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Four Fun Friday Kodachrome Car Photo Series No. 170

The “Kodachrome Car Photo Series” begins this week with an image of a drive-in restaurant or snack bar somewhere in or near California. Three vehicles are visible in this scene, and we are confident that our readers will be able to identify all of them.

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 you find of interest in the photos. You can look back at all the earlier parts of this series here. The images are via This Was America.

  • A Ford Motor Company photo with the date removed from the license plate out in country setting.

  • A traveling representative for a coffee company; tell us all about the vehicle and this brand of coffee.

  • A US Army soldier doing brake work on what a four-door sedan was often called back in time, “The Old Bus.”

45 responses to “Four Fun Friday Kodachrome Car Photo Series No. 170

  1. 1st photo: The two visible license plates are really beat up. Apparently this is a post-WWII scene, could this be a result of the metal plates not being reissued during the war?

  2. The third picture is that of a 46 Mercury. Looks in remarkably good condition for 1954 based on the Ohio tag. I’d be interested on where the customized hood ornament originated . . . could it have been “appropriated” from a 54 Nash or perhaps J.C. Whitney? Regardless, this young soldier seems proud of his car.

    • Bob,

      Agree with you that the MERKURY is a ’46. The extensions to the front bumper look like they were added on from a ’47 MERCURY.


      • Both Ford and Mercury were pretty ugly until 1949, although ‘homely’ would be more appropriate. I think Chevrolet had FoMoCo beat in styling in those years.

    • I agree, it’s either ’47 or ’48. Very difficult to tell the difference between the 2 years.
      ’46 Mercury did not have the word ‘Mercury’ on the side of the hood.

  3. Love the Chevy panel wagon, it always amazed me at how small and how they only had one tail light on those old cars.. Now days cars look almost cartoon like with their huge taillights, how safe are we now, back then no seat belts, no air bags, and one tiny little light in the back……

        • Absolutely. No interstate highway construction began until 1956. The most advanced roadway in the US was the PA Turnpike which opened in 1940. People generally stayed in their home towns, and seldom ventured far beyond. Before the interstates the roads between towns seldom had speed limits over 50 MPH.

  4. Posted for PMD

    In reply to Perry Amicangelo.

    Perry, I thought the same thing regarding the tail lights. But then I looked closer and there are two lights under the door.
    I believe some bare bones base model Fords before the war still came with just one taillight. But by the time this truck was built two tail lights were standard if not mandatory.
    That said you are right. We have come a long way in auto safety. When this truck was built, even turn signals were still an option on some models. Radios and heaters too.
    What I enjoy about that photo is the old wooden garage. They are rare today but they had character all their own where you could hang old license plates and shelves on exposed wall studs. Plus the smell. I will never forget the wonderful odor of my Grandfather’s garage, with wooden sliding doors and old rubber flaps over the padlocks, where he stored his old 1950 Dodge, Job-Rated pick up and his spotless 1955 Buick sedan.

    • Back-up lights, too. I think they only became mandatory sometime in the sixties. And even if a car was built with backup lights, you had to pay for the bulbs – especially on base models!

    • I think the bigger “tail light” on the rear of the Chevy panel truck is actually a combined stop light and license-plate illuminator.

      Stumped on the coupe to the left in the first picture – but I think it’s an early 40’s GM. Guessing this might be somewhere up in the mountains near LA – Big Bear, Lake Arrowhead. If the Nash was a regular, that would explain the spotlight.

    • My 1938 Plymouth P5 has one tail light. My friends 1940 Ford Standard coupe has one chevron-style tail light. My aunt said that the economy models back then had one tail light, one windshield wiper, one sun visor and a single horn. That was the rule. Each manufacturer fitted additional spartan equipment My grandfather’s 1952 Chevrolet pickup had one tail light as did most Chevrolet pickups had at the time. This sedan delivery, being a commercial vehicle , likely had a single tail light. Additional tail lights/directional lights were likely aftermarket. In 1959, Federal law required that all vehicles manufactured had two tail lights. Until that time, many budget pickup models still had one tail light. The forest service pickups made before 1959 still had one tail light if it had the stepside box.

    • The sedan delivery is a 1949 or 1950 model based on the chrome trim around the top of the rear fender. I believe they came with only one tail light. That was also true for basic pickup trucks at the time. The two lights just above the rear bumper are after-market additions. The later model hubcaps indicate the truck was a few years old at the time so the extra lights were probably added to accommodate turn signals which were becoming popular. I don’t know when turn signals were first offered on Chevies, but I had to add them to a ’51 I bought used that was loaded with practically every available option.

