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The Taj Mahal of Tire Shops

The Guenther-Methudy Sales Company of St Louis, MO, went all out when it set up this combination tire shop and filling station located at 3553 Lindell Blvd. in the City circa 1917. It appears that the Company may have purchased a three-story house and built an elaborate two-story storefront on it and converted the building into a tire shop.

Guenther-Methudy then had a monumental one-hundred and three-foot-long sign constructed and erected with huge illuminated six-foot-tall letters that also advertised the “5000 Mile Guarantee” that came with the purchase of Ajax tires. The tires were manufactured in a Trenton, New Jersey plant by the Ajax Rubber Company Inc., which was headquartered in New York City.

The two automobiles in the photo are Model “T” Fords, the newest one, a coupe on the far left dates to 1917 or later and the other Ford out front of the shop to 1913 or ’14.

Please share with us what you find of interest in the photo courtesy of the Missouri History Museum.

24 responses to “The Taj Mahal of Tire Shops

  1. If I am not mistaken, that is a 1914 Model T in front. The clue is the slanted lower windshield and the flat firewall without the cowling that was on the 1915 and 1916 models. My computer will not expand the photo as much as others so it is hard to see details. It looks like acetylene fired headlights which would be another clue.

  2. The early Model T’s had smaller tires in the front, 30 x 3.0 versus the back, 30 x 3.5. For the early clincher tires the first number was the outside diameter of the tire and the second number was the width, which was also equal to the height. So the front wheels were 24 inches in diameter and the rears 23. You can see the difference in the picture of the 1914 Model T.

  3. I suspect the storefront, as much as it resembles spoked wheel and treaded tire, actually dates from the 1890’s with its Richardsonian Romanesque arch, glazed brick on either side of the store windows and the apparent cladding in terra cotta tiles. The mansard-roofed home behind it likely dates from the 1870s. In any case, the storefront no doubt caught the eye of the buyer…who appears to have a fondness for statuary, busts and urns that customers can enjoy in the drive through.

    David, many thanks for posting such intriguing photos, as I’m more or less stuck indoors in a shelter-in-place city where normally bustling streets and sidewalks are as desolate as on an early Sunday morning.

    • Pat, You are welcome, sorry to hear that many of you are stuck inside thru this crisis. I’ve been staying on the property for the last two-weeks so I hopefully do not catch the virus and can keep The Old Motor rolling.

          • Same here, thanks. I don’t comment much and sometimes I can be a dink when I do, but I hit your site every day without fail. I particularity enjoy when a location from then still exists in some fashion now. I can lose myself for a few minutes in this.

            To people who are sheltering in place voluntarily, but are willing to chance it for supplies, some grocery store chains are starting 6 to 7 – 7:30 AM openings for people 60+. No one else. Keeps everyone a bit further apart in the stores. I’m going to take advantage of it. Did not like shopping last Thursday or Sunday. 2 different chains. The Thursday store didn’t have everything I was looking. Neither did the Sunday store, but the Sunday store is going to do the early opening. The Thursday store is a SMALL ALDI. I love the place but not elbow to elbow.

            If you are in the Northeast, Stop + Shop + PriceChopper are 2 that I know of doing the early openings.

            I hope I’m not overstepping the bounds of a comment.

  4. Not only is the street-facing sign impressive, at each front corner is a vertical sign reading AJAX TIRES, presumably electrified inside each letter. My guess about the building, now an open space, is that it was built as an admin structure for an adjacent mfg enterprise, and not as a free-standing residence.

    Thanks again, David, for a momentary lightness!

    • Chris, wondering…you do see the mansard-roofed, multi-chimneyed residential-appearing building behind the arched-windowed commercial one up front? It’s even set back from the street as most residences would be…and unlike most commercial buildings.

  5. Beautiful picture of a fabulous time gone by. Art and beauty simply for the sake of art and beauty is something one just doesn’t see much of anymore. It may be, and IS, marketing at its worst and best. But with such artistic beauty as eye candy, one can readily forget it is marketing and just enjoy the Grecian influences, the pillars and urns, alongside the juxtaposition of the modern wheel and “guarantee”.

