1955 Thrifty Parking Lot Show

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55 THRIFTY PARKING LOT

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1955 Hot Rod and Custom Car show held at the new Thrifty Drug Store on Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles.

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Original article from August 09, 2018, updated August 26, 2019.

In the 1950’s it was very common to organize Hot Rod and Custom Car shows at the local parking lots large public facilities as drug stores, stadiums etc. The parking lots were huge easily accessible and it was easy to rope off a section for the show. One of the most famous of these parking lot Shows was a show with high end custom cars held at an Los Angeles Thrifty Drug store in May 1954 which we covered in this CCC-Article.

Since we did that article I have been collecting photos of outdoor parking lot car shows I came across to add to this what I hope to become a series on parking lot car show articles. Several early and mid 1950’s magazines had a few photos taken at these parking lot shows which I had not been able to identify until I came across an article on the Hot Rod Magazine Article featuring some really great photos taken by Rick Rickman.

One photo in particular stood out to me. A picture taken at a Thrifty Drug store in May 1955 showing the Hirohata Mercury, in it later lime gold paint, Dave Bugarin’s 1951 Mercury and Bob Dofflow’s ’49 Ford. And while drooling over that photo I realized I had seen a few more photos taken at the same location, and now I was able to place them all at one May 5th, 1955 event held at the Thrifty Drug Store at the corner of Vermont Avenue and Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles. And, perhaps just as important. The photo caption from the Hot Rod magazine article explained why these car shows were held at the Thrifty Drug Show… and how it was possible that all these high end Custom Cars were at this and the 1954 show.

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This was taken at a show at a Thrifty drug store on May 5, 1955, at the corner of Vermont Avenue and Hollywood Blvd. From right to left we can see, Bob Hirohata’s 1951 Mercury with the new (after the Running Wild movie shoot) lime gold paint job, and door mounted mirror, Dave Bugarin’s 1951 Mercury (both by Barris), next to Dave’s Merc is Bob Dofflow’s ’49 Ford restyled by Bear Customs, and next to that we can see the top and a few other small details of what most likely is the 1948 Mercury of Cliff Rackohn (thanks Anthony White for identifying that one) Behind Bob’s Ford we can see a ’46 Chevy panel truck with roof rack, which was most likely used by Rick Rickman to make the overhead photos.

From the Hot Rod magazine article

Three rolls that Rickman logged into Petersen’s in-house lab on May 9, 1955, as “Thrifty Drug NHRA Show” mystified archive divers for decades. In our July 2010 issue, founding HRD editor David Freiburger published six pages of parking-lot pictures, including one showing NHRA’s third employee and Drag Safari organizer, Chic Cannon, with an L.A. sheriff’s deputy. Left unexplained were who organized the event, and why, and how a gathering of so many famous hot rods, race cars, sport specials, and especially customs apparently never made HRM or its sister magazines.

In 2013, Cannon’s autobiography answered the first two questions: “Since I had some experience organizing car clubs, Wally gave me the position of [NHRA] National Club Advisor. My cousin, Art Crawford, was in marketing … and had Thrifty Drug Stores as a client of his. They were developing new shopping centers all over Southern California, and Art asked me to help promote the grand openings…. So in 1954 and ’55, I organized about a dozen car shows.” As for why at least two were thoroughly photographed on Petersen film but never made print, Chic’s insight leads us to suspect that Rick’s assignment came from NHRA president Wally Parks—not his HRM boss and editor, also named Wally Parks.

Possibly the photo lab supplied sets of prints, only, to NHRA and/or Chic’s cousin for promotional purposes, while the negatives were filed, as usual, with the publishing company.

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Close up of the Hirohata Mercury which was at the 1955 show with the new lime gold and organic green below the Buick spear paint. The color was changed, because it needed to be updated after having been on the road for a few years, but also because a darker hue would show better on camera for the Running Wild movie. Most likely the Mercury was still owned by Bob Hirohata, but he did sell it in 1955. Notice both the hood and trunk are open, and the public can come very close to the cars, even touch it.