      Dittos on the memories of the garage aroma. Not so much on burnt oil exhaust odor or, even worse, following a diesel Greyhound bus on the winding 2-lanes of the era.


      • Back to my Grandpa’s garage you’ve sent me. The years of soaked, embedded oil drippings is the dirt floor nearly solidified it. At the very far end of the garage was his workshop. Spooky. Little light getting way back there, and (suspected) spiders, and gawd knows what else was hiding back there, just waiting for a little boy! To hear Grandpa’s ‘54 Chevy wagon, his “work” car, pull-in on the gravel drive was a definite comfort.

  5. 1st pic, thanks to AML for id’ing the Nash. Amazing what some owners did to improve night driving.Drill a hole right through the fender. The tag comes up “Chrysler police car”, where’s that? I remember some kids had those multi colored beanie. Didn’t some have a propeller on them? 2nd pic, big smiles, flowers, everybody happy,,,except on the other side of the world. Up ahead, looks like the “coffee guy” from the next picture, making deliveries, which supports my next statement, a sedan delivery actually being used as a sedan delivery. Not sure the year, but sedan deliveries led a rough life. Early 50’s there was no TV or internet, so the only way to sell your product, was to send sales folks out into the field, and sedan deliveries fit the bill. They racked up hundreds of thousands of miles, and I always wondered if all those “travelling salesman” jokes were true. The last looks like a young man just out of the war. Dad’s Mercury needed brakes for years, but probably couldn’t get them.
    Happy Labor Day to all, have a safe weekend,,,you know what’s coming next? Happens every year.

    • Howard, not sure about some of the other things you mentioned ( remember watching Howdy Doody in the early 50’s and they started broadcasting in 1947), but the young man just out of the war is a bit off I think, respectfully. The Brown Boot Army ended in 1957 with the introduction of black boots and with a license plate from 1954, it would seem this is sometime around then, years after any war ended (Korea was brown boot as well). Perhaps he just inherited dad’s Merc and was giving it a freshening up.

  6. In the first photo that ’39 Nash sports a frog eyed aftermarket sealed beam conversion in addition to the very serious fender mounted “driving lights”! ’39 was the last year before virtually universal adoption of sealed beams but this owner apparently is bound and determined to see where he’s going at night! Speaking of sealed beams, can you imagine how upset car owners were when they were told they had to replace “the entire head light” instead of just buying that little bulb. Reminds me of when manufacturers started making taillights as glued together assemblies in the late 70’s and early 80’s. People had fits with that too!

    • A few cars made after 1939 still had the old bulb-reflector setup. The senior Graham and Hupmobile cars come to mind. The American Bantam and the Willys too, although they might be refitted with minimal effort.

  7. The Chrysler is a 46, 47 or 48 Town and Country. I know of no identifiable difference between the model years. For certain Chrysler
    was focused on post war styling, and probably just let the recycled pre war cars be snapped up just as they were.

    • The 1946 and some 1947 Town and Country were made with real wood on the sides, Ash and Mahogany. Those which were 1946 had flat door lock covers.

      The one to have is the 1946 Town and Country hardtop. Only 7 made.

  8. As to that Mercury………….
    A red background behind MERCURY above the grille indicates 1946.
    A black background indicates 1947/48.
    A painted border around the grille indicates 1946.
    A chrome border around the grill indicates 1947/48.
    MERCURY on the side of the hood indicates 1947/48.
    Pieces of that car are from more than one year.

  9. I am sorry. But I can’t help but suspect that the first photo is likely a ringer. Is there any source information to counter that?
    The first clue is the license plates, their condition, and the condition of all the cars. A pre-war car along with a couple post-war cars all appear brand new. Cars heavy on added lamps. And that tone of blue looks modern-ish.
    One thing I don’t know a lot about, is the different rules so many states had concerning license plates. Some states, during some time periods, issued plates to the person, and a beat up plate could be moved from the old car to the new car. Califunny never did that. I tried zooming into the photo and couldn’t identify the state name. They look a lot like California plates from the late ’40s, however, I think they may not be. In Califunny, there would be no explanation for two cars to have plates so beat up on cars so nearly perfect looking. Parking by Braille cannot so badly beat up a license plate so placed without twisting bumpers (or worse) in the process. The black car’s plate is even slightly behind the bumper. Somewhat difficult to hit without breaking the headlamp.
    The tone of the blue on the car we can’t see much of doesn’t appear era correct. Metallic paint has been around since the early 1930s, however, the harsh tone of that particular shade wasn’t common until somewhat later.
    Other details. Again, states varied a lot. Some of what I see is based upon my experience growing up and being in Califunny most of my life. Califunny is often slow to pick up good ideas, often waiting until the Interstate Fed demands they conform to what other state have done for a decade or more. So even I doubt me on some of what I see. (Disclaimer?)
    However, the green curb bothers me. It means a limited time parking zone. But I remember Califunny painting curbs that way as a new thing in the ’60s. Also, the big “t”s marking the parking spaces. I don’t recall seeing any like that until the recent forty years or so. Small “t”s were common in the ’60s.
    The clothing and styles appear more like a Hollywood staging than an era photo. And that “old timey” street lamp really looks out of place for an era photo. There are several other anachronisms I see.
    Not to say such a combination couldn’t have happened circa 1950? But to me it looks like a well staged photo of a couple beautifully restored cars, with a lot of attention to detail. Just maybe not quite enough.

