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Four Fun Friday Kodachrome Car Photograph Series No. 172

The Kodachrome Car Photograph Series begins this week with an image of three friends in a yellow and white 1950s Ford convertible. If you look closely the driver appears to be holding a car phone handset. Could this be a still shot taken from a period movie?

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.

  • This shot taken at the General Store located in Yellowstone National Park is filled with two-tone and pastel colored 1950s cars.

  • A scene at a fireman’s convention based at the Hotel Lowry at Forth and Wabasha Streets in St Paul Minnesota.

  • And to finish up here for today, signage changes at an Amoco service station in the 1950s.

52 responses to “Four Fun Friday Kodachrome Car Photograph Series No. 172

    • Tri-tone was standard on final year Caribbeans; two-tone and monocolor paintworks were no-cost — and relatvely rare — options.

      Production of convertibles outnumbered that of hardtops (276 to 263) for the 1956 MY.

      And muddy-wheeled old Mopar beyond Frankie, Annette, and friend looks even older compared with the tail-finned Rambler and the two-toned Fairlane.

      “Planned obsolescence” as they’d say.

    • Unlikely any of the people on the street that day realized they were seeing one of the last Packard convertible that would ever be built. Unless one followed the business news, the idea that Packard would cease operations in Detroit by the end of the year wouldn’t have occurred to them.

      • My parents were no avid news followers, but answered my questions about old cars as best they could. They were of the attitude that Packard was going out of business by the early ’50’s. This was consistent with Packard’s sales numbers anyway. The older demographic shied away because they lived through the Depression and knew the difficulty of maintaining orphan cars.

      • JJS,

        On the trunk of this PACKARD are the words “Packard” and “Caribbean” with a “V” between the words, which were added to the ’56 Caribbean; the ’55 Caribbean didn’t have these words or “V.”


        • Were there any other significant differences between the 1955 and ’56 Caribbean Convertibles, AML, beside that script on the trunk?

          • The top of the front fenders of the 1956 Packard had a much more pronounced forward slant than the 1955 Packard’s had. 1956 Packard Caribbeans also featured a novel touch, removable front and rear seat cushions with reversible covers — pleated leather on one side, cloth on the other. Note that the hardtop Caribbean was only available in 1956.

    • The wide Body panel between the rear windows makes that bus a 102″ wide body. This was a rare version, because most states had a 96″ max width law. I know NYC and LA had 102’s. It also looks like the front view has a normal 96 front with the wide part starting at the front wheel wells, other cities versions I have seen have wide fronts. Thanks for the great pictures again!!

      • About 1/8 of the “old-look” were 102-inchers. Out of 40,742 buses built by Yellow Coach and GM, there were 5,861 wides built, all by GM. Of those, 112 were TDM (Transit, Diesel, Manual transmission), and all the others were TDH (Hydraulic transmission).

        The Ohio Museum of Transportation has a list of orders sorted by each type of bus. Twin Cities ordered 50 TDH-5103 and 286 TDH-5105 in 1953, with an additional 109 TDH-5105 ordered in 1954.

        102-inchers were used in a surprising number of places – just in the TDH-5105 series, buses were sold to companies/agencies in both of the Twin Cities, Baltimore, Ottawa, Houston, Denver, Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, the District of Columbia, Kansas City, Omaha, Duluth, Richmond, Norfolk, New Orleans, Knoxville, Indianapolis, Regina, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, Seattle, Montreal, Providence, and Honolulu.

  1. Vinny and Maria welcome back their slick sleeve buddy from basic. He’s stationed at Ft. Totten. The car is a ’57 Ford Fairlane. I wonder if the Yellowstone general store still looks like the photo? I’m not sure about the Fireman’s convention, but I do like the Packard parked in front of the hotel. The trucks to change the signage are a simple affair, no buckets here. I wish I could have made an offer on the Amoco sign.

    • The general Store is at Canyon Village in Yellowstone Park and street view shows except for some signs over the entrances, it’s still exactly the same. They haven’t even changed the color scheme.

  2. I wonder whether, in the first paragraph, that phone is actually attached to anything. Or if the driver just happened to have a handset lying around and decided to mug for the camera. Car phones were beginning to appear in movies and TV at that point, so people would have recognized the reference.

    Also, I don’t know what it signifies, but the pinback button attached to the visor says, “I’m no angel.”

    • Long ago I had a friend in Milwaukee, Wisconsin who owned a new 66 Olds 98 convertible. Between the front buckets was ensconced a very bulky apparatus known as a mobile phone. The handset was identical to that in the image. Jeff bought the device, but when he discovered what it would cost to render it functional it turned into a big paper weight. He used to delight in driving up and down Wisconsin Avenue, top down of course, with the handset to his ear, talking into a dead mouthpiece loud enough for folks in the next county to hear. You know, I don’t think anyone ever took notice. RIP buddy.

      • Do you remember that it was that way with cell phones when they first came out.

        There were actually places where you could buy fake early Motorola (the brick) cell phones. Some were so poorly made, they looked like dog squeaky toys, but people still bought them. People would pretend to talk on them in cars and retaurants before that became a no-no.

        Some people thought just carrying one around gave you status.

        • You also could buy a fake car-phone antenna for $3 at Pep Boys. One of my “socially conscious” friends indulged in that affection and had his car window broken by an ultimately disappointed thief!

