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NEW 10/2023

Moench-Davis was car dealer in Los Angeles that started up in 1940 and lasted a bit over 2 1/2 decades. They were mainly a Buick dealership, but took on imports in the late 1950’s. For a few years, they offered Citroëns.


At the end of this story, I will explain how Moench-Davis was associated with one of the most famous signs in Los Angeles. 




Wilford Ballentyne Moench (often referred to as Bill Moench) was born in 1898 in Ogden, Utah to parents Louis Frederick Moench and Annie Ballantyne Moench. His father, Louis Frederick, was the founder of Weber University in Utah. Bill grew up in and around Salt Lake City. 


An obituary I found indicates that Bill Moench served in World War I. After the war and graduating from college, he became involved in banking, starting off as a teller. Eventually, he worked his way up the food-chain and became the vice president of the Mission National Bank of Los Angeles. 


After his banking career, he went to work at General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC), the branch of General Motors that was formed to provide auto loans to customers. 


By 1940, at the age of 42, he joined-up with a partner named Reed Sumner Davis and started a Buick dealership called, Moench-Davis Buick


In 1950, he divorced his first wife and married a woman named Alice Adele Felix. We will come back to the Felix name later. 

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The Southwest Wave, Sept 1957


Reed Sumner Davis was born in Canada in March of 1915 to the parents of Mr. and Mrs. Clarence R. Davis. The family moved to San Francisco where his father amassed a fortune in the furniture industry. Reed attended the University of California at Berkeley. 


In 1938, his father died and left the bulk of his fortune to Reed. Reed initially stepped in to run his father’s furniture business, but within a few years after his father’s death, Reed had given up on furniture and moved to Los Angeles where he invested in a car dealership with Bill Moench. 


By scanning old newspapers, there seemed to be quite a bit of drama surrounding Reed Davis, including a nasty divorce and a strange lawsuit stemming from a woman who was hired by Reed to ‘pose’ as a wife. Reed Davis seemed to have been a bit of a controversial figure.

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Los Angeles Times, Nov 1950


Moench-Davis Buick opened in September of 1940. At this point, Bill Moench would have been about 42 years old and Reed Davis would have been about 35. By reading about these two men, I get the impression that Moench was the guy who did much of the work associated with the dealership and Reed Davis might have been more in the background. 


The original location was at 8455 S. Vermont Avenue in South Los Angeles, but they soon moved into a new facility a few blocks away at 8011 S. Vermont, a location that they kept for their entire run. The company initially sold only one new marque (Buick) but they also sold used cars.  


As was common during the WWII era, their media presence went quiet during the war years and they apparently survived on used car sales and repairs. But by the late 1940’s, their advertising not only returned, but swelled. 


Between the years of 1949-1951, Moench-Davis added more buildings at 2025 and 2035 W. Florence Avenue, about 2 miles away from their headquarters on Vermont Avenue. These new locations were to be used as a used car lot and maintenance facility, but they continued to use the 8011 S. Vermont Avenue location as their headquarters and new Buick dealership. 

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Crenshaw Mesa, July 1941

Moench-Davis's new facility at 8011 S. Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles

In 1953, they updated the property on W. Florence with a new Buick showroom as discussed in the article below.

New Buick showroom on W. Florence in 1953

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Southwest Wave, Oct 1953


Moench-Davis exclusively sold Buicks from when they first opened in 1940 until 1957 when they suddenly added a variety of foreign cars. They used their existing facility on W. Florence Avenue for their new import car center and named it, Moench-Davis Imports. They held a three-day grand opening celebration in mid-September, 1957. 


Initially, they offered Borgward, Triumph, Simca, Panhard, and Citroën at their new import center. There was also a brief mention of Opel in an old newspaper article, although it seems very little came of the Opel marque for them. They took on all these imported marques more-or-less simultaneously in the fall of 1957.


In the photo below, you can just barely see a Citroën DS in front of the newly updated building as well as a Citroën sign.

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Southwest Wave, Sept 1957

Moench-Davis's new Import Center at 2025/2035 W. Florence Avenue in Los Angeles. Notice the DS in the front.

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Southwest Wave, Oct 1957

Late 1957 advertisement for Moench-Davis' import offerings



Moench-Davis brochure for the NSU Prinz

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Southwest Wave, Sep 1957

Bill Moench signing up with Borgward

By late 1959, they had added BMW Isetta, Daimler, and NSU with the Prinz. In 1961, they toyed with the idea of adding Renault with the Dauphine, but it is unclear if this ever materialized.


