Home Dealerships CALIFORNIA/ SAN FRANCISCO City Dealers
CALIFORNIA/ SAN FRANCISCO City Dealers
Written by Double Dragon
Monday, 01 February 2010 20:05

CALIFORNIA/ SAN FRANCISCO City Dealers

oneownercollectorcar.com

Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown. Much appreciation for the memories of Geary Chrysler Plymouth, Van Ness Dodge, Van Ness Oldsmobile and Winters Chrysler Plymouth provided courtesy of Michael White.

Albera Brothers Jeep-Chrysler, San Francisco, CA/ formerly known as Albera Bros Jeep Sales
Albera Brothers Jeep Sales, San Francisco, CA/ aka Automotive City Repair/ Closed

Alpha Motors (Mercury), San Francisco, CA

Ben Alexander Ford Inc, San Francisco, CA/ (2nd location in L.A)/ Closed- Shelby AC Cobra dealer
Earle C Anthony Packard, San Francisco, CA/ Closed- BMC Jaguar in building
Avenue Rambler (AMC), San Francisco, CA/ formerly Harvey Motors/ Closed
B & H Motors Inc (Chrysler-Plymouth-Valiant 1930), San Francisco, CA/ Closed
Gene Baker (Jeep), San Francisco, CA/ Closed
Berl Berry Ford, San Francisco, CA/ Closed
Boas AMC, San Francisco, CA/ formerly Avenue Rambler (AMC)/ Closed

Boas Pontiac, San Francisco, CA/ formerly Avenue Rambler/ Closed
Ellis Brooks Chevrolet, San Francisco, CA/ (1939-2008) 866-401-9862
Campbell & Dalton Ford, San Fran, CA (1924-3*)/ became Walter G Campbell Ford/ Closed
Walter G Campbell Ford, San Fran, CA (1924-3*)/ formerly Campbell & Dalton/ Closed
Flynn & Collins Ford, San Francisco, CA/ (1927-38) formerly J W Leavitt Olds
J E French, San Francisco, CA/ Closed

Geary Chrysler Plymouth, San Francisco, CA (formerly Winters Chrysler Plymouth)
Geary Motors (Ford), San Francisco, CA/ Closed
Geer Chevrolet, San Francisco, CA/ Closed
Golden Gate Chrysler Plymouth Inc, San Francisco, CA/ Closed
Harvey Motors (Rambler), San Francisco, CA/ became Avenue Rambler/ Closed
Holiday Chevrolet, San Francisco, CA/ Closed
Charles S. Howard Buick, San Francisco, CA (1913-1950)/ became Lytle Buick

Hughson Ford Sales, San Francisco, CA (see William L Hughson Ford)

William L Hughson Ford, San Francisco, CA (1903-79) World's first Ford Dealership
Ernest Ingold Chevrolet, San Francisco, CA/ Closed- BMC Bentley in building
Krieger & Sons (Oldsmobile), San Francisco, CA (1933-196*)/became Wayne Olds/ Closed
J. W. Leavitt Oldsmobile, San Francisco, CA (1917-27)/ became Flynn & Collins Ford
Don Lee Cadillac, San Francisco, CA (1913-1921) / became Charles S Howard Buick
Lesher & Muirhead Oldsmobile, San Fran, CA (196*-93) became Serramonte Olds
Lytle Buick, San Francisco, CA (1950-)/ Closed
C. M. Murphy Oldsmobile, San Francisco, CA/ Closed
Fred R. Nichols (Dodge), San Francisco, CA/ Closed
George Olsen Cadillac Inc, San Francisco, CA (196*) formerly George Olsen Chev
George Olsen Chevrolet, San Francisco, CA (196*) former location of Ingold Chev
Priola Rambler (Checker), San Francisco, CA/ Closed
Ulrich Remensperger Company, San Francisco, CA (Ford- 2 locations)/ Closed
Redwood Lincoln-Mercury Inc, San Francisco, CA/ formerly Jim Wessman/ Closed
Reynolds & Seiler Rambler, San Francisco, CA/ became San Francisco Toyota
S & C Ford, San Francisco, CA/ (19**-2008) Closed
S & M Motors (Dodge), San Francisco, CA/ Closed
San Francisco Ford Lincoln Mercury, San Francisco, CA/ (19**-2011) Closed
L M Schomer Chevrolet, San Francisco, CA/ (1934-7)- Closed
Scott's Van Ness Chrysler Plymouth Inc, San Francisco (aka Van Ness Chr-Ply)
Scripture Pontiac Co, San Francisco, CA/ became Wayne Pontiac Inc.
Spencer Buick Inc, San Francisco, CA (1954-) / Closed
Sperry & Lewis Ford, San Francisco, CA (1916-)/ Closed
Stewart Chevrolet Co, San Francisco, CA- moved to Colma, CA/ 415-347-3291
Taraval Rambler Inc, San Francisco, CA/ Closed

Van Etta Motors (Mercury), San Francisco, CA

Van Ness Chrysler Plymouth Inc, San Francisco, CA/ (aka Scott's) Closed

Van Ness Dodge Inc, San Francisco, CA/ Closed
Van Ness Oldsmobile, San Francisco, CA/ Closed
Les Vogel Chevrolet Co, San Francisco, CA/ Closed
Waters Buick Inc, San Francisco, CA/ Closed
Bob Waters Studebaker, San Francisco, CA/ Closed
Wayne Oldsmobile Inc, San Francisco, CA/ formerly Krieger & Sons/ Closed
Wayne Pontiac Inc, San Francisco, CA/ Closed
Jim Wessman Inc (Lincoln Mercury), San Francisco, CA/ became Redwood/ Closed
Cecil Whitebone Inc (Ford), San Francisco, CA/ (see Rett-White, Walnut Creek) Closed

Winters Chrysler Plymouth, San Francisco, CA (became Geary Chry Ply)

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ALBERA BROS JEEP SALES, San Francisco, CA/ aka Automotive City Repair/ Closed

ALBERA BROTHERS JEEP-CHRYSLER, San Francisco, CA

Albera Brothers Jeep Sales was located at South Van Ness Avenue on 2860 16th in San Francisco, California during the 1960s. The dealership also was known under the name Automotive City Repair. The dealership later became known as Albera Brothers Jeep-Chrysler.

