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Distinctive Early-1960s View of 42nd Street in New York City

This unique image was taken with a camera equipped with a telephoto or long-focus lens in the “Big Apple,” looking down 42nd Street with the marquee of the Commodore Hotel visible (below) in the top-center of the expandable photo. The New York City landmark located at 109 East 42nd across the street from Grand Central Station opened in 1919; it survives and was later remodeled and renamed the Grand Hyatt New York in 1980.

The vehicles in this view date from the early-1950s to the early-’60s. Share with us what you find of interest in this photograph via contributor Benjamin Ames.

30 responses to “Distinctive Early-1960s View of 42nd Street in New York City

        • A folding fabric roof would have been an aftermarket affair, for the factory did not offer one on Model 6700s, on which it did offer at extra-cost one option that is almost universally standard today and another option that is becoming a standard: air-conditioning for $624 and automatic heating for $179. A radio with rear speaker? $16 extra! A rear remote control? $247 extra!!

          On a 6723R Sedan that cost $9533 (and weighed 5390 pounds) of which 699 copies were sold,
          6733S Imperial Sedan that cost $9748 (and weighed 5420 pounds) of which 926 were sold, and 6890 Commercial Chassis of which 2,204 were sold!

          Compared to a 1961 Chevrolet 4-dr. sedan that cost about $2500 of which 452,251 were sold.

          Which just shows us how “standards” have changed!

  1. That would be a “fin-less” ’62 Rambler wagon up front followed by a ’62 or ’63 Lark “Land Cruiser” taxi (crease over and aft of the rear wheel). The oldest I see is a ’50 Chevy in the center lane heading away…and a possible ’51 or ’52 Chrysler peeking in from the right at an intersection. The Valiant is likely a ’61 with its blacked out filler in the headlight bezel.

    Among the 3 Cadillacs I see, a ’61 Series 75 over the Lark taxi, 2 cars ahead a ’54-’56 coupe, and the other, a likely ’62 4-window “vista” sedan down by the Commodore). There’s a pair of ’58 Fords along the left, the more distant seems to be a top-down Sunliner.
    There’s a sole Pontiac down by the buses, a ’55.

    • Pat,

      I think you nailed the season wwith that top-down Sunliner. The traffic cop’s summer short-sleve uniform confirms it.

    • Two nits. Studebaker first used the “Land Cruiser” name in 1934 and last used it in 1954 as a 120.5″ 5H sedan. In ’55, the 120.5″ Deluxe and State sedans were offered as 6H Presidents — along with State coupe [post] and Speedster [hardtop]. A V8 only “Cruiser” was offered until ’65, and Hamilton-built, Chevy-engined L6 and V8 Crusiers were offered. The price difference between the 120-hp 194 and the 195-hp 283 was $140 — but the Cruiser MSRP dropped from ’65 to ’66. From $2545 to $2405 for the L6 and from $2610 to $2470 for the V8!

      For comparison, Cruisers with Studebaker’s own V8s had listed at $2493 in ’62, $2595 in ’63 and $2603 in ’64.

      Second nit: taxi can likely be IDed as a ’63. While hard to say that the parking light/turn signal is amber, a black rubber windshield surround implies that it is a basic/stripper “Standard” model added to the lineup in ’63. For $1935/$2040/$2430 (2d/4d/sw) v. $2070/$2175/$2565 for the Standard v. Deluxe. When cheapest Rambler American (90-hp 195.6 I6) was $1832; Valiant (101-hp 170 I6) was $1910, Chevy II (90-hp 153 I4) was $2003 and Falcon (85-hp 144.3 I6 was $2047. It recalls the Scotsman of 1957. And it says something about the value of $1.

  2. Who would want to be that cop standing in the middle of traffic? Where are the traffic signals? Maybe he’s hitching a ride.

    • Howard,

      I think there is now a city ordinance that you can no longer idle a parked bus in NYC. So enjoy the bus fumes while you can.

  3. What’s the cab heading away from the camera between the beetle and the panel truck?

    Is that a Lincoln Mark III to V between the two busses in the upper left?

    • John,

      The cab is a Checker automobile. It’s so hard with Checker Taxi’s to pin down a year.

      Yes, that’s a 1960 Lincoln Continental Mark 5 in the upper left, with Lincoln-Mercury’s short-lived reverse-slant, power window in the back window over the trunk.

      • Funny, I know what a Checker looks like, but I sure didn’t think the cab was one. I figured early 50s MOPAR.
        I guess I’m more familiar with the front of a Checker than the rear!

    • Thanks for posing the question, John. My error…what I saw as a ’62 Cadillac in the distance…isn’t. They last used the “vista” roof on the ’61 models. And due to the apparent shorter fins (vs a ’61) I find that I agree with your question…it likely is one of the ’58-’60 Continental Marks III through V.

  4. Wow – this was peak pollution time before the EPA existed, poor cop probably had black soot in his handkerchief by mid-day. Remember when everyone carried one?

    My father was in a car pool from Long Island with 4 other men on the block. They drove
    to Jamaica, Queens ( 25 or 30 miles) and took the subway from there to Manhattan. The
    deal was that you had a designated driving day and even if you were sick your car still
    went. Wives would hand the keys out the door on those occasions. My father moved his
    business closer to home around 66 but some of those guys continued to carpool into the
    late 70’s.

    I spotted the 75 right off but misunderstood AML & Howard’s mention of the roof. I didn’t know that a manual sun/moon roof existed on Caddy’s in those days. Factory or aftermarket anyone?? First time I’ve seen a Lark cab too.

    Andy- yes, it’s a Ford Taxi but I cant confirm the year.

    John- Pretty sure that’s the back of a Checker cab and the Lincoln is likely a Continental.
    I remember the Mark III coming out in the late sixties or early seventies because
    they had the longest TV commercial I ever saw to introduce it.

    I know now that lots of TV stars had long commercial breaks to tout their sponsors
    cars but I was too little to remember. Think Lorne Green, Dinah Shore, etc. That
    Lincoln commercial stayed with me forever.

    • The Lincoln Mark III of 1957 was a totally different car than the Mark III of 1969.

      The 1957 was the Mark III
      The 1958 was the Mark IV
      The 1959 was the Mark V

      And as pointed out previously, they all had the reverse slope backlight which Mercury would re-introduce in the 60s.

  5. I see two ’57 Fords, one going away and one approaching. and two or three Checker Cabs. These cabs have quite a history. Built tough, like tanks. 200K miles and more not unusual.

  6. I remember those old city buses.
    When school let out everyday their rear bumpers were packed with street urchins hanging on for dear life.Dont know why,they must have sold their bus passes for pizza money or something.
    But when they came out with the new GM “fishbowl” type buses about ’64 the rear bumpers were deliberately recessed into the body so the kids could no longer get a foothold.

  7. The officer is standing at the intersection of 42nd Street and 3rd Avenue. That hill is there but is no way as steep as it is shown. It must be the result of the usage of the telephoto lens.

  8. Been a while since I made a comment here on your blog David, but I got to say that ’57 Fairlane 500 was one of the first cars I owned. Really had a lot of fun with that old Ford. Wish I never sold that car. Boy does that bring back memories.

  9. The shape of the license plate light housing on the VW would indicate it to be a 1958 to 1963. The 1964 came out with a much wider housing.

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