An Entertaining & Informative Vintage Automobile Internet Magazine

Four Fun Friday Kodachrome Car Photographs No. 216

Today we are posting a series of images courtesy of the Detroit Historical Museum. The lead image contains a newly introduced automobile to the Ford Motor Company product line up that is being presented to a Fire Chief in Dearborn, MI. Share with us all of the details of this car, the accessories it is equipped with, and what organization you believe is presenting the vehicle’s keys to the Chief.

As is the usual practice in this series, we ask our readers to tell us the year, make, and model of all of these vehicles along with anything else of interest in the photos. You can look back on all the earlier parts of this series here. 

  • Police and public safety emergency vehicles on parade (above) and over a dozen police cars (below) in a residential area. Was this set of images also taken in Dearborn? 

  • Vacant car dealership and filling station located at Michigan Ave. and Schlaff St. in Dearborn photographed during November of 1957.

51 responses to “Four Fun Friday Kodachrome Car Photographs No. 216

  1. I can’t read any shadowing where the dealership lettering was, but very likely a Packard, Nash, Kaiser-Fraser, Hudson, or Willys outfit at one time. `57 was the year Nash/Hudson called it quits, and many dealers folded well before then, since the writing was on the wall way before `57. Sad to see it sit empty. Are those left-over used cars facing the street in the background?
    The Fire Chief seems to be presented with a new Edsel Citation 4dr. hardtop as an official vehicle! I notice it has white coves, rather than being monochromatic red. I bet it took awhile for him to live that down! LOL
    The parade featuring `55/`56 Ford police cars no doubt displaying the pride of Dearborn! Ford sold more police units to more municipalities in `56 than Chevy did .

    • Will, I rarely saw any Chevy police cars in the mid ‘50s…not till ’59 and ’60. And then it went back to Fords and lots of Plymouths…likely because they handled better. Of course that’s just my anecdotal observations in the Twin Cities and when traveling to Florida and the East Coast.

      • Might depend on who’s the big dog car dealership in the area, where I lived it was Chevys in the 1950’s especially the tri fives were popular.

    • The Edsel fire car was likely an Edsel publicity stunt. Normal purchases are typically unaccompanied by a photo of the seller dropping the keys into the buyer’s hand. As such, the white coves are part of the deal. At least they removed the whitewalls. You take what they give you.

  2. The Lead photo shows a Citation 4-door hardtop…in addition to the script on the front fender, the rear quarter’s Citation accent panel is just visible beyond the Chief’s left hand. It doesn’t have the 3-blade, with a body-color center portion premium wheel covers, but they were an option on all models.

    In Item 1 of 4, a black ’56 Customline Tudor, a red ’55 Customline Fordor, 3 more ‘56s and a ’53 Ranch Wagon. Going the other way, a ’52 Customline Victoria, a ’53 DeSoto Firedome sedan, a ’53 or ’54 Mainline Tudor, a ’50 Buick Special Sedanet, a ’51 Mercury and a ‘blue and white ’55 Ford Fairlane.

    In Item 3 of 4, a ’57 Lincoln with stacked head and road lights, a ’56 Olds 88 or Super 88 behind a ’51 Desoto Custom 4-door (vs a ’52 with the faux hood scoop) a pair of ’56 DeSotos at the pump and a ’52 or ’53 Nash Statesman this side of them and another on the right of the office. A nearby ’51 or ’52 Packard and a black over white ’49 Buick. In the distance a white ’57 Olds 2-door beyond a ’49 –’52 Dodge Wayfarer Sedan.

    In Item 4 of 4 a ’55 Plymouth Belvedere sedan, a ’48 Cadillac 60 Special a ’57 Ranch Wagon , a ’53 Chevy two-Ten and a ’56 Ford Fairlane

    • Correction: in Item 3 of 4, I assumed there was a pump between the ’56 Desotos…it’s not, just a sedan of some sort. Also in the same photo I see a black ’57 Ford Custom 300 Tudor behind the traffic semaphore.

