I think it's pretty hard not to get into cars at a young age and not have some connection to a retailer that sells (or sold, more likley) the vehicles you like. Dealerships used to be unique in design, which only added to their charm. And since there was no Internet back then, did we really know how much money they made on each vehicle?
Ignorance is sometimes bliss, hence why I ask the question: What car dealership was your go-to destination when you wanted to see the latest new cars and clean, low mile trade ins?
Jack Sommer Chevy Wadsworth Ohio.
I had a great uncle who was a retired GMC engineer. He used to buy a new Chevy and Buick every year. He would keep them and then sell the Electra and then give my parents the Chevy every rear. We had a year old new Corvair and or Chevelle every year for over a decade. Then he just went to one car a Buick.
What got me hooked is he would order the cars sight unseen in May and the cars would arrive late August. Now this was back when they would hide the cars as they would premiere them on a specific date.
Jack would get the cars in but he would let up come in and in the back of a storage area we would get to see these cars for the first time. I loved the walk in the dealer and the VIP treatment.
My great uncle was like a grand father to me and a great mentor for my automotive desire.
Frank was a part of history as he worked for Goodyear helping design the first tandem truck axles. He went on to White and the Six Wheel Bus company. They were bought by GMC in the 20’s and there he worked for nearly 40 years.
His stories of the many GM greats that were his friends like Knudsen, Cole, Earl etc.
Even though he worked for GM he got to know Henry Ford. HF even invited him to the dinner for the opening of the Henry Ford Museum. Frank passed as it was raining that night and his car had side curtains. He forever kicked himself for not going as the speakers were Henry, Harvey Firestone, Thomas Edison and oh ya the a president of the United States.
One of the greatest honors was the last Buick Frank bought he took me with him to pick it up. On that day he finished the paperwork on the Buick and then handed the keys to me. I had just gotten my license and he let me drive the last new car he ever bought before he even drove it. I still treasure that drive.
Now that is what I was hoping to hear about: a dealer that really went above and beyond for a customer (a loyal one, in this case!) and really inspired someone at the same time!
H.A. Boyd VW in Steubenville, Oh. When I was about four years old my dad went to trade his Beetle in on a new Type 3 Fastback. I still remember the smell of that white vinyl interior and the sound of the engine on the test drive. There was something different about that dealership and its cars. They looked different, sounded different, and smelled different.
My Dad bought a Maverick Grabber instead and we never had VW's again even though we had owned a bus, a camper, and that beetle.
Glenclair Dodge in Sanger, CA (small town of ~8000 at the time). In 1968 I and my 18-year-old friends would visit all the car dealers when the new cars came out. Glenclair had a Dart Swinger 340 (black on black) on the showroom floor. My friend (with the well-known, wealthy father) said he would buy one if it were gold with the black bumble bee strip at the rear (which was really my dream car). About 6 weeks later, we noticed that the dealer had ordered one exactly like that and displayed it at the front of the showroom. We stopped and looked, and the dealer reminded my friend that he said he'd buy it if it were that color.
Awkward moment when my friend confessed that he could not afford it, and that his father never bought new cars from a local dealer for fear of upsetting the other car dealers in town.
As I remember, the car sat on the showroom floor for a long time -- taunting me endlessly .
Amazing now to think that a small town had Chevy, Cad/Pontiac/Olds, Ford/Merc, Dodge, Chry/Plym, and a new Toyota dealer all within a few blocks of each other.
No question for me: Mr. Norm's Grand Spaulding Dodge. As a 15 year old walking onto that lot in 1969 was memorable. Rows of Chargers, RT's, and Darts with everything from 340's to Hemis for sale was amazing. I was there with my older brother to buy a 3.91 ring and pinion for his 1968 Dart GTS 340 (with Hooker headers and a Torqueflight that was a quick little car!). I'll never forget that day.
I grew up in central IL, and can tell you that a LOT of guys made the trip up to Mr. Norm's to either buy a Mopar, or get their Mopar tuned at Grand Spaulding. My Dad and his friends took their cars to Grand Spaulding for the Mr. Norm treatment. They knew their stuff. Dad's Superbee was a testament to that.
