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Parking Lot Series: Detroit Michigan Used Car Lot Late 1950s

The only information with this interesting image is the identification by the source as it being a view of a “Car Dealership” located somewhere in Detroit, Michigan. The great majority of the vehicle’s date from the early-to-mid 1950s

If this was, in fact, a used car lot it has the appearance of being a holding area for recent trade-ins at a large new car dealership before some of the vehicles were prepped for resale, wholesaled to other dealers or sent off to an auction.

Share with us what you find of interest in this photograph by Joe Clark is courtesy of The Portal to Texas History.    

26 responses to “Parking Lot Series: Detroit Michigan Used Car Lot Late 1950s

  1. This ought to keep Pat busy for a while. If there was a caption, it might read, “we’re here for the Buick convertible…come back tomorrow”?

  2. If these are in fact used cars for sale, I wonder if could be a holding area for an auto auction. There use to be a number of them in Detroit. The ’56 Cadillac convertible would be one I would bid on!

  3. Yes, Howard, it has kept me busy…as I face yet another 90-degree day in San Francisco, where few (me included) have A/C. At least my building has an uncommon-for-SF pool, so I’ll be staying dripping wet one way or the other.

    Seen just above AML’s 55 Century is a ’56 Cadillac Series 62 convertible. In the lower right corner, a ’53 Pontiac Chieftain Catalina (split Silver Streaks vs ’54 and other years’) and to the left of the ’56 Roadmaster AML spotted is an early-‘50s Dodge Wayfarer Sedan.

    Along the left side of that photo is a good example of the difference between the ’55 (white Tudor) and ’56 Fairlane (dark Sunliner) side trim…clearly the ‘55’s “dip” is directly under the A-pillar while the ‘56’s is about a foot to the rear of that.

    On the very top edge of the photo, in the center, is a white over dark ’54 Buick C-body Riviera…it’s most likely a Super with its rearmost of three portholes farther ahead of the door than a Roadmaster’s rearmost of four would be.

    In the left-to-right group of cars, a ’55 Plymouth to the left of the Cadillac while along the bottom edge facing right is a ’56 Bel Air Sedan, a ’56 Dodge Royal Sedan and the rear portion of a ’55 DeSoto Fireflite Sportsman.

    Among the stray makes…upper left corner is a dark ’47-’50 Studebaker sedan (split window vs ’51 and ’52), while over to the right, third from the edge, could be a two-tone ’55 President Speedster (improbable as that is), though I can’t see the broad chrome band up and over the roof at the C-pillar. I suppose more likely it’s a ’56 Sky Hawk (a Golden Hawk hardtop without the GH’s fins).

  4. ? That’s an awful lot of “used cars” for ANY dealer to have anywhere. If you wanted one in the middle, you better come back next Tuesday after they move the 11 others in front of it!
    IMHO, I’m thinking this is more like an auto auction lot, rather than dealer.

  5. Two Lincolns: a ’49 coupe in the center rows and a dark-colored ’51 Sport Sedan in the near foreground. Bets are that ’46-’48 DeSoto with the mismatching color trunk lid went to the auction. Below the group of three people, there is a pre-war GM C-Body sedan. The salesman is talking the couple into waiting for the lot boy to move the other cars so they can take the ’56 Cadillac 62 convertible for a test drive.

  6. License plates can be seen on several of the cars. At the present time in Michigan plates remain with the car only if it is being transferred to a family member. If that was the case in the 50s then it would seem unlikely that this is a photo of an auction lot or used car lot.

  7. It would be interesting if you could do a count of the various makes to try and figure out what brand the dealer sells.

    Usually, people at that time tended to be loyal and buy the same brand they were trading in. A majority of any one brand would, more than likely, indicate what brand the dealer sells new.

  8. Yes it is indeed quite hot in SF today, but just having the fan on cools my room considerably. Here is a question for you: What is that car parked between the big ’56 Cadillac convertible and the ’51 Lincoln coupe in the lead picture, I can’t identify the make and I don’t think you did either, any ideas?

  9. And not a single station wagon! Could these cars be destined for export? The St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959 making it possible to ship automobiles directly from Detroit to markets all over the world. Perhaps, based on the body styles depicted, these were destined for Latin American.

  10. Somewhere around 10% of these cars are convertibles, I wouldn’t think that they would be this popular in the northern climate of Detroit.

  11. As much as many assume this must be a dealer’s lot of some sort, I suspect it’s just a regular parking lot in downtown Detroit. It was commonplace through at least the ‘70s for urban parking lots to jam in cars bumper-to-bumper and door-to-door to use every square foot of their land… hiring a couple runners to shuffle and shift the cars to extract one as needed. I did it for a while in college…tips weren’t bad.
    People weren’t often quite so “hands off!” and proprietary with their car in those days, though jammed lots still exist today in San Francisco near the City Hall/Court Houses/Opera House and near some museums.

  12. I’ll take the Riviera near the salesman, or failing that the Caddy next to it, though I’d prefer the coupe de ville over the ragtop!

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