERE. New Electrolux Has Modern Trailer.

    “Milton Overstreet, manager of the Brownsville Hardware company, local Servel Electrolux dealer, is shown above beside the new Servel Electrolux trailer in which he arrived here last week from Evansville, Indiana.

    “The new trailer will serve as a ‘showroom on wheels’ for the display of Servel Electrolux refrigerators for the local store and for the Phillips Hardware company, San Benito dealers. It was especially designed and built upon the specifications of Servel Electrolux engineers and is of modern streamline construction furnished with sound equipment for the broadcasting of music or the voice of the operator. Inside the trailer is a full-size Servel Electrolux refrigerator mounted on a turntable in order to facilitate inspection from all sides. The roomy interior is furnished with leather-upholstered seats to accommodate several people.

    “‘We feel that in obtaining this new equipment we will be able to render better service to the people of Brownsville and vicinity,’ said Mr. Overstreet. ‘It is not always convenient for a prospective buyer to come downtown to our showrooms to inspect the Servel Electrolux. Now, however, the customer has only to telephone and we will bring the refrigerator to her door in a jiffy.’

    “Mr. Overstreet made the trip overland to the Servel Electrolux factory in Evansville, Indiana to secure the trailer in company with several other Electrolux representative [sic] from other parts of Southwest Texas. While in Evansville, the party took occasion to make a specially conducted tour of the giant manufacturing plant in which every phase of the building of the gas and kerosene operated refrigerators was explained to them. His trailer was one of a caravan of five, delivered last week to Servel Electrolux dealers in this section.”

  11. My family had a Servel propane gas refrig just like this one at our summer home on the Rogue River in Southern
    Oregon from about 1937 until it all got washed down the river in the great 1964 Flood. Refig operated on a single
    pilot light and always functioned perfectly???

    • I used my library access to a newspaper archive to locate the photo. Any link I posted to that photo would require a user account and password. I can tell you that a right side photo can be seen in the June 9, 1937 issue of the Valley Morning Star (Harlingen, Texas), page 5. The photo quality of this photo, and many others, is too poor to ask David to post it here.

  12. The Dodge Coupe is definitely a 1938 – headlights were making their transitions from “pods” to the latest styling change, integrated into the fenders as seen on most 1939 models. This ‘38 Dodge has the pod type lights but they are lowered down and sitting on the fender. My 1st car was a ‘38 Dodge back in 1947, a family Hand-down.. Wish I’d kept it.

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