One of the many buildings that were abandoned wholesale in Cyprus, following the 1974 military coup and subsequent conflict, is a Toyota dealership, the showroom of which still contains a number of cars that are more than 40 years old yet have only delivery mileage on them.

It was surprising to find, however, that dealerships in similar states of disrepair exist in places unaffected by war or societal turmoil. Some have been mothballed; others abandoned; and some are still the homes of working businesses, and have simply managed to escape the attention of owners and/or manufacturers. Check out these examples – which are all in the US (with the exception of the above-mentioned Cyprus showroom).

A most incredible story comes from Denmark, where a relative of a former Fiat dealership found himself to be the owner of around 200 mid-vintage trade-in models. A remarkable series of images can be seen here.

As I looked at the pictures of these retail outlets, I was struck by the diversity of the architecture. Further searches on establishments that have not survived served as reminder of the architectural diversity that existed before ‘a dealership’ became an accepted building type in its own right.

Could these buildings of the past represent a valuable yet untapped source of inspiration for automotive retailers, particularly as the industry looks at alternative ways to attract and sell to customers? After all, the wider sector certainly has no aversion to looking to its past for inspiration. Witness the popularity of retro-styled or retro-influenced models such as the Volkswagen ‘New’ Beetle; the ‘gullwing’ Mercedes-Benz SLS; the ‘muscle car’ trio of Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro; and the MINI and Fiat 500, which have grown from single models into families of models.

Fiat-Alfa Romeo

This dinky 1960s Los Angeles Fiat/Alfa Romeo dealership (the image is part of a fantastic photostream) could almost, at first glance, be a pop-up showroom dedicated to Fiat’s funky 500 family of cars. And it would seem likely that anything shaped even remotely like Bob Peck’s fabulous Chevy dealership, which survived until 2006, would be a real crowd-puller. Certainly, less variety exists between today’s impressive yet less cosy dealerships than between those of years gone by.

Elsewhere in the world of transportation, it’s been recognised that some things are perhaps less charming today than in years gone by: witness the retro liveries introduced [albeit temporarily] by airlines to celebrate their anniversaries – Lufthansa, KLM and American Airlines are just three of many to have done this in the last 10 years or so.

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Architecture, automotive, Re-thinking, Retail


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