The 1950's

UPDATED 4/2021

EUROPEAN MOTOR SALES

The very first indication of a Citroën DS dealership in Oregon was in 1956 when European Motor Sales of Portland indicated that they would soon become a dealership for the newly introduced DS19, in addition to Panhard and Renault cars.  Much to my amazement, European Motor Sales actually had a very early DS19 demonstrator car on their premises on September 28, 1956.  The local press covered the event in the next day's newspaper (see below).  

The year 1956 is very early insomuch as DS production is concerned.  According to most sources, a small number of DS’s, about 62, were manufactured as model year 1955. In 1956, that figure increased to 9868 cars, and in 1957 the production numbers increased again to 20873 cars. It was 1957 when DS’s started to be imported into the U.S. in any measurable quantity.  But somehow, as we shall see, more than one of these 9868 cars from 1956 found their way to Oregon!

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Oregonian Newspaper 1956

Just a few years after the above demonstrator car arrived in Portland, there is evidence of more 1956 DS's in Oregon:  One more demonstrator car located in Salem, Oregon that we will read about later, and two that showed up in local Portland newspaper classified ads, one listed as black, one white. (See the classified ads below.)  

 

Does this mean that there were four 1956 DS19's in Portland? Or are the two in the classified ads the same two demonstrator cars? There is no way to tell, but given the global rarity of 1956 DS's, it is possible that they are the same two cars.  After all, the colors match (the demonstrator car from European Motor Sales in Portland was black and the demonstrator car in Salem was white). 

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SEPTEMBER 1960 CLASSIFIED ADVERTISEMENT IN THE OREGONIAN NEWSPAPER

Oregonian Newspaper 1960

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AUGUST 1961 CLASSIFIED ADVERTISEMENT IN THE OREGONIAN NEWSPAPER

Oregonian Newspaper 1961

European Motor Sales was also there when the ID19 model was introduced in 1958. See the 1958 newspaper article (below). 

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Oregonian Newspaper 1958

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MAY 1958 ID19 ADVERTISEMENT FOR EUROPEAN MOTOR SALES

Oregonian Newspaper 1958

European Motor Sales was located at 1104 W. Burnside in Portland.  While this specific address no longer exists, it appears to be the same building in downtown Portland where the Pantagonia outdoor clothing store is currently housed. 

Very little is known about European Motor Sales but advertisements started in late 1956 and disappeared abruptly in 1959 suggesting that it only three years.  

EUROPEAN MOTOR SALES BUILDING AS SEEN IN 2018

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Google Street View 2018

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EUROPEAN MOTORS BROCHURE THAT SURFACED IN 2020

CONTINENTAL MOTOR CARS

At about the same time that 1956 DS's started being sold at European Motor Sales in Portland, an established dealer in Salem, Oregon picked up the Citroën line. 

The business, owned by a man named Richard N. Don, started out in early 1956 as a Renault dealership using the name, "Renault Sales and Service," located at 3040 Liberty Road in Salem.  There were periods of time that they called themselves "Vista Garage."  But the name seemed to morph to Continental Motor Cars.  And in October, 1956, they added the Citroën and Panhard marques. Much to our astonishment, it looks like yet another 1956 DS demonstrator car appeared in Oregon, this time in Salem (see article, below)!

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Salem Capitol Journal,  October 1956

In February of 1958, a newspaper article was published in the Salem Statesman Journal indicating that Continental Motor Cars had been recently appointed as a Citroën dealership. But this article seems over a year late since they had a 1956 DS19 on display 16 months earlier? 

As noted above, the name Vista Garage seems to have been used interchangeably with Continental Motor Cars for a few years. We found advertisements as early as October of 1956 listing Vista Garage as a Citroën dealer. Perhaps the company name change to Continental Motor Cars caused this 1958 announcement?

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Salem Statesman Journal, February, 1958

By the middle of 1958, they had moved to 900 S. Commercial in Salem and there appears to be another move to 990 S. Commercial late 1958. Also in 1958, their company name changed slightly from Continental Motor Cars to Continental Imports Ltd. 

Sales must have not been going too well, because in December of 1959, Continental Imports Ltd. was taken over by a Portland Company called, "World Wide Imports."  When the takeover occurred, the Citroën and Panhard lines were dropped. World Wide Imports went on try to sell Peugeot, Renault, and Vespa scooters. 

But things did not go well for World Wide Imports either. They closed-up at the end of 1960 (see going out of business ad, right). 

It looks like none of the original buildings still exist and we were unable to find any period photos. 

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Salem Capitol Journal, November 1960  

FITZPATRICK FOREIGN CAR CENTER

The third authorized Citroën dealership in the state of Oregon was in a suburb of Portland called Milwaukie.  The dealership was called Fitzpatrick Foreign Car Center.  In their advertisements from 1958, their address is simply listed as “…the stop lite in Milwaukie…” suggesting that there was only one stoplight back then?

As is so familiar with the Citroën dealership stories from this era, Fitzpatrick Foreign Car Center seemed to have only lasted as a Citroën dealer for a very short time, perhaps less than a year.  