    The model T touring car is looking a bit “long-in-the-tooth”. Zoomed way in, the detail is lacking. I cannot be certain whether it is a ’13 or a ’14. I “think” I can see a reflection on what may be the bottom of the rear door. If it is, it would be a very late ’13 or a ’14 model year which was a long extended model year (actually produced from July of ’13 though April of ’15 at some branch assembly plants. I “think” also that the windshield is the folds back (as opposed to fold forward) version. Again, the detail is lacking, but I “think” I can make out the driver side hinge enough. The windshield change was made about August of ’13.

    The Ford coupe is very interesting, and may help to date the photograph? At a glance, it is a black era (’17 or later) flat-top coupe. The early ’17 still had the folding top “couplette” introduced for 1915 (much like the “convertible coupes” of the late ’20s and ’30s). In mid ’17, Ford eliminated the folding top couplette, and replaced it with a fixed roof coupe (sometimes still called “couplette” in advertising). It was a removable pillar (sometimes referred to as “pillarless”) coupe. A somewhat complicated affair where the windows front and rear could be lowered into the body and doors, the pillar pieces removed leaving a wide open side (like a ’60s hardtop sedan) for comfort in warm weather. Of course, often those removable pillar pieces got lost, leaving one suffering next winter like every owner of an open roadster. The mid ’17 was a rounded top coupe, made only for a very short while (only a very few of those survive today!). By late ’17 the round top coupe was replaced by a flat-top coupe, still “pillarless”. This version was manufactured for a bit more than a year. While still rare, maybe as many as ten survive in some sort of decent condition today. For 1919, the more familiar coupe (also with a flat top) was manufactured and continued through ’23.
    The coupe in this photo, again, detail is lacking. However, I am fairly sure I can see the top of the open right side door. Since the pillarles coupes didn’t have a top to the door over the window, it is very unlikely that this could be a pillarless coupe. So it is likely a 1919 or later coupe, and photograph.
    Of additional interest on the coupe, is the wheels. While the detail makes in likely impossible to be sure, I “think” it has aftermarket wire wheels. Although very popular on ’10s and early ’20s model Ts today, they were rarely used on Fords in those years. People bought model Ts usually because they wanted good reliable, economical, transportation. A full set of high quality wire wheels cost nearly half the price of a new Ford! Didn’t happen often. Of the thousands of era photographs I have studied, only a couple dozen showed era Fords with wire wheels before Ford offered them in late 1925.
    The reason I “think” this coupe has wire wheels, is that the wooden spokes of a wood wheel turned to the left as these appear to be, should obscure the pillar/post and urn behind them due to the inch-plus thickness of the wooden spokes compared to the thin wires lacing a wire wheel. I “think” I can see the hubcaps of wire wheels on both the front and rear left wheels, but it is that right front wheel that screams “WIRE WHEEL” to me.

    Wonderful photo David G! Thank you.

  6. For all you quarantined folks, i feel for you. I live in Japan and we have some regulations in place to handle this outbreak, but nothing as drastic as in Europe or the US. I go to work regularly using public transport with fairly crowded trains and subways, but most commuters wear masks, (yes, we do think they are effective in helping halt the spread) and are generally cognizant of proper coughing and sneezing techniques. Being a crowded country, Japan has had a long history of dealing with communicable diseases and most measures taken here today, though a bit slow from GOJ inaction, are pretty effective in halting a major increase in infected. Schools have been closed, though, putting a burden on many families. Hang in there folks and follow common sense rules for prevention and let’s all hope David does not get cabin fever over all of this!!

  7. I like how the gas pumps and the gate and fence posts are styled the same. Imagine today that you tried to sell tires that are only guaranteed for 5000 miles!

  8. What a wonderful photo.

    The thing that came to mind when I saw it was that this place was built at about the same time as the rise of the “atmospheric theater.” Movie theaters in large cities were being turned into palaces, with heavy velvet hangings, plush seats, brass handrails, uniformed ushers, and frescoes on the walls and ceilings. At a time when most people lived in small, often crowded, frequently shabby apartments (in an era of coal, things got dingy quickly). the atmospheric theaters gave them a place to go where they could feel like aristocracy for a day.

    I wonder if the same thinking was behind this tire palace.

    Stay safe, David. And thanks again for providing us with an escape in tough times.

  9. I wonder if that “sunrise” in the arch window may have blinked on and off and perhaps played “The Stars and Stripes Forever” whenever someone bought a set of Ajax Tires. The whole establishment is reminiscent of the pinball machines and penny arcades of my childhood.

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