Just a Healey Pulling in for a Fill-Up


Rick sent in a link to this photo on the Anaheim Historical Society blog and I’m glad he did.

Even though the Austin-Healey 100 in the foreground is hardly identifiable to the casual observer, it is a vital part of the image. I know that because this was no casual snapshot by a pedestrian on the curb. This is a Julius Shulman photograph, who knows a thing or two about capturing an image of a piece of architecture. The gloved driver (captured here in her own car) is the wife of one of the Mobil station’s architects Whitney Smith or Wayne Williams.

Why did Schulman compose the image in this way? The Healey does help frame the photograph and give it some context while showing it in use. For me though, I immediately notice the design cues of the Austin-Healey; particularly one of my all-time favorite elements of automotive design—a feature that I’m surprised never became more popular in mid-century sportscar design: the folding windscreen. Something magical happens when you fold the Healey’s windscreen from the more upright touring mode to the raked, nearly flat racing angle. It is a sort of “call to arms” that must have been a thrilling ritual for many a Healey driver.

But perhaps that’s part of what Schulman intended with this photo. Pairing a modern piece of automotive design with an equally modern architectural nod to the automobile’s service. It makes me wonder if part of why recent automotive design has started to falter. Maybe there’s an unconsciously necessary balance of design and as the design of gas stations suffer, everything around it must fall to an equal level. After all, when a gas station can look this beautiful doesn’t your car need to follow suit?

Check out Rick’s restoration journal of his Healey BJ7 (future Reader Restoration, Rick?) and read more about this wonderful photograph at the Anaheim Historical Society.

DISCUSS (6 Comments)

  1. Fred

    Her wrists are bent in a curious manner. Was this done on pupose?

  2. Ted Sodergren

    Her wrist position and the right front wheel are turning the car AWAY from the station and back to the road. Significant? Hidden Meaning? Clue?

  3. Heath

    Harlo, the other commenters picked up on it right away – it’s not the Healey’s windshield that puts this photo over the top, it’s something else entirely:

    And I have known the arms already, known them all–
    Arms that are braceleted and white and bare…
    …Is it perfume from a dress
    That makes me so digress?

    I’m sure this rings a bell from your High School English class…. but I for one would love to hop in that Healey (with a full tank of gas) and hit the road with those braceleted arms, white and bare!!!

  4. Rick

    This 1956 photo just knocked me out … it was so evocative of mid-century California. The filling station was across from Disneyland … and the Healey driver? She has on white gloves! Who knew June Cleaver drove a Healey?

  5. Jon

    What an evocative photo. I agree that the decline in automotive design has coincided with a decline in architectual design, but it would be hard to pinpoint the reasons. Both the Healey and the Mobil station were bold statements — motoring was more of an event back then, perhaps, whereas now cars are more or less appliances, and roadside buildings have followed suit.

  6. Old Gas Station Pictures - Club Cobra

    […] gift for capturing mid-Century architecture. Here's more of the story from "The Chicane". http://thechicaneblog.com/2012/07/11…for-a-fill-up/ __________________ Rick My SBF Austin-Healey build: […]

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