In 1946, thousands of American GIs were just back from the fighting in World War II, and what better way to welcome them home than by offering them rugged, battlefield-tested vehicles.
This photo, taken by Chattanooga News-Free Press photographer Delmont Wilson, shows the Price Auto Co. in 1946. Located in the 200 block of East Main Street, the Price Auto Co. was Chattanooga's original Jeep dealership, although the military-derived vehicles were actually made at that time by the Willys-Overland Motor Co.
Today, the block of East Main in the photo is occupied by an apartment and retail complex.
Early Jeeps were civilian models of the Willys MB, a general purpose vehicle used by Allied troops around the world during WWII. The original showroom version was called the Jeep CJ, which was followed by Jeep-branded cars, trucks and station wagons. The concept of off-roading was not as widespread in the 1940s as it is today, so Jeeps were often marketed as farm vehicles and safer-than-average family haulers.
In an article in the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1949, Price Auto Co. owner Thomas "T.V." Price Sr. touted the then-new Jeep station wagon at his dealership as rugged and economical. He said the vehicle "gives you the protection you want with safety glass all around."
Price was a World War I veteran and a native of Catoosa County in Northwest Georgia. He started in the car business in the 1920s, according to his 1988 newspaper obituary.
The first mention of Price Motors in Chattanooga's newspaper archives was in 1928, when the Main Street operation was a dealership for Durant cars. Durant was a short-lived carmaker started by fomer General Motors CEO William "Billy" Durant in 1921. By the early 1930s the Durant company was out of business, and Price Motors moved on to offerings by Willys-Overland and Nash.
In the early years of its existence, the car store advertised itself as being a place where consumers could find "bigger values (and) better trades."
Indeed, judging from advertising volume, the business seemed to take off in the 1940s. The main office of the business moved to nearby Rossville Avenue, while the Main Street property, shown in the photo here, housed the parts and service departments. All the business's buildings were no more than a city block apart, ads noted.
Price Motor Co. seems to have had about a 30-year run. By the time the last newspaper ads published in 1957, the business was located at nearby 1518 Wilhoit St.
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