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BEN ALEXANDER FORD INC, San Francisco, CA/ (2nd dealership in L.A)/ Closed- Shelby AC Cobra dealer

Ben Alexander Ford Inc was located in downtown San Francisco at 1175 Potrero Avenue. This was a second dealership for Ben Alexander whose main dealership was located near his home in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. The San Francisco dealership was an authorized Shelby AC Cobra dealer in the 1960s. Ben Alexander had a used car lot at 3100 Mission in San Francisco.

Ben Alexander was born May 26, 1911 in Goldfield, Nevada. Once the family came to California he became a child star. His success in the DRAGNET radio and TV series allowed him to open his Ford dealership in 1953. It closed in 1969 following his death.

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ALPHA MOTORS (Mercury), San Francisco, CA

Alpha Motors was a Mercury dealer located at 3301 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, California during the 1950s.

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EARL C ANTHONY PACKARD, San Francisco, CA/ current location of BMC Jaguar

dealer earle c anthony packard san francisco now bmc jag

Earle C Anthony Packard was located at 901 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, California. Anthony dealt Packards from this incredibly ornate building built in 1926-7 and situated at the corner of Ellis and Van Ness. Earle C Anthony also had a Los Angeles location which is profiled in the CALIFORNIA/ LOS ANGELES City Dealers story.

The current occupants of 901 Van Ness, BMC (British Motor Car Distributors) are Jaguar dealers who have been operating from this building for quite some time. Next door heading north is 999 Van Ness, former location of Ernest Ingold Chevrolet where BMC sells Bentley. In the early 1960s BMC was located at 1200 Van Ness Avenue.

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AVENUE RAMBLER (AMC), San Francisco, CA/ formerly Harvey Motors/ Closed

Avenue Rambler was located at 1601 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco, California. Avenue Rambler also carried the full line of American Motors. Avenue was formerly known as Harvey Motors. Avenue modified the old Harvey Motors slogan "Largest Rambler Service Station" to "One of the West's largest AMC service departments". Avenue Rambler was bought by a large well established Pontiac dealer, Boas Pontiac. Boas renamed Avenue Rambler Boas AMC in the 1970s.

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B & H MOTORS INC (Chrysler-Plymouth-Valiant), San Francisco, CA (1930-19 )/ Closed

B & H Motors Inc was a Chrysler-Plymouth-Valiant dealer located at 900 Sansome at Broadway in San Francisco, California. Tracing back to 1930, the dealership billed themselves as a 'Valiant' dealership at the start of the 1960s in accordance with Chrysler's plan to market the Valiant as a separate make. Chrysler was having enough trouble convincing people that their Imperial was a stand-alone that further muddying the waters with a Valiant brand was just too much. Chrysler included the Valiant in the Plymouth line-up and eventually dealers dropped the 'Valiant' tag from their roster of 'makes'. B & H was still in business as late as the 1980s. The location is now a Liberty Parking garage.

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GENE BAKER (Jeep), San Francisco, CA/ Closed

Gene Baker was a Jeep dealer located at 4885 Mission in San Francisco, California in the 1960s.

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BERL BERRY FORD, San Francisco, CA/ Closed

Berl Berry Ford took over the building originally built in 1913 for Don Lee Cadillac at 1601 Van Ness Avenue and California in San Francisco, California. Berl Berry Ford came into the location after a long stint as a Buick location first as Charles S Howard Buick 1921 to 1950 and later as Lytle Buick. Once Berry Ford moved on, the building was occupied by Harvey Motors until it was demolished during a revamping of Van Ness Avenue in the 1980s.

Berl Berry Ford was one of several satellite locations created during Berl's expansion of his dealerships from Kansas, Missouri to the coast. Berl Berry was born in 1910 and billed himself as the world's largest Lincoln-Mercury dealer. He was involved in politics and owned a ranch.

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BOAS AMC, San Francisco, CA/ formerly Avenue Rambler (AMC)/ Closed

Boas AMC was located at 1601 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco, California during the 1970s. Boas was a well established company selling Pontiacs in San Francisco for several decades when they bought this dealership formerly known as Avenue Rambler. At the time the economy crunch was on and AMC had the Gremlin which was enticing to Boas who were carrying typical large US gas guzzlers on their Pontiac lots.

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BOAS PONTIAC, San Francisco, CA/ Closed

Boas Pontiac had two addresses in San Francisco, California during the 1960s: 2323 Geary and 1465 Van Ness Avenue. The Geary location was considered newsworthy when it opened up July 9, 1952. It was the largest new auto dealership built in the area for about a decade. After the boom years of Van Ness auto row, the elaborate purpose built super showrooms had fallen by the wayside making Boas an exciting development. During the 1960s Boas billed themselves as 'The largest Pontiac dealer in the West'. In the 1960s they also were an authorized dealer for Vauxhall.

Boas Pontiac was founded by Benjamin Boas who took over the dealership location vacated by L M Schomer Chevrolet at 3800 Geary in 1937. Benjamin was still the president during construction of the new super showroom down the street. Son Roger Boas and James G. Kaufman were co-owners at this time. In 1952 Boas Pontiac vacated the old location at 3800 Geary. Various dealers including Nash occupied the location until it was taken over by Reynolds Rambler.

Roger Boas took over sole ownership of the Pontiac dealership in 1965. Roger was born Aug 21, 1921 in San Francisco and started working at Boas Pontiac in 1950 after graduating from Stanford University and seeing action in WWII. Roger eventually immersed himself in local San Francisco politics.