    • I’m glad that you were able to identify that black sedan parked next to the ’57 Ford Ranch Wagon in the last photo because I sure couldn’t. But I guess it must be a ’48 Cadillac Series 60 even though from that long range it is not readily apparent what make and model the car actually is.

    • The open door almost obscures it, but you can just make out part of the white painted “cove” just under the rear fender top.

  3. Did Edsel have a production-color red like that, or was this a special order? The spotlight is mounted on the passenger side, not the usual driver’s side. The “sireen” and bubble are in place, but the obligatory whip antenna is missing. Maybe the fire-department radio equipment had not yet been installed. Wonder if it had “cop tires, cop brakes, cop suspension,” etc., etc.

    • Frank, it probably doesn’t need much of that cop equipment because a Fire Chief isn’t chasing anyone like a cop does…the Chief probably only needs to get to a fire roughly when the first fire equipment arrives to direct its deployment. Maybe a bit before, in case the Chief sees that more equipment will be needed.

    • The fire chief’s car likely wouldn’t have received (or needed) “cop tires, cop brakes, cop suspension”. The chief’s car would not have been used for emergency responses but would instead spend its time being driven around town, inspecting the various fire houses and running whatever other errands were required. In my adopted hometown of Evansville, Indiana several years ago the fire chief and assorted other higherups in the fire department actually had Toyota Priuses as official vehicles. Apparently this vehicular choice was not well received because it didn’t take long for the Prii to be replaced by “real” vehicles, in this case Ford Explorers and Escapes.

  4. In the 2nd picture [1st expandable photograph], driving away in front of the S. S. KRESGE store, is a black 1950 BUICK Jetback Sedanet, unsure of model.

  5. Police cars in a variety of colors, free is good. The man with the keys is a snappy dresser, panama hat, pocket handkerchief, two tone shoes, no idea on his organization. I’d bet the car was handed down to the deputy chief the next year.

    • I think you’re probably right about it becoming a hand me down fairly quickly. Collectors would love to have it today.

  6. In both the 4th picture [3rd expandable photo] & 5th picture [4th expandable photograph] were taken from the same location, but at different times. Between the two 1952 NASH Statesman cars, in the 5th picture, is a two-tone, two-door, 1955 CHEVROLET Two-Ten.

  7. Pretty much a Ford day.
    It looks like the bottom two photos were taken within minutes of one another, with the only difference being the passing cars.
    Did you find something else to distinguish them?

  8. In the 4th picture [3rd expandable photograph], in the back of the paved sales lot, to the left, is what looks like a two-door 1952 PACKARD 200.

  9. I suppose it would make sense to have an Edsel in Dearborn. If that guy doesn’t look like a car salesman, I’ll eat his hat. 2nd pic, Kinsels drug store , I read, was in Detroit. I wonder if the ’55 Ford fire chief car was replaced by the Edsel above? The fire engine farther back is a mid ’50’s Ford F600. 3rd pic, whatever was next to car 17, sure was smoking. Odd, they weren’t too particular on what color the cars were. Last pic, hard to tell, couple orphan cars, Nash, and Packard, who knows what is down the line. The red and black car is not in both photos.

  10. None of the police cars whose front fenders I can clearly see are equipped with the police interceptor engine. All have the standard “V8” front fender emblem, not the stylized thunderbird emblem. I guess a city cruiser wouldn’t need the big motor.

  11. I’m curious about the couple standing on the other side of the Edsel.
    They’re obviously in the picture for a reason, maybe they paid for it.

    • Hi Xo, there’s a few things I found, the car was delivered by Floyd Rice Edsel ( I assume that’s Floyd handing the chief the keys,) and the woman was Marguerite Johnson, director of Public Safety and former city council woman, the other man was not identified.

      • Oops, there’s more, sorry, I found an ad , Floyd Rice Edsel-Rambler Inc. ( there’s a winning pair for ya’) was located at 21730 Michigan Ave. Dearborn.

