Saturday, December 18, 2010

Vintage car dealership photos from the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. The mother lode

I'm a real sucker for old car pictures. And nothing captures the feel of old cars more than the places they were sold. I mean, look at the top of this page--the whole blog starts with a picture of my granddad's used car lot from the 1940s.

When you look back at old car dealership photos, you're not just looking at a few cars parked around a building. You're looking at someone's hopes and dreams. You're looking at history before it happened. Someone may have saved their whole life to purchase the thing you're looking at there. Maybe it ended up driving them to their wedding. Maybe someone eventually died in that car.

If you look at a group of pictures like those below, you have to wonder if any of these cars even exist anymore. Did you own one? Did your parents? Has it been completely recycled into something else by now? Is it rotting in a field somewhere? Or maybe it's that trophy winner you saw at the car show last year.

There are lots of old pictures on the Internet, but I'm here to tell you, unless you've been rummaging through my junk room, there are at least 70 pictures below that you've never seen before. This group of pictures was taken by Chevrolet district managers, mostly in the 1960s, and stored at the Omaha Zone Office until it closed in 1986. I still have lots of these original old photos in my collection, and I've posted a few here and there in Examiner articles. But this is the mother load, most posted right here for the very first time--my scanner was really smokin'!

These dealerships were all right around Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota. There are a few of the ornate structures that most people think of--the cool brick, glass enclosed, art-deco corner buildings. But in the rural Midwest in the early 1960s, Chevrolets could be sold out of a gas station or under a grain silo. Some of what make these interesting is the contrast in facilities and approaches dealers took to move the merchandise.

Some of these dealers are still in business today, albeit in more modern digs. Many of them are long gone. But all of them paint a picture of what it was like to see your new car 45-years ago.

If you know anything about these places, feel free to share your stories in the comments section below the slideshow. Or if you just want to reminisce about the old days, those comments are always welcome as well.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do. If you're into old cars, or just history in general, I think there is quite a bit here to study and think about.


  1. These are great photos(!) on several levels. After seeing several 'rotting away' series of pix I think its' important to remember that at one time the old cars were someones pride and joy.
    The old buildings are witness to a 'no nonsense' approach to selling and servicing cars.
    Thanks for taking the time to post these, They represent a time that has been, sadly, lost to us forever.

  2. Pure poetry of the commonplace. Hope that doesn't sound too profound. Reminds me a little of Fort Dodge, Iowa, in the Fifties. But nothing matches the picture of the Hover Motor Company. Best regards, Christianson, Germany

  3. Thanks, folks! Glad you liked 'em!

    1. Craig, any chance you sell reprints of these photos??

  4. Wow! I appreciate you taking the time to post these. Our world will never be this simple again. Too bad.

  5. I am a little young to remember this era but I dig old car pics and these are off the hook cool. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Craig: Thanks for taking the time to post these pictures. They provide younger people a glimpse back to a time when America danced to a different drumbeat...when Announcement Day was HUGE...when Ford vs. Chevy was always in the news...when America's romance with the Automobile was vibrant and alive. Well Done!

  7. Wow! How cool is that?!? Thanx for sharing. And I wonder where that "display" 63 coupe is today...

  8. This is a fabulous collection of "Automotive Art"! One that really caught my eye was the Chevrolet dealership where I worked as technician, service manager and parts manager. When I left my old hometown, I worked as Area Service Manager in the Omaha Zone before moving on to GM Service Technology Group. Thanks for posting the photos. I've been in most of these dealerships at one time or another. Wow!

  9. Thank you for sharing these. I remember when I was a young boy of about 16 or 17. We had ONE foreign car dealership in town and he only carried about 4 cars of each make which was limited to Aston Martins, MG's, and Jaguar XKE's. I would go there once a month to lust after them...they held such allure to me in my youth. I never owned one my entire life but your photo's reminded me of these simpler days and times and brought back many warm youthful dreams and memories...Thank you for sharing these with us and reminding some of us of our youthful dreams and

  10. I need help from someone in Connecticut with old Cadillac dealerships. I recently found this post and read about people who might know about these places. I purchased a crystal chandelier that was claimed to be in the oldest Cadillac dealership in Connecticut. Does anyone know what that might be or have any pictures of something to resemble this? I would appreciate any help I can get thank you Steve

  11. Thanks for the memories. At a very young age my parents knew they would have a problem with me an cars.When I was 5yrs old I took my dads 51 chevy for a spin accross a open field where he was picking cotton.thankfully I couldn't reach the gas but afterwards I wanted to drive.Over the years I have owned over hundreds of cars.At age 18 I had 13 cars sitting in our yard at one time from a 47 chevy delux to a 69 caddie. I worked in a textile mill and had nothing else to spend my money on.My dad said he never knew what I'd bring home next.Even though the pictures are great and a lot of fond memories of the cars I have owned it's the memories they brought back of the times I had with my dad.Thank you

  12. More than one picture is of Bullock Chevrolet, no longer a franchise dealer, in Grant Nebraska. Check out Google maps street view. Great pictures, thanks for sharing, if you have more I would like to see them. I own a shop that used to be a chevrolet dealer from 1947 to 1956, but have yet to find any pictures of when it was a dealership.