We have noted several times on this website that between 1955 and 1960, the number of Citroën dealerships in California ballooned from what you could count on one hand to nearly three dozen. This article discusses one of these dealerships in Oakland called, Hanzel Motors, operated by a man named Ed S. Hanzel. But there are four generations of Hanzels we plan to discuss in this story!
THE FIRST GENERATION HANZEL
In was early 1918 when a man named Leo J. Many (often mis-spelled “Manny”) and a partner named Sigmund Hanzel (often mis-spelled “Hansel”) started an automotive body shop in Oakland called, Many’s Auto Metal Works. Their shop was located at 2007 Broadway, in downtown Oakland.
Photo courtesy of the Hanzels from https://hanzelautobodyworks.weebly.com/about-hanzels.html
SIGMUND HANZEL IN HIS AUTOMOTIVE BODY SHOP IN 1918
Oakland Tribune, June 1919
In the late 1920’s, their business moved to 3450 Broadway in Oakland.
As can be seen from the above ad, their business focused on sheet metal repairs and other metal work, not engine or mechanical work. This was the beginning of a 98 year-long run, by multiple generation Hanzels, performing auto body work in Oakland.
Leo Many and Sigmund Hanzel operated their business fixing cars for about 10 years, but in September of 1929, Sigmund Hanzel published a legal notice in the Oakland Tribune newspaper that he and Leo Many would go separate ways, thereby dissolving their business. (Some sources indicate that this partnership split occurred in 1926, but from a legal standpoint, it seems to have occurred in 1929.)
Oakland Tribune, September 1929
1929 DISSOLOLUTION OF BUSINESS NOTICE
Despite this 1929 legal notice which implies that Leo Many and Sigmund Hanzel had gone separate ways, the Polk City Directories continued to list the business with both men’s names (e.g. Many and Hanzel) well into the 1930’s. By 1940 however, the directories listed the business name as Hanzel Auto Body Works and Leo Many’s name disappeared completely.
A bit of research into Leo Many's life after the split with Sigmund reveals a very sad story that we will not go into here.
1940 Polk City Directory
1940 PHONE BOOK ENTRY FOR HANZEL AUTO BODY WORKS
Sigmund Hanzel’s business moved one or perhaps two more times to different locations around Oakland, before the business was passed along to his son. One of these addresses, found in the above 1940 Polk Directory entry, was 2312 Valdez Street.
THE SECOND GENERATION HANZEL
Ed Hanzel was born in 1917 to parents Sigmund and Agnes Hanzel. Ed Hanzel spent the war years in the navy welding and repairing ships in exotic locations around the world. Upon returning from the war, he took over the family business in 1946 and had a new building custom built; 456 - 23rd Street in Oakland. The business’s name remained Hanzel Auto Body Works.
Ed Hanzel, while operating the body shop, had a side business in the early 1950’s making tow trucks out of pick-up trucks. The Hanzels called these tow trucks the Hanzlift. One of these Hanzlift trucks still exists and was still in use, well into the 2000’s.
Photo from motortrend.com website. Photo by Julia LaPalme, 2013
The Hanzlift truck in the above photo is still owned by the Hanzel family. It started out as a 1952 Ford F3 before being converted to a Hanzlift. You can read more about the Hanzlift here.
PATENT DIAGRAM FOR HANZLIFT, 1950
Patent Diagram for Hanzel Tow Truck
The patent number for Ed Hanzel’s Hanzlift is #2603370, filed on January 28, 1950 if you are interested.
ED HANZEL TRIES BECOMING NEW CAR DEALERSHIP
A big event occurred in 1955 under the second-generation ownership of the business; Ed Hanzel decided to become a new (and used) car dealership operating under the business name of Hanzel Motors. It looks like the first new car marque he took on was Panhard for which he started advertising in late 1955.
Oakland Tribune, December 1955
Oakland Tribune, December 1955
EARLY NEW CAR ADVERTISEMENTS FROM HANZEL MOTORS
When Ed Hanzel started selling new cars in 1955, he needed a showroom - something that the body shop at 466 - 23rd couldn’t offer. He initially chose a building at 2555 Broadway. This building was used from 1955 to mid-1957.
Google street view, 2021
HANZEL MOTORS FIRST LOCATION AT 2555 BROADWAY AS SEEN IN 2021
By early 1956, Hanzel’s started selling Citroëns and advertisements for Citroën DS19’s and 2CV’s were starting to show up. The earliest advertisement we can find for a Citroën at Hanzel Motors is the following ad which was placed in April of 1956, a very early date indeed for the DS model. Many more Hanzel advertisements for Citroëns followed in the next few years.
Notice that another company shows up in the ad; Meder Motor Sales. Meder Motors was a well-established dealership in Hayward, California, about 19 miles (30 km) south of Oakland. Meder Motors sold a variety of domestic and foreign marques over the years but briefly dabbled with Panhard and Citroën between about 1955 and 1957. Meder advertised with Hanzel Motors a number of times in this period, suggesting some sort of a limited partnership, at least for advertising.
Oakland Tribune, April 1956
BROCHURE FROM HANZEL’S FIRST NEW CAR DEALERSHIP ADDRESS
LLOYD AND MORGAN
Not long after Ed Hanzel started selling new Panhards and Citroëns, he added the Lloyd and Morgan marques to his line-up. Lloyd was a German car that was absorbed by the Borgward group, but was still marketed under the Lloyd name. An example of a Lloyd 600 that would have been offered by Hanzel Motors is shown below.