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The Dave Bugarin ’51 Mercury and Bob Dofflow’s ’49 Ford a bit more close up. It must have been an amazing sight to see these high quality, magazine featured and show award winning Customs lined up in the parking lot.

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Here’s a shot of the other side of the parking lot. Possibly taken from the roof of the Hovey 1946 Chevy panel truck we can see in the top photo. In the foreground are Dave Bugarin’s ’51 Merc, next to the Hirohata Merc, and unidentified chopped padded top early 40’s Chevy and two more light colored customs I have not been able to identify. On the other sied are three drag cars including the Sparks & Bonny Willys and on the far right we can see the front of the pale yellow Chuck Porter truck. It is amazing to see that people could walk up to the car and even touch them.

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Close up of the Hirohata Mercury and Dave Bugarin Mercury, both Barris Kustom Shop creations.

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Taken from the same high location as the previous photo, but taken at a different angle shows Bob Dofflow’s ’49 Ford the best of all the known photos shared from this event.

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Show officials checking out the Hirohata Merc.

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The Ayala/Barris Bettancourt Mercury also made an appearance.

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Also taken from the roof rack, but now facing the opposite direction from the photos shown earlier. This side of the parking lot had more of the Hot Rod entries. The only car I recognize is the ’34 Ford with the padded top which was owned by Earl Schieb or possibly his son, Al at the time.

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Slightly different perspective.

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Mild custom line up on the road side.

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Mild Mercury Hard-Top with ’53 Pontiac Wagon taillights.

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Subtle touches on this early 50’s Chevy convertible.

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Love the super smooth rear end of the 1952 Chevy fastback, especially interesting are the taillights in the Kaiser over-rider. ’51 Ford Sedan looks good with the Pontiac grille bar and smoothed hood. Simple, but very effective.

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Many thanks to the Petersen Archive for sharing these amazing photos on the Hot Rod Magazine website. And hopefully many more from those 3 rolls of film that Rick Rickman took in 1955 of this event will be shared. And hopefully more of the 1954 and perhaps any of the other events held at the Thrifty parking lot will be shared. With such top cars in attendance at these outdoor events it would make sense if many more photos were taken. By professional photographers, as well as by car owners and those who came to look at the cars at these free Custom Car Shows. If any of our readers know about more photos from these events, or know more about the events themselves, please email Rik here at the Custom Car Chronicle.

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There were quite a few photos of this customized Muntz with Hemi engine. I guess Rick Rickman realy liked it, or perhaps planned to do a feature on it?

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Awards

David Zivot send us two photo of a Trophy from his Personal Collection.
“This trophy from my personal collection
was awarded to the 2nd Place winner at a Thrifty Drugs grand opening less than a week earlier than the show from this article. It appears that the Thrifty and Alexander’s Market sponsored show (in cooperation with the NHRA) was held one street over on Sunset & Vermont, at the Barnsdall Shopping Center.
It would be very interesting to discover which customs were in attendance at this show, and who won this 2nd Place award.”

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These photos, the awards and the notes from the Hot Rod Magazine article that there were a series of Car Show held at the Thrifty Drug Store parking lots across LA makes me really wonder how many of these shows were held in 1954-55. And how they were advertised. So far I have still not been able to find any announcement for these shows. Possibly announcements were made in the local news-paper, or perhaps posters were made that were distributed at the local hang-outs? Who knows more?

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1954 aerial view showing the parking lot where the ’55 Car Show was held.

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(this article is sponsored by)

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Parking Lot Photo Poster

 

PARKING LOT PHOTO POSTER

 

The famous Colorized 1954 Thrifty Drug Store Parking Lot Show photo is now available as high quality large Photo-Poster.

