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Four Fun Friday Kodachrome Car Photographs Edition 183

This week both the lead image and the second photo appear to be taken on a quarter-midget racing trip by the same individual, who apparently due to the racing connection was related to Fred H. Offenhauser, the widely-known “Offy” racing engine builder. This person may have operated the Offenhauser Photo Service in Alhambra, CA, located east of Los Angeles, the home of the racing engine Company.

The lead picture contains the tow rig, a very early VW bus and behind it a young man and his quarter-midget racing car on a trailer. The second shot contains the children and their racers all tied together and being towed in a parade near the site of the race that it appears was held somewhere in Arizona. Can any of our readers confirm that the Offenhauser’s are related and the location of the racing track?

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 take look back at all the earlier parts of the Kodachrome Photographs series here. The images are via This Was Americar.

  • Quarter-midget drivers and their cars tied together are being towed in the pre-race parade.

  • This young girl is pictured at a Peair Bros. Buick and Fiat automobile dealership.


  • And finally, we do not normally feature photos of car accidents, although in this instance the driver and the passenger appear to be ok. Apparently the pair are standing between the police car and the tow truck that came to assist them.


52 responses to “Four Fun Friday Kodachrome Car Photographs Edition 183

  1. The third photo in particular is interesting to me. While the little girl sits on the bumper of a brand-new, unsold `58 Buick, it’s said that this dealer also handled Fiats. Looking beyond the white roadmaster next to the girl, it also appears they handle Simcas, as I see a couple Aronde sedans that look like fresh inventory. No telling how the driver of the green `59 Catalina 2dr. post ended up in the pond, but the car still looks saveable. Iron out the post ding to the front end, add a tri-power setup to the 389 and beef it up, he would have a decent runner!

    • Simca and Fiat were intertwined throughout Simca history, in fact SIMCA (Société Industrielle de Mécanique et de Carrosserie Automobile) was founded by Fiat in 1935. The Simca Aronde in 1951 was the first Simca not based on a Fiat design. So no surprise to see Simcas on that lot.

  2. In the 3rd picture, in the foreground are two 1958 BUICK models. It appears they are new as there are no hub-caps on the Super [or Roadmaster] Riviera Sedan on the right.

    • In the 3rd photograph, on the far right, is part of a dark two-door 1958 BUICK Super Riviera , showing the chrome hash marks following the rear side window.

  3. The ponded Pontiac looks like it may have hit a deer and then gone down hill afterwards. With the snowy patches in the background it’s surprising that the folks standing next to the police car appear to be so comfortable after having recently waded through that cold water to get to the roadway. Should we suppose that the two truck driver is fishing in the cab for his hip waders?

  4. Two thoughts on the Buick / FIAT store: 1) The picture is in the fall of 1957. None of the cars have the Monroney price sticker that was required effective Jan. 1, 1958. 2) Do I also see Simca cars on the lot?

    • I thought those were Arondes as well. Since SImca was formerly the Fiat assembler for France – as SEAT was for Spain – maybe they paired up to expand distribution in the US? Or just a coincidence?

      On the last photo could that be a ’63 Ford Galaxie police cruiser? I first thought it might be a ’62 Dodge Dart, but realized the distortions were in the exposure, not the design itself! That Chevy/GMC tow truck looks to be early 60s, before they dropped the hood pods and the wrap around windshield.

  5. Third pic. Behind the beautiful Buicks is a Fiat 1100 with suicide doors. I had one with a 4 on the tree and a great little 4 cyl engine. Lots of fun in college with that car.

  6. The VW van in the first pictures looks to be an early one. The small tail lights look like those on early examples. I had a ’58 van like this one and with its 36 horse engine it certainly was not a power house. If stock, pulling anything, including the midget racer, would have taxed that engine to the max. Despite all of that those early split window VW’s are really cool and the prices on them these days proves it.

