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North Carolina Chevrolet Dealer Five Day “Washout Sale”

Editors Note: We want to wish all of our friends and readers here in the US and around the world a happy and merry Christmas. We will return with a new feature on Wednesday morning December 26th.

In various areas of the country, different terms are used at times to describe the same thing. This press photo taken, on October 20, 1955, for a Chevrolet dealer for use in the Greenville, NC “Daily Reflector” caught our eye because of the use of “Washout Sale” signage.

Here in New England and in other areas of the country a used car sale is often called a “clearance sale,” which left us to wonder if this was a regional phrase for the same thing? Stock market investors use the expression “washout sale” to define the selling of a stock at a loss for a tax write off, and then repurchase it at the same price that was initially paid for it within thirty days.

And finally, we can’t help ourselves by beating the sharp cynic’s in the audience to the punch who would comment that this a “dirty laundry sale” to get rid of the late-model used car lemons and repaired wrecks on the lot taken in trade by mistake.

Share with us what you find of interest in the expandable photograph (below) courtesy of the East Carolina University Collections.

24 responses to “North Carolina Chevrolet Dealer Five Day “Washout Sale”

  1. I’m not sure about a “dirty laundry ” sale, you don’t hang dirty laundry on a clothes line, however, I will agree, it’s a poor choice of words, as a “washout” usually means something is a dud. The Chevy on the right is a ’53 and on the used car lot, so got to be ’54, at least. The older cars look pretty clean, especially the Merc.

  2. That area of Eastern North Carolina bears the brunt of Atlantic hurricane/tropical storm/nor’easter weather activity. Maybe the “washout” term is referring to recent weather…

    • Hurricane Ione did affect that area of eastern NC in late September, 1955 according to Wikipedia. This was about thirty days prior to the date the picture was taken.

      • The timing of the photo, along with the “washout” term suggests that perhaps the vehicles on display were water /flood damaged as a result of the hurricane.

  3. According to Rich Kretschmer’s License Plate Archives North Carolina issued only one license plate during 1953 and 1954, going to two plates for 1955. 1955 plates had yellow numbers on a black background. Therefore the photo must have been made in 1955.

    Cars from left to right are a 1951 Mercury, 1952 Chevrolet Deluxe 4-door sedan, 1951 Chevrolet Special 4-door sedan, another 1952 Deluxe sedan and a 1953 Chevrolet 210 2-door sedan. It’s interesting that the Mercury and the 1951/1952 Chevys all have accessory bumper guards and the “plain Jane” 1951 Special is the only one with whitewall tires. The higher priced models all have blackwalls.

  4. Two 1951 Mercury’s side by side. Does the partially hidden one have an early vinyl top? May be one on the far right facing away.

  5. Hmmm…odd sale for sure, but did no one notice that they literally “Put the wash out”? See the hanging clothes on the wash line in front of the cars…as in put the wash outside?
    Of course that terminology for selling cars must have been some local reference that meant a special sale.
    Who knows…but the car dealer did put out that
    I’ll take the whole front row!

  6. According to the calendar, 1955.
    Perhaps they’re cleaning out inventory of recent model cars that have been on the lot too long? I think the oldest car there is ’50 or ’51.

  7. I find it interesting that NC laws at that time stated that plates go with the car when sold/traded; like CA. does. No temp. paper plates until registered, I guess.

  8. Special ‘sale days’ were such a common practice then as now, either to generate traffic during a lull or in anticipation of the new model year introduction. The latter may well been the motivation for this October sale given it is just weeks before the 1955’s hit, one of their greatest selling seasons up to that date. By October, the dealers had advanced preview of what was a line-up like Chevrolet had never before fielded. It must have been an exciting time.

    Love the looks of those used car operations: the modest office shack, the strings of light bulbs and flapping pennant flags, only the portly, grinning, cigar-chomping, plaid sport-coated salesman is missing.

  9. The dealer better find some unique way to move the pre-used inventory. Once the sleek new ’55 Chevys hit the showroom next month this front lot will look like a museum exhibit.

    Awesome image.

    • The auto business changed forever when the new 55’s came out. At age 12, this was the year that I became a lifelong car nut. They were all new except for Lincoln, Kaiser and maybe Nash./Hudson. I never could understand why Lincoln “took the year off” and didn’t even have a curved windshield when Ford and Mercury did.

      • I too became a lifelong car nut when the ’55s came out in October, 1954. I was 13 years old in the 8th grade. Will never forget the two tone pink ’55 Ford that started it for me. What a wild color for a car.

      • JMZ, I think it has something to do with getting rid of old stock .For instance, Ford used the Canadian market to get rid of their flathead V-8 stocks in 1954 . In Australia , MOPAR used 1956 Dodge sedan bodies and passed them off as 1959 Chryslers . Waste not , want not as grandma used to say .
        Thank you David Greenlees , for your consistently amazing contributions to our continuing enjoyment and appreciation of the wonderful world of wheels . Please keep up your fantastic work which I appreciate more than words can say. Best wishes for 2019 and beyond .

    • If this is the week of October 18-22, 1955, then it would be the ’56s hitting the showroom wouldn’t it? The ’55s came out in October, 1954, probably on the second Friday or Saturday of the month.

  10. Multi-dealer year-end clearance sales were quite common in the ’20’s and ’30’s. Entrepreneurs would rent a stadium or large field where the participating dealers would bring their “leftovers”, the auctioneers’ tents would go up and the sale was on. Walter E. Schott, father-in law of Marge Schott ( of Cincinnati Reds fame ) got his start in the business world organizing these – he eventually became quite wealthy and was instrumental in forcing the collapse of the Pierce-Arrow company in 1938 over unpaid bills. Sadly, he died at age 55 on a family outing to Europe aboard the Queen Mary in 1956. Marge Schott was kind enough to send me a collection of magazine and newspaper articles about him some years ago.

  11. It looks like a late 1940’s Step-Down Hudson is parked behind the two-toned Chevy up front on the right. I’d take that car over any of the others if I had a choice, and I never did care much for those early 50’s Chevy’s although they sure sold well.
    I remember that the garage downtown where I grew up as a kid in the East had one of those big OK signs hanging up out front just like in the picture. That was in the mid 1960’s, but back in the late 50’s they sold cars there as well,
    and it was mostly Chevrolet models.

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