    Regardless. A great photo. Thank you David G! I look forward to proof that I am wrong.

    • I might have to go along with you, Wayne. When we ate out in the olden days, we picked up after ourselves. We didn’t have street sweepers. Besides, Orange Julius stands in California in the ’40’s/’50’s resembled giant oranges, not huts
      like this one. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I can’t ever recall seeing a woody that looked this good. They
      looked like they were ripe for refinishing and creaked like a Conestoga wagon.

    • That medium blue hue wasn’t available back then as paint bases were still yellowish. Lighter colors had a yellow tint to them. Darker colors were better able to hide that yellow base.

    • DAVE YAROS found the source of the photo, the Dave Gleinas’ collection of Kodachrome photos which are all original images from the period. “All the bright colors” (Simon and Garfunkel’s song “Kodachrome”) are due to the high color saturation that type of film is known for.

      Pic #1 – Google also says: Original is found on Dave Gleinas’ Flicker page.

      1948 Chrysler Town & Country Convertible – Lake Arrowhead Village, CA – Circa: 1949

  10. David, referencing the statements about only one tail light…we bought a 60 Ford pickup at an estate sale in Alabama. It was a six, three speed on the column, flatside, baby blue and white, one owner. After we got home, my wife told me that the right side brake light never came on, so I removed the lens. It was a dummy lens, and there was no provision at all for a lamp or even wires ! One of my pals in Mt. Juliet, TN bought it from me later, and still has it, one light and all. In TN where I grew up, there was no back bumper required for trucks either. TN was also a one tail light req’d state, but I don’t know how long that lasted.

  11. I also like the old wooden garages. So nostalgic. Seems that most of them were built on the ground, which was alright for hiding oil leaks. And slowly but surely the wood would begin to sag and warp, the hinges get tired and let the doors drag across the ground, all while the paint faded. The windows, when new, (if they were of the opening type) operated fairly smoothly, but with time they became more of a solid non-moving fixture. I also remember that wooden garages were a favorite location for wasp nests. The doorways were none too wide, and as cars became lower and wider it could be an attention- getter to maneuver through them. When they were old and dilapidated and held an half inch of dust everywhere, one could usually find an old squirt can or a spanner wrench.

  12. Fender light on the Nash reminds me of police cars from that era which we saw in the movies; since the Nash is a ’39 it’s post-Arlen Ness. License plates look like they were recirculated from their owner’s earlier cars. Someone with more familiarity with trees might be able to help ID the location of that first photo (maybe they’re Eucalyptus which are a strong tag for somewhere in Calif.). The kid’s beanies may be more in keeping era-wise with the parking stripes which seem somewhat later than the cars. I’m betting that Nash ‘police car’ is a clue that the whole scene had something to do with a movie lot. And, yes, that blue color of the car on the left is truly an anomaly.

  13. 1st photo, blue car on left similar to ’46-’48 Ford however that grab strap inside the window I don’t recall on my Ford and the rear fender lower shield isn’t correct for a Ford. Maybe a Plymouth?

  14. Pic #1 – Google also says: Original is found on Dave Gleinas’ Flicker page.

    1948 Chrysler Town & Country Convertible – Lake Arrowhead Village, CA – Circa: 1949

  15. The Chevy panel is either a 51 or 52. Check the hubcaps and you can barely see the end of the 51/52 grille.. They did not use the 51/52 new rear fender style for the panels but stayed with the 49/50 style. The extra taillights look like an aftermarket add on, perhaps for the turn signals. My 51 Bel Air was delivered with turn signals which were a factory accessory. I bought it as a used car but the delivery papers were in the glove box.

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