  12. That salesman handing over the keys sure looks like he is smirking, thinking to himself boy did I pull one over that old guys head. Nobody wants these.

    • The reason for Edsel’s failure was the Eisenhower Recession of 58. As to styling, compare Edsel to the 58 Olds or 58 Buick. Edsel’s design is clean and understated compared to those jukeboxes.

      • I think you’ve got a good point. It certainly wasn’t a bad looking car, although I always thought that the name itself was bit of a clunker. Did you know that the first full size clay model of the Edsel, then called the E-car, was unveiled in August of 1955, two full years before it was officially offered to the public. Had it come out a year earlier I’m sure that initial sales would have been a lot more brisk. It turned out though that the Ford car that there was a niche for and sold quite well was the big new size ‘58 Thunderbird.

      • The recession hit just as Ford introduced Edsel as an intermediate brand. That stunted sales of cars in its price range. Yet Edsels also had the same quality and reliability issues that plagued the rest of the Ford line up had at the time, and that, coupled with its unusual styling and odd name caused the Edsel became synonymous with ‘lemon.’

        • Edsel also didn’t have a clear pricing niche. The Ranger’s price range overlapped the Fairlane and the Medalist. The Pacer overlapped the Fairlane and Monterey. The Corsair and Citation both overlapped the Montclair. Prior to the Edsel being introduced, it was relatively clear that Ford was the low end, Mercury the middle, and Lincoln the high end. With Edsel’s pricing overlapping both Ford and Mercury, it was a sort of low-middle brand, but without a clear market position. Every Edsel model had an equivalent in either Ford or Mercury, let alone competing brands.

  13. In the 3rd photograph [2nd expandable picture], in the upper right corner is a 1953 PLYMOUTH and a circa 1952 OLDSMOBILE.

  14. In the third picture it looks like a two tone 1948 Olds 98 against the left side of the building next to the 57 fFord.

  15. Odd, and interesting that the 2 blue ’56 Ford police cars don’t have any city identification, just the “It’s nice to be powerful, but more powerful to be nice.”

    Also, in the dealership photos, kind of surprising that one of the Vitrolite panels at the rear of the dealership has fallen off – I’m guessing from the design, this building is post war, and not that old.

    Lastly, in the first parade photo, S.S. Kresge was a Detroit headquartered 5&10 chain, and Detroit Edison next door, was once Henry Ford’s employer & how he became friends with Thomas Edison. Good local representation!

  16. Forget the Edsel…the big question is what’s up with the Ford police cars?
    Odd colors, odd markings….The hash marks on the blue car’s roof.
    Notice the saying on the side of the blue one in photo #2 and it looks like other cars have something similar in photo #3.

    If it’s Dearborn police, did they all have folksy homilies on the doors?
    If so, maybe modern police forces should try it…help with their PR. 🙂

    • John,

      I remember seeing slogans against drunk-driving on other police cars of that era in Michigan, so it may have been a phase that departments went through.

      The roof top hash tags are actually vehicle or “unit” numbers – this is unit 11. If you look at others in expanded pics you can see other digits.

      The chief’s car just has the standard gumball machine of the day on the roof and a combination light/siren on the fender. Although these look shiny and new it was standard procedure to take these items off the old car going out of service and put them on the new one.

      Electronic sirens started to replace these old mechanical units around 69-70 for police and chief’s cars, but the mechanical sirens stayed on big trucks until the 80’s. Hearing loss and
      OSHA type regulations came into play
      and the siren speakers moved to the front bumper or push bars in the 90’s.

      Something changed in the fire dept mindset and the old mechanical sirens have made a comeback on trucks and rescue vehicles but they are now embedded within the front bumpers like the electronic ones. They have a brake of sorts to stop the siren without a full wind-down like the old days.

      I am assuming the electronic units that complied with noise requirements just didn’t get drivers attention in the modern world with people isolated in quieter cars and a dozen distractions.

    • Those “hash marks” may simply be #11. Not uncommon to put vehicle numbers on emergency vehicle roofs, and the ones we see are over the front and right side so probably also rear and left side.