 

Originally created as part of an Rodder’s Journal Article (issue # 33) in 2006 by CCC-Editor Rik Hoving. The original, already amazing black and white photo was taken in 1954 at an Car show organized at an Los Angeles Thrifty Drug Store parking lot. Rik Hoving spend over a month meticulously adding color to every little detail of this photo, to make a brilliant color photo. Showing all the amazing top class Custom Cars in full color like you have never seen before. The prints from the Rodder’s Journal are nice, but wait until you see this image done as the Photo Enlargement Poster now offered by the Custom Car Chronicle. The glossy photo paper and used techniques create very deep colors, and replicate details from the original image you have not seen before. This poster (24 x 20 inch USA, or 75 x 50 cm Europe /World) is a huge color photo, far superior than the regular RJ poster in colors, sharpness and appearance. Plus this poster comes with the full image as how it was developed in 1954, with no text or logo’s added, ready for you to frame and hang on the wall. Check out THIS CCC-Article for all the info on this amazing photo.

Support the Custom Car Chronicle
Want to support the CCC, and have an amazing photo poster on the wall of your favorite room, then order this high quality Photo Poster today. Your support will allow us to continue documenting the history of the Custom Car, create in depth and inspiring articles, and informative threads on the CCC-main site and Forum. All profits from the sales of the Parking Lot Show Colorized Photo Poster flow directly into the Custom Car Chronicle.

Photo Poster 24 x 20 inch USA Order

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Photo Poster 75 x 50 centimeter Europe / World Order

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If you have any questions, or want to order more than one poster, please Email Rik at the Custom Car Chronicle, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
Thank you.

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The Photo Posters will be created and packaged by professionals, and the most care will be taken to get the poster to your door in perfect condition. The Posters will be shipped flat protected by heavy cardboard in the USA. In Europe and the rest of the world the posters will be shipped, rolled up in soft protective paper, inside a square protective box.

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Thrifty Parking-lot Show

 

TRIFTY PARKING-LOT SHOW

 

In May 1954 the Lords Car Club organized a free one day outdoor Car Show at the Thrifty Drug Store in Los Angeles. The Customs they gathered for this event was the best of the best.



One of the most incredible photos of the Golden Age of Custom cars must be the birds eye view photo taken in 1954 at the Thrifty drug store in Los Angeles. This single photo shows no less than 12 top rate Custom Cars and four more Hot Rods parked together at a free outdoor show. The photo was professionally taken from the roof of the Thrifty drug store on Rodeo Rd and LA Brea on May 14, 1954. All the cars are as good as Crystal clear and sharp, and we are able to see them from an angle we usually don’t see.

The first time I saw this photo was in an Hot Rod magazine July 1989, but only very little could be seen because the lay-out artist had covered all the cars with captions and other inset photos. Fortunately for use more people must have noticed the photo and notified the R&C team about this. In the December 1989 issue of R& C they published a nice large black and white print of this amazing photos and identified most of the cars in the photo. Later I came across the same photo on the back cover of the 1955 Custom Cars annual… but there it was also partly covered and rather small.

CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-colorizedFor the Rodder’s Journal #33 I created a series of colorized old black and white photos of Custom Cars, the piece the resistance was this overview photo of the outdoor car show at the Thrifty drug store parking lot in 1954. It took me nearly a month to add all the color to this intense photo.
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When I started working on a series of colorized photos for the Rodder’s Journal back in 2006 this parking lot photo came to my attention again. How great would it be to see this old black and white photo in color?! I discussed the possibilities with the RJ team, and they provided the high res scan made from the Greg Sharp Collection photo. To be able to see this photo in high res with all the details on my computer screen was a real treat. It took me a while to figure out all the colors on the car and had some help from Greg Sharp and a few other people who remembered the cars from back in the early 1950’s.

We do not know much about the show other than the things we can see in the photos and the amazing thing that over the years information was shared that at least two of the trophies give at this show survived. One for the Chuck DeWitt Shoebox by Barris and the other for Jack Stewart’s MG restyled by George Cerny. We also know that the Lords Car Club from Wilmington, Ca hosted the show and that the Thrifty Drug Store was the sponsor of this one day free in cooperation with the NHRA show. In our research we have not been able to come up with any kind of advertising or promotional material for this show. But looking at the high quality cars at the show the information for it must have been spread well.
Lets take a closer look at the cars that were at the show with cropped images from the original photo, and with the information we have gathered on the show. Some of the cars are hidden quite a bit by other cars so we used some other photos to show them a little better.



