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Four Fun Friday Kodachrome Car Photographs Volume 177

Today’s lead image contains a view of Wilber Clark’s Desert Inn and a mix of 1940s to ’50s automobiles out front in the parking lot. Clark was one of the pioneers involved with turning Las Vegas, Nevada into the “desert playground.” He built and opened the hotel and casino in 1950, and it operated until 2000 when parts of it were imploded to make way for the Wynn Las Vegas.

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 Americar.

  • This 1960s camper is fitted with an interesting attachment on the roof allowing the occupants to stand upright in the rear section of the vehicle.

  • All eyes are on a pair of roadsters headed down this early drag strip located in California.

  • A mid-1950s view of the Auto Mart used car lot located in Santa Rosa, California, an hour north of San Francisco.

42 responses to “Four Fun Friday Kodachrome Car Photographs Volume 177

  1. 1st pic, you can certainly tell who the locals are, and who are the visitors, 2nd pic, I’ve seen these before, pretty sure these were called “The Travel Wagon” and the top was made by a company called “Turtle Top”, for obvious reasons. Travelling cross country in a Ford Econoline was not for the meek. 3rd pic, yeah, the S. California car culture. Stuff we only read about. In the midwest, the closest thing we had to this, was “Airport Road”. It was “run what you brung”, and by the variety here, it appears someone got dad’s Olds Rocket 88 (wheel covers removed). “Dad, can I borrow the car, to,,um, go to the library? Sure son, have a good time,,,”. All that’s missing is Steve Miller’s “Livin’ in the USA” song in the background. Last, looks like this dealer dealt with all the has beens. For the cars listed in what appears to be an ad, the only car that comes close is the Anglia( or Prefect) All the trade ins, I bet.
    PS, David, I found a neat picture of a vintage car dealer( Humphrey Chevrolet) in Milwaukee, circa, mid ’60’s. I’ve submitted it to Hemmings several times, to no avail. Can I send it to you? thx

    • Actually, the pop top is called a “Travel Top” by Calthorpe of Elkhart, Indiana. The Vintage can website has photos.
      It does fold flush…I’d like to see how it works.

    • The Econoline Van appears to have a Travel Wagon conversion. The two sides with the windows fold towards the center of the van when shut, so the height of the top is limited by the width of the vehicle. Ads stated that the top could go up or down in two seconds. These were made by the Travel Equipment Corporation which was headquartered in New York City and with factories in Elkhart, Indiana and Hemet, California.

      • Locals had the Caddy’s, Olds, and possibly the Poncho. The visitors had the Studebaker’s, Chevy’s and Ford’s and were a long way from home, I bet.

        • I was ten years old in 1953, the summer my parents drove out to California in a repainted (blue) Cadillac which I believe was either a one or two year-old car at the time. When we got to Las Vegas we stayed at the Desert Inn. Seeing the blue caddy on the far right of the photograph makes me wonder if that could possibly have been my parent’s car. The absence of a front license plate (we lived in Delaware then, a state which didn’t require a front plate) and the odd, blue color (the Caddy had suffered some damage and had been repainted what I think was a non-standard color) lead me to believe that that’s possibly our old car. I’m not sure but it appears the Caddy is a bit later than a ’51 or a ’52. I can’t imagine that it’s the same car but, hey, you never know; that is, until you do.

  2. I love the black 1950 Olds 88 in the 3rd photo. With its new 303 CI V/8 It could give those hot rods on the track a good run for the money even in stock form. That new engine changed hot rodding forever.

    • My family moved to Los Angeles in 1955 when I was in junior high school. I remember one of the older boys who was about to get his driver’s license being absolutely set on buying a 1950 Olds-88 for his 1st car. He said he was going down to the Coliseum and leave notes with his name and phone number on all of the windshields of the 1950 Oldsmobiles parked there during one of the sporting events, asking if the owners would call him if they were willing to sell their car. At that time, the boys who I hung out with were mostly looking for ’32 Fords to chop, channel, or section; my best buddy, who later became a physician in San Diego, found a 1932 5-window Ford coupe which received the whole treatment. A few years ago I saw my jr. high-school friend at a 50-year high school reunion but I forgot to ask him if he knew the whereabouts of his old hot rod. As for me, I was in the Model-A club; before I got there, though, I was successful in destroying both a ’31 Chevy and a ’38 or ’39 Plymouth coupe. In those days, any of those cars – and even my Model-A roadster – could be purchased for $50.00.

