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Four Fun Friday Kodachrome Car Photographs No. 204

The white finned 1950s Cadillac convertible in today’s lead image is either returning from a voyage or about to head off to parts unknown. Identifying the year and model of the car should not be very hard for the experts, and hopefully there are enough clues in the photo to tell us where the vehicle originates from and location where the picture was taken.

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.

  • A woman in a red dress and pearls poses with a sleek red and white 1950s Chrysler Products hardtop.

  • It appears someone may have purchased this Dodge convertible at about same the time they moved into a new housing development.

  • A mid-1960s street scene taken in San Diego, California.

46 responses to “Four Fun Friday Kodachrome Car Photographs No. 204

  1. 1st pic, looks like the Shah of Iran is finally getting his new ’58 Series 62 (?) Caddy. Can’t ID the plate, but the low number may confirm that. 2nd pic, somebody’s mom and their new ’57 DeSoto ( in a state that allowed 4 headlights) The 1st car I remember riding in was the old man’s ’59 DeSoto. While dismal build quality, I heard, it was one snazzy car. 3rd, somebody sportin’ some cash after the war. Ok, not BIG money with a new Dodge and a home in Pressboard Estates, but the American dream none the less. The last pic. I know 1st car is a Hillman, (convertible?) a 4 door Fiat across the street and an Imperial Southhampton down the block. I’m sure Pat can fill in the rest.

    • Yeah, a lot of ‘combat vets’ opted for convertibles I think, just to get some more sun in their lives after all that horror. The housing developments (I grew up in one) and new car sales really helped to boost the middle class. Of course the growing ‘boomer’ families fed a lot of these families to more practical station wagons as the kids kept coming! Interesting era, curious about where this may have been taken and what it looks like now.

    • Plate appears to be New Jersey, specifically Essex County (“E” prefix.) The low number probably denotes some sort of political operative owns it. I think that 1954 was the last year New Jersey issued a new annual plate. Just to the left and right of the year at the bottom, were two slots. Each year after that, new registration came with a small tag with the year and tabs at the side which were bent to be installed on the old plate. In 1960, they changed to our still current straw colored plate with black numbers and letters. For a few years, registration came with adhesive year tags but they’ve given up on that too.

  2. In the 4th picture [3rd expandable photograph], parked on the far side of the street & behind the light blue ’66 FORD, is a tan 1959 OLDSMOBILE Super 88 Sedan.

  3. In the Lead Photo, a ’55 Eldorado

    In Item 2 of 3, a ’50 Dodge Wayfarer Sportabout.

    In Item 3 of 3, top of the hill on the left, a Hillman Minx Series III, a ’66 Impala Sports Sedan, a silver ’64 Impala while across the street appears to be a ’62-’66 Fiat 1100D sedan and farther down the hill a ’57 Imperial 2-door Southampton

    The lead photo reminds me of the summer morning I wandered down the alley to meet my friend, and there, sitting in Mrs. McNally’s driveway was an identical white Eldorado convertible, but with a white top. More startling yet, it had Hawaiian Territorial plates. I lived in Minneapolis…how did it get here? I couldn’t have been more astonished had the plates read Mars!

    • Re item 2 – looks like the car parked next to the 50 Wayfarer might be a 49 Dodge, which had identical front fenders and hood to the 50, but different grille and bumper, and parking lights separate from the grille/surround.

  4. I had to look carefully at the lead photo Cadillac. It looks very much like the 1955 Chevrolet El Morocco prototype from R. Alllender & Co. But examination shows it’s the Caddy, not the look-alike.

    • Wow…and here I thought the first El Moroccos were the `56 models! Makes sense though, that a prototype would be developed prior to that. They were cheesy knock-offs, but interesting nontheless.

    • Great observation John! When I was taught how to drive “back in the day”, most cars had manual transmissions. The idea was that if the parking brake didn’t hold and the car started to roll, it would not go far – only a couple of inches to the kerb.

      • That’s what I learned in Driver’s Ed also. It also applied to cars with automatic transmissions, in case the transmission slipped out of “Park”. The direction of the wheels also mattered, depending on which direction you were parked on the hill. If facing uphill the wheels should be turned out (away from the curb) so that if the car rolls back the front tire would hit the curb; and when parked facing down the hill the wheels should be turned in towards the curb so the front tire rolls into the curb.

