Category: Motor vehicles

Buick Y-job


“[General Motors Corporation head of styling Harley] Earl felt compelled to design and build a statement car… The resulting design – penned by former Oldsmobile studio head George Snyder and Joe Shemansky then modeled in clay by Jock Park – came about in the first half of 1938. …The Y-Job – so called because Y represented “one step beyond” the X-prefixed cars that GM had previously worked on, according to [fabricator Vince Kaptur Sr.] – debuted in December 1939 as ‘The Car of the Future’…”

Excerpts from .

In 2016 the Y-Job was the first vehicle documented in the National Historic Vehicle Register of the Historic Vehicle Association: .

“In the late-teens after finishing his college education, Harley J. Earl joined the family business [in Los Angeles], which by that time was well along in being established as one of the finest coachbuilders in the west.”

Excerpt and more information about him at . See also .

Image of Harley Earl in the Y-Job: General Motors Corporation.

U. S. Royal tires


These 1939 advertisements might show more about marketing “angles” than the product itself. When something becomes, more or less, a commodity then efforts to sell a particular brand often emphasized an emotional but relatively unrelated topic to persuade the prospect to buy. This wasn’t a new technique in the 1930s but it became more widespread.


“In 1928, Adolph Schleicher, owner of Samson Tire and Rubber Company had a small factory in Compton, California but decided to move to a bigger location in East of Los Angeles. The factory in East Los Angeles became the largest manufacturing facility to the West of the Mississippi; it took 8 million dollars to create. This factory was modeled after the 7th century BC Assyrian Palace of King Sargon II, the wall surrounding the tire plant featured heraldic griffins and bas-reliefs of Babylonian princes.

“The Samson Tire Company only operated for a year and sold the factory to the US Tire Company [in 1930] due to effects of the Great Depression.”
Excerpts and circa 1939 image from .

Truck trailers


Although headquartered elsewhere, Fruehauf Trailer Company built truck trailers in Los Angeles. Pacific Freight Lines was based in Los Angeles. Learn more about PFL and other trucking companies of the period at .


Images: detail and full ad in Motor Transportation magazine from Ken Goudy collection


“Fruehauf Trailer Company dominated the semi-trailer industry and never had any significant competition outselling their nearest competitor by almost 80%. August Fruehauf’s motto, “Built to Last” was incorporated by the research and design team as they developed new and improved methods of transporting American goods around the world.”

Excerpt and link to extensive historical information: .


Powell Streamliner scooter


Image: posted by vintagetvs on Shorpy — via serviside blog.

“Last February [2016] Vintagetvs posted the above photo over on Shorpy with his original title ‘The Wild Ones’ and captioned ‘Not even Brando could make that scooter look cool. From the negatives I found at a Whittier book store.’

“…The scooter is an early 1939 Powell P-39 Streamliner as made by the Powell Manufacturing Company in Compton, California.

“Hayward and Channing Powell graduated from Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles in 1924 and immediately started manufacturing radios. In 1926 they formed Powell Manufacturing. Around 1938 they started manufacturing motor scooters, and by 1941 were producing small motorcycles…”


1939 Powell P-39 Streamliner.

Excerpts and photos from: . Click on the link to see more, including celebrities on Powell scooters.

Pedestrian safety zone


Image from Los Angeles Public Library.

Trolley riders, as on this Los Angeles Railway line, had to wait in the street to board the car. Painted areas, sometimes with reflectors, warning lights and/or rubber signs near the ground were intended to guide vehicles away from the pedestrians.

In the background at the center right is a sign showing that Artie Shaw and his orchestra were playing “nitely.”

Streamline moderne


There are many sources of images and information on the style called streamline moderne. The Machine Age In America 1918-1941 by Wilson, Pilgrim and Tashjian (above) is one of several books. The Streamline Era by Reed is another.

Online, here are two “must see” websites that really show the subject well:

Neferteri by Larry Pointer with Rik Hoving

Don’t be distracted by the title, this is an excellent multi-part series showing the origins and then plenty of examples of streamline moderne aircraft, boats and motor vehicles. .

At the bottom of each installment, be sure to click on the link to go to the next one.



“If Art Deco skyscrapers could be thought of as “vertical”, Streamline Moderne buildings typically embraced horizontal massing.”

Excerpt from .