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Steel City Used Car Lots: Fred’s Auto Sales and Lewis Motor Sales

“Have we got a deal for you today,” two used car lots for the price of one – almost sounds like a jingle one of the car dealers featured in this post could have used in radio spots back in time.

The lead image is a view of Fred’s Auto Sales located at 1435 Sawmill Run Boulevard in the Bonair neighborhood south of Pittsburgh, PA on State Route 51. The front row is filled with post-war cars, although the back row probably contained a few pre-war bargains. The area today continues to be the home of used car dealers and other automotive businesses.

Lewis Auto Sales (below) located at 5921 Baum Boulevard apparently dealt in “Plain Jane” everyday automobiles for working class people in the “Steel City.” Other than a convertible visible on the far left of the front row the rest of the cars at the sales facility appear to be sedans and coupes.

Share with us what you find of interest in this photograph by Paul Santos courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh Library.

20 responses to “Steel City Used Car Lots: Fred’s Auto Sales and Lewis Motor Sales

  1. Probably every sizable town had one or more used car dealers that specialized in vehicles priced for those on a tight budget and high school kids who scraped together just enough for their first car. We used to joke that the most prominent such dealer in our town offered a warranty of five minutes or five miles, whichever shall first occur.

    Although dealers were competitors they sometimes worked together to keep the entire market alive. One technique was to buy and sell from one another at wholesale to refresh their inventories and move cars that were not selling in one place to another location where the results might be better. The third car from the left at Fred’s Auto Sales is a two-tone 1946 or 47 Oldsmobile 60 or 70 series club sedan looking identical to the two similar cars seen at Smiling Lou Abrams’ place on January 29. Since they were both in Pittsburgh maybe Fred and Lou had an arrangement.

  2. In the lead photo, from the right on either side of a ’46 Cadillac Series 62 Touring Sedan, are a pair of ’50 Buicks: a Special Sedanet in standard finish (w/o side trim or bright window trim) on the right, and a “50 Super Riviera on the left. Then a ’48 Chevy Coupe.
    On either side of a likely ’46 Olds Club Sedan (appears to have a ribbed bar between bumper guards vs ’47- ’48) but I can’t distinguish the Series, are a pair of Studebakers: a ’50 Champion sedan on the right and a ’48 Champion convertible on the left..
    In the back lot seen to the right of the Cadillac could be a ’41 Olds

  3. In Photo #2, on the extreme right appears to be a ’50 Chevy non-DeLuxe Styleline across the street from a ’49 Pontiac Chieftain DeLuxe 4-dr sedan (slimmer trunk lid lift vs a ’50) on this side.

  4. In the lead photograph, front row center, is a two-tone 1950 BUICK Super Riviera and on the far right is a 1950 BUICK Special Jetback Coupé [non-DeLuxe model].

        • Frank,

          Thanks for the question. If one looks at the molding on the side of the hood of the MERCURY, it’s much shorter than the molding on ’46 models. Should have stated the vehicle could be either a 1947 or ’48 as they were identical externally.


  5. The Royal Crown Cola sign seems a bit odd. Do you really think that people would walk off the street and into a used car dealership to buy a soft drink?

    • In the days before a plethora of vending machines, an RC Cola on a PA summer day would certainly be tempting to one walking by with the added benefit of introducing a potential customer!

    • Jack, In this case, I agree, it appears that RC Cola paid someone for space to put the sign on the side of a shed to take advantage of an open area to advertise from. Cheaper than paying to put a sign street side. It’s like how Mail Pouch Tobacco would agreee to paint your barn rather than paying billboard rental next to the highway.

      Soft drink companies have, for years, partnered with businesses to provide signage. Coca-Cola is the most obvious example as you will find their signs in the most backward locations of civilization. For stores, they use it as a sales incentive to get you to stock their product. It’s a quid pro quo arrangement; the business gets a professional sign at little or no cost and the soft drink company gets free advertising space.

      As to the cars, I recognize the makes of most, but not the year or models. Having been born in ’49 I saw a lot of these cars on the road in my chilldhood, but was really to young to care or be interested (Give me the 50’s on). I just remember that my family got a post-war Buick Roadmaster that was really pre-war because they hadn’t been able to make new dies so soon after the war.

      • I had a RC Cola just before reading this yesterday.

        Occasionally, you’ll find a restaurant that features RC as their fountain soft drink.
        Good stuff, they usually have a nice rich mixture (unlike a certain burger chain who waters down its non-RC cola so much it tastes like….well, fill in the blank).

  6. Notice the old phone number for Fred’s Auto Sales? WI-1, and no area code. Wonder what the WI telephone exchange name was? Possibilities could be WIlliams, WIlson, or WIndsor.

  7. I really like them 1950 Buick grilles. I just purchased a 1/43 Conquest-Madison 1950 Buick woody wagon diecast model…it was pretty pricey at $265, but worth it.

  8. Only slightly before my time but the garbage in the streets was not. Obviously from the days before Lady Bird Johnson’s “Beautify America” campaign that kicked off with the weeping Native American in a canoe PSA. Even buyers at Fred’s Auto Sales would soon have to cough up an extra nickel deposit for that bottle of RC. I imagine the “pop machine” on the lot at least paid Fred’s electric bill during the summer months.

    These are two vintage pics I wish were in color as the different hues in the lot gave birth to “resale red” and other eye catching shades.

    Thanks for posting, this is close to home for me. By the mid ’60s I might have been looking for a deal from Fred’s son.

  9. The address for Fred’s is 2435 Saw Mill Run Blvd., and is a somewhat fancier used car dealer today. This narrow, traffic clogged and miserable excuse for a PA. highway was the home of many used car lots. And BTW, WI was the Willard exchange.

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