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ELLIS BROOKS CHEVROLET, San Francisco, CA/ (1939-2008)/ occupied by Nissan San Francisco

Became: ELLIS BROOKS AUTO CENTER, San Francisco, CA/ (2008) 866-401-9862

dealer ellis brooks san fran ca license plate

The Ellis Brooks license frame above dates from the period when the business was a Chevrolet franchise. The Ellis Brooks original location is shown in the photo below.

dealer ellis brooks chev now infinity san fran ca

Ellis Brooks was a Hudson dealer from 1937 until switching to Chevrolet in 1955. Brooks was located at Bush on 1395 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco in the heart of the long established dealer row in a seven story 195,000 square foot facility. During the 1960s, the dealership address was 1595 Van Ness with the service center down the street at 799 Van Ness. After Ellis Brooks died in 1963 his widow Marie Brooks carried on the business in spite of the decline of dealer row during the 1970s. In the 1980s buildings were torn down and re-developed and domestic dealers moved out.

The Bay Area is well known for favoring foreign cars. Disdain for domestic cars coupled with high property prices in downtown San Francisco made it even harder to survive as a domestic new car dealer. By 2008 poor sales forced Ellis Brooks's sales manager Mike Hollywood to drop the Chevrolet and Cadillac franchise and focus on used cars. Nissan/ Infiniti took over the large dealership building.

The renamed Ellis Brooks Auto Center moved to 1565 Bush Street in 2011. Ellis Brooks currently has 17 used cars on the lot with a large range of manufacturers, both domestic and foreign. The used cars are recent vehicles such as a 2012 Red Candy Metallic Mustang VIN 1ZVBP8AM1C5226637 which is a nice looking V6 automatic for $21,995.00. They also had a 2010 Dodge Challenger SRT8 with black hood stripes over a Bright Silver Metallic exterior. This one owner 9,200 mile car is listed at $35,495.00 and has the 6.1 L Hemi VIN 2B3CJ7DW8AH200107.

Arthur Eugene Brooks worked in the family business from age 12 until his death August 17, 2012. Arthur was born July 25, 1961 in San Francisco.  Arthur was described as a gentle giant who made friends wherever he went. He enjoyed camping, jet skiing, and classic car shows. He traveled to rodeos to cheer on his nieces and nephews.

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CAMPBELL & DALTON FORD, San Francisco, CA (1924-3*)/ became Walter G Campbell Ford/ Closed

Campbell & Dalton Ford was located at 3800 Geary at 2nd Ave in the building formerly occupied by and purpose built for Ulrich Remensperger Company Ford. Campbell & Dalton took over in 1924 and by 1925 Walter G. Campbell was sole owner as reflected in the name change. The dealership survived until the 1930s depression times when the building was taken over by L M Schomer Chevrolet dealership until Roger Boas Pontiac managed to get a good run in the location from 1937 until 1952. Boas Pontiac built a super showroom and moved on. Reynolds Rambler took over the spot and morphed into San Francisco Toyota which is still based from this building.

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FLYNN AND COLLINS FORD, San Francisco, CA (1927-38)

Flynn & Collins Ford was located on dealer's row at 1701 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, California. The Ford dealer set up shop in 1927 using the building built back in 1917 for J. W. Leavitt Oldsmobile. The building is currently occupied by Toyota of San Francisco.

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J E FRENCH DODGE, San Francisco, CA/ Closed.

In the March 30, 1929 newspaper Chrysler announced that they had appointed a new Plymouth dealer named J. E. French Co. located on Oxford at Addison. The dealer eventually moved to Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco which was the site of a large 'dealer's row'. J E FRENCH became a Dodge dealer located at Van Ness and Washington until the 1960s.

J E French had a used car lot also on Van Ness further south at 850 Van Ness in a building constructed in 1919. The French used car lot lasted from 1927 until 1936 when it was taken over by Don Gilmore also as a way to display used cars away from his new car lot.

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GEARY CHRYSLER PLYMOUTH, San Francisco, CA (formerly Winters Chrysler Plymouth)

Geary Chrysler Plymouth was located on the corner of Parker at 3245 Geary Blvd in San Francisco, California. This was formerly the location of Winters Chrysler Plymouth. In early 1965 Robert 'Bob' White purchased Winters Chrysler Plymouth and renamed it Geary Chrysler Plymouth due to its location on Geary. Bob also became a Ferrari franchise as well as running a lease company named Beverley Lease Company.

Robert 'Bob' White was born in Los Angeles, California in 1922 and relocated to the Oakland Bay Area in 1934. At the time of his graduation from Technical High school in Oakland in 1939 Bob owned a Black 1936 Ford hot rod with red leather interior, a chopped carson top, custom grill, and wide whites. Bob served in WWII with the Army Air Corp as a B-25 pilot with the 445th. Bob flew over 35 missions in Europe starting with his first mission on D-Day. In 1946 Bob's passion for cars led to a job on a used car lot, Carl Block Motors on Oakland's Broadway dealer row not far away from his old high school. Bob moved up to Peabody Motors in San Leandro, California in the very early 1950's eventually becoming a partner with Van Peabody. Bob's son Michael remembers goin spending the day with Bob at Peabody on Saturdays when he was 8 or 9 years old.

Bob managed the corporate owned Van Ness Dodge from 1961 until 1964. See a story on this dealership further down on this page. With a tripling of sales Bob earned the right become dealer principle of his own dealership with Geary Chrysler Plymouth.

The Geary location was in business for about 20 years and was successful right up until the time it was closed due to Bob's divorce.

Son Michael recalls that at Geary when they sold 11 cars on a Saturday and that was huge for that store. There were approximately 12 salesman with new and used on the ground floor. In 1964 Michael was a certified car nut following the exploits of racers campaigning Dodge Ramchargers and later the 'Melrose Missile'. See the story on this car filed under Melrose Chrysler Plymouth in Oakland, California. A local racer worked in the building located on Hayes where Geary prepped their cars for retail sale. New cars were dropped off for prep and Michael hung out there and listened to the racer's stories.

