Category: Motor vehicles

Street racing


Image: date and source not known.

The style of these modified gow jobs (they wouldn’t be called hot rods until after WWII) and the homes could be from 1939.

See a short version of the origin of the gow job term here: .

Here’s a longer post with some comments: .





Crocker motorcycles


Image: Photograph of Jack Lilly’s Crocker number 39-61-103 in 1939. This is how this Crocker was originally painted from the factory. The colors were navy blue with red and white pinstripes. It also had a chromed rear brake backing plate, rear chain guard, seat springs and upper shackle. The photograph from the ‘Crocker Motorcycle Co’ collection.

“Al Crocker invented machines that were well ahead of their time in design and function. His bikes were visually pleasing, as Crocker seemed to have a perfect eye for form and balance, for color and simplicity. They were such great examples of fluidity of design that they seemed to be moving, even in still photos. The innovative styling was equally matched by record-breaking performance.”

Image and excerpt from . Click on the link to learn more.

Crocker motorcycles were made at 1346 Venice Boulevard, Los Angeles.




Image: one page of 1939 brochure from .

“Breene-Taylor Engineering, a Los Angeles-based manufacturer of airplane parts, announced the availability of the Whizzer Model “D” Bicycle Motor. This kit sold for $54.95 and included an air-cooled, four-cycle engine that was capable of producing 1.375 horsepower as well as a 2/3 gallon fuel tank. Approximately 1000 Model “D” motors were made and sold.”

At the beginning, the Whizzer was only a motor to be added to the customer’s bicycle.

Excerpt from .

Custom cars


“One of my personal all time favorite Custom Cars is this chopped ’36 Ford 5-window Coupe restyled in the late 1930’s. Not much is known about the car, most likely the owner was from Santa Monica, and some say the narrowed and reshaped ’36 Ford grille and custom side grilles might have been the work of George DuVall. Possibly the ribbed running board cover, the rock shield on the rear fenders and the single bar flipper hubcaps were all parts created by George DuVall and offered from the SoCal Plating Company.”  –Rik Hoving

“The Custom Car movement as we know it really started in the early 1930’s but at least a decade before that the movement was set in motion. In the late 1910’s the rich and famous demanded more elusive cars than the cars available from Detroit. They found their way to several of the Los Angles local Custom Coachwork companies. Who could create more streamlined and luxurious bodies that would set them apart from everything else on the roads. It would help give them even more status than they already had.

“The US was slowly recovering from the recession and people started to spend some more money on cars. Second had cars were relatively cheap and where perfect to be used in restyling. Hourly rates were still very low, making it possible for a car owner to have the local show spend a lot of hours on the cars. Where the first Custom Restyled cars were mostly based on convertibles and roadsters, which were much easier to chop, builder now started to experiment with chopping the top of coupes and even sedan’s. It resulted in a wide range of uniquely restyled cars, perhaps not always the most graceful, but incredibly inspiring and unique for sure. These early years of Custom Restyling are to me the most interesting years of the history of the Custom Cars. Especially because a lot of the cars were so fresh in incorporating the Custom Style.”

Image and excerpts from . Click on the link for a detailed article with many photos about the early years of automobile customizing, much of which took place in southern California.

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 .