More On Those 1930s Tail Lights

We recently picked up a number of hard-to-find tail lights from the 1930s, including the ’36 Dodge light mentioned in the last post. This beautiful light and license plate bracket is another example:

This 1937 Buick light has Art Deco-flair that repeats the look and lines of the grille:

Buick, like most makes of that year, had a license plate light and bracket that mounted on the center of the trunk of at least some of the models.

1937 Buick Sedan with center tail light. Photo credit: Jeremy from Sydney, Australia, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Car companies spotlighted this new arrangement as a selling point with an emphasis on symmetry, beauty, and safety.

My light/bracket combo was likely on a coupe originally, as the rear of the ’37 Buick coupe sloped steeply and prohibited the mounting of the light and bracket there.

I also found the tail light/bracket combo on something called a “Sloper” made for the Australian market. It was made by General Motors-Holden, an Australian subsidiary of GM, that manufactured and sold automobiles under its own marque.

1937 Buick Sloper. Photo credit: sv1ambo, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

GM-Holden called the body style an “All-Enclosed Coupe,” and the back seat folded down for additional luggage space. For 1937, the Sloper was also part of the line-up for GM-Holden’s Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Chevrolet.

1937 Chevrolet Sloper. Photo credit: sv1ambo, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

After reviewing conversations and comments on the internet, it is apparent that many folks prefer the looks of the Holden version with its fastback styling and forward sloping B pillars, but I think the American-made coupe is tough to beat. Either way, this gorgeous light is the perfect finishing touch:

The First Chevrolet Impalas

This advertisement for the 1958 Chevrolet, made in conjunction with the Kansas City Auto Show, describes the 17 models available in ’58:

Note that the lineup includes Impala models as part of the Bel Air series:

This marked the first opportunity for a member of the car-buying public to purchase a Chevrolet Impala, but it was not the first time General Motors utilized that particular name. A “dream car” presented at GM’s 1956 Motorama car show was a futuristic five passenger sport sedan that was, believe it or not, called a Corvette Impala.

Like the production Corvette, the Corvette Impala had a fiberglass body. It was almost the same width as a Chevrolet sedan, but four and a half inches longer and six inches lower. The power plant was a 225-hp Super Turbo-Fire V8 with 9.25-to-1 compression ratio, high-lift cam shaft and a four-barrel carb. Being a GM product, it naturally had a Powerglide transmission.

In a departure from the typical more-is-more styling of the 1950s, little chrome was used. It did have a toothy, Corvette-like grille, however.

So, would you have been in the market for this Impala concept car, described as having “fleet, buoyant lines that accent motoring adventure with safety and luxury?” Or do your preferences in motoring adventure run more along these lines?

What Does the BLC Stand for on Those Old GM Parts?

You have probably heard some incorrect theories ventured regarding the meaning of the “BLC” logo on old car parts. For instance, here are some things it does NOT stand for:

Buick LaSalle Cadillac

Bright Light Company

Best Light Company

British Light Company

The BLC on those old parts actually stands for “Brown-Lipe-Chapin,” named for Alexander T. Brown, W. C. Lipe, and H. Winfield Chapin. Although Brown and Lipe’s brother, Charles, had gone into business in the 1890s, BLC was not incorporated until 1910. Located in Syracuse, New York, the business specialized in the manufacturing of automobile differentials, transmission gears, and clutches.

In 1917, it was announced that General Motors was in the mood to buy and would be acquiring BLC:

The purchase of BLC fell through due to “legal difficulties,” but some of the other “automobile accessories concerns” referenced in the above article and acquired by Durant and GM included familiar names like Klaxon, Delco, and Remy. BLC continued to prosper and was frequently mentioned in automobile advertisements like these:

Chevrolet used BLC gears, too. This 1918 advertisement makes the point that Chevrolet utilizes the same parts used by America’s finest cars, and it states that BLC gears were adopted as standard equipment by 80% of automobile and truck manufacturers:

By the early twenties more than 50% of BLC’s output was going to GM, and GM announced that it was purchasing BLC in December of 1922:

The BLC factory closed during the Depression and then reopened in 1936 as part of GM’s $50 million expansion project. BLC became a division of GM’s Guide Lamp and, instead of gears, began making chrome parts like bumper guards, lights, and hood ornaments.

This is an interesting snapshot of the GM empire in 1937:

Like the rest of the automobile industry, BLC soon retooled to join the war effort. By December of 1940, it was reported that the company was equipped to turn out machine guns en masse. BLC manufactured Brownings including the .50 caliber “stinger.”

BLC became its own division again in 1942:

After the war, BLC returned to making automobile parts, although it was also awarded the defense contract for the making of the Curtis-Wright J-65 Sapphire jet engine in the 1950s.

The last chapter of BLC’s history was written in December of 1961 when it was consolidated into the Ternstedt Division, making Ternstedt GM’s third largest division. The BLC logo lives on, however, on so many old lights, bumper guards, and emblems.


Advertisement. Chevrolet. The Pomona Progress, 5 Feb. 1918, p. 3.

Advertisement. Davis. Houston Daily Post, 19 Nov. 1916, p. 25.