By this time Michael was a sales manager at the Xerox Corp at the time but followed in his father's footsteps when he launched a career at Mercedes Benz.

Bob passed away in 2005, at his home in Piedmont, California.

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GEARY MOTORS (Ford), San Francisco, CA/ Closed

dealer geary ford san francisco ca license frame

Geary Motors was a Ford dealership located at 4700 Geary Blvd in San Francisco, California during the 1960s. The location is now a Lamps Plus store. Geary was a secondary 'dealer row' developed slightly after the boom on Van Ness Ave.

See a story of a Gold 1966 Mustang 289 purchased new from Geary Ford in the ALLEY FINDS section of the CAR STORIES in this website.

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GEER CHEVROLET, San Francisco, CA/ Closed

Geer Chevrolet was located at 3855 Geary in San Francisco, California and naturally used the catchphrase "Geer on Geary" for their advertising. Geary was a secondary 'dealer row' which was developed slightly after Van Ness Avenue's dealer row.

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GOLDEN GATE CHRYSLER PLYMOUTH INC, San Francisco, CA/ Closed

Golden Gate Chrysler Plymouth Inc was located at 3245 Geary Blvd in San Francisco, California during the 1960s. Golden Gate also carried Imperial in the 1960s. Geary was a secondary 'dealer row' which developed on the heels of the better known Van Ness dealer row.

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HARVEY MOTORS (Rambler), San Francisco, CA/ became Avenue Rambler/ Closed

Harvey Motors was a Rambler dealer located at 1601 Van Ness, San Francisco. Harvey stated that they owned the world's largest Rambler service center during the 1960s.

dealer harvey san fran girlie ad

When Harvey Motors sold Studebakers their service center was located at 590 Van Ness Ave. They had a second location in Alameda on Park Street. In the mid 1960s the dealer became Avenue Rambler.

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HOLIDAY CHEVROLET, San Francisco, CA/ Closed

Holiday Chevrolet was located at 740 Taraval, San Francisco, California. Prior to Holiday moving into this location in the early 1960s it was the Spencer Buick location. Spencer had moved on to Geary Blvd by the 1960s. The old Holiday dealership lot is now the site of a Safeway store.

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CHARLES S. HOWARD BUICK, San Francisco, CA (1913-1950)/ became Lytle Buick

dealer charles howard buick san fran ca

Charles S. Howard was one of the earliest Buick dealers. Howard was born Feb 28, 1877 in Marietta, Georgia. His Buick career began in San Francisco in 1905 on Golden Gate Avenue which was the first San Francisco 'dealer row'. Howard attracted attention by publicizing the large trainload deliveries of Buicks slowly routed through towns where people lined the tracks to watch the procession.

Charles S. Howard Buick moved into a purpose built structure at 1595 Van Ness Avenue on the corner of California Street in 1913. Shown above, you can see the entrance ramp to the left of the building with black tarps covering the nameplates of the final tenant of the space: San Francisco Ford Lincoln Mercury.

Howard Buick also occupied the building originally built to house Don Lee Cadillac in 1913. When Don Lee vacated the premises at 1601 Van Ness Avenue in 1921, Charles S. Howard moved in. Lytle Buick took over the building after the 1950 death of Charles Howard.

Charles Howard was considered one of the largest car dealers of the time and is famous for bailing out William Durant in 1915 with a $3 million loan in exchange for GM stock. Howard owned a yacht, cattle ranch and raced horses. The movie Seabiscuit dramatized some of his life. In 1941 his Western Area distribution agreement extended to the sale of 30,000 Buicks. He wound down his career with Kentucky Derby wins that set records before succumbing to a heart attack.

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WILLIAM L HUGHSON FORD, San Francisco, CA (1903-79) World's first Ford Dealership

HUGHSON FORD SALES, San Francisco, CA (see William L Hughson Ford)

William L Hughson Ford was located in San Francisco, California with a new dealership and a used dealership (used location was 1415 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco). In the 1960s the company was known as Hughson Ford Sales. The main office was located at 1200 Larkin and the new car sales were at 1400 Van Ness Ave. The Ford dealer code # was 72A005.

William L Hughson was born in 1869 in Buffalo, New York. He established a Hughson and Merton Machinery Parts out west in San Francisco. While visiting a Chicago trade show in 1902 he was intrigued by Henry Ford's new 'horseless carriage' concept. Hughson bought 12 of Ford's first cars in 1903 and became the West Coast dealer for Ford. He was the first Ford dealership. After Hughson's death in 1969 the dealership carried on for another decade before closing.

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ERNEST INGOLD CHEVROLET, San Francisco (1937-6*)/ Currently occupied by BMC- Bentley

dealer ernest ingold chev olsen chev bcm bentley san fran

Ernest Ingold Chevrolet was located at 999 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, California. This showroom was built in 1937 in Art Deco style. The top of the building had Chevrolet spelled out along the length of the building, while the middle bar with the clock carried Ingold's name. This was the last new showroom built on Van Ness Avenue's famous 'auto row'. The name was altered to reflect a partnership with George Olsen who had been the manager dating back into the 1930s.

In the early 1960s Ingold Chevrolet became known as Ingold-Olsen Incorporated Chevrolet Headquarters. After Ingold dropped out of the dealership in the 1960s, the location was home to George Olsen Chevrolet. See more information further down the page.

The building survives to the present day as the British Motor Cars Distributors who primarily sell Bentley from the well preserved old building. Next door heading south, BMC deals Jaguar out of the building constructed for Earle C Anthony Packard at 901 Van Ness Avenue.

