Visting Nall Chevrolet 1930-1946

Nall Chevrolet's showroom as photographed in 1940.     Photo Credit: Iowa Heritage Digital Collections (Frederick W. Kent, Photographer)

Old newspaper ads can offer today's readers a peek into a particular time and place. Stare at an old daily from a small town and you'll often come away with more questions than answers. Such was the case while I was doing research for another post in the archives of The Daily Iowan, and noticed the occasional advertisement for Nall Chevrolet of Iowa City, Iowa. The dealership was located at 120 E. Burlington Street, not that far from the campus of the University of Iowa. The earliest ads I could find hail from 1930, and they all make for good blog material so I figured I would share them along with a little historical perspective. 

NOTE: All of these images are courtesy of The Daily Iowan unless noted, and are for non-commercial, educational purposes only.

November, 1930

The phone number seems easy enough to remember, doesn't it? Chevrolets of 1930 were beautiful machines and equipped with the famous "Stovebolt Six", then in its second year of production. As the U.S. economy took a beating, Chevrolet dealers tried to market their low-priced cars to the masses as best they could, focusing on the new features such as more horsepower the year, hydraulic shocks and a dash-mounted fuel gauge. Ads such as this didn't sway the public too much, as Chevrolet ended 1930 with 200,000 less automobiles sold than in 1929.

Nall Chevrolet's 1930 address is listed as 120 E. Burlington Street, a rather small brick building that still shows up on Google Maps.

Beginning in 1934 it changes to either "Corner of Burlington and Linn" or 210-222 East Burlington Street. The newer dealership was a beautiful two-story art deco car haven. (I would have included the image here but the State Historical Society of Iowa wanted $30 for the pleasure.) Its apparently no longer there as Google shows a Sheraton hotel and a massive parking deck in that location today.

June, 1934
This ad features what appears to be a 1933 Chevrolet Master sedan with more than 125,000 miles on it in only 14 months! The fact that this gentleman was able to rack up the miles that quickly in 1934 makes you wonder if he was a traveling salesman or just an adventurer. Nall Chevrolet is touting the strong mechanical parts inside the thrifty six-cylinder engine. If true, getting that many miles out of an original motor without a rebuild would have been worthy of some ink. If anyone out there has more information on Charley Larkin's 1933/34 publicity run, I'd love to hear from you!

March, 1936
Taking a bow on 1936 Chevrolet Master series cars was the $20 optional "knee-action" front suspension. Nall Chevrolet decided to stress the luxurious ride by displaying a trio of women enjoying a smooth, soft ride in the back seat of a Master Deluxe. Numerous improvements took place this year on Chevrolet. Most are listed here, such as the all-steel top,  'no draft' ventilation, and fully hydraulic brake system.  Helping to entice some hesitant buyers is a prominent call-out to the low 6% finance plan through General Motors Acceptance Corporation, or GMAC. Many General Motors advertisements at the local and national level this year mention the GMAC option, and list the same 6% rate. Just in case you're wondering, the 1936 Chevrolet Standard's base price was $495, or $8,300 in 2014. The cheapest Chevrolet today will set you back $12,170.

November, 1945

This Nall's advertisement from November of 1945 is my favorite one of the bunch, as it reminds us that Americans were hungry for a new car during World War II. After being forced to keep their old cars and trucks rolling during the civilian auto hiatus, consumers were anxious to get their hands on something reliable and new. New Chevrolets began to trickle down the assembly line in October of 1945, and Iowa City residents got their first glimpse of the new Stylemaster, Fleetmaster, and Fleetline cars on November 3rd. Starting at $1098, folks could show up at the next Hawkeye game with a shiny new Chevy.

Chevrolet wasn't the only GM make that Nall sold over the years. Besides a strong used car businesses, Nall sold Buicks such as this 1939 ad suggests. While Chevrolet may have been the "Low-Priced Leader", the Buick was the better buy. Interesting that they still referred to themselves as Nall Chevrolet in a Buick ad, and not Nall Motors as their used car classifieds did.



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