        • The original GM HydraMatic did not have a park position. The procedure was to put the transmission in neutral and then engage the parking brake to prevent the car from rolling. Of course by the time these cars dropped far enough down the food chain to where they were just $100 used cars the parking brake often did not work. The workaround was to carry a concrete block (or large piece of wood) to use as a chock when parking.

      • But notice the Ford and Fiat on the other side of the street have their wheels pointing in the opposite direction.

        I think the Ford has it right, or would either direction work?
        They taught us that in drivers ed too, and so could never remember which way to turn.

    • Speaking of Driver’s Ed and hills, remember that whole process they ran you through if you were stopped at a light on an upward slope hill? You had to set the parking brake and when the light turned green, you were supposed to engage the footbrake with your left foot (if you weren’t already), then slowly push down on the gas pedal with your right, while releasing the parking brake. The whole purpose of this process was to prevent the car from rolling backwards down the hill.

      We had one girl in our driver’s ed class who failed the class because she couldn’t coordinate this process successfully.

      • Brazil 1958. Driver’ s test. Stop on a hill and hold the car with foot brake. Turn off engine and put the transmission in neutral. Do not use parking brake. Restart engine. Use clutch and engage 1st gear. Use right foot heel to accelerate while releasing clutch. Simultaneously take right foot off the brake pedal and set the car in motion. If vehicle goes back 2 inches you have failed.

  5. I’d bet that San Diego photo with the Hillman was taken with a Rolleiflex. It’s square format (120 film) and tack sharp.

  6. Last picture. My old Hillman Minx convert. It was a 58 with leather Sears and high comp 4’cyl. Top would open over front sear only by sliding it back, or all the way Down. Great little car in college
    Front wheels to curb was a hold over from the old stick shift days. In case the parking brake didn’t hold, this car wouldn’t roll back or forward down the hill. Kind of went away with park position of auto trans.

  7. The blue ’50 Dodge Wayfarer roadster is one of those anomalies of the times: the lowest-priced convertible car discounting the Jeepster phaetons. Dodge was still consisted a step up from Plymouth where such a model would be more likely expected. Apparently those seeking a convertible were less concerned with low initial price after the first couple years when the Wayfarer’s strong sales tapered off in preference to the full-size, six-passenger Coronet convertible. it was the end of roadsters for standard-sized American cars.

  8. I still have my atomic yellow 1949 Wayfarer. Drove it in great comfort to Canada last year. Terrific cars. Looked a bit stodgy back then, but now have a kind of elegance about them.

  9. The plates on the Dodge convertible are unusual in that they are the only Illinois plates ever issued featuring colored numbers against a unpainted aluminum background. The period when plate color combos started honoring colleges in the state started a few years later.

    • Illinois started honoring colleges with their license plates starting in 1955 (University of Illinois). While documentation is lacking for 1956, the program continued for 1957 – 1961, then 1964, and the last year 1979. During this timeframe there were other honorees. The year 1963 honored (John) Deere & Company, 1965 honored Illinois Secretary of State Charles Carpentier who died while in office in 1964, and 1975 honored Caterpiller, Inc. Some lists of these plates show that 1956 honored Illinois Wesleyan University, but finding any newspaper articles or other reliable old sources has been impossible to find. Can anyone help with definitive proof?

      So what happened in 1962? That year was a test of orange on white plates that were found to be too hard to read at night. The colors were chosen from a study done in 1957-1958 at the University of Illinois.

  10. Definitely a 1955 Eldo. ’55 was the only year with the vertical chrome hashmarks below the trunk lid and all models had them.

  11. 4th photo. San Diego going up fifth St towards Hillcrest. Big building in background I believe is the U.S. Grant Hotel.

  12. I must have missed it. Where do we think the port is where that Caddy is being loaded or unloaded at? And what gives that location away?

    Lew

  13. Judging by the wedged shaped horizontal gap between the rear bumper end and the quarter panel on the Eldorado just below the tail lights it’s apparent the bumper wasn’t designed to carry the weight of the car in this manner. One could wonder what the paint would have looked like once the trip was over.

  14. William, the San Diego shot is indeed seventh street heading north. Big building on the left is the Bank of America on Broadway. Built between 1911 and 1913 and still there. The Grant is much further west at 3rd/4th and Broadway not in the picture. The other big bldg on the right is the old Walker-Scott department store.