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KRIEGER & SONS (Oldsmobile), San Francisco, CA (1933-196*)/became Wayne Olds/ Closed

Krieger & Sons was an Oldsmobile dealer located at 2950 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, California. They had a used car lot nearby at 2955 Geary Blvd. Geary was a secondary dealer row, not quite as impressive as Van Ness Avenue.

Tapping into the Bay Area predilection for foreign cars, aside from the Oldsmobile line, Krieger & Sons also carried Peugeot and Renault. In the early 1960s Spencer Buick which was also downtown in San Fran hedged their bets by adding Ferrari to their inventory! This trend didn't appear nationwide until the end of the 1960s when Buick dealers started to carry Opel and Chrysler offered a rebadged foreign car named The Cricket. Krieger & Sons stated that their service facilities occupied two full city blocks.

The 2950 Geary Blvd location became home to Wayne Oldsmobile Inc in the late 1960s.

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J. W. LEAVITT OLDSMOBILE, San Francisco, CA (1917-27)/ became Flynn & Collins Ford

dealer j w leavitt olds san fran now toyota

J. W. Leavitt Oldsmobile was located on dealer row at 1701 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, California from the construction of the building for them until 1927 when Flynn & Collins Ford took over the location. The building as shown in the picture above is currently occupied by Toyota of San Francisco.

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DON LEE CADILLAC, San Francisco, CA (1913- building torn down 198*)

Don Lee Cadillac was located at 1601 Van Ness Avenue on the Northwest corner of California and Van Ness in an elaborate purpose built showroom dating back to 1913. This became part of the extravagant 'dealer's row' that appeared in San Francisco, California during the 1920s. Donald Musgrave Lee was born August 12, 1880 in Michigan and set up business in Los Angeles.

Don Lee was the exclusive West Coast Cadillac dealer for many years. Don Lee Inc also carried La Salle and Oldsmobile for a time. Don Lee bought Jacob W. Earl's custom car business named Earl Automobile Works. Based in Hollywood, California this proved to be a lucrative business creating custom built Cadillacs for the stars. The famous GM designer Harvey Earl was the son of the founder of Earl Automotive Works and managed the company for Don Lee under the name of Don Lee Coach and Body Works for a period before beginning his GM career.

Don Lee moved his San Francisco operations south from 1601 Van Ness when he built an even more spectacular building at 1000 Van Ness Avenue in 1920. The invoice below from 1937 uses the 1000 Van Ness address.

dealer don lee cadillac invoice san fran 1937

This building later became home base for his radio broadcasting ventures with a radio station relocated to the top floor. Don Lee experimented with TV and branched out into other radio networks. His sudden death of heart attack in 1934 put his son Thomas "Tommy" Lee in charge. Tommy was also short lived and passed away in 1950.

When Don Lee Cadillac left the huge building at 1000 Van Ness, other Cadillac dealers occupied the space until the 1960s. The Don Lee Cadillac building at O'Farrell street was converted into the AMC 1000 Cineplex.

From 1921 until 1950 the Don Lee 1913 dealership building was occupied by Charles S. Howard Buick. High real estate values and impossible parking led to the closing and demolition of dealerships in the 1980s.

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LESHER MUIRHEAD OLDSMOBILE, San Francisco, CA (196*) Moved to Colma

Lesher Muirhead Oldsmobile was located at 1515 South Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, California during the 1960s. It is possible that this dealer was created from the assets of C. M. Murphy Olds. See the story further down this page.

Lesher Muirhead Olds relocated to 780 Serramonte Boulevard in Colma at the end of the 1970s. In honor of its new address the dealership was renamed Serramonte Oldsmobile. After closing in 1993, the Serramonte Oldsmobile location became the home of another displaced long time San Francisco dealership named Stewart Chevrolet.

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LYTLE BUICK, San Francisco, CA (1950-)/ Closed

Lytle Buick took over the 1913 Don Lee Cadillac building on Van Ness's dealer row at 1601 Van Ness Avenue. The building was constructed for Don Lee in 1913, but he built himself a larger dealership at 1000 Van Ness. The 1913 building was occupied for a longer stint by Charles S. Howard Buick. Howard was here from 1921 until 1950. After Lytle Buick moved on, Berl Berry Ford moved into the building.

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C. M. MURPHY OLDSMOBILE, San Francisco, CA/ Closed

C. M. Murphy Oldsmobile was located at 3950 19th Avenue, San Francisco, California during the 1950s and 1960s. Murphy had a used car lot at 7255 Mission Street, San Francisco and a bodyshop at 201 School in Daly City. It is possible that the assets of this dealership evolved into Lesher Muirhead Oldsmobile.

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FRED R. NICHOLS (Dodge), San Francisco, CA/ Closed

Fred R. Nichols was a Dodge dealer located at 1509 Valencia in San Francisco, California in the 1950s and 1960s.

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GEORGE OLSEN CADILLAC, San Francisco, CA (196*)/ Formerly George Olsen Chevrolet/ Currently occupied by BMC- Bentley

dealer george olsen cadillac san fran license

George Olsen Cadillac was located on dealer row at 999 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, California. This showroom was built in 1937 in Art Deco style for Ingold Chevrolet which closed down in the 1960s. George Olsen was manager at Ingold tracing back to the 1930s and formed a partnership with Ingold. When Olsen became sole owner the name was changed to George Olsen Chevrolet. In 1971 the dealer was renamed George Olsen Cadillac Inc. and Chevrolet was dropped. George Olsen died in 1974.

His son George Olsen, Jr. took over the business. In 1994 the dealership became known as George Olsen Cadillac Buick-Olds-GMC reflecting the further expansion of their roster. In a 2001 interview for a union newsletter George Olsen, Jr. stated that if he didn't already own the property he wouldn't be able to stay open due to the decline of domestics and the high property values in San Francisco.

British Motor Car Distributors are the current occupants. BMC deals primarily in Bentley from the well preserved old building.

