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Larkspur, Calif.: 19xx

Larkspur, Calif.: 19xx

Your task: answer the following about this photo, taken in my former hometown.

1. What year was it taken?
2. Identify the cars.
3. What the heck's going on here, anyway?

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On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Packard, LaSalle, Chevrolet

Three of the four are easy.

The Packard is a nicely optioned 1940 120 with aftermaket trim and non Packard hubcaps. With those headlights and badges, it can be no other year or model. Its too small to be a 160 and simply not a 180.

The LaSalle is a 1940 Series 50 car. The fenders are too fat to be a Series 52. The car in front of the Packard is too plain to be a '48 Chevy. Instead it is probably a low end 46/47. Early '47s tend to be less trimmed than those produced after December of 1946.

No clue on the roadster in the other bay or the car under the tree.

Factory air

The 1940 Packard was the first car to offer air conditioning as an option. I'm guessing that few ordered it, as the machinery occupied most of the trunk, and you had to pop the hood to turn it on or off.

Re: Dating Larkspur

Well done tterrace. Looks like you saved me a trip to Larkspur.

A bird of a different feather

Swan hood ornament, my spare tire.
Any Packard owner will tell you that the bird is a cormorant.
I made the mistake of calling one a duck once.
I learned the hard way, not a duck.

Kaiser a replacement for the Packard?

>the Packard's replacement, a Kaiser 4 door sedan<

In what way was the Kaiser a replacement for the Packard? They were separate auto companies that coexisted for a few (or several) years.

[The Kaiser is a replacement for the Packard when you buy a Kaiser to replace your Packard. - Dave]

Aha, a replacement for that particular Packard :-)


Those speedlines on the Packard look like someone's attempt at customization.

The Last Packard

I remember a Lawyer who lived a block or so away from me who had a Packard like that and a uniformed chauffeur that drove him. His son was a friend of my brother. When the son came home from his WW2 service he became the driver. A few years later he taught me to drive in the Packard's replacement, a Kaiser 4 door sedan.

Dating Larkspur

Darn. Dual Freq was just too smart for me, except for the "they" part. All the cars in the shot belonged to Hil(dred) Probert. And yes, the station (and Larkspur itself, masquerading as "Larkspur, Idaho"), was featured prominently in the 1949 Brian Donlevy/Ella Raines film "Impact." Big giveaway is, of course, the gas pump style, plus that of the "Mobilubrication" lettering. Kudos to Lectrogeek for spotting the rear end of what I too believe is a Studebaker. Below, a shot I took in 2002 from about the same angle:

Early to mid '50's.

The rear end in front of the Packard looks to be a '47-'48 Chevy. That location became a Toyota dealership in the early '60's. The gas station pump area is now a barbershop, flanked by two retail stores, the former dealership to the left (out of picture) is now a collection of retail stores.


They say 1960, and that it was part of a 200 car collection.

Looks like the same photo with a slightly different crop. Are those feet sticking out from under the LaSalle in the left bay?

[A postscript: "They" is none other than tterrace himself -- you googled his website. - Dave]

I think he was a Toyota dealer

by the time you were in high school. BTW, was Hil. an abbreviation for hilarious, Hillary, or Hilton?

1940 Packard

A 1940 Packard is the closest I can come to the main auto. Here's a pic that looks like it except for the lack of the horizontal chrome strips on the front and rear fenders and the different hood ornament. The hood ornament in the Larkspur Packard is the optional "swan" one.

The day that Larkspur became famous

In 1961 at 10:10 in the morning, the town of Larkspur was visited by a cluster of UFO's. The residents were all processed in the alien medical unit. The memory of the incident was then erased in the townsfolk's memory bank. This photo was taken by Elmer Shine who just happened upon the event as he was traveling from town to town polishing Packards.

The event is soon to be revisited on the History Channel. The story will be told by a goofy guy wearing shades and a baseball cap with UFO written on it. Riveting TV.

Larkspur LaSalle

That looks like a mid 40's LaSalle

My attempt

1.Roughly 1960 to 1965, those are late '50s gas pumps with the logo that was phased out about the same time as the "-cation" typeface and a rather different logo came in around 1962.

2.Front-and-center is a late '30s senior series Packard, an approximately '40 LaSalle is in the bay on our left, on our far right in the alley is something that looks very Model A-ish, the roadster in the bay on the right is hard to ID from this angle but it's unlikely to be much newer than 1935 or so.

3.Word gets around in the old car crowd, Mr Probert, or someone working for him, was obviously the go-to guy for servicing older cars in Larkspur.


The prominent car is a 1940 Packard 180 Custom 8. Judging by the 1942 strip on top of the 1941 base license plate issued by California at the time on the Chevrolet coupe in front of the Packard, the photo was taken in 1942.

What was going on at the time? Someone was bored waiting for "Miss Daisy" to finish her shopping & decided to take a photo of the car he had just washed & polished for the trip into town. Not 10 seconds later after the photo was snapped, a huge sea gull left his calling card on the windshield!


The car facing out of the garage is a '40 LaSalle. The Packard in the foreground is a '40 of some sort. Other than that, no ideas.

Those pumps certainly are 'modern' looking, aren't they? If they were all there was, I'd say the photo's from the late '50s. But the Packard looks fairly new.

I'd say late '50s

The Packard looks most like a '39 to me but I could be off by a couple of years. There's a '39 Olds in the garage on the left. I won't attempt to identify the roadster in the garage or the car preceding the Packard. I think I see the right taillight of an early '50s Studebaker peeking out from behind the building. The gas pumps say late '50s to me, but it could certainly be a decade later.

Someone else mentioned a license plate. Assuming the car in the right foreground is registered in California, this would not be later than 1962 (black on yellow).


It's Larkspur's annual Packard Polishing Day. The car in the Mobilubrication bay looks to be a circa 1940 LaSalle. The big car: 1939 Packard Super 8 touring sedan? The gas pumps look circa mid-1950s. My guess: 1956.

More info

Terribly sorry to post a secondary comment but I found out that the type of car is either a Packard V-12, or a Desoto, which is what Hil. Probert specialized in selling.


This photo was taken around 1937 which is the time Hil. Probert decided to bring his Gas Station there. As you mentioned, it was taken in Larkspur, California. In 1945 Hil. Probert turned this house into an adjacent car showroom. This house was featured in a movie entitled Impact in 1949. Hope my info helped!

My guess is a 1936-37 Packard...

as the centre car, possibly a V-12 Sedan?


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