JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Family Car: 1939

Family Car: 1939

February 1939. "White migrant and wife repairing clutch in their car near Harlingen, Texas." On the road during the Depression. Medium-format nitrate negative by Russell Lee for the Resettlement Administration. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Parts and Pieces of a Pontiac

The 1928 Pontiacs were made in series 6-28 from December 1927 through June 1928 with approximately 130,000 made.

Because of the long doors shown, I believe this to be a 2 Door Sedan (5 passenger) Model 8240 which was Pontiac's most popular as well as least expensive model at $745. There was a "New" 6-28 series of Pontiac models that was introduced in June 1928, but these had metal trim around the dashboards and were designated as 1929 models.

On the left on the dashboard is the light switch (On, Dim, Off, Park) above the hole for the ignition key. To the right is the speedometer above the odometer and trip meter. In the center is the fuel gauge, and farther to the right is the ammeter (amp meter) above the oil pressure gauge. At the far right are the choke and windshield wiper controls. There was indirect illumination of all gauges.

Above the windshield is the crank handle to open (raise) the Fisher VV Windshield (VV = vision and ventilation). The windshield could raise about three inches to allow more air into the passenger compartment.

This was the first year for standard 4-wheel brakes on Pontiacs, and Pontiac had General Motors' lowest price 6 cylinder model until the Chevy 6 was introduced the next year. The fuel tank held only 11 gallons.

The ribbed Corduroy upholstery on the seats was the standard interior cloth. Accessories available included bumpers, Lovejoy shock absorbers, and a heater.

I could not easily find a 1928 dashboard photo for the 1928 6-28 series Pontiac, so a later 1929 6-28 series dashboard is shown that has the metal trim.

Designed to be self-repairable

Most cars of this era were designed to be easily repairable. Our Model A had a similar layout. In less than 10 minutes, you could remove the front seats and toss them in the back, as these folks have, remove the floorboards (and they were actually "boards") and have at it. Transmissions were small and light (no Synchromesh in those days, and parts were far enough apart to allow the use of open-ended wrenches, so a roadside repair, while grimy, would be possible and not that time-consuming. Similarly, the old L-head four-cylinder engines (at least the Fords) could be almost totally rebuilt without even removing them from the chassis.

Almost every problem we've had with our Ford has been resolved after a few minutes of head scratching and a turn or two of a wrench (and then a longer time spent cleaning grease from our fingernails).

1930 Desoto

I think this is a Desoto of around 1930..

Jeweled Mud Flap

I found a set of antique jeweled mud flaps on eBay that are exactly like the one shown on the left rear fender on that old jalopy. Notice that two jewels are missing from the stars on the mud flap in the old photo.

See that?

Note the plate glass drivers window -- ready to cut yer arm at a moments notice! Based on comments below, this car is around eight years old. It was a hard eight years.

[Older than that, I think. Mid to late 1920s. - Dave]

Miles Per Hour

Not 56k. That's the speedometer -- 55, 60, 65 mph.

The odometer is below that, 84-something miles.

Dash it all!

I could not find a matching dash in 1920s-1930s cars among the interior pictures I could find easily. About the closest was a 1930-31 Chevy, but it wasn't exact, and the gas filler cap was on the left side rather than the right. For what it's worth, I think this car started life as a fairly high class two door of some sort. The odometer on this one reads 56K+ miles.

[Incorrect. See above. - Dave]

Looking at the bright side

Plenty of room for a GPS in that baby.

Not a Model A

Dash and gas tank are wrong. Model A had a sort of diamond shape instrument panel, wider horizontally than vertically. Its gas tank was between the dash and the firewall (no fuel pump - gravity feed to the carb). I don't know what it really is, though.

Daddy Frank

From the Merle Haggard song "Daddy Frank":

Home was just a camp along the highway;
A pick-up bed was where we bedded down.
Don't ever once remember going hungry,
But I remember mama cooking on the ground.

I'd say 90 to 1 that mud flap was an accessory from the jalopy period of the car - on the way to beater and then junker. Don't see much in the way of tail lights either.

They were some tough folks on their way to what they hoped would be a better life. God bless them.

Model A?

Somebody might be able to ID dash/gauges, and or rear bumper to verify as an "A." Note the broken driver's door glass (plate glass - non safety). Windshield looks very Model A'ish, although most of the vehicles of this age group looked similar in shape.

How embarrassing

This guy's left taillight is out!

Roadside repairs.

Wow. I guess that's about the bare minimum you can have left of a car and still drive it. I see the pedals and shift lever off in the dirt to the right. And the little boy behind the fender will tug at your heart. The toughest of times.

In the clutch

Yup, that's a clutch job alright, note the transmission on the ground on the right side of the car. Nice that you could take the floor panels up and work from the top!


The car's about to fall apart, yet check out the fanciful mudflap. Anyone know if it was original to this model car?

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Site © 2023 Shorpy Inc.