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GEORGE OLSEN CHEVROLET, San Francisco, CA (196*)/ Became George Olsen Cadillac

George Olsen Chevrolet was located on dealer row at 999 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, California. This showroom was built in 1937 in Art Deco style for Ingold Chevrolet which closed down in the 1960s. George Olsen was manager at Ingold tracing back to the 1930s and formed a partnership with Ingold. When Olsen became sole owner the name was changed to George Olsen Chevrolet. In 1971 the dealer was renamed George Olsen Cadillac Inc. and Chevrolet was dropped. See the story on George Olsen Cadillac above.

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PRIOLA RAMBLER (Checker), San Francisco, CA/ Closed

Priola Rambler was located at 4900 Mission in San Francisco, California. They were also an authorized Checker dealer as well. Priola had a used car lot at 4907 Mission. George M. Priola was the owner.

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ULRICH REMENSPERGER CO (Ford), San Francisco, CA/ became Campbell & Dalton Ford

Ulrich Remensperger Company was a Ford dealership located at 1375 Golden Gate Avenue, near Fillmore, San Francisco, California in the early teen years of the 1900s. Golden Gate was the first area developed into a dealer row before Van Ness Avenue exploded with dealerships. The Remensperger Co dealership expanded with a second location built in 1922 on 3800 Geary. Geary became a mini dealer row, the third one to develop in San Francisco. After Remensperger Co left, this building went on to house L M Schomer Chevrolet then had a long stint with Boas Pontiac. After Packard, Nash, Volvo and others cycled through it eventually became Reynolds & Seiler Rambler.

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REDWOOD LINCOLN-MERCURY INC, San Francisco, CA/ formerly Jim Wessman/ Closed

Redwood Lincoln-Mercury Inc was located at 1301 Van Ness Avenue San Francisco, California. This lot was the former location of Jim Wessman Lincoln-Mercury which was billed as the 'West's largest L-M dealer." Redwood's tag line was that they were "San Francisco's only authorized Lincoln Mercury dealer".

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REYNOLDS & SIELER RAMBLER, San Francisco, CA/ became San Francisco Toyota

Billed as 'San Francisco's Oldest Rambler Dealer' Reynolds & Seiler Rambler was located at 3800 Geary at 2nd Ave in San Francisco, California. The building traces back to 1922 when it was a Ford dealership named Ulrich Remensperger Company. After serving host to Campbell & Dalton Ford and then L M Schomer Chevrolet it had a long term tenant with Boas Pontiac. Following Boas' move to a purpose built super showroom down the street, Packard, Nash and Volvo amongst others cycled through.

Reynolds Rambler moved into the location in 1956. As Rambler and AMC went into decline Reynolds looked for a way to boost sales and found it in 1966 when Toyota was added to the lineup. Toyota kept the dealership alive during the transition period of decline for Rambler and AMC. By the 1970s the location only sold Toyota and the name was changed to Bob Reynolds Toyota. The location is currently home to San Francisco Toyota.

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S & C FORD, San Francisco, CA/ (19**-2008) Closed

dealer s and c ford san fran ca liceense frame

S & C Ford was located at 211 Industrial Street in San Francisco, California. The Industrial location was taken over by San Francisco Ford Lincoln Mercury in 2008 and closed soon afterwards.

The company was known as S & C Motors during the 1960s. The new car dealership during the 1960s was located at 2001 Market Street. This location was taken over by Ion Used Cars. S & C was apparently connected with South City Ford. S & C Ford was one of the longest lasting Ford dealers in USA, but over time the buildings became rundown and poorly managed leading to closure in 2008. One of the old S & C buildings located at 35 Dolores Street was rezoned for condo development in 2009.

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S & M MOTORS (Dodge), San Francisco, CA/ Closed

S & M Motors was a Dodge dealer located at 4041 Geary in San Francisco, California during the 1960s before the acronym S & M became widely associated in pop culture to mean Sadomasochism. If they were still in business today the name would certainly cause some misinterpretations!

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SAN FRANCISCO FORD LINCOLN MERCURY, San Francisco, CA/ (2008-2011) Closed

San Francisco Ford Lincoln Mercury was located on San Fran's biggest auto row, at 1595 Van Ness Avenue. The location was the site of a Ford dealership that Ford Corporate bought back from the franchise owner in 2008. The building was the site of Charles Howard Buick for many years prior to Ford taking over the dealership lot. See the story about Howard Buick to see a photo of the building today.

The San Francisco FLM dealership closed abruptly on April 30, 2011 after being taken over by Ford Motor Company three years prior. The closure of this dealership made the papers as it had the dubious honor of being the final domestic car dealership in San Francisco. Their closure marked the end all domestic dealerships in San Francisco. Their service center was located at 211 Industrial which was the former location of S & C Ford.

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L M SCHOMER CHEVROLET, San Francisco, CA/ (1934-7)- Closed

L M Schomer Chevrolet was located at 3800 Geary at 2nd Ave in San Francisco, California. Chevrolet took over this building in 1934 which was purpose built a decade earlier for Ulrich Remensperger Company and subsequently served as another Ford agency called first Campbell & Dalton and later Walter G Campbell Ford. When Chevrolet departed it served as the Boas Pontiac location for a few decades.

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SCRIPTURE PONTIAC CO, San Francisco, CA/ (1950s- became Wayne Pontiac Inc 1960s)

Scripture Pontiac Company was located at 1215 Ocean Drive in San Francisco, California during the 1950s. In the 1960s the company was renamed Wayne Pontiac Inc.

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SPENCER BUICK Inc, San Francisco, CA (1954-)/ Closed

Spencer Buick Inc was located at 3700 Geary Boulevard at Arguello in San Francisco, California. Spencer Buick originally opened in 1954 at 740 Taraval. When Spencer moved, the dealership location was taken over at the start of the 1960s by Holiday Chevrolet. Spencer Buick was opened by a father and son team. The younger of the two, Beverly Spencer became sole owner later on.