    • A friend had a 40 horse which he used to tow the Sprite he raced. Not to mention being loaded up with tools and spares. Now THAT was slow! The difference in the wheel sizes on the trailer and the bus seems remarkable.

      • I’m the kid in the picture. This was 1958. It is not related to the picture of the cars in the parade. My father was Carl Offenhauser and the Photo business was a side line for him. He worked with my uncle, Fred Offenhauser at Offenhauser Mfg. They made and still make speed equipment. There uncle was Fred Offenhauser who made the 4 cyl. racing engines. The bus is a 57 and had a 36 hp engine until about 1961 or 2 when it got a corvair engine when Offenhauser started making adapters. The trailer was a converted motorcycle trailer and had 16 in. Model A wire wheels. I think we were on our way to Las Vegas.

  7. Well I find it hard to believe that even the worst driver could accidentally put that Pontiac so far off the beaten path. My hypothesis goes something like this:
    “Herman? Herman! It’s Sheriff Hawkins on the line! He found the car! Says it looks like some kids hotwired it and went joyridin’! He’s a-comin’ to get us… says to ring Merle down at the fillin’ station… We gonna need him to bring his wrecker!”

    • That’s what I was thinking.
      Or Herman got a snoot-full last night at the tavern and on the way home had a mishap.
      In which case, he’ll tell the misses and the Sheriff that he accidentally left the keys in it and those “darn hot rodders” must have taken it.
      The wife knows better, but she doesn’t want to see Herman busted…or their insurance rates increase.

  8. The ’59 Pontiac Catalina two door sedan driver took a wild ride. The first brand new car I rode in as a seven year old was my Great Aunt Pauline’s same model in about the same color combination, though she never put it in a pond…that I know of. The ’59 Catalina was traded for a ’70 Impala two door hardtop, lime green which she drove for the rest of her driving years. Those years lasted a bit too long, when backing from tight parking spots uptown, she would creep slowly until the Impala came to push up against whatever vehicle was diagonally parked opposite. If anyone made an issue of it, she’d open her purse and start handling out dollars.

    • My grandmother owned a 1959 Pontiac Star Chief in the mid and late sixties. The tin worm had taken over by the time I started driving so I didn’t get very much wheel time in the Chief. Probably just as well because my car was a ’61 Ford with the 223 CID six and Fordomatic; I did get to drive the Pontiac enough to realize that it would launch a lot harder than the Ford. Not long before she traded the ’59 away on a 1963 Pontiac Catalina my grandmother let me borrow the Chief for the evening. At a guess I probably burned six months worth of tread off of the right rear tire; nothing says doughnuts quite like a huge, torquey V8 with an open differential. Ah, youth.

  9. 3rd photo: This is likely Peairs Brothers Buick and Peairs Brothers Imports at 15734 Bellflower, Blvd, Bellflower, California. Note that the sign appears to be missing the letter “S” in Peairs.

  10. Third Pic: Surely the ’58 Buick must hold the record for the most chrome on a production car beating out even Cadillac.

    • I believe the Olds limited of 58 is the all time chrome champion based on number of chrome parts on the exterior. The Buick has to be close.

      • I believe you’re right. It was Harley Earl’s last year as GM’s chief stylist before being forced to retire at the mandatory age of 65. Although it received much criticism and was derided by being called “a bucket of bolts” it definitely sold well as Oldsmobile was the fourth best selling car that year behind the perennial top three of Chevrolet, Ford, and Plymouth. It was the best showing that car ever had in terms of popularity if not sales, as 1958 was a recession year.

  11. Talk about opposites attract. Buick Roadmaster Limiteds with hundreds of pounds of chrome sharing the sales lot with Fiat 500’s. I guess this is an example of the ultimate juxtaposition!

  12. When we raced 1/4 midgets with my kids in the early 90’s there were very old cars still running of the style pictured. They were mostly home builds, but there were factory made ones too. One maker’s cars were called “Offy-ette” There could be a connection to Offenhauser there.

