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Vintage Car Identification Help!

I would really appreciate help identifying the car in this photo. I only have a vague idea of when the photo might have been taken - I am guessing somewhere between 1915 and the early 1920s, but I am really not sure. I only have this one photo of the car. Identifying the car would help me pinpoint the date it was taken, which would help me in identifying the men in the photo as well.


Any ideas would be appreciated!


  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,923
    You are right on the dates - I'd say the car dates from the late teens or very early 20s, but I have no idea what it is. That kind of humped rear end might be a's not a common car like a Model T or a Chevy. The wire wheels point to the car having a sporty image for the time...but the make is a mystery to me.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,664
    Yeah it's a very early car, closer to '15 than the mid-20s IMO. There's really not enough of the car to make an ID. All one could say is that it's not a very high priced car. You have to remember there were hundreds, perhaps over 1,000, different makes back then in that decade. So lotsa luck on guessing. I doubt anyone could know given that we cannot see the front of the car or the dashboard, the two defining features back then.
    Body shapes were almost generic and many cars were called "assembled" cars---that is, the automaker bought the parts from suppliers and bolted them together and put his name on it. So look alikes are common for this reason.
  • I suppose the round openings in the top are not something that would help pinpoint a date? I had hoped that they might be specific to a certain brand.. I've looked through a lot of photos, and most of the ones I've seen with round openings were Dodge, but I've not come across any that have two round openings of that size.

    Thanks so much for your help!
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,664
    Custom tops were very common then, ordered out of catalogs. Many cars didn't even come with tops. You had to order them out of aftermarket catalogs.

    Really I think your task is impossible because you can't see the car. I mean people will guess but with over 1,000 manufacturers, many of them only local within a few hundred miles, this is going to be very tough.

    Of course, if you are a monk with plenty of time and access to thousands of photos, you MIGHT get lucky!

    But then, the photo would also have to be labeled, and then you'd have to be sure the label was correct.

    I also collect old car photos, and I have seen where the person labels the car in pencil and it isn't the right year (usually the right make, though).

    I even have cars that I CAN see the front grille and nobody can identify. Often local businesses would put their own grille ornaments and names on the cars.

    All I can say with any certainty is a) it's american and b) it's about 1918.
  • I'm going to agree with most posts...that this car is probably from the mid-teens. I think you can narrow the search to any number of economy or cyclecar manufacturers at the time since it does look quite pettite.
  • tom_rtom_r Posts: 2
    I have a Handbook of Automobiles 1916 but I couldn't match it with anything. If you have the original picture, use a magnifying glass to see if you can get a date of the license plate or logo off the spare tire hub.
  • euphoniumeuphonium Great Northwest, West of the Cascades.Posts: 3,305
    Ben & Jerry who brought ice cream to the picnic. ;)
  • try the guys at

    They seem to be able to identify a car from nothing...
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,923
    Thanks for sharing that. I still have that old beast on my carspace page I haven't ID'd yet.
  • wolfbwolfb Posts: 2
    Here is a picture that I picked up with a lot of postcards from a local auction. I'd like to know if anyone can identify the auto in it? From the dress of the people in the picture it looks like from the late teens/early 20's. Doesn't look like a Ford or Chevy to me. Any ideas?
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,664
    No I would say mid 20s. That's an usual roof---a collapsible landau top for the back passengers. Closed cars were very rare in the late teens/early 20s. This car is at least a mid 20s car.

    My guess is a 1926 Chevrolet Model V Imperial Landau -- I base that on the squarish rear door window.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,923
    I agree. The disc wheels and drum headlights are traits of period Chevys too.

    Here's another image of a 26 I found online...looks like the same car:


    FWIW, this style, somewhat popular in the late 20s, is kind of the first fake convertible - the rear section does not go down. Fake landau bars predate 70s pimpiness.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,923
    Here's another, sans landau bars


    Both photos are ID's as 26 Chevys
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,664
    yeah I guess it would have made no sense to actually put an expensive, hand-made collapsible rear roof on a cheap car like that. Companies like Le Brunn did make workable collapsing rear roofs for cars like Packard, etc.

    Disk wheels were an answer to the dangerous wooden artillery wheels--disk wheels are also a sure visual cue of a less expensive car.

    The reason closed cars have leather roofs in the 20s is to cover up an opening that has wooden struts in it. In the 1920, automakers had still not figured out how to mass-produce a single, solid roof stamping. They had to piece the roof together.

    Only in the 1930s do we see the one-piece "turret top", mass-produced car with solid metal roof (of course, custom coachbuilders made them earlier). This technique of large stampings came from the railroad car industry. (Budd).

    So anyway, I used disk wheels and leather roof to tell me the car was 1920s, and also seeing that it was a closed car to date it at least 1924 on up. Also the leather roof kept it from being a 30s car, more or less.

    Also in the 1930s we see the start of the 'bustle trunk", that is, a trunk lid rather than a separate trunk bolted on the straight back of the car, like the one in this picture would have carried.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,923
    Good educated guess ;) ...little details like the fanciness of the Chevy were a good way to differentiate it from a lesser car like a Model T - and increase sales during a booming time. Deluxe Model As had such details too.

    Yeah by 1935 or so the integrated trunk was the norm, and steel bodies etc came on right after. Very few closed cars before 1922 - the Essex was the first massmarket/affordable closed car, it had a significant impact. By 1930, most wanted a closed car.

    Speaking of that Chevy, Here's a Buick from the fintail family album...about the same year as the Chevy, probably shares a few parts.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,664
    yes the Model T was totally obsolete by 1926, and Chevy was catching up to Ford rapidly in production.

    Probably the most modern car of that time period, in mass production I mean, was the new 1924 Chrysler.
  • wolfbwolfb Posts: 2
    Wow! That was quick. Thanks all for the info. My knowledge of the early models is lacking as you can see. The picture goes in my collection of vintage photos. I'm dating this one a 1927 pix of a 1926 Chevy. Of course it could be from 1926...but given the apparent time of year, I'd say spring 1927.

    Thanks again and...

  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,923
    When did Chevy begin to outsell Ford anyway?

    Yeah, the braking system alone on that Chrysler was a generation ahead of anything else. A milestone car.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,664
    1927 was the first year Chevy outsold Ford. Then the Model A came out, which was a very good response to the Chevrolet challenge.

    So they went back and forth for a while but then Chevy started coming out with lots of styles, colors, options in the 1930s. Ford fought back with their V-8, but GM was relentless and by the early 50s they were pulling away. Henry Senior was a stubborn old coot and until he passed away it was very difficult to innovate at Ford. It really took the Mustang to revive the company.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,923
    GM really understood marketing, both segmentation and making the public want something new/
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