THE EARLY YEARS
NORTHWEST LIGHT CAR
Much to our amazement, we found that a company named Northwest Light Car was selling new Citroëns in Portland, Oregon in the late 1930's! We found advertising literature for Northwest Light Car for as early as September, 1939 (see ad below).
By 1940, a local newspaper article indicated that they had become a distributor for new Citroën Traction Avants (see article below right). We suspect that this was not a factory sponsored activity, so these cars were likely imported independently.
Oregonian Newspaper 1939
1939 OREGONIAN NEWSPAPER AD FOR NORTHWEST LIGHT CAR
1940 NEWSPAPER ARTICLE INDICATING NORTHWEST LIGHT CAR ARE TAKING ON THE CITROEN LINE
Oregonian Newspaper 1940
We believe that Northwest Light Car sold a decent number of Tractions, since Portland-area newspapers from the 1940’s and 1950’s contain advertisements for a reasonably large number of Traction Avants, some as early as 1939 models (see examples below). Note that in Seattle, three hours north of Portland, there was only a single Traction Avant for sale in the Seattle Times classified advertisements between 1935 and 1955, and the ad noted that this car was independently imported by the owner from France. In Portland, there were dozens of Tractions in this era. It is reasonable to believe that most of these cars came from Northwest Light Car.
Oregonian Newspaper 1950
Oregonian Newspaper 1952
The last paragraph in the above newspaper article hints that these cars might have been English-built (from the Slough factory), but the wording is unclear. However, several of the newspaper classified ads specify that the cars had leather interiors, something typically only delivered on English cars. Some ads even go as far as stating that the car had English origins (see below).
Citroën USA guru Richard Bonfond has found that the Slough factory produced 317 left-hand-drive Tractions between 1949 and 1954, and that some ended up in North America. Based on all these clues, evidence is mounting that many of the Tractions Northwest Light Car was importing, were English-built.
Oregonian Newspaper 1955
Oregonian Newspaper 1955
The first address we could find for Northwest Light Car was 722 SW 18th Avenue in Portland. By the 1950’s, they had moved a few blocks away to 1503 SW Morrison. Neither building exists today. By 1953 Northwest Light Car had disappeared.
J. Kendall Hockensmith, owner of Northwest Light Car, was prominent in the business community in Portland in the 1940's. His name shows up in dozens of newspaper articles of the era, most of which were covering the introduction of some new car line that he was selling. Many of the car marques he handled were British, but he did handle cars from other parts of the world, such as American Crosleys and French Simcas.