    • The Offy-ette was built in Texas, had a hydraulic brake on one wheel, rack and pinion steering, torsion bar suspension and was a monocoque chassis design. It had a 2X12 fiberglassed in the floor for strength. They were very advanced for the time. I have one.

  13. Regarding the excessive chrome on the 58 Buicks, the story goes that Harley Earl, while reviewing preliminary drawings of the 58 model, instructed the design staff to add “another 100 pounds of chrome to it.”

  14. The VW type 2 is likely a 56-7 and it is a Kombi devoid of trim and those extra windows on the side. They were meant to be a dual purpose van and bus.

  15. 1st pic, I don’t think this van has anything to do with the Offenhauser auto products. Same name, maybe a disgruntled sibling that loved photography instead of motors, much to his fathers dismay. 2nd pic, only one helmet( and that looks like a modified football helmet). Oh how did we ever survive? 3rd pic, the 1958 Buick “Fashion Aire Dynastar Grille” was made up of 160 individual beveled chrome squares. I agree, an unlikely pairing, Buick and Fiat, and whatever else these guys could make a buck on, about the only time you saw foreign cars, when paired with some US car, and last, yeah, Fred is calling his brother on the radio, “yeah, Bill,,Fred, better fire up “old Betsy” for this one”. The folks on shore don’t look too happy, and either he carried her, or they both have wet clothes. The police car looks it may be from Indiana. Don’t see any skid marks, so they must have plowed water for a bit.

  16. Fiat sign reminds me of working in parts dept. of a large Chevrolet dealership, early 70’s that sold Fiat. We eagerly awaited the DIY Fiat customers who wanted tune up kits. They would confidently order and we would say-Which ignition system-Marelli, Ducellier or Bosch? The 10% that had been thru this routine knew but the other 90% were stopped in their tracks.

  17. Fiat sign reminds me of working in a large Chevrolet dealership that sold Fiat in the early 70’s. Us parts guys eagerly awaited the Fiat diy’ers. They would ask for tune-up parts for their Fiat and we would respond-which ignition system-Marelli, Ducellier or Bosch. The 10% who had been thru this routine knew the answer but the other 90% were totally defeated.

  18. Fred Offenhauser was apparently fairly generous with the use of his name. Back in the late 50’s, I used to take my ’55 Chevy V8 Del Ray coupe to Offenhauser Engine Analysis in Los Angeles. The head mechanic was a guy named Dallas and he told me the owner was a personal friend of Offenhauser’s, who allowed him to use the engine builder’s name. The shop’s main attraction was a chassis dynamometer and the owner, a portly, grey-haired, well dressed gent, liked nothing better than to put on a shop coat, back a Corvette on to the dyno and rev the hell out of it to see how much horsepower was generated at the rear wheels.

  19. I think the couple standing by the wrecker were not in the water with the car. Either it was stolen or their kid dunked it last night and the cop brought them down to see it.

  20. 1st Photo: There is an Offenhauser family connection between this car and the engines built by Fred Offenhauser. Offenhauser Photo Service was a business run by Carl O. Offenhauser in the late 1950s and possibly the early 1960s. Carl was the nephew of Fred H. Offenhauser as Carl’s father, Charles O. Offenhauser, was the brother of Fred H.

    Carl’s brother, Fred C. Offenhauser, worked for Fred H. and apparently hoped to take over the Offenhauser Engine Company someday. After Fred H. sold the company to Luis Meyer and Dale Drake in 1945, Fred C. started the Offenhauser Equipment Corporation. Carl also worked there with Fred C.

    • The Offenhauser/Quarter Midget connection is confirmed by a recent story in the Santa MAria Times newspaper (California) titled “Santa Ynez man’s car in exhibit at Peterson Automotive Museum.”

      A few brief quotes from the story which can be read online and has a number of period photos:

      “In 1957, now-retired Santa Ynez lawyer Joe Lisoni was 11 years old, was known as Joey Lisoni and was about to start racing a car hand built by his father.

