How Car Shopping Used to Be: Great Historical Images of Dealerships and Showroom Floors
A good reminder of what the car-buying experience was like way back when.
It's no secret—we love classic cars here at Automobile. From top to bottom, we're fascinated with the ins-and-outs of ownership, driving experience, and aesthetics of those old motorized warhorses. But we put just as sharp of a focus onto the associated history of the automotive industry; classic cars are so much more than rolling sculpture or weekend toys, and it's sometimes difficult (or even impossible) to place cars back into the context of the era in which they were born. So, let's visit some period classic car dealerships.
We don't have a time machine, but we do have access to a wide range of archival photography, which we reckon is the next best thing. In the spirit of contextualization, we combed some of the most fascinating snapshots of classic car dealerships, showrooms, and sales lots from around the world, and from many decades of the 20th century. As always, we call out a few of our favorites below, but make sure you check out the full gallery.
Ford Showroom, 1955
From the look of things, classic car dealerships placed a much bigger emphasis on aesthetics and architecture than many of their modern successors do now, as evident from the floor-to-ceiling mirrors in this Ford store. This is probably the first and only time we're ever going to see a Continental Mark II in faux holiday wrapping.
Alfa Romeo Dealer in Rome, 1964
It doesn't get more romantic than this. Imagine picking up your new Giulia Spider a few feet from both a Sprint Speciale and a world championship-winning grand prix car. Classic car dealerships, indeed.
Mexico City Volkswagen Dealer, 1995
Yes, this image is indeed from 1995, even if the Beetles appear from the 1970s. The Beetle proved popular enough in Mexico to keep production going through 2004. This wasn't a particular happy image, however; at the time, VW of Mexico announced the ongoing economic struggles forced it to cut salaries and halt production.
Rolls-Royce Horn Demonstration For Important Customer, 1932
The caption says it best: "Prince Alexis Mdivani (ex-husband of film star Pola Negri) is having a Rolls Royce built for him in England, and staff in a Piccadilly showroom are demonstrating various car horns to him over the phone as he is in Paris. He chose the 4-note type being demonstrated."
Bee Gees Admire Rolls-Royce Through Showroom Window, 1967
It's safe to say a new Rolls was hardly a financial obstacle for the burgeoning superstars.
A Line of Triumph TR6s, 1972
Oh, to buy a factory fresh TR6 and enjoy it before rust and electrical issues rear their ugly head. We dig the color palette, too.
Nissan Zs Galore, 1988
Ah, back when Nissan was respected as an affordable Japanese alternative to BMW. Still, the new Z car is allegedly on the horizon, so maybe we'll see a return of lots like this.