US MODEL LLOYD 600 WAGON FROM 1957
In late 1959, Ed Hanzel moved his new car showroom to a new and stylish building at 2801 Broadway. Note that there was a 2-year gap between when Ed Hanzel vacated the his first showroom at 2555 Broadway and when he opened this second showroom. We are not completely sure what Ed did in this 2 year gap that lasted from mid-1957 to late 1959, but he had zero advertising in this gap. A grainy 1959 image of Ed Hanzel’s “new” location at 2801 Broadway exists (see below). We can see that Ed Hanzel clearly did not skimp on signage. A newpaper article from November 1959 indicated that he took on a parter; a man named Jerry Muhlenberg.
Oakland Tribune, Dec 1959
HANZEL MOTORS SECOND LOCATION AT 2801 BROADWAY IN OAKLAND
Oakland Tribune, Dec 1959
This handsome building still exists and has hosted a number of dealerships over the years, including KIA and Infinity. In 2021, the building was vacant and sadly is in disrepair.
2801 BROADWAY IN OAKLAND AS INFINITI WAS MOVING IN
Unfortunately, Ed Hanzel wasn’t able to make things work out as a new car dealership. Imagine that…Lloyd, Morgan, Panhard, and Citroën were not big sellers!
By the middle of 1960, Ed Hanzel was no longer using this building on Broadway. Instead, a company named Motor France was selling Citroëns and other cars from the building; but Motor France also failed. Then in 1961, C.J. Felt Jr. (from C.J. Motors in Berkeley) tried using this building as a second location for his Berkeley-based Citroën dealership. But C.J. wasn’t able to get it to work out either. So, by late 1961, C.J. Felt had retreated back to Berkely, Ed Hanzel had gone back to his body shop at 466 - 23rd street, and Motor France disappeared forever.
With the idea of being a new car dealership dead by 1960, Ed Hanzel went on to focus on the body shop, which served all makes. They continued to have an emphasis on Citroëns to the delight of the local Citroën owners. The decades of the 1960’s and 1970’s went on uneventfully for Hanzel Auto Body Works.
THE THIRD GENERATION HANZEL
In 1984, the third generation Hanzel took over the reins; Henry Hanzel. Henry went on to run the business and did not stray from his dad’s Citroën roots. Henry and crew continued to repair/repaint/restore many exotic and non-exotic cars, but their shop tended to be filled with Citroëns.
San Francisco Car Club, citroensanfrancisco.com, photo circa 2008
HANZEL'S AUTO BODY WORKS AT 466 - 23rd STREET
Photo provided by Greg Long
HENRY HANZEL ON THE JOB
Photo provided by Greg Long
In September of 2011, Hanzel’s started the tradition of a meeting place for car enthusiasts that was called “Seconds Saturdays.” The original idea for the Seconds Saturday event was described by the Hanzels:
“…“Seconds Saturdays” was concocted to support the culture of all things automotive. And by “support the culture of all things automotive” I mean come and hang out with your unique daily driver, “race car”, or trailer queen and check out what everyone else brought. We are equal-opportunity & non-discriminatory. Imperfections welcomed; the “seconds” of the automotive world. All years, makes, models and countries of origin are encouraged. Fabulous French flotsam at this loosely organized event will be well represented with various years of Citroens in all manner of disrepair by your hosts, Henry and Chris Hanzel. Bring your own exceptional example of automotive greatness to help balance out the stinky cheesiness of all this hydraulic hardware...“
THE FORTH GENERATION HANZEL
Chris Hanzel, Sigmund’s great grandson, opted out of the family business, but helped run the Seconds Saturdays events. Chris has been a great advocate for his family’s business and for interesting cars.
THE END OF AN ERA
Hanzels continued to operate as a body shop and a Citroën heaven until 2016 when the inevitable happened; they finally closed their doors after 70 years of operation in the building at 433 - 23rd and 98 years after Sigmund Hanzel first started working on cars in Oakland.
Photo posted on Facebook by Shawn Pond
By 2018, the building that Ed Hanzel had custom built for his business in 1946 was demolished and replaced with a 4-story apartment complex.
Google Street View, 2016
Google Street View, 2019
Google Street View, 2021
466 – 23rd STREET AS RE-DEVELOPMENT OCCURS
Anyone involved in Citroëns tends to accumulate vast numbers of spare parts. Hanzels Auto Body Works was no exception. Their parts were gathered up and sold, given away, or scrapped when the business closed.
Photo courtesy of hardtuned.com: http://www.hardtuned.com/feature/history/LocalStuff/Hanzel/Hanzel456.html
All locations were in Oakland. It looks like two of the buildings used by Hanzel’s still exist; their first new car showroom at 2555 Broadway and the handsome ‘flatiron’ building at 2801 Broadway (photos shown earlier).
2007-2009 Broadway - repair shop (1918 to late 1920’s)
3450 Broadway – repair shop (late 1920’s to 1930’s)
2312 Valdez – repair shop (1940’s)
466 - 23rd street – repair shop (1946 to 2016)
2555 Broadway – new car showroom (1955 to mid-1957)
2801 Broadway – new car showroom (1959 to mid-1960)
Google Maps, 2021