          I hope this playboy doesn’t have to soon buy a new top for his nice Sunliner…

    • Hi David, my ex-FIL worked for the state of Wisconsin as an elevator inspector, and had a Wis. municipal plate on the company car. He took an old handset and cord( fed into the ash tray) and if he saw someone screwing around, he’d grab the “phone”, like he was reporting them. It worked amazingly well.

      BTW, David G. problems with the site? It was down for a while, and now, it seems, I have to type in my name and email everytime. What gives?

  3. That was no Fireman’s convention! Those are Vulcans. St. Paul has a Winter Carnival every year. And at the end, the Vulcans take back the domain from the Winter Carnival royalty King Boreas. They have been doing that forever.

    In a rare situation most of those buildings still exist on the first block. To the left of the image is the beautiful St. Paul City Hall, a Moderne limestone tower that is just gorgeous inside and out. The next block down Fourth St is all newer buildings 70s and up.

  4. 1st pic, IDK about the car phone, although, I did read, the 1st car phone was June 17, 1946. I suppose by the late ’50’s he could have one. I think the car, a ’57 Ford, is probably the older brothers on leave, and is a big shot and needs the phone, just in case, you know, it was the late ’50’s. Across the street, the amazing contrast between the old Dodge(?) and the new ’58 or ’59 Rambler Classic, as the proud owner polishing the fender, possibly describing the merits of his new Rambler to the Dodge owner, who is clearly looking to replace it soon. 2nd, America on the move, and the rarest item in the photo? The trash can. ( place looks spotless) 3rd, chilly ride in the old fire engine ( which I can’t seem to ID, anyone?) The new Packard sure looks out of place, is the 1st parked car on left, a Willys Aero? And last, it’s going from “Amoco” to “American”, I read, in 1961, all Amoco stations were rebranded as American. The sign truck is a’55 Chevy.

    • The fire truck is a 1932 Luverne built by Luverne Fire Apparatus Company of Luverne, Minnesota. This fire truck still exists, it is still used in the carnival, parades, and appearances, and it is believed to be the only one of its type remaining. It originally was part of Saint Paul Squad One, but in 1940 was placed in reserve as a hose cart. In 1996 the vehicle was purchased by the Vulcans.

      In 2011 the Luverne fire truck blew a rod, and it is now powered by a 1974 Chevrolet straight-six engine. It most recently had a refurbishment in 2015 when it was repainted, the running boards were replaced, the body mounts were updated, and the brake system was rebuilt.

      Although Luverne built trucks from 1912 – 2003, fire trucks were only built in Luverne, Minnesota from 1928 – 1973. Previously Luverne had also manufactured carriages and then automobiles from 1904 – 1917. About 320 cars were built during that time. The company was combined with the Quality brand to form Crimson in early 2003. Crimson is now part of Spartan ERV.

    • I junked mine in 1982. Salesman coupe, straight, anemic six, overheating problems, broken driveshaft, $25. Ended up ditching the six for a hopped up 390 and finally for a 406 and a 4-speed, but it is now part of some goods sold to us from China or Japan I imagine. Not a Ford guy, but liked the looks of the ’57.

  5. The handset reminds me of the pictures on the internet showing “proof” of time travel. Someone in the image appears to be holding a modern portable phone. (Does anyone still use the term “portable”?)!

  6. Doug: Those 50’s Fords rusted much faster than Chevys. The same was true of Chrysler products that started rusting on day one.

  7. Solder boy, or whatever, has a ribbon running from his shoulder patch (L to R). SO WHATS THAT ALL ABOUT ?
    And looks like hes hold that gals L hand with his R plus there holding something. Doubt if we will ever know what. Hope they got married and had a happy life and the driver went on to invent the CEL PHONE

    • Forgot my BTW
      Had a Red & White Convert like that in ’62
      then Valiant
      and then a Green & White ’57 hardtop (just couldnt stay away from a ’57 FORD)
      and now have a gold (same color as in the photo) ’57 Tbird in the garage that i purchased in 1974. Same car i stared at though a showroom window in 1962 and i do mean THE SAME CAR. Owner of MARON WILLEY FORD took it in on trade around ’62 and enjoyed the design so much he put it on his floor with the new cars. Pure accident i ended up with the same car.

    • The soldier’s sweetheart is the sister of the driver; if you look a their faces you can clearly see the resemblance. Like Barry, I hope they went on to marry and have happy lives, Anthony would become “Uncle Tony” who might tell his nieces and nephews that he was the first person in his town to have a phone in his car. If any more pictures like the one above survived and remained in his possession, Uncle Tony could prove it with a photo of the family-to-be in the car he drove “back in the ’50’s.” It’s sobering to consider that all three people sitting in that Ford convertible are now grandparents….

  8. Two thoughts, please:

    1) The 57 Ford is so much more modern-looking than the 56 Buick next to it. I sure miss the days of “longer, lower, wider.”

    2) If the phone were real wouldn’t there need to be an antenna for it?

  9. Besides having flags on its fins and sign on the door, the Packard seems to be in a restricted parking slot which served the hotel. Maybe it belonged to the chief Vulcan.

  10. In the 2nd pic., might be a bit off in my recollection, but in the early ’80’s bought a yellow over black(?) ’57 Fairlane similar to the second car, but a 2 door sedan. 312(?) T’Bird engine, 3 on the tree, 4 bbl, with a 2 speed factory I forget what they are called, didn’t work in 1st, so 5 effective gears. Was the 3rd gear 2 speed high an effective overdrive? I don’t know. But running that car up through the gears was sure fun! And seemed kind of powerful for its vintage!

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