The Former Car Dealerships of CV – Part 5
Continuing with the very popular subject of local car dealerships that have disappeared, I received an email from Jeff Olmsted: “Don’t forget Plunkett Motors (Volkswagen) in Sunland at 8614 Foothill Blvd. and Foothill Volkswagen in La Cañada where Trader Joe’s and other stores are located now. I don’t think you have mentioned them yet. My dad spent a lot of time and money at both places in the ’60s and ’70s.”
Thanks, Jeff. I had completely forgotten Plunkett VW over in Sunland. It was on Foothill, directly across from Sunland Park. (It’s a large apartment complex today.) It was a nice looking dealership, newly built with a modern glass showroom. At the street in front of the showroom was an extremely tall monolithic spire, as tall as the telephone poles around it, holding up an enormous VW logo.
Jeff further writes: “Plunkett’s motto was ‘Got the Bug from Plunkett.’ ‘Bug’ being the nickname for the Beetle, of course.”
Interestingly enough, William Plunkett just passed away a couple of months ago. His obituary read he owned the dealership in Sunland for 20 years and that he was the head of the national VW dealership council.
Following Jeff’s prompt, and the prompts of several other readers, we move over to the VW dealership in La Cañada, Foothill Volkswagen. It was located on the northeast corner of Foothill and Gould. Once again it was a very modern glass showroom, and its lifespan was about the same as Plunkett’s, running from the late ’60s to the early ’90s – the “glory days” of Volkswagen. They were replaced in 1995 by Trader Joe’s along with its seemingly trademark insanely crowded parking lot.
Another short-lived dealership in La Cañada was Muller Chevrolet, later renamed Foothill Chevrolet. It lasted just over 10 years, from 1979 until sometime in the early ’90s. It was located in that odd little triangle of land underneath the 2/210 Freeway interchange where the UA Theaters are today. It was perhaps the most architecturally distinctive of the modern car dealerships locally. Large angular stucco slabs stood vertically, connected by gently sloping faux tile roofs. It was a striking design, carrying the signature styling of famed La Cañada architect Jack Simison, who designed so many of La Cañada’s major projects.
Reader John McKently emailed more info about a dealership building we visited in the first of this series of columns. The big glass building at 2100 W. Verdugo Blvd. is now the showroom for Choices Unlimited, a kitchen and bathroom remodeler. But it was built in 1952 as the Golden Buick dealership. After it was no longer a Buick dealership, it became the showroom for Bill Young Sports Cars. John writes: “It sold MG and Austin British cars (and maybe other names as well) in the late ’60s and early ’70s. My best friend got an MG Sprite from there when he graduated from Glendale High in 1968.”
Former Crescenta Valley High School counselor and CV Town Councilman Dennis van Bremen emailed me regarding several dealerships I’ve covered in previous columns: “In last week’s column you mentioned Robert Hall Chevrolet. I was on the swim team at CV High with Geoffrey Hall, his son, and I see his younger brother at the Y on Lowell occasionally. I bought my first brand new car, a Maverick, at Hauter Ford in 1971, my first year of teaching. I traded in my Maverick for an Escort years later. Gary Godbold, a CV grad in 1964, was the salesman. My father and I used to have our cars serviced at Lloyd’s on Foothill. My parents knew Pete Paola and bought a car from him. Later, they bought a Tempest at Gianara Pontiac. The showroom seems not to have changed at all since then. Now my son takes our Highlander there at Bob Smith Toyota.”
It seems that car dealerships were a bigger part of the scene in the Crescenta Valley than they are today. I’ve still got several dealerships to cover next week, and I’m sure I’ll get more emails to share as well.