Based on advertising volume, it seems that their import division tried pretty hard to sell Borgward and Triumph. The rest of their foreign marques seem to have received only token effort or no effort at all. Even for Citroën, which was reasonably popular in this era, Moench-Davis rarely had exclusive Citroën advertisements. Instead, they mostly relied on 'group' ads such as the one below. 

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Magazine 'group' advertisement for Citroën DS's

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Moench-Davis was listed in the Citroën dealer lists and directories from 1957 to about 1963. By the time that the 1964 Citroën dealer list was issued, Moench-Davis was absent. And it wasn’t just Citroën that faded away from Moench-Davis. Their entire import division seemed to be disintegrating in the 1962-1963 time-frame. 


My personal take on the demise of their import division was probably two-fold: 1) A poor choice of the import cars they offered - by the early 1960’s it was pretty clear that Simca, Borgward, NSU, Opel, Panhard, BMW Isetta, and Daimler were losing ground. Triumph and Citroën might have fared a bit better, but only slightly. 2) By the early 1960's, Moench himself was in his mid-60's, perhaps ready for retirement, or at least without enough energy to reinvent the business. 


Bill Moench died in November of 1965 at the age of 67. New Buicks continued to be sold for a year and a half after Moenchs death, but by April of 1967 it was announced that the Moench-Davis dealership was coming to an end. It was sold to a man named William E. Gonzalez, who would rename the business, Gonzalez Buick.  Gonzlez Buick lasted another decade, but faded away itself in the early 1980’s. 


Reed Sumner Davis died in June of 1988 at the age of 73.


Remember at the beginning of this article we said we would get back to the Felix name? Well, here it goes…


A man named Winslow B. Felix was a famous Mexican-American who started a Chevrolet dealership in Los Angeles in 1921. This dealership installed the famous Felix the Cat dealership sign in the late 1950's. This sign is one of the most famous signs in Los Angeles, not far behind the HOLLYWOOD sign. Winslow B. Felix had a daughter named Alice Adele Felix who married Bill Moench in 1950, as Moench's second wife. 

Winslow B. Felix also had a grandson named William E. Gonzalez. Gonzalez worked at Moench-Davis Buick as a salesman, eventually as sales manager. In 1967 when Moench-Davis Buick closed their doors, Gonzalez bought the dealership and renamed it Gonzalez Buick. 


Felix Chevrolet, and its iconic sign, survive to this day. 

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8455 S. Vermont Avenue (1940 to mid-1941)

This was Moench-Daviss first location and was used to sell New Buicks and used cars. They used this location for less than a year between 1940 and 1941. The address no longer exists and now appears to be a parking lot. 


8011 S. Vermont Avenue (Mid-1941 to 1967)

This building was used as their headquarters for almost the entire time they were in business. It was mostly used for new Buick sales

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Crenshaw Mesa, July 1941

Southwest Wave, Oct 1953

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Southwest Wave, Dec 1962

8011 S. Vermont Avenue

2025/2035 W. Florence (1949 to 1967)

This location was for used car sales and auto maintenance from 1949 to 1957. In late 1957, the building was updated for foreign car sales. I think this location was used until 1965 or perhaps 1966. The buildings were demolished and are now residential. 

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Southwest Wave, Sept 1957

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Google Street View 2023

2025/2035 W. Florence Ave

8030 S. Figuerora Street (about 1953 to 1954)

This location was only used briefly, roughly a year. 

7951 S. Vermont Avenue (~1955)

This location was listed in a few publications in the mid 1950's, but was apparently a short-lived location for Moench-Davis. There is no trace of a car lot at this address now. 

1414 W. Manchester Avenue (~1954)

To the best of my ability to research this one, it seems that Moench-Davis only used this location for less than a year in 1954-ish.

2001 W. Florence Avenue (1959-1964)

This was one of their used car locations. In advertising, they called it their Transportation Center. It seems to still be there as a vacant lot. 

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Google Street View 2023

107 S. Long Beach Boulevard (1960-1961)

This location was formerly Martin Motors Rambler but was used by Moench-Davis from mid-1960 perhaps to about 1961. They sometimes called it their Import Center #2. It is now a RiteAid pharmacy. 

7915 S. Vermont Avenue (1960-1967)

This location was first listed for Moench-Davis in 1960 and it seemed to last until they closed their doors in 1967. I think it was mainly for used cars. 

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Google Maps

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