Identifying the cars on the parking lot

In the right row from top to bottom:


CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-earl-bruceEarl Bruce’s 1940 Ford coupe
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-fuzzy-luscariFuzzy Luscari’s 1940 Ford pickup
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-bob-mcneilBob McNeil’s black Chuck Porter-built 1932 Ford three window coupe
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-29-roadsterUnidentified 1929 Ford highboy
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-pere-bantaJack Pere and Lou Banta’s red track nose model T Ford
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-hirohataBob Hirohata Barris built 1951 Mercury. Click HERE if you want to read more articles on the Hirohata Mercury
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-ray-moreRay More’s 1952 Ford which would later get a wonderful Larry Watson paint job in maroon and gold outlines
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-jay-johnstonJay Johnston’s cream and orange version of his 1949 Ford
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-bettancourtKaiser bumper over rider and front section of the Louis Bettancourt 1949 Mercury restyled by the Ayala brothers and later redone by Barris.
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Right row from top to bottom:

 

CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-thornburgh-02Tommy Thornburgh’s 1947 Studebaker convertible built by Barris.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-don-carroll-02Don Carroll’s 1949 Ford convertible built by Gaylord.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-jack-nethercutt-02Jack Nethercutt’s Barris built 1952 Oldsmobile. (inset color photo from the Jack Nethercutt collection)
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-buster-litton-02Buster Litton – Don Schaedel Barris Kustoms / Cerny built 1949 Ford “Panoramic Ford”. Click HERE if you want to read more about the Buster Litton Panoramic Ford.
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Chuck DeWitt’s Barris built 1950 Ford convertible

The Chuck DeWitt 1959 Ford was awarded with a first place award at the Thrifty parking lot show. We only know this because James Washburn was given a box of trophies by a friend one day. His friend had bought the trophies at a Garage sale in Richmond Ca. for a buck a piece. His friend did not have a use for them, but remembered James asking him that whenever he would come across old car related stuff as trophies etc and the price was right to get them for him. He went over with a box with trophies, James was not home so he left the box on his porch, and he forgot about them. It took James two month to find out who had given them to him. By then his friend could not really answer any of James questions about what else there was at the garage sale.

The only thing he did remember was that the garage sale was held by family members who’s grandfather had passed away and the attic was cleaned. Included in the box was at least one other trophy that had the name Chuck DeWitt engraved. So most likely all the trophies from this garage sale once belonged to Chuck and were the trophies won with his purple Barris Restyled 1950 Ford convertible with padded top. In the box there was also a trophy from this May 1954 Thrifty Drug Store Parking Lot Show… making us believe that Chuck won first place with his Shoebox at this show. We have tried to find out if the grandfather in the garage sale might have been Chuck deWitt, but so far we have been unable to verify this. Or perhaps the car was once sold to a new owner and the trophies went with the car?

CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-chuck-dewittChuck DeWitt’s 1950 Ford convertible by Barris. Click HERE if you want to read more on the Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford Coupe.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-dewitt-trophy-02The trophy from James Washburn’s collection and an inset photo of Chuck’s Ford taken at a different outdoor show.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-dewitt-trophy-03Close up of the photo-etched tag on the trophy. Los Angeles County, Auto Show Saturday May – 15 1954 Sponsored by Thrifty Los Angeles Rodeo Rd. andLA Brea. In Cooperation with NHRA “Dedicated to Sadety”.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-jesse-lopezJesse Lopez 1941 Ford Coupe created by Jesse and Sam Barris, when this photo was taken the car was owned by Danny Lares. After Danny had bought the car he had Barris add longer pieces of hood side trim and the Barris Crest.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-53-fordThe last car in this row is an unidentified mild customized 1953 Ford coupe. I have colorized it dark blue in the color photo, but I have no idea if that was the cars actual color.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-sportscustomAll the way on the top of the photo parked at the curb I spotted this unidentified Sports Custom. 
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The other side of the parking lot