  3. In the 4th photograph, on the left, 3rd row back and three cars in, is a black over cream two-door RAMBLER “Lois Lane” convertible.

  4. If we could flash back to that used car lot today, that ’55 Chevy Bel Air on the right would be snapped up in a few seconds. The rest, not so much.

    • I agree it’s a real gem of a car. I would personally prefer having one of those over any other old Chevy including the more famous ’57 model. But I also like that ’53 Mercury Monterey station wagon up front which is also quite a head spinner. The rest not so much.

  5. I love the first image; crisp color–makes me feel I’m right there in 1952! Looks like the gal in the plaid dress might be leaning up against a `41 Ford with rusty rear bumper. A few Caddies, a `52 Olds 98 sedan, a `49 Studebaker sedan, and I think over on the far left, that terra-cotta colored hardtop might be a `51 Chrysler or Imperial maybe? Ah…the drag strip! Always makes me wish I was born about 15 years earlier than I was. The last photo sure is a colorful one; I could be here `til dinner spotting everything on that lot, but I see an interesting car that stands out in the front row; an English Ford Prefect in between two `55 Chevys.

    • Jack, I’ve seen current year model and one year old cars on used car lots. Often the owner of the lot also sold new cars and it gave the dealership more potential sales. It was also a good way to get rid of “lemons.”

  6. In the Auto Mart image we find a 1953 Mercury wagon in the front row. Straight up visually appears to be a 1950 Ford Crestliner. The model was introduced on short notice to compete with the 49/50 Chevy pillarless hardtop. Ford designer Bob Gregorie had apparently taken some credit for the Crestliner design, but having retired in 1946 one is rightly suspect of such claim. Gordon Buehrig is more likely the source. He joined Ford in 1950, the first year of the Crestliner. The car had a large, sweeping, contrasting color scheme front to rear, strikingly similar (copied?) to the Duesy J LeBaron designed cars. While I can’t verify the source of that design, Buehrig did have a relationship with LeBaron briefly, and certainly was in the thick of automotive design at the time the concept was conceived. Furthermore, Buehrig is the undisputed designer of the 51-54 Ford hardtops.

  7. At the drags is a 41 Studebaker Orange Gasser, a 1950 Ford Club Coupe, 1950 Olds without hubcaps. The Ford pickup looks like a push truck for one of the Fords that just left the line.

    • I think the Ford pickup at the drags is pushing an early “rail job,” John. If you look at the old picture closely you can make out the front wheels and a bit more of the what may be one of the first editions of what later became known as a “dragster.”

  8. Also on the first row at Auto Mart, second from left is a Simca Aronde.
    My first job was the early morning wipe-’em -off and start-’em-up boy. Heaven for a 15 year old in about that year.
    I think Nevada desert for pop-top van with the third member of the group (fourth, counting the Scottie) taking the pic.
    There were many race your ride strips in the LA area, some 1/4 mile and some 1/8.
    I do look forward to Four Fun Friday.

    • Thanks for identifying the Simca Aronde as I had no idea what kind of car that was. Is that a mid 50’s Ford Prefect third car from the right in the front row? It sure looks like it is. I used to have a Matchbox model of that car long ago. Both the car and company were made in Great Britain.

        • John, I noticed that one right off the bat too. Growing up in Vancouver, BC, there were lots of British cars in my town. My cousin had one of these Prefects. It was a great little car for in town but too light for the highway. Easy for back yard mechanics to work on, too. Living on the west coast we didnt get much snow in winter so absence of salt on the roads meant body life could be ten-twenty years, however in those days most were done by 60-75 K miles or sooner when either the motor or the electrics burnt out.

  9. That white Jag in the drag race pic is an XK120. Fast on the track and on a twisty road, but a bit too heavy for the drag strip.

    The guy in the left lane seems to have spent his time smoking his tires while the in the right lane was headed on down the strip!

    • Also it appears to me that it doesn’t have a limited slip differential judging by the amount of smoke coming from the left rear wheel.

