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New York Grand Central Parkway Traffic Tie-Up in Queens

This photo of automobiles caught in a traffic snarl on the Grand Central Parkway is dated to July 23, 1952, by the Queens Library Archives. The location of this “Long Island Daily Press” image is identified as being near where the Van Wyck Expressway and the Parkway merge in the Kew Gardens neighborhood of the Queens Borough of New York City.

The great majority of the vehicles in the image were manufactured in the post-war years, although a number of the cars date back to the mid-to-late-1930s. Share with us what you find of interest in this photograph courtesy of the Queens Library.

22 responses to “New York Grand Central Parkway Traffic Tie-Up in Queens

  1. Up front, a ’51 DeSoto 8-passenger Suburban beside a ’49 or ’50 Chevy Styleline DeLuxe 2-door sedan.
    Next row, a ’51 Chevy Styleline DeLuxe 4-door sedan, a ’41 Pontiac Torpedo 4-door sedan and a ’47 Plymouth DeLuxe 4-door.
    Third row looks like a ’35 Olds, but puzzled by the flat windshield, a ’49 Ford Custom, probably a Tudor or Fordor and a ’47 or ’48 Ford Tudor.
    Farther back a ’52 Studebaker , likely a Champion convertible and a ’49 or ’50 Nash Airflyte with a sunvisor.

  2. Left center is a brand new ’52 Chevy shining in the sun. Two cars back appears to be a Studebaker convertible with the top down. Notice all the open windows and vent wings out in this pre-A/C time.

    • Jim, the ’52 Chevy had five blunt “teeth” in the grille and a straight piece of side trim from the door to above the front wheel…the ’51 had no teeth in the grille and a bump-up in the side trim just behind the front wheel, as we see in the photo.

  3. According to one source, seven of every ten cabs in New York city were Desotos in 1953. All of them came from James Waters, a huge Chrysler distributor who modified seven passenger Desotos for taxi service from 1935 until 1955. In the 30s New York mandated all cabs had to accommodate five adults comfortably in the rear compartment. The Desoto Airstream seven passenger was the vehicle of choice to get Waters into the taxi manufacturing business, most of which were initially aimed at the New York market. By all accounts he was quite successful at it.

    • As an 8 year old car nut living in NY City around 1950, I always wondered why all the cabs were DeSotos. Thanks for the info.

      • Perhaps you recall the ‘skyview’ cabs, those with a large window in the roof giving passengers a nice view of the skyscrapers. A rather full, interesting history of The James Waters enterprise is at Coachbuilt.com if you care to look.

    • Another DeSoto taxi, the 1946-early 1949 style is headed the other way, just on the right side of the picture. The DeSoto taxi is still known all these decades later from its many appearances in period movies.

    • A 1953 ‘DeSoto Retailer’ article stated that seven out of every ten cabs in NYC were DeSotos, further stating that the Chrysler division produced approximately 2,000 DeSotos per year for the Waters Mfg. Co. of Detroit each year which were turned into taxicabs for the New York City market. The DeSotos shipped to Waters’ factory were made without trim, upholstery, seats, or even window glass, using the eight-passenger sedan body with a six cylinder engine and manual transmission. The 18 foot long 139½” wheelbase NYC cabs sold for $2,800 and averaged 70,000 miles per year.

      • Knowledge of the DeSoto Skyview success must have been motivation for Packard to enter it with a dedicated taxi model for 1941. This continued through 1950 in conjunction with Packard-Federal Co. in NYC when it was realized what a cut-throat business the taxi market was. While there were low-series Packards used in taxi service thereafter, it was not because of a specific program by the company to court that business.

  4. The thing that always disturbs me about traffic jams, is many times, nobody is going the other way. You’d think they’d make better use of the roadway. Obviously, it’s still a problem 60 years later. That DeSoto taxi looks pretty new. I wonder if that car is in Cuba today with a Perkins diesel in it.

  5. Driving toward the camera, on the curve in the center lane, is a light colored 1949 or ’50 NASH with a visor; to the left of this NASH is a light colored 1952 STUDEBAKER Commander convertible with the top down.

  6. In the center lane, beyond the 1952 DeSOTO Fire Dome taxicab in the foreground, is four-door 1941 PONTIAC Streamliner Torpedo which appears overloaded with passengers

  7. The ’36 Dodge (3rd car, outside lane in the traffic jam) is interesting because it’s still on the road and in good condition. A 16-year old car on the road today isn’t that rare but back then, I think cars usually didn’t last 16 years.

    • Terry, you’re right about the ’36 Dodge…my guess had been a ’36 Olds but it has a split “V’d” windshield. Thanks for your correction.

  8. The Nash is a ’49 based on the bumper guards. It’s amazing to me how it stands out in this group of both older and newer vehicles. Both Nash and Packard had already moved on from their aerodynamic post war designs by the time this photo was taken but the Hudson “step down” style soldiered on through ’54. Probably the best looking of the type, IMHO, but kept in production only because Hudson couldn’t afford to change it. It finally died in the merger with Nash that created American Motors. Thanks again for all the great photos David!

  9. That DeSoto misses a few ‘teeth’ from its grille; second to the left and second to the right… why is that, for it is a new car? A modification required by the cab-company? I don’t see the point of it…

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