Most of the focus on the Thrifty Drug Store 1954 Parking lot show has always been on the photo taken of the right side of the parking lot. This was the section were all the famous cars were parked. But the photographer also took at least two photo facing the other side of the parking lot at the event. And this allows us to see that the show was held at most of the side section on the Rodeo side of the complex. This photo also shows that the Lords of Wilmington Car Club, who hosted the car show, had a small booth set up in the center of the event section of the lot. This section of the parking lot has the “less famous” cars on display. Although there is a nice, unidentified, early 1940’s Chevy convertible with chopped padded top and a Barris Custom Merc on that side. Also the Shadoff Special Streamliner can be seen under the “Free” sign, the Drifters 1935 Ford with open hood and open drivers door in the middle of the photo.

CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-other-side-01The first photo from the “other side” was most likely taken earlier on the day. At least one car that we can see in the other photo is missing, and it also seems to be a little less crowded.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-other-side-02This photo looks to be taken a little later on the day. Some more people are looking at the cars and what is very interesting is the lower section of the Shrifty sign on the top left part of the photo. The Dark colored Mercury in the center of the photo next to the Lords club booth appears to be Dale Marchall’s 1950 Mercury restyled by the Barris Shop.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-dale-marshallDale Marshall 1950 Mercury by Barris Kustoms.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-lords-car-club-02The Lords Car Club of Wilmington, Ca hosted the event which was sponsored by the Thrifty Drug Store. In this photo of the booth we can see several of the trophies to be given away at the end of the event, and some kind of magazines, or perhaps flyers. 
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-bannerSadly the two part banner is flipped over half way. But we think that the banner said “Free Auto Show Today”.
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Jack Stewart MG

When I visited Jack Stewart together with my friend Palle Johansen on the Jack Stewart Research trip in 2010 I photographed some of the trophies he still had from his 1941 Ford, his MG and his 32 Ford. Some of the trophies that belonged to his 1941 Ford were photographed in details, but the others not. Later when I wrote the Jack Stewart Ford book and wen I looked over the photos a bit better I noticed that one of the trophies that I did not shot in detail was from the Thrifty Car show. I recognized it from the Chuck DeWitt trophies. When we visited Jack for the last time in 2013 I asked him about the trophy and if it was perhaps from the MG. Jack could not really remember much from the show, but when I told him a little about the Thrifty parking lot Show he mentioned that he must have been there with the MG. The trophy is engraphed with “2nd”, but Sadly he could not remember anything else about it. Non of the photos taken at the event show Jack’s MG, although there are two MG’s visible in the “other side” photos, and a section in between the two photos is not covered in any of the photos.

CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-jack-stewart-01Jack’s MG custom restyled by George Cerny and the trophy Jack had saved all these years. Click HERE if you want to read more about the Jack Stewart MG.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-jack-stewart-02I digitally stretched the etched tag from Jack Stewart’s trophy to give us a better look at it.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-mapThe location of the Thrifty store where the Car Show was held in May 1954.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-stillMovie still from a drive thru Los Angeles in 1954 shows the Thrifty store and sign from Rodeo Rd. (Thank you Rob Radcliffe)
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-current-locationThis image from Google maps shows that the corner of Rodeo Drive and LA Brea is still a shopping area. At the former Thrifty drugstore there now is a Rite Aid Pharmacy. But the Thrifty sign structure on the corner is still there today.
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There are many amazing things about this one day free outdoor car show. The few photos that have surfaced of the show, the fact that two of the unknown number of trophies given out survived. And above all the amount of high-end Custom Cars gathered for this event. Can you imagine how it must have looked when the show was started, or even better ended, when all these amazing custom cars were started and driven from the lot, to cruise the LA streets on the way home. That must have been one amazing sight.



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