Frontier Ford in Rockford, il walking around showroom spotted a 1969 raven black boss 429 mustang . As a teenage boy this looked like a rocket ship with wheels . For a short bit of time i thought i was in heaven .
Shepherd Lincoln Mercury in Danville, IL. It was closed by the time I was around, but mom had a picture of her in front of the dealership on her first day of work (it was her first job as a bookkeeper out of college). So there she is standing in front of the door. To her left was a '70 Cougar Eliminator, and to her right was a Pantera. This is where she got her Comet GT and the Cyclone GT. That picture got me hooked on cars. I don't know who ended up with the Pantera, but an older (I was five when I saw it driving around town the first time so she was probably mid 40s) lady drove that Eliminator around town for years. I actually saw her blow the doors off of a '77 Trans Am filled with teenagers from the passenger seat of Dad's Superbee. That Eliminator left a stripe with every shift.
Sanzenbacher Motors of Warren Ohio is the place that lives in early memory for me. It was a Dodge dealer, and my dad knew the owners and bought all his cars there for the first 11 years of my life. I remember accompanying him there, looking through the sales literature or examining the automotive pieces around the service department. I don't recall ever being shooed away. The thing that I recall clearly was playing with the light-box gadget in the showroom that allowed you to try all the color combinations available (3-toned paint schemes!) for all models of 1957 Dodge. We ended up with a two-tone green station wagon. And a repairman gave me a temperature gauge removed from a late-'40s car to play with at home.
In my early teens, it was another Dodge dealer, in Canfield Ohio, along my walk home from high school (by way of my car-obsessed friend Bob's house) that fueled my automotive interest. Their used-car lot always had interesting (unlocked) cars to examine, sit in and fantasize about. Their sponsorship of a car at the local stock-car races added to that. Again, they accomodated the fervid interests of us pre-driving age boys without complaint.
McCulloch Motors in Freeport Illinois sold Chrysler products from the late '50s to the '70s. A young local man, a friend of the McCulloch family, became paralyzed from the waist down after a motorcycle accident. "Mac" fixed him up with a red 1963 Dodge hardtop, 413 cross ram, TorqueFlite trans, and hand controls. This was not a charity deal...I'm sure the dealership was paid. The cool thing is that our small mid-western city became home to an extremely fast car, and a partially paralyzed person had it.
Now long gone Saddleback Dodge in Santa Ana CA got my attention in the late 60’s. They were known as a dealer that always had a wide variety of muscle cars in stock much like Mr Norm was known for back east. I distinctly remember one day when I was snooping around their far back storage lot where recently unloaded cars were placed awaiting their cleanup for the front display area. I saw a total of five new 1970 Hemi Challengers fresh off the semi mixed in with various Darts, Polaras, and many other less potent Challengers, Chargers and Coronets.
I went to high school via public transportation. In (I guess) September 1954, I got off the bus at 70th St. in Guttenberg, NJ at Chapman Chevrolet and went in to look at the new cars. I can still smell them in my mind. I still love the look of the '55's most among the Tri-Chevies. Six years later I got a job as Parts Manager at DeMartini Chevrolet in Cliffside Park at a time I was drag-racing my '54 Bel Air. (Held an NHRA K-Stock class record for a few weeks that year.) I almost bought a new 315h.p. fuelie engine that year—about $700. (Yipe! What would that be worth today as NOS?) Always loved looking over the fences at local dealers back in the day. Never stopped being a car-nut although most have been European, even during the years we lived in Oakland County, MI. Our '79 Audi drew criticism, but the made-in Germany VW Dasher was often mistaken for a Rabbit which was made in Westmoreland, PA, so we got no grief for that car. Shortly before that I began writing auto reviews for a national newspaper chain. That got me new car views and drives way before they appeared at dealers. Kind of "full circle."
Clifford T. Nutt Sports Cars. 245 w. Foothill Blvd. Monrovia, CA.
MG, Austin Healey, Jaguar, Volvo dealer.
I got a job washing cars after school, during holiday breaks, and summer vacation. I was a Lot Lizard, pick up and deliver cars, mechanics helper, worked the lube rack, stock boy in the Partsd Dept. and eventually front counterman.
