4/1/2021

A very special thank you to Jim Graham of the Downey Auto Center and Vincent Liska for their contributions.




Ralph Graham opened Downey Auto Center in 1957. The art deco design of the logo can be seen in this photo of Downey Ford from 1967. If you look really closely there is a Cobra hiding in this photograph.




This sign towered over 9500 Lakewood Boulevard in Downey, California. Downey is a suburb of Los Angeles.






This looks like a Galaxie to me. You can see the Cobra roadsters are already at Downey. We know they sold several.






Jim sent me this photo of a brand new 1968 Shelby GT350 convertible at the dealership. You have to love those signs. Mr. Liska tells me this one is # 2881. Downey salesman, Marvin Howard, is making the pitch. It's so new, they haven't even put the hubcaps on it yet!






This handsome gentleman is Jim Graham, the son of Ralph Graham. The car is number 1750. Jim would eventually take over ownership of the dealership in 1985. The picture was taken in Mexico in 1970. Jim recalls the Sunlit Gold paint on the car never matched from the factory.






That's the dealership's service manager, Tony Swets, carefully explaining what needs to be done to Jay Botello, the truck and fleet manager.






Car number 83 came from Downey. When it arrived at the dealership in 1968, it was Sunlit Gold. Downey repainted the car blue.






Vincent Liska always has something in his files, like this Downey invoice.






Unlike the car above, car 881 has always been gold and it retains a beautiful, California under carriage.






I found this advertisement for salesmen in the LA times, 1966. Ray Evans was the used car manager. Bill Wheeler was the General Manager.






This beautiful red paint job is on car # 1027. It probably didn't look this nice in 1968!






The Los Angeles Times (March 21, 1969) didn't have a lot of big, flashy car advertisements. Smaller ads is what you expect to see. "Rusty" is Rusty Pollack, the Hi-Performance Parts Sales Manager. The good news is California law required either a license plate or a VIN in the ad. Calling car # 2887...






This one is 1366. It's one of the 56 Shelbys Downey Auto center sold during the 1968 model year.






It's not unusual there is another Sunlit Gold car not painted the original color. I am not sure when the color was changed. What is remarkable is this car is 3174. That's a high number for a GT500.






If all these color changes were confusing you, then don't look. 3271 was one of three cars the factory painted "WT 5014". That is a Downey special paint car! The color would later be called "Grabber Orange". Playmate Michelle Hamilton visited the dealership as part of the Playboy Promotion for the dealership. No doubt, she would have been attracted to this car.






You have probably seen similar pictures like this. Most likely orchestrated by Carroll Shelby when he visited a dealership. In this photo: (from left to right) are Rusty Pollack, Ralph Graham, Lyn Wiley, the Sales Manager, Bill Wheeler, the General Manager and Carroll Shelby.






A 1969 Shelby, two girls and a cool Cobra Jet sign. Add a little whiskey and you have a party.






Downey sold 37 Shelbys during the 1969 model year. This one is number 101.






This car is Dark Jade Metallic. There were no black 1969 Shelbys built during production. 1339 looks beautiful.





Downey also had another prominent businessman named Carroll Shelby. Shelby opened his own Auto Center in Downey not far away from Lakewood Boulevard.






Jim sold Downey Ford in 1997 and the dealership closed for good in 2007. He built Santa Margarita Ford 45 miles south, in south Orange County, California. So, the spirit of Downey Auto Center is alive and well. Stop by and ask for Jim Graham. Jim can fix you up with something like this. He might even show you some old pictures. If you really want to get on his good side drive over in your 1968 Shelby. He just might make you an offer you can't refuse.






Downey sold a lot of fleet vehicles. This picture shows the Downey Auto Center back in the good old days. Today, Santa Margarita Ford still carries on this tradition and sells a lot of fleet vehicles. Jim tells me not a lot of artifacts remain from the old Downey Auto Center. His dad said, "We are running a business, not a museum"





The old location of Downey Ford is now occupied by Topping's Pizza.





As always if you have anything to contribute, please drop me an email. Coralsnake68@hotmail.com