Advertisement. Daniels. The Allentown Morning Call, 27 Oct. 1915, p. 8.

Advertisement. General Motors. Detroit Free Press, 6 Jul 1943, p. 14.

“Auto Men Put 100 Millions into Expansion.” The Herald Press [ Detroit], 6 Feb. 1936, p. 3.

“Auto Plants Are Geared for War Production.” Morgan County News, 30 Jan 1942, p. 3.

“Company Incorporated.” The Buffalo Enquirer, 3 Feb. 1910, p. 2.

“General Motors Acquires Brown-Lipe-Chapin Co.” The Buffalo Enquirer, 29 Dec. 1922, p. 5.

“General Motors Buys Brown-Lipe-Chapin Co,” The Muncie Morning Star, 29 Dec. 1922, p. 17.

“General Motors Empire Harried by Strikes.” Chicago Sunday Tribune, 10 Jan 1937, p. 2-8.

“General Motors Factories Start $61,000,000 Machine Gun Order.” The Boston Globe, 18 Apr. 1941, p. 34.

“General Motors to Have New Division.” The Minneapolis Star, 25 Jun. 1942, p. 28.

Greenburg, Abe. “’42 Auto Models Seen Certain, Despite War.” Daily News [New York], 29 Dec 1940, p. 217.

“More for Motors Co.” Muncie Evening Press, 11 Oct 1916, p. 6.

“United Motors is Earning $9 a Share.” The Wall Street Journal, 30 Apr. 1917, p. 6.

“United Motors is Parent Now for Big Added Firm.” Detroit Free Press, 5 Nov 1916, p. 2.

A Little Story About the Origins of Chevrolet

It is widely known that Chevrolet was named for racecar driver Louis Chevrolet, but there is a “little” more to the story.

When William Durant was out as the head of GM (for the first time) he immediately began looking for a way back into the automobile industry.  He knew Louis Chevrolet because Chevrolet had been a driver for the Buick racing team, and in 1911 he made a deal with Chevrolet to build a car.  That same year Durant was also building a car called the Little with a man named William H. Little who had been a manager at Buick but had left to follow Durant.

In one 1912 advertisement, the Little was called, “the classiest of all roadsters” and was described as follows:

“20 H.P. Four Cylinder, shaft drive with selective sliding transmission  and Torpedo body. Equipment includes Nickel Windshield, Mohair Top with hood and curtain, Prest-O-Lite tank, five lamps, horn, jack pump, tools and full nickel mountings.”

Here is another 1912 advertisement.  Notice that this one says the car has a 10 inch wheelbase.  That really would be a tiny car, but it is a typo.  The car actually had a wheelbase of 90 inches.

This surviving Little is located at Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska (seriously, if you haven’t been there, go now):

As it turns out, Durant wasn’t thrilled with either car.  The Chevrolet was big and expensive while the Little was smaller, of lesser quality, and sported a terrible name, at least from a marketing standpoint.  The companies were merged and the best features of each car were incorporated into a new Chevrolet line.  The Little, produced only in 1912 and 1913, was reincarnated as the Baby Grand Chevrolet for 1914.


Many people have written about Durant, an interesting showman and something of a loose cannon.   I have not been able to find out much about Bill Little, however.  I have seen him variously referred to as “Big Bill” and “Wild Bill”.  He was apparently a large man, and I did find this full-page advertisement announcing the Little Car that includes a poem about Bill Little as well as a drawing of the man:

Here is the poem, enlarged, so it can be more easily read:

Little died young at only 46 years old and, at his death, there were few mentions of him in the newspapers.  I found one obituary that stated Little, while still in his twenties, had worked closely with Thomas Edison as general manager of Edison Storage Battery in Glen Ridge, New Jersey.  Another small story included the Monarch Bicycle Company on his resume.  Then, of course, he worked for Durant at Buick, built the Little Motor Car and then continued working for Durant at Sterling Motor Co. and the Scripps-Booth Corp.  The above advertisement includes the following foreshadowing:  “This great man may in time be forgotten as will other Napoleons of Industry and Art – but not while his (I mean their) money lasts and the published rates remain the same.”  He has been all but forgotten, but he should be remembered as one of the men that ushered in the automobile age in America.


“Death Takes Veteran Auto Trade Leader.” Oakland Tribune, 5 November 1922, p. 12.

Kimes, Beverly Rae and Henry Austin Clark, Jr. Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1842. Kraus Publications, 1985.

Little Motor Car Company.  Advertisement. The Detroit Free Press, 7 July 1912, p. Part One.

Little Motor Car Company. Advertisement.  The Roanoke Chowan Times, 19 September 1912, p. 7.

“The 1915 Chevrolet Touring Car.” The Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, 6 September 1914, p. 11.

The Little Motor Sales Co. Advertisement. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, 24 November 1912, p. 20.

“W. H. Little Funeral Will Be Held Today.”  The Detroit Free Press, 22 October 1922, p. 3.

“Will Open Branch of Chevrolet and Little Motor Car Companies.”  The Buffalo Evening Times, 4 June 1912, p.7.