Starting in 1963 Spencer Buick carried both Buick and Ferrari which seems an odd combination until you remember that the Bay Area has always had a particularly keen appetite for foreign cars. Krieger & Sons in downtown San Francisco is another example of a domestic dealer playing the foreign card as well. Krieger was an Olds dealer who hedged their bets by adding Peugeot and Renault to their inventory in the early 1960s. Ferrari was a natural for Spencer Buick because the owner Bev Spencer was a racer who drove Ferrari's in competition. Buicks received some attention at these events since Spencer used a Riviera as his tow vehicle!

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SPERRY & LEWIS FORD, San Francisco, CA/ (1916)/ Closed

Sperry & Lewis Ford was the first dealership to open along Geary which became a mini version of the Van Ness auto row. Sperry & Lewis Ford was located at 3924 Geary, San Francisco, California.

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STEWART CHEVROLET CADILLAC, Colma, CA/ 415-347-3291

STEWART CHEVROLET CO, San Francisco, CA (1933)/ moved to Colma, CA

dealer stewart chev san fran license frame

Stewart Chevrolet Co was originally located in downtown San Francisco at 3146 Mission Street near Army Street. To see a story of a 1964 Chevrolet Impala bought new from this dealer go to the ONE OWNER section of this website.

Stewart Chevrolet's website states that they have been in business since 1933.

Stewart relocated to 780 Serramonte Blvd, Colma, California which is adjacent to Daly City, just south of San Francisco. The dealership lot was formerly occupied by Serramonte Oldsmobile which in turn had originated in San Francisco like Stewart. Serramonte Olds closed in 1993. This segment of Serramonte Blvd is a mini dealer row.

Directly across from Stewart there is Serramonte Ford and down the street there is Stewart Chrysler which the Stewart family purchased recently. To see photos of the current dealership look in the CALIFORNIA/ SAN FRANCISCO Bay Area Dealers story filed below this story.

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TARAVAL RAMBLER INC, San Francisco, CA/ Closed

Taraval Rambler Inc was a Rambler dealer located at 200 Taraval in San Francisco, California during the 1960s.

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VAN ETTA MOTORS (Mercury), San Francisco, CA

Van Etta Motors was a Mercury dealer located at 1301 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco during the 1950s.

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VAN NESS CHRYSLER PLYMOUTH INC, San Francisco, CA/ Closed

(also known as: SCOTT'S VAN NESS CHRYSLER PLYMOUTH)

Van Ness Chrysler Plymouth Inc was located at 901 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, California during the 1960s. Van Ness Chrysler Plymouth Inc was also known by the name 'Scott's Van Ness Chrysler Plymouth'. They also carried Imperial although it was not included in the business name.

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VAN NESS DODGE INC, San Francisco, CA/ Closed

Van Ness Dodge Inc was located at 1699 Van Ness Avenue at Sacramento in San Francisco, California during the 1960s which placed it right across the street from similarly named Van Ness Oldsmobile.

Van Ness Dodge was a factory owned dealership without a dealer principle. Dodge Corporation chose Robert "Bob' White to manage Van Ness Dodge based on his experience in partnership with Van Peabody of Peabody Motors in San Leandro, California. Bob managed Van Ness Dodge from 1961 until 1964. Bob tripled sales during his 3 years as manager.

Bob relocated the dealership service department to 1429 Vallejo (between Polk and Larkin). The new cars were transported by carrier from South San Francisco during daytime open hours. In later years the store was open until 9 PM and trucks would unload in evening. The trucks unloaded on Sacramento Street. Once off the truck cars were loaded on the elevator and assigned to a particular floor according to the model. The sales people knew which of the 4 floors in the building to take the customers depending on what model they were interested in.

Some of the new cars were stored a fair distance away. Bob's son, Michael who was only 16 at the time worked Saturdays at the dealership and Monday through Friday during summer vacation. Unlike imports, the domestics were shipped  by train. The new Dodges were stored in South San Francisco down in the Candle Stick park area. Van Ness Dodge had a little Simca car that Michael and his teenage buddy drove down to get a 'sold' car out of storage. The 2 high schoolers turned the windshield washers around and got people wet in the cross walks.

Michael and his friend explored the 4 floors on Van Ness and rode the elevator designed to move the cars up and down. Michael and his teenage pal discovered a Harley Davidson 3 wheeler used by the parts dept to deliver parts to repair shops. Michael got it started and the boys used it to explore San Francisco. Michael recalls lunching at the 'Hippo' on Van Ness.

Michael remembers 1 month that Van Ness sold 65 new cars and 20 used. Not many by modern standards but it was apparently quite a feat in the context of the time and place.

Bob's success managing Van Ness Dodge prompted the Chrysler Corporation to offer him his own dealership in San Francisco. Bob purchased Winters Chrysler Plymouth and renamed it Geary Chrysler Plymouth. See the story above on this page.

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VAN NESS OLDSMOBILE, San Francisco, CA/ Closed

Van Ness Olds was located at 1700 Van Ness Avenue at the corner of Sacramento Street and was GM dealer number 23-871 in the late 1960s. Prior to carrying Oldsmobile this building was expressly built in 1919 to house Chandler and Cleveland cars. Later Chevrolet and Oldsmobile took over the elaborate building. Sadly, the building was demolished at the turn of the century.

Jules Mario Barsotti established Van Ness Oldsmobile in the late 1950s. Jules was born Feb 9, 1921 in San Francisco to immigrants from Lucca and Genoa, Italy: Julio and Mary Barsotti. Jules was raised in Healdsburg and San Francisco. He earned his Bachelors degree from the University of San Francisco and his MBA from Stanford University.