  15. There couldn’t be a much worse thing to do to the Cadillac than to lift it that way. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was a sedan or even a hardtop, but the forces trying to fold this car in half are tremendous. It would be apparent if the doors were open and they wouldn’t close afterword. That’s why you always see spreaders used to lift things like this nowadays, so the lifting forces on the object are vertical only, not squeezing it together.

    The ’64 Impala, 3rd from the front in the last picture is a Super Sport with the rare Satin Silver body and Daytona Blue roof combination. It seems most or all of the silver ones had silver interiors including the vinyl in the seats. Really attractive with the engine turned trim on the dash and console.

  16. Illinois started honoring colleges with their license plates starting in 1955 (University of Illinois). While documentation is lacking for 1956, the program continued for 1957 – 1961, then 1964, and the last year 1979. During this timeframe there were other honorees. The year 1963 honored (John) Deere & Company, 1965 honored Illinois Secretary of State Charles Carpentier who died while in office in 1964, and 1975 honored Caterpiller, Inc. Some lists of these plates show that 1956 honored Illinois Wesleyan University, but finding any newspaper articles or other reliable old sources has been impossible to find. Can anyone help with definitive proof?

    So what happened in 1962? That year was a test of orange on white plates that were found to be too hard to read at night. The colors were chosen from a study done in 1957-1958 at the University of Illinois.

  17. Judging from the USA badge on the rear of the ElDo, I think it may be on at one end of a return trip from Europe where country of origin badges were required. I assume such an ID would be attached after arriving there and still be present upon return home. And now at every vintage car show.

  18. Biarritz convertible, El Dorado, ’56 Eldorado Seville, Essex Co., NJ 1952-1958, San Pedro, Gibraltar, or USA?

    The estibadores headwear said Spain or Cuba, the plate proportion said not USA and the oval decal said USA.

    Do a Google image search for these to see what you see:

    “View of Gibraltar from Algeciras” (Wikimedia commons)
    “USS Valley Forge (CV-45) steams out of Gibraltar harbour in 1948” (same)
    “España pide explicaciones a Londres por submarino accidentado en Gibraltar” (El Politico)

    The best photo, maybe taken from the same spot, is “walled-off”, so you may NOT see it at:

    puertosynavieras.es/noticias.php/El-Puerto-de-Gibraltar.

    The US, Canada and Mexico standardized plate sizes at 6×12 (15×30) in 1956, and the first compliant NJ plate was a modified 1952 plate newly introduced in 1956, and the Eldo’s looks larger — so Essex County NJ from 1952-1955 it is. As I was also newly introduced, I remember only 1958-up WA plates, 1956-up CA plates and 1957-up NY plates: all 6×12 . As all NA plates still are, except for PR, St.-P et M. and NWT.

    Now”bear” with me a bit further.

    El Dorado was “Eldorado” at GM. 1955 “Eldorado” convertible did not become “Eldorado Biarritz” until “Eldorado Seville” hardtop appeared in 1956 — and, in addition to the chrome strips, there are the silver wheels. The chrome-plated cast-aluminum (riveted to steel liners) 1955-1958 (only) beauties that we all call “Sabre-spoke” wheels (and Cadillac called “Turbine” wheels) that were standard on all Eldos (and on 75 only in ’55) were also pricey. In 1955, a five-piece replacement set — not including hub caps and center medallions — cost $325. Only in silver. Silver (146 3918) or gold (146 5348) (Kelsey Hayes numbers are different) in ’56. In ‘57 and ’58, likewise, with different offset and different part numbers. Spacers are needed to use ’55-’56 wheels on later Eldos and silicone on the rivets (GM applied wide “rubber bands”) to ensure reliable seals. Biarritz was used on coupes later also, but since I’ve already expounded on that, I’ll stop talking.

    At Palm Beach in 2018, B-J sold a white ’55 Eldo convertible for $132. Search for their Lot #706.

    At St. John’s in 2013, RM sold a blue ’55 Eldo cvt. for $125. Lot #149. They called it a Biarritz.

    You can call it whatever you want to — just as long as you call it a big and beautiful car.

    • And, to quote Columbo, one more thing: more “gold” than “silver” wheels may have been sold because it cost less to gold-anodize aluminum than it did to chrome-plate it (a “filler” was required to make the castings yield a mirror-smooth chrome finish), so GM made a dollar or two more on each wheel. Forget the Pinta. Remember the Pinto. Boom!

    • Looking at old photos of Gibraltar, including some I took from Algeciras back in the ’70s, I’m convinced this is Algeciras.

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