  10. I believe the Auto Mart photo is the used car lot to the Studebaker-Packard-English Ford dealership of the same name. I have a photo of their new car dealership, also on Santa Rosa Ave.

  11. I found a link about the Falcon camper.
    The curved top part retracts flat…I wasn’t sure, that’s why I did a search.
    It’s called a Travel Top by Calthorpe, produced by Travel Equipment Corp. in Elkhart, Indiana.
    The site I found shows one on a 1964 Falcon Deluxe Club Wagon van. The site’s author recently found it, in very nice shape as a barn find.
    The day it’s rare. I’d like to see how the top folds flat.

    Search : Vintage Vans, Ford Travel Wagon and maybe you’ll see it.

    • I owned one of these camper back in the early 70s on a 1965 extended Econoline with the 240ci 6cylinder and 3 on the tree. Loved it . A friend of the family had owned it and took it on several long trips including from NW Ohio to Alaska. When I bought it , it had been rear ended breakloose most of the inside camper equipment. I sent it to a body shop that made the body like new again but the inside had to be strippeed accept the front seats. I built a homemade inside camper and we used it for many years.

      The top was very easy to use, fast up and down. You pushed the sides up in the center and the top pulled out of the end. In the picture they show the longer section being in front, my memory says mine had the long part in the back so the hinged part was in front but I would have to look for some old photos. Only real draw backs on the top was no sound or insulation in the inside, just bare metal and in some wind conditions when the top was down it would rattle a bit. It fit a normal garage door.

  12. Sadly a lot of dragstrips have closed due to “development”
    I heard Englishtown just closed.
    That crazy commercial they had on WABC radio.My English uncle heard it once and started swearing about the Bloody Yanks.

  13. The little English car in the last photo is definitely an Anglia – Prefects had a differnt grille & four doors (of course, I’m talking i South Africa – they may have had different specs in the USA.) They had the 100E motor when they first came out in about 1955 if my memory serves me right. The most desirable ones were the last of that shape ~ the 1960 or 61 (not sure) Prefect with a 107e motor and a four speed box instead of a three~speed. They were all replaced by the Anglia with the reverse~slanted rear window, in about 1961.
    Love your weekly dose of nostalgia!

    • Hi Andre. Too true, the 100e was a diabolical engine mated to the 3 speed gearbox that had low ratio first and second gears, and a very much over geared third. If it was over revved in second, and you did a quick change into top, it might hold it’s speed as long as you were on the flat. I know as I had one in Durban, South Africa, which I’m sure you know is quite hilly. The 105e was a different kettle of fish altogether. Brilliant little car.

  14. I’ve had a rethink. The Simca may well be an Aronde, it just looked too big in the photo. The Vedette had a slight downward “point” on the grill trim, and it was a larger car than the Aronde, (a V8 vs a four cyl) and about the size of a Henry J.

  15. That drag strip photo reminds me of a time when the only color tee shirts came in was white. I’m surprised not to see at least one with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve.

  16. It’s funny how a piece of real estate can find a purpose.
    The Auto Mart certainly seemed to be well established in that over 60 year old photo.
    Today at that address is an ongoing RV sales enterprise. It is essentially downtown.
    The rest of Santa Rosa’s car dealerships moved south and across the freeway decades ago.

  17. In the drag strip photo there is what appears to be a 54 Corvette in front of the Nomad. As for the Simca, I spotted it right off as the Oldsmobile dealership (Sam Montgomery Olds in Houston) was literally right across the street from our home and I recall them taking on the Simca line. Additionally my dad had a 55 Nomad I learned to drive in, costing him a couple power glide transmissions and a new front end.

  18. Hi, all: the little English Ford in the used-car lot pic, would be named as an ‘Anglia’ in the mother country, as per the grille bars. The last car to have that shape was the ‘Popular’, and amazingly, it continued till ca. 1961. It was powered by the wheezing 1172cc side-valve engine.
    The blue car on the left is, l am sure, no Simca; pretty certain it’s another English Ford, the Consul ‘hi-line’, with the 1700cc lump. Still a bit titchy by Yank standards, but considered in GB to be fairly big, with its lovely bench seat. Of course the straight 6-engined Zephyr and Zodiac were the really nice cars.

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