 

We also wonder about their commitment to the Citroën marque considering that their newspaper ads spelled ‘Citroën’ incorrectly and identified the car model "ID19" incorrectly…

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Oregonian Newspaper 1958

JUNE, 1958 NEWSPAPER AD

ECONOMY CAR IMPORTS

 

The next authorized Citroën dealership in Oregon was Economy Car Imports.  Economy Car imports started advertising in April of 1959 and operated from the address 1022 W. Burnside in Portland. 

 

Economy Car Imports was operated by the same people who started a business in the Seattle area (Renton) using the very same company name.  A man named Jerry Fleming was listed as the owner of the Portland dealership.  The same Jerry Fleming and partner Richard Wald were listed as the business owners of the Renton operation. 

 

A Portland newspaper article from late 1958 indicates that Economy Car Imports was named as an authorized Citroën dealer for both the Portland and the Renton operations. It looks like the Portland operation started earlier since we can find advertisements from 1958 and 1959.  The Renton operation was incorporated as a business in Washington in August of 1961. 

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NOVEMBER 1958 ANNOUNCEMENT

Oregonian Newspaper 1958

It seems that Economy Car Imports had no better luck in the Seattle-area than they did in Portland.  The Portland operation seems to have shut down in about 1961.  The Renton operation closed-up shop in 1962.  So, it looks like they had about two years selling Citroëns in Portland and an overlapping two years selling Citroëns in Renton.  Despite trying to sell other marques as well as used cars, both locations of Economy Car Imports ultimately failed.

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Oregonian Newspaper 1961

JULY 1961 NEWSPAPER AD

JANUARY 1959 ADVERTISEMENT

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ECONOMY CAR IMPORTS BROCHURE

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Oregonian Newspaper 1959

The building that Economy Car Imports operated from (1022 W. Burnside) is still there and is currently a Union Way clothing store. 

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ECONOMY CAR IMPORTS BUILDING AT 1022 WEST BURNSIDE AS SEEN IN 2018

Google Street View 2018

EUROPEAN IMPORT SALES

 

The 1959 Eugene Register-Guard newspaper has a handful of ads from a company called European Import Sales in Springfield, Oregon that handled Citroën for a brief time.  We have been unsuccessful finding much about this company, but stay tuned - we are still digging. 

We have found several addresses for European Import Sales, all from 1959:

258 N. 5th in Springfield, OR

264 N. 5th in Springfield, OR

1492 W. 6th in Eugene, OR

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Springfield

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Eugene Register-Guard, June 1959

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Eugene Register-Guard, August 1959

Eugene Register-Guard, December 1959

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VINTON AND LARSEN

There is some scant evidence that a dealership in McMinnville, Oregon called Vinton and Larsen sold Citroëns briefly in the late 1950's. Citroën USA expert Richard Bondfond had them listed on some official paperwork from Citroën for the year 1959.  

 

We worked with the library in McMinnville to understand more about Vinton and Larsen. We found that in the 1930's, a man named Herm Larsen went to work for Gale Vinton at Vinton's Shell gas station on the corner of Third and Baker streets. They soon teamed-up and formed Vinton and Larsen, initially handling Buick, then adding Pontiac and GMC trucks. 

By the late 1950's they had expanded their line further to include Opel, Hillman, Truimph, and Studebaker.  No mention of Citroën in anything we could find.  But it seems relatively common that in the late 1950's and early 1960's, many established dealerships in the USA took on many different marques, sometimes with little or no fanfare or advertising. 

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McMinnville

Vinton and Larsen operated from two other locations after the initial Shell gas station. The first was 211 N. Evans Street and the second move was to 830 N.E. Highway 99W in 1958. The business is still at this final location, albeit in a brand new building.  The business was sold in late 2018 and will loose the historic company name. 

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Images of America - McMinnville

FRENCH MOTOR CAR SALES & SERVICE

For a few years, a business called French Motor Car Sales & Service in Eugene, Oregon sold the usual French marques; Peugeot, Renault, and Citroën. The business was owned by a man named Jim Edgar. We found advertisements in the local paper starting in 1956 and ending in late 1960, so it appears to have been yet another short-lived business. French Motor Car Sales & Service did manage to last long enough to be included in Citroën's 1960 dealer directory and may have lingered on a bit longer with other marques. 

French Motor Car Sales operated from several locations in Eugene, but settled in on an interesting building at 1501 W. 7th Avenue. 

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Eugene Register-Guard, May 1960

1960 ADVERTISEMENTS FROM EUGENE NEWSPAPER

Eugene Register-Guard, May 1960

1501 W. 7th IN 1952 SOON AFTER BEING BUILT

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Eugene Register-Guard, July, 1952

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Google Street View 2020

SAD LOOKING FRENCH MOTORS BUILDING IN 2018 

And to prove that French Motor Car Sales actually sold a few cars, a 1960 2CV surfaced in late 2020 that was originally sold there on June 7, 1960! Notice the 7-inch sealed-beam headlights that were installed on all USA 2CV's. 

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Bringatrailer.com 2020

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Bringatrailer.com 2020