Category: Motor vehicles

Jim Dandy trailer


Two pages of plans for a home-built travel trailer.

“Around 1939 home built teardrop trailer construction started to heat up, as well as for other travel trailers. Around this time period a designer named Jim Dandy started selling plans for travel trailers. One of these was a teardrop. His goal was to make the construction very simple. He states, ‘Just an ordinary kit of tools and a little skill in handling them are all you need to build the “Cruiser”.’ ”

Excerpt from .



First weather conditioning in a production automobile


Image: 1940 Packard ad via .

Introduced on Nov. 4, 1939:

“The car that made driving with the windows up on a hot day cool was the 1940 Packard 180. The mechanical refrigeration unit automatically switched to heating in winter, and as such was dubbed not an air conditioner, but rather a Weather Conditioner. The factory-installed technological triumph cooled, heated, dehumidified, and even filtered cabin air from pollen and dust and other unwanted weather-related items.”

Excerpt from .

“It took almost 10 years from the first industry experiments before Packard Motor Car Co. introduced the first factory-installed air conditioner, on a 1940 model at the 1939 Chicago auto show. It ran on a compressor, but the refrigerating coils were behind the back seat.”

Excerpts from .



Image via .

Click on the links to learn more about the history of automobile air conditioning as well as the details of the system installed in the 1940 Packard.

Sealed beam headlamp


Images: 1940 General Electric brochure cover; portion of 1939 patent drawing from .

“The sealed beam headlamp, a major advance in automotive lighting was introduced after a three year long development program in August of 1939 [when] General Electric in cooperation with other lamp manufacturers and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators publicly introduced the new headlamp…”

Excerpt from : .

This was a major development for motor vehicles. Previously, lamps composed of separate bulb, lens and reflector parts became ineffective due to dirt and deterioration of the silvered reflector. Those problems were eliminated by the adoption of the new units that had these components sealed into a single lamp that also had standard dimensions so they would fit into any of the 1940 vehicles. The new vehicles with these headlights were available for sale in the fall of 1939.

For more info, follow the link to a 1939 auto trade magazine article in the excerpt link above (scroll down about 1/3 of the page).

These brochure images compare the high- and low-beam feature of the lamps.


Image: detail of 1940 Studebaker brochure from .

Acme traffic signal


Image: circa 1939 on Ventura Blvd. at Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood.

The Acme traffic signal was manufactured in Los Angeles beginning in the 1920s. See more of these kinds of signals at .

See a modern video of a restored Acme signal: . The bell rings, the semaphore blades move and the lights illuminate in sequence.


First U.S. turn signals


“Buick was the first U.S. automaker to offer factory-installed flashing turn signals. Introduced in 1939 as a safety feature, the new-fangled feature was advertised as the ‘Flash-Way Directional Signal’ operated from a switch on the new ‘Handi-shift’ column-mounted shifter. The flashing signals only operated on the rear lights.


“In 1940 Buick enhanced the directional indicators by extending the signals to front lights and adding a self-canceling mechanism.”

Excerpts from . Click on the link to learn about the history of turn signals.

Images: 1939 and 1940 Buick brochure from .

The 1940 Buick was available at dealers in autumn 1939.

Auto heating/ventilating breakthrough

17sep10nash“Nash continued to emphasize ‘travel features’ for 1939, especially its advanced heating/ventilation system. Introduced the previous year as ‘Conditioned Air,’ this now added a thermostatic control to become the Weather-Eye Conditioning System. ‘A Twist of a Dial Turns January into June,’ Nash boasted.

“Weather-Eye all but banished drafts, steamed-up windows, and stale interior odors by continually drawing in outside air through the heater. This also allowed the air to be warmed to a desired temperature and even partly dehumidifed en route to the cabin. The system even slightly pressurized the passenger compartment to keep out drafts.”

Before this development, auto heaters were merely an optional box under the instrument panel that radiated heat from the engine coolant. Most did not even have a fan to blow the warm air toward the passengers. Despite the “Conditioned Air” name, refrigerated air in cars was not to be found until it was introduced by Packard later in 1939 on its 1940 models.

Nash cars had another feature, too:


“Besides its enhanced climate system and excellent highway mileage, the Nash Ambassador encouraged four-wheel wanderlust with improved in-car sleeping accommodations: a ‘big, soft Convertible Bed — ready for you in five minutes.’

“Because parents with teenagers were appalled at the idea of a rolling ‘hotel room,’ Nash tactfully portrayed its Convertible Bed as promoting thrifty family togetherness.”
Excerpts from .


Images: 1939 brochure from . Click on the link to see the entire brochure.

Read a brief history of the company from this 2016 article on its 100th anniversary: .


Image: circa 1940 Nash dealer Walker Bros, 3260 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles from .