© Jerry F. Couch
BOTH FORD AND CHEVROLET had considerable customer loyalty, but WHICH 1940 car was the most popular among buyers in St. Paul, Dante, and Castlewood? Unfortunately, I can’t answer that question. Those 80-year-old sales records are probably long gone by now
AT ITS HEADQUARTERS IN DEARBORN, MICHIGAN, the Ford camp was doing its best to compete in the quest for buyers of new cars in 1940. Ford’s styling was fresh and new – so good that it still rates highly among collectors and enthusiasts. Despite outstanding styling and a choice of two V8 engines displacing 60 and 85 horsepower, Ford was losing ground. For its 1940 model year, Ford only sold about 600,000 cars.
A Clinch Motors ad from the Tri-County News – St. Paul, VA – May 30, 1940. The 1940 Fords were introduced on September 29, 1939.
Pictured below is a late-1939 view of Clinch Motors, partially obscured by the old St. Paul waterworks building. Note the Ford V8 sign painted on the brick wall. It was also a common practice in those days for automobile dealerships to sell gasoline – in this case, Texaco products. Much remodeled, the building is still in use today by Morgan-McClure Ford and is the St. Paul home of the famous “Blue Oval.”
Foreground – St. Paul Waterworks. Background – Clinch Motors
A 1939 Clinch Motors Newspaper Ad.
Clinch Motors Service Department in the late 1930’s. When this photo was taken, the company’s building on Riverside Drive was almost new.
The original 1937 deed for the property upon which the new Clinch Motors Ford dealership was built. Unfortunately, a major economic recession occurred in 1938. New car sales slumped as a result.
In 1940, there was a personnel change at Clinch Motors. Carthel McPherson bought a share of the business (there were other partners as well) and became the company’s new manager. Prior to coming to St. Paul, McPherson had managed Greever Motor Sales in Big Stone Gap. McPherson’s move to St. Paul had added significance. Reba McPherson, his wife, became a member of the St. Paul Elementary School faculty, where she remained until her retirement. Mrs. McPherson is remembered today by generations of former St. Paul students.
Reba Stewart McPherson
Meanwhile, at St. Paul Motor Sales on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Russell Street….
The Chevrolet Division of General Motors Corp. built and sold nearly 1,000,000 of its 1940 automobiles. Though impressive, that figure still fell far short of the division’s 1927 record of 1,750,000 vehicles. Buyers may have been reluctant to make major purchases that year because many people were still recovering from the recession of 1938. Even so, Chevrolet offered a lot to tempt potential buyers. All 1940 Chevrolets featured fresh styling. They were powered by the tried and true “Blue Flame Six” which delivered 85 horsepower.
A 1942 ad for St. Paul Motor Sales
St. Paul Motor Sales Inc. as it appeared in the late 1940’s. The blocks stacked in the foreground were for use in the construction of “The Turner Building,” which is now Sugar Hill Brewing Co. [Photo courtesy of Gloria Meade]
In 1933, W. A. Turner purchased the former Ford dealership building on Fifth Avenue in St. Paul. He opened a Chevrolet agency and operated it in much the same way as his existing automobile business, Dante Motor Company. At that time, the dealership was well-situated for business. The railroad underpass on Fourth Avenue was still several years in the future. A railroad crossing at the Western Front connected Fifth Avenue (and St. Paul) to the main highway that traversed Wise County.
A 1953 deed from W. A. Turner to S. W. Johnson. Turner had built a new Chevrolet dealership across the street from his existing business. This deed, probably drawn up by M. M. Long, includes the original date of purchase as part of the “chain of ownership.”
It should be noted that W. A. Turner was a very astute businessman. There are no deeds of trust recorded for the St. Paul properties he purchased. Apparently he operated on a cash basis, enabling him to “swoop and scoop” and acquire properties that were being sold under distressed circumstances. It is also significant that Turner had no business partners of record. Those of us who have studied accounting know that a partnership is the weakest form of business.
The building that housed St. Paul Motor Company had apartments on the top floor. An apartment was provided for the employee who answered night calls, and perhaps other employees as well. W. A. Turner had certain expectations, though, and he set them forth very clearly in all of his “help wanted” ads.
Pictured below, the former St. Paul Motor Sales building as it looked in the mid-1970’s, twenty years after it ceased to be the home of new Chevrolets and Packards. When this photo was taken, your author and his family occupied an apartment there (that’s our doorway at the head of the stairway at right). In those days it was a very pleasant and convenient place to live. Like us, many young couples had started their married lives together in this building over the years.
At street level, the building was occupied by the cable company’s business office, a television repair shop operated by Wilburn Sifford, and warehouse space for Stewart’s Furniture.
CONCLUSIONS – FORD VS. CHEVROLET, 1940
This we CAN say for certain: Most purchasers of 1940 Fords and Chevrolets drove their cars a long time. In 1942, domestic production of automobiles ceased. For the duration of WWII, the manufacturing plants of Ford and Chevrolet directed their considerable resources to war production.