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Gas Station Series: Standard Oil Company Facility Detroit, Michigan

This installment of the “Gas Station Series” contains an image dated by the source as being shot on May 21, 1951. Shown is the busy intersection at the junction of East McNichols Road and Joseph Campau Avenue located six miles north of the center of Detroit. The picture is filled with a wide variety of 1930s to early ’50s automobiles.

Note that the police officer on the corner in front of the station who is looking towards the “bathtub” Nash on the far-right center of the photo. The vehicle is getting a push through the intersection, or it has been driven into by the operator of a Pontiac behind it.

In stark contrast to 1951, the abandoned the Standard Oil filling station has survived with architectural changes to the exterior. Although, as is the case in many areas of suburban Detroit this intersection now contains two abandoned gasoline stations, a pharmacy and liquor store, and a near empty parking lot.

Share with us what you find of interest in the photograph or can add to the article. The picture is courtesy of the Wayne State University Libraries. 

Over 275 other images are included our “Gas Station Series.”

23 responses to “Gas Station Series: Standard Oil Company Facility Detroit, Michigan

  1. Driving toward the camera, 3rd car back on the left, is a two-door 1940 PACKARD Sedan, either a 110 or 120.

    To the right of this ’40 PACKARD is a four-door 1950 BUICK Roadmaster Riviera Sedan.

  2. Third car back in the curb lane heading toward the camera looks like it could be the ’39 LaSalle that grandfather traded in on his 1940 model! I mean, like, what are the odds?

    • Kenneth,

      The NASH in the intersection at quick glance would be a 1949, ’50 or ’51. As there isn’t a tail-light in the rear fender, this car isn’t a ’51 model. The tail-lights for ’49 & ’50 were at the base of the trunk lid. On this NASH, just behind the front wheel-well, in small numerals, is “600.” In both 1949 & ’50, an Ambassador had its name in small letters in the same location. In 1950 the name “600” was changed to Statesman and NASH put the model names in the same location. In this picture the script behind the front wheel-well is too short to be either Ambassador or Statesman, hence the automobile is a 1949 NASH 600.


      • I’ve wondered if Ogden Nash ever bought a Nash automobile; there’s no mention of it although it has been reported that Nash once worked for Barron Collier, the father of the owner of the recently sold SSJ originally owned by Gary Cooper. From a bird’s eye view, then, we can say that Mr. Nash helped the senior Collier accumulate the fortune which enabled his son to buy the great car collection which is on display in Naples, Florida. It’s also known that the Nash car did not have anything to do with the naming of Nashville, although Ogden’s ancestor, who was a revolutionary war general, is the man for whom that city is named. If Nash had lived in Michigan we might imagine the 47-or-so year-old poet behind the wheel of that ’49 Airflyte being pushed through that Detroit intersection; Ogden Nash in his Nash. Now if only that photo had been taken in Nashville.

    • 49’s have smaller rear windows and exposed gas caps and bumper guards similar to a 48 and the belt molding continues onto the deck lid. 50’s have a recessed gas door with a bigger rear window and wider, simpler style bumper guards and the belt moldings stop before the deck lid. 51’s have fins added to the quarters with conventional tail lights and a different grille with vertical bars instead of the egg crate 49-50 style. Simple if you’re familiar with them, huh?

      • That exposed gas cap is a great marker for what differentiates the first year Airflyte from those which came later. I love learning about these small differences and actually even remember some of them from time-to-time. Thanks, Doug, I appreciate learning this detail.

  3. The mix of pre-war cars, ’40 Packard , ’36 Ford and ’40 Pontiac, in a largely postwar group are an indication of how quickly older cars disappeared from the road then. The Packard looks very well kept.

    The bathtub Nash appears to be being pushed by the Pontiac given how close it is. Good likelihood the Nash had stalled and the police officer was holding traffic so it could be pushed into the Standard station.

  4. I like the Studebaker business coupe seen above the 50 Buick. Those things could hold several baby elephants in the trunk which extended to just behind the front seat!

  5. Shows how far we’ve come. Pushing a car was an everyday occurrence back then. With most cars manual transmissions then, stalling motors at stop lights happened all the time, and 6 volt systems would drain pretty fast on hot motors. If you notice, cars of that era had pretty uniform bumper heights, and I agree with 58L, the Pontiac is indeed pushing the Nash, either to pop start it or heading to the service station, with Officer O’Malley sternly looking on.

  6. During most of my growing up years I lived a block and a half off of West McNichols (which locals all called “6-Mile Road”), well away from here. But in the days before expressways, we passed this intersection often. My dentist’s office was on Joseph Campau.

    I can vividly recall going to this very Standard Station… when it was still very much a going concern. And I remember when the White Crown gas globes on the pumps on these stations were all changed over to Gold Crown. I also recall some of these stations had a separate and special pump for what was called “Benzol.” Never hear about that fuel anymore. Those pumps were diagonally striped blue and while.

    Notice not just the abandoned buildings in today’s photo, but what is more striking to me is the open land overgrown with weeds and hardly a car at what was once a bustling intersection. While I see a lot of very interesting things in this photo, what I feel most by looking at it is nothing less than pure heartbreak.

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