By the early 1960s Van Ness Olds also carried Fiat which made Jules appear to be a good prospect in the eyes of a Mercedes representative wishing to establish a California presence for Mercedes. Jules pondered the idea but in the end declined to add a Mercedes franchise because at this time and place it was just considered an oddity. After a month of approaching other dealers and getting nowhere the Mercedes rep returned to Van Ness Olds with an offer Jules could not refuse. Jules founded San Francisco's first Mercedes-Benz dealership in 1963, followed by a second dealership in Oakland. The Mercedes franchise did so well that Jules was able to buy the building at 960 Van Ness.

Jules maintained Presidentcy of both businesses for over 45 years and for 20 of those years Michael White was manager. Michael's father Bob White was owner of Geary Chrysler Plymouth and good friends with Jules. Michael recalls that Jules had a style similar to his own father. Both men created a family atmosphere in their dealerships and encouraged long term careers and positive relations between workers.

Jules collected classic Mercedes-Benz cars and model boats. Jules was a member of the San Francisco Yacht Club and Saint Francis Yacht Club.  Jules died Aug 25, 2008 aged 87 at his home in Belvedere, California. His son David carried on the family tradition and now owns the Mercedes dealership.

To see a story about a 1969 Cutlass S bought new from the Van Ness Olds dealership see the ONE FAMILY section of the CAR STORIES on this website.

Van Ness Avenue was and is a major north/ south route in San Francisco. Van Ness traces its history as a major auto row between Market and Pacific Streets back to 1910. The peak of activity crested in the 1950s and 1960s. Many of the domestic dealerships have since folded up shop, replaced by foreign distributors who didn't need the luxurious display areas the high end domestics warranted. Many of the dealers had car elevators or ramps for storage in the higher floors. Some of the buildings were specifically commissioned for the dealerships.

The buildings that survived were recently supplanted by building development as the land in San Francisco became increasingly valuable. See stories about these dealers under their names in this section of the website.

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LES VOGEL CHEVROLET CO, San Francisco, CA (193*-) / Closed

Les Vogel Chevrolet Company was originally located at Market and Van Ness Ave. In the early 1960s a larger facility was purpose built located at 1640 Mission, San Francisco, California.

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WATERS BUICK INC, San Francisco, CA/ Closed

Waters Buick Inc was located on Van Ness Avenue right at Market placing it one of the most major intersections in San Francisco, California.

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BOB WATERS STUDEBAKER, San Francisco, CA/ Closed

Bob Waters Studebaker was located at 1701 Van Ness Avenue directly across from Van Ness Oldsmobile during the 1960s.

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WAYNE OLDSMOBILE INC, San Francisco, CA/ formerly Krieger & Sons/ Closed

Wayne Oldsmobile Inc was located at 2950 Geary Boulevard in San Francisco, California. Wayne Pontiac was around for nearly decade prior to the appearance of Wayne Olds which took over the Krieger and Sons Oldsmobile lot.

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WAYNE PONTIAC INC, San Francisco, CA/ Closed

Wayne Pontiac Inc was located at 1215 Ocean Avenue in San Francisco, California in the 1960s. During the 1950s this was the location of a dealership named Scripture Pontiac Company.

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JIM WESSMAN INC (Lincoln Mercury), San Francisco, CA/ Closed

Jim Wessman Inc was a Lincoln Mercury dealer located on 1301 Van Ness Ave at Sutter, San Francisco, California. During the mid 1960s Wessman claimed to be the world's largest Lincoln Mercury dealer. In the later 1960s the location became the site of Redwood Lincoln-Mercury Incorporated.

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CECIL WHITEBONE INC (Ford), San Francisco, CA/ (see Rett-White, Walnut Creek) Closed

Cecil Whitebone Inc was a Ford dealer located at 950 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, California during the 1950s and 1960s. Cecil Whitebone also owned 49% of Rett-White Motor Sales Company in Walnut Creek, California during the 1950s. Whitebone was assigned Ford dealer # 72A003.

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WINTERS CHRYSLER PLYMOUTH, San Francisco, CA (became Geary Chry Ply)

Winters Chrysler Plymouth was located on the corner of Geary at 3245 Geary Blvd in San Francisco, California. In early 1965 Robert 'Bob' White purchased this dealership and renamed it Geary Chrysler Plymouth due to its location on Geary. Bob was the manager of factory owned Van Ness Dodge which was also located in San Francisco. Prior to that he was in partnership in San Leandro, California with Van Peabody at Peabody Motors. See a full story about Bob further up the page in the Geary Chrysler Plymouth story.

 

 

 

the Dodges were in south SF  down in the candle stick park area. Unlike imports domestics were shipped  by train  we had a little Simca car and would sometimes drive down to get a "sold" car usually on a Saturday or if it was summer vacation I worked there Monday through Friday The little Simca was fun and a high school friend and I turned the windshield washers around and got people wet in the cross walks. There were four floors there on Van Ness with an elevator to move the cars up and down. Up on the 4th flr we discovered a Harley three wheeler used by the parts dept to deliver parts to repair shops. I got it started and we rode it all over.. went to lunch at the "Hippo" cool place to eat on Van Ness . The cars were transported by carrier from South SF during the open hours (day) sometimes later the store was open until 9pm The trucks would unload on Sacramento St Once off the truck they were put on the elevator and put on a floor by model so the sales people would no where to take the customers depending on what model they were interested in.

 

one month they sold 65 new cars and 20 used. Not many on todays numbers but it was apparently quite a feat. At Geary they sold 11 cars on a Saturday and that was huge for that store. there was around 12 salesman with new and used on the ground floor  By t1964 I was a car nut  and followed the" Melrose Missile" Melrose Chrysler Plymouth in Oakland 426 Plymouth .....  For storage at Geary there was a storage building on Hayes the cars were dropped off there and prepped for retail. I liked hanging out there. There was guy there that raced cars and was fun to talk to. When my Hemi rolled off the truck I was there and he said "don't baby it" I said what do you mean he said let me take it down the street. He burned rubber for a long block it had 6 miles on it. The car is stored up in Oakland with a few other cars..

Last Updated ( Monday, 16 February 2015 11:31 )