Memories of Northwestern



7/04/09 -Mike use to live near Northwestern Ford. I thought you might enjoy his email. It illustrates how things change.

I absolutely love your Northwestern Ford web page.

I grew up on the east side and north shore suburbs of Milwaukee, not far from Northwestern Ford, and can vaguely remember the dealership. It later became Tom Formolo Ford and was closed down for a while in the 1980's. It then became a Nissan dealer, and is currently a Chevrolet/Buick/Pontiac dealer. The VW dealer is still located just to the east.

I have no idea why the dealership was called Northwestern Ford, since it was located in Glendale, WI a North Shore Milwaukee suburb located only about 2 miles west of Lake Michigan. I wonder what their previous address was? I suspect it might have been located just northwest of downtown, but still within the Milwaukee city limits.

After many years of having no Ford dealer on Milwaukee's north shore, Heiser Ford in the early 2000's built a new dealership just to the west. Heiser had previously been located on Milwaukee's east side, and I can remember being with my dad and mom when we test drove a '67 or '68 Mustang. Soon thereafter, he purchased a raven black 2 door '68 Mustang with automatic and 6 cylinders from Heiser. It lasted our family almost 12 years. It replaced a 1959 Galaxie coupe that was pretty close to being ready for the junkyard.

Looking at the addresses in the owner's manuals posted on your site was most interesting. It reminded me of just how much Milwaukee has changed, and how people of reasonable incomes (most likely employed by area manufacturers) once lived on north side streets like Hopkins Street. Today, if a Shelby were parked anywhere on Hopkins, especially overnight, I suspect it would likely be vandalized or stolen fairly quickly. When Northwestern did their 1966 relocation, there were still dozens of manufacturing companies on the north and near north sides of Milwaukee. It was sort of the tail end of the 1950's manufacturing boom. Unfortunately, things would change dramatically in the following 10 to 15 years.

Even in 1970, Northwestern catered to wealthier individuals to the north and east, as well as to less affluent customers to the west and south. Glendale was, and still is, a buffer suburb between more and less affluent areas.

A friend's father bought a loaded '68 LTD Country Squire from Northwestern. It was hit rather hard in the front during an accident, and repaired. But the car never tracked the same as before the accident and was soon traded on a 1970 Marquis Colony Park.

Anyway, thanks again for developing your website. It brought back memories.

The Northwestern building is now ANDREW Chevrolet/Pontiac/Buick. I haven't been in the dealership in about 2 years. It probably felt spacious and modern when it was built in 1966, but in recent years, it has felt cramped and old fashioned, like an old facility that has had too many remodelings and changes. Until recently, it was just a Chevy/Nissan dealer. But then ANDREW dropped Nissan and picked up the Pontiac/Buick lines from Rank and Son, an old time Milwaukee Car dealer located several miles to the south. ANDREW's lot is crammed with cars, and although the original Northwestern building still exists, it is somewhat dwarfed by all the cars.

I can remember the Glendale Silver Spring Drive "auto row" as it appeared in the 1970's. Directly to the west of Northwestern Ford was Inland Toyota, a relatively small dealership that is now ANDREW Toyota. It almost looked and felt like a used car department. The site now contains a modern Toyota showroom.

Across the street was North Shore Dodge (now a Lexus Dealer). About a block west and across the street was McBain Lincoln/Mercury (formerly Tom Coward Lincoln/Mercury). This last property was the VW dealer's previous location before moving to the site east of Northwestern Ford. Further west, was Phil Tolkan Pontiac. This last dealer was known for his TV commercials with "Ponti", the talking 1950's Pontiac whose hood moved up and down. Other than the VW dealer (Concours Motors), there are no original dealers that remain on the Silver Spring auto row.

I can remember looking at cars at Phil Tolkan, before my dad bought the Mustang. He had considered buying a Tempest, but I think my mom persuaded him that the Mustang was better looking.

I think Northwestern was one of Ford's new style dealers, after they completed their rebranding (new logos, signage, etc.) during the 1966-67 period. It had a modern 1960's look that many other Ford dealers adapted during that time. This would be an interesting subject of a future web page if you can get some information from your former Northwestern salesman.

The row had tough times during the early 1980's but bounced back in the 1990's.

I don't remember seeing Shelbys around when I was little. However, there was a '69 Fastback that would occasionally park near my high school. In 1979 it was probably not worth that much. At the time, 8 to 12 year old cars, even sporty collectable ones, were basically just viewed as clunkers, not future "classics" as we might think of them today. One day, two friends of mine got their Vietnam era cars stuck together when the bumper guards on one locked into the bumper of the other. One of my friends just got on the hood of one car and jumped up and down while the other drove the second car away. Everybody just laughed about it afterwards, because they knew the cars would be ready for the junkyard fairly soon. Cars rusted so quickly back then. And, a car with 100,000 miles was basically worn out.

I can't remember if I've ever seen a Northwestern tag on the back of a car. I think other dealers such as Heiser and Jack White were perhaps bigger volume dealers. There was also another north side dealer, Sorens Ford, that was located on 27th and Capital, but moved to Brookfield maybe around 1972. I saw a lot of their tags. My tennis teacher had a 69 Mustang coupe from Sorens with a 302, Automatic and the phony hood scoop with the turn signal lights on the back. It was painted that unusual late 1960's Ford color that was sort of a lavender/pink/red color blend.

My next door neighbor in the early 1970's had two classic cars, a 1969 Thunderbird 4 door with suicide doors and a 1968 AMX. The AMX was the "wife's car" and was painted gold with a black bumblebee stripe down the centerline of the car. It had a 343 V8 and automatic. I still remember the "burble" that the exhaust made. The T-Bird made a whistling noise as it gently accelerated up our adjoining driveway. I think it might have had a vacuum leak!

There were a lot of AMC cars driving around the northeast side of Milwaukee in the 1960's and '70's. AMC had a major plant (originally Seaman Body) located on Capital Drive, just west of Shorewood. The plant employed a lot of people, including several of my classmate's fathers.

-Mike W.