  17. The second photo (1st expandable) is in Dearborn, Michigan. This is confirmed by the following businesses starting from the right in the 22000 block of Michigan Avenue.

    22000: Kinsel’s Drug Company
    22008: Detroit Edison Company
    22020: S.S. Kresge Company

    22096: The gas station at the end of the block is that of Albert R. Hess.

    22148: The Calvin Theatre which opened in 1927 and was demolished in 1981. Henry Ford and Edsel Ford saw the newsreel of “Light’s Golden Jubilee” here on November 8, 1929 which was about their friend Thomas Edison and the development of the incandescent light bulb. The actual celebration of Light’s Golden Jubilee had been on October 21, 1929 at the Thomas Edison Institute which is now known as Greenfield Village.

    • In the 1950’s I remember going to Detroit Edison stores with my dad carrying a paper bag of burned out lighbulbs. The utility would give you free bulbs for every one you brought in. I guess they were encouraging people to use more lights in their homes. My dad thought otherwise. To this day I remember my dad saying, “turn off the darn lights if you’re not using them!”

  18. The last two photos are of a recently closed B. F. Goodrich Silvertown Store at 14340 Michigan Avenue (at the corner of Schlaff as stated above). The location is confirmed by the home with the green siding in both photos which still exists and the home with white shutters in the second to last photo which also remains today.

    Because I did not find any prior occupant for this street address the Goodrich building was likely built in 1941 or 1942. There appears to be the remains of a “Retreads” sign in the front window. Over the bay doors at the left it looks like the words spelled out “Complete Car Service.”

    Goodrich appears to have been at this location from about 1943 to 1956. In 1958 the lot was shown as vacant, and in 1959 it became a Dearborn Municipal Parking Lot. Today the location is a restaurant.

  19. Saw a Edsel hearse in Naples Italy back in the 70s.
    Now how would you like to have THAT show up at your funeral?You’d never live it down!Oh,the shame…..the shame…

  20. The second pix is at the corner of Monroe & Michigan Av. looking at the NW corner
    The First business is Kinsels Drug store, (across the street of Cunningham drug store) next was Edison customer service where you could exchange your burned out lightbulbs for free or have your small appliances/Vacuum cleaners repaired by apprentice electricians working for Edison ,only cost was parts, also could pay your monthly bill.
    Next was SS Kresge (forunner of KMart) Next door was Neisners 5&10.
    Next were a couple of stores I don’t remember, then the standard Gas station on the corner of Mason st. also was the Public library, then the Calvin movie theater, where I spent a few Saturday’s.
    The 3 rd pix was prolly taken on Outer drive in Dearborn.
    Mayor Orville Hubbard was in office for 36 years ’42-’78 enjoying a great relationship with Ford motor co.
    Dearborn was 100% ford country.

  21. Photo 3 of the police cars on a suburban boulevard appears to be on West Outer Drive, south of Michigan Ave., in Dearborn. That street is making one of many direction changes as it wound through metro Detroit.
    The Rambler Edsel combination is not as odd as it seems, a number of struggling Edsel franchises picked up the then hot Rambler franchise in 1958 and 59.

  22. I wonder how many drunks on Saturday night tried to flag down a yellow patrol car, instead of a cab? Did they draw straws to decide who got the pretty pastel colored cars? Or were they given to the rookies? Obviously this is some type of Law enforcement PR campaign “let’s all be nice.” Must have been interesting to have some saccharine slogan on your car.

  23. The Toronto, Canada, Police used yellow cars from the 1950s until 1986. I wonder if the yellow cars came all the way from there for the parade, or if a local department just thought it was a good idea.

  24. The Dearborn PD and FD have a long history of using cars donated by the Ford Motor Co and its affiliated brands, both as publicity and to test the suitability of new models as public service vehicles. Some of these cars were never sold as regular police vehicles. A few other departments also used Edsels – as someone said, a fire chief really didn’t need a police package car, just basic emergency equipment on a sedan or wagon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *