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Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017

The days of more car dealers

Posted Wednesday, October 3, 2007, at 8:25 AM

Remember when Shelbyville had more than two new car dealers? (I'm counting the side-by-side GM and Ford franchises as one dealership since they're on one large, co-owned lot.)

I was looking up information in 1949 newspapers the other day and saw ads for Darnell-Benson Buick on Wartrace Pike, which was sold to L.T. Bellar late that spring or early summer. Ads show Bellar moved almost immediately to the Union Street building which housed GM products until a couple of years ago.

The Darnell-Benson ad didn't mention a street address and I can't imagine a new car dealership being on Wartrace Pike.

I've wondered if it was in the large building at the corner of Depot and Thompson, now occupied by a body shop, which was Model Laundry for years. But it seems like it would have had a Depot Street address.

I'm just scratching the surface here, but remember these dealers from later years?

*Cook Motor Sales (before "Ernie Cook & Son") when he sold new Toyotas and AMCs in the late 1960s-early 1970s from the yellow building where the Regions Bank (or whatever name it is this week...) North Main branch parking lot is now.

*Russell Dodge on Madison Street. I remember as a child being fascinated by the wild-colored (examples: purple and lime green) Dodge Challengers in the early 1970s, many of which would be worth $100,000-plus now in restored condition.

*Shelbyville Motor Co., our Chrysler-Plymouth dealer in the 1960s and 1970s. Look at its old location, now a vacant lot, at Madison and Deery streets and it appears too small to have held a dealership. They carried a very small new inventory, some kept inside, and few used cars.

*Lowe Oldsmobile on Madison Street in the 1960s. Bill Lowe lived atop the hill on nearby North Hillcrest Drive and, I think, at one point achieved his stated goal of seeing a new Olds in every driveway between showroom and home. In fact, my parents' neighbors, Benton and Arlene Wheeler, traded two Studebaker Larks (among the last ones made) at one time for white and blue Cutlasses.

*Yearwood Motors, a Plymouth dealer which in 1949 built the building I'm blogging from today -- the Times-Gazette building. Apparently Yearwood didn't last long since old papers show the T-G moved here during 1957. Even 50-plus years later, parts of the building still look like an auto dealership.

You can't buy a new AMC, Oldsmobile or Plymouth anymore -- anywhere. Unfortunately, you can't buy Toyotas, Dodges, Chryslers or Jeeps -- or many other brands -- in Shelbyville anymore, but you sure can in surrounding cities. Surely Shelbyville can support more new car dealers.

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I am kind of surprised that we dont have a Toyota dealership considering it is considered the largest automaker in the world now and the Camry sells like hotcakes and I guess the same could go for Honda.

Of course, I buy my cars out of town because the dealerships here tend to be more expensive so that could factor into it also.

-- Posted by jaxspike on Wed, Oct 3, 2007, at 10:25 AM

As for the Darnell-Benson Buick location on Depot Street I am not sure of the exact location. It is possible that it was just beyond the old National Guard Armory on the same side of the street. I do know for sure that sometime later it was on Union Street just past the hospital.

L. T. Bellar Pontiac was on North Main just behind the old Dixie Hotel. Later that building was occupied by Burtis Landers and his partner who sold VW's. If my mind serves me correctly it is possible that Bellar later merged with Darnell-Benson thus moving Pontiac in with Buick-GMC.

A little further down North Main was Stewart-Potts Ford, and across the corner from them was Yearwood Motors (that was before they moved to the present T-G building).

Boyd Chevrolet-Oldsmobile was on Depot Street just up the street toward the square from Yearwood Motors. Franklin Boyd later sold out to Bill Cannon and eventually Cannon Chevrolet moved to Lane Parkway.

David Enochs had the Studebaker dealership just off North Main in the general vicinity of Yearwood and Stewart-Potts. At some point in time he also sold Packard but I can not remember if it was before or after Studebaker.

I can not remember if it was Shelbyville Motors or Yearwood that sold the DeSoto automobile. It seems to me that it was Frank Farrar at Shelbyville Motors.

There are surely several more that I am missing but this will give us something to work from.

-- Posted by leeiii on Wed, Oct 3, 2007, at 2:34 PM

Gee this blog makes me feel better, I don't remember any of these car dealers..maybe I'm not as old as I once thought, then again maybe I just have a bad memory :>)

-- Posted by Dianatn on Wed, Oct 3, 2007, at 8:13 PM

HAHA, Diana, that was ABSOLUTELY priceless!!!

I have purchased two cars from Hart's Chapel Nissan (and they are expanding already, to become Nissan's superstore in TN), and most of my family has as well... I drove to Cool Springs, NUMEROUS times and visited Murfreesboro nearly three times a week, in order to seek a car that I could not find in Shelbyville. They had a few, in both cities, but ultimately when I found one here, the prices and closeness to home, much better suited my needs...

Though, I think we need a Honda or Toyota Dealer as well... More competition will be a good thing???

-- Posted by darrick_04 on Wed, Oct 3, 2007, at 8:32 PM

Wilkins Motors was the Pontiac, Buick and GMC dealer on Union Street. He was there in the 1960's and 70's and sold to Swanson Hight.

-- Posted by cordell on Thu, Oct 4, 2007, at 8:26 AM

it would be nice to have some different dealerships in town, but we are already over ran with a 100 different used car dealers in town. Is it just me, or is there a new one opening everyday?

-- Posted by ljd75 on Thu, Oct 4, 2007, at 2:51 PM

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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.