      Lisoni is now 71 and hasn’t raced since about 1960, but his car — “Missfire” — is now featured in an exhibit at the prestigious Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, where it will be preserved as part of a collection of more than 100 vehicles following Lisoni’s donation of the car.”


      So Lisoni’s “Missfire” No. 5 is in rare company, and well it should be.

      “A lot of people don’t know it, but Joe won 60-plus races in his car,” said Raul R. Gutierrez, marketing associate for the Petersen Automotive Museum, noting Lisoni went head-to-head with some of the best drivers of the day. “Some of them went on to race NASCAR or other IMSA classes.”
      The car

      Hand built by Lisoni’s father, Joseph A. Lisoni, in his J&D Welding Co. shop in Alhambra, the car is powered by an air-cooled, single-cylinder, alcohol-burning engine built by Indianapolis 500 racing legend Carl Offenhauser,who was a tenant in the same building.

      • I think the quarter midget is the 14H driven by Dusty Offenhauser. It appears the 4 from 14H can be seen in the picture along with the driver’s name on the car. I think that is probably Dusty in the first picture with the car.

        • I feel like I should know who Ace and Tin are. They know what they are talking about. The quarter midget is 14H and at that time if someone talked about Charles instead of Dusty people would have said, “Who is that ?”

  21. Re: 4th photo. The wrecker appears to be a 1960 or 1961 GMC by the shape of the front of the hood and the placement
    of what looks to be a V-6 emblem on the front of the front fender.

  22. The bottom pic is quite typical for a scene out of the westerm plains. Spring sometimes came up too fast and the snow would melt all at once, causing flooding over the roads. I remember a couple of friends who stayed too long in the bar after bowling night and they ventured out back to their farms, about 17 sheets to the wind. The one guy drove a GMC Sprint and got driving a little too fast for the conditions. He drove down the long hill toward his buddy’s place and didn’t see the water rushing over the road until it was too late. If he could’ve stopped, he would’ve been able to proceed slowly across the stream and came out on the other side. But he hit that stream at 40+ mph. He hydroplaned right off into deep water. Fortunately there were a couple of friends who were only about 5 minutes behind and they were able to rescue the soaked victims from the roof of the half-submerged Sprint. I agree with Dilliam about the wrecker; I’m guessing it to be a ’61 GMC…

  23. 1st & 2nd pic. The Saguaro in front of the Shoe Outlet and the mountains in the background make me think it is in Tucson or the immediate vicinity. The Tucson Quarter Midgets Association is still active.

  24. You would think I could be sure about the year of the wrecker, since I have gone outside three times to look at the 1960 3/4 long bed step side I have owned for 49 years. Pretty close.
    Think of the many man hazmat team that would swarm that scene today.
    In the pic of the 1/4 midget parade, there is another possibility for a ’60 GMC in the light blue truck second from right behind the two-tone Chevy. It may also be a Chevy, though.
    Counting taillights on the VW Van leads me to ’55 or ’56.
    I think I remember two pics from not too long ago that bely “we do not normally feature photos of car accidents,..”, but those were in snow not water. 😉

  25. It amazes me that there are more comments about a car in a lake than there are about the legendary Offenhauser story, as you note , you don’t often run articles on cars in accidents, unfortunately you run one this time in conjunction with the Offy story, please separate them next time and give Fred his appropriate accolades

    • Simply…more people have more stories about production cars than Offy-powered racers.

      It would be the same if we were discussing Duesenbergs or Stutz Bearcats.

      Don’t take the lack of comments personally or as a knock on the racers.

  26. The Peair brothers may have been in the forefront of the movement towards compacts and smaller cars and away from the behemoths that were popular until the recession. The US manufacturers may have had compacts on the drawing boards at the time this photo was taken, but definitely contributed to the compact inventory by 1959/60.

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