Best Job Ever.
Got to drive amazing cars and worked with some of the best, worst, craziest, most interesting people. Some were really smart, some not as much.
That was 1968. Been messing around with cool cars and interesting people ever since.
Sometimes you just get lucky.
The first dealer I dealt with was a sleazy inter-city used car lot. The only thing it inspired, was to never trust sleazy used car dealers. As for positive inspiration, Kansas City used to have a Triumph dealer. I got to drool all over and even drive one of the new Triumph Spitfires they had. I already loved sports cars, but that was the first time I was within reach of getting one of my own. Sadly, the deal fell through after I pissed off my step-dad and he backed out of helping me buy one. Taught me a valuable lesson, though!
My best high school friend and close neighbor was Dale Berger Jr. in East Grand Rapids, Michigan and Berger Chevrolet was a great influence on me. We were sort of friendly enemies as my family was, and I am, a Ford Man, all my life. My father worked at Keeler Brass Company in Grand Rapids as chief engineer and most of the automotive products were for Ford and Chrysler. He owned Fords, had a '56 Chrysler 300B and my mom drove a Cadillac. That way, when he had to go to a specific auto company, he drove one of their products to their meetings out of respect. But my car interest really did start at Bergers. In 1957, the dealership got in two corvettes. One, fuel injected, the other carbureted. He called me and wanted me to race him and he wanted to drive the fuelie. So we did, much to his surprise and disappointment I waxed his butt two times in a row. As I recall, I won by about a car length. Great times, great fun.............
My grandfather was a Willy's dealer, Chambers Motors, in Oak Park, IL, when I was a kid. I liked to climb through the Jeep station wagons. We drove the Aero Willys.
Based on the first few responses I must have been a strange teenager and still am at 74. My excitement came from dark greasy repair shops on Long Island working on "foreign sporty cars". At one I met a fellow from Texas with a Jag and got his contact info. Several years later after college I was driving from NY to CA in an Iso Rivolta with Borrani wire wheels and had an issue. Called and was able to get a used replacement that helped me get the rest of the way. Since then have bought only 2 new cars while having had a '48 Packard, '54 Austin Healey 100-4, '63 Corvette convertible, '57 Speedster, 924 Porsche, and several Datsun 280Z's (one I auto cross and another with a '62 Ferrari 250 GTO body kit that I am retrofitting with a 350 SB. As far as investments I sure wish that I still had the oldies and am happy that I avoided the newbies.
“I think it's pretty hard not to get into cars at a young age and not have some connection to a retailer”
I guess I’m a rare demographic. My dad managed a gas station and later opened his own collision shop...they called them “body shops” back then, along with a multi-truck towing service. So I was just always around something with wheels. But rarely retail sales.
Not a car "dealer" per se, but I had the great fortune to live near the GM Lakewood plant during the 60's-70's. From time to time, the air would be permeated with what we jokingly referred to as "new car making" scent! Each fall, the huge parking lots would have cloth barriers attached to the fencing to block views of the newly manufactured cars. I particularly remember people lining the fence, and poking holes in the liner to see the new 1965 Impalas! 🙂
Sophomore, Junior and Senior years of high school, 1965-68, I worked after school and on Saturdays at the Grossman-Huber Gulf station in downtown Manchester, Mich. We did all kinds of minor mechanics: mufflers, tires, batteries, tune ups and hand car washes. The local Widmayer Ford dealer had their new cars cleaned and waxed by us. I loved seeing and driving the new Fords. I started working there at age 15, so driving the new cars was really sweet compared to the '49 farm truck I learned on. Power brakes were something I had to get used to. I'll always value with great fondness that work experience. Great patient boss and great coworkers. One of our customers liked to pour a quart of oil into his gas tank on a fill up, believing it would be good for his engine. Gas was $.279 at the time and a couple bucks would take me cruising all night in my black '58 Ford. Sometime during my evening shifts I would wash my black beauty, so I always had the cleanest car in town. And, with many coats of Vista Clean wax on it, my Ford really shined both in sunlight and at night under the street lights. Clean white whitewalls too. I still love whitewalls and chrome. What a great life it was, eh....