Vintage J.C. Whitney Catalogs

Long before online ordering, one catalog that was indispensable to every car guy was the one that came from J.C. Whitney. The roots of the company go all the way back to a Chicago scrap metal yard started in 1915 by Lithuanian immigrant Israel Warshawsky, so this company has been enabling automotive junkies for over one hundred years. This advertisement is from 1927:

By the 1940s the business was using the name J.C. Whitney, and Warshawsky’s son, Roy, took over and expanded the company. I found a newspaper story from the 1970s that said Roy Warshawsky just “made up” the name J.C. Whitney and didn’t even recall why he chose it. The story went on to say that when people would call and ask to speak to the “boss,” meaning J.C. Whitney, the phone operators were known to maintain the illusion by replying, “Mr. Whitney is in Europe.”

I recently got my hands on a 1956 J.C. Whitney catalog, and it was a blast to look through:

As I thumbed through the fragile pages, I saw things that I did not even know were an option such as plaid convertible tops . . . .

. . . and hat racks.

You frequently see vintage bug deflectors for sale online and at swap meets, and there were many variations of these listed in the catalog:

There was also a variety of ways to achieve the look of white wall tires without actually shelling out the dough, including the rings seen below and a paint kit called White Wall Wonder.

It looks like vintage J.C. Whitney catalogs are currently going for $10-30 apiece online, so it might be time to drag yours out the attic!

1936 Plymouth

1965 Lincoln

Chevrolet Knee Action in the 1930s

We just picked up two fabulous 1930s Chevrolet dashes:

These would be correct for a 1933 Chevrolet Master or a 1934-1935 Chevrolet Standard, and this was an interesting time for General Motors as 1934 was the year the company introduced a new feature marketed under the colorful name of “Knee Action.” This revolutionary new design feature was a much-needed independent front suspension. The ride quality in early automobiles suffered because stiff front springs transmitted road shocks to the frame causing the front end to rise and fall. The consequent rise and fall at the rear of the car made backseat riding uncomfortable as passengers were jostled with each bump in the road. General Motor’s new Knee Action design allowed the front wheels to move up and down with the irregularities of the road without imparting the shock to the frame and passengers.

This diagram and accompanying explanation were part of a 1934 advertisement:

It appears an entire advertising campaign was built around this new feature. Here are a few more:

The “Big Three” and “Little Three” Car Companies of 1954

I found this blurb in a 1954 newspaper:

If you’ve been watching the automobile news, you know that there are now only six passenger car manufacturers in the U.S. – the “big three” and the “little three.”

So, can you name the six surviving car companies of 1954?

The Big Three are easy to identify:


General Motors

1954 Chevy Corvette

1954 Chevy Bel Air


Recalling the Little Three is more problematic as there was a lot going on in the way of mergers and acquisitions. In no particular order, they are:

Studebaker-Packard – Detroit’s Packard Motor Car Company bought Indiana-based Studebaker in 1954 and became Studebaker-Packard.

1954 Studebaker Station Wagon

1954 Packard Clipper Super Touring Sedan

Kaiser-Willys – Kaiser-Frazer had started up after WWII, riding high on the post-war boom. The company struggled in the early 1950s after a series of missteps, and the Frazer name was dropped. In 1953, Kaiser purchased Willys-Overland and, in 1954, the companies merged into Willys Motors, Inc.

1954 Kaiser Darrin

1954 Kaiser

1954 Willys M38A1

American Motors – AMC was formed in 1954 when the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation merged with Hudson.

1954 Hudson Hornet with Twin H-Power