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Bumper to Bumper: 1941

Bumper to Bumper: 1941

July 1941. "Parking lot. Chicago, Illinois." This is what you call being in a tight spot! 35mm nitrate negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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The root of the term "bumper"

It seems to me from images such as these, and old movies, that bumpers were once meant to be literally bumped. What happened?

The old saying when backing up

"Keep going till you hear the crash" must have been employed here.

As for older vehicles, I'm fairly sure that of the 40 or so in the parking lot at work, my 2008 Ford pickup is the oldest.

Not even that black Dodge

in dead center trapped between a Chevrolet and Pontiac could ram its way out of that crowded lot!

Fake Views

Dear Dave,
Something's wrong with this picture. All these cars are like, really old.

Been there, waited for that

As late as the early-70s (and maybe beyond) there were large parking lots at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore that packed cars in just like that. You had better have been prepared to stay for the whole game because unless you were lucky there was no way out 'till it was over.

The one in the middle!

"Yeah, here's my tag - it's the two tone coupe, the one in the middle. And make it snappy, fella, I got a hot date!" I'd actually assume this is a dealer or distributor lot. Can't be a downtown parking lot!

[It is downtown, one of several such scenes photographed by John Vachon. Note that the cars have license plates, a smattering of windshield stickers, and various parcels visible through their windows, some of which are open. I would imagine this is the kind of lot where you have to wait till the end of the day to get your car. - Dave]

Do believe it is a normal parking lot

These cars seem to have come from some transport or are waiting to go on one, a ship or maybe a train since they look like they are all the same manufacturer. You can see photos like it of arriving Japanese verhicles that came off a ship.

["The same manufacturer"? I see a Pontiac, a Plymouth, an Oldsmobile ... - Dave]

Why no older models?

There are usually some from the early '30s in the mix, but the oldest cars here seem to be from 1936 or so. Someone who knows more about antique autos than I do will be along shortly to educate me, and that's OK, too.

[After around 1935, when cars began to be made with steel roofs and all-steel bodies, the number of older vehicles in these photos drops off sharply. - Dave]

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