New book by local shines light on cars and early Los Angeles

| April 27, 2023 | 0 Comments

AUTHOR Darryl Holter at Seaver Center Library at NHM.

Hancock Park resident Darryl Holter, co-owner of Chevalier’s on Larchmont Boulevard, has a new book out. Written with Stephen Gee, the book includes a foreword by erstwhile “Tonight Show” host and car aficionado Jay Leno.

The book, “Driving Force: Automobiles and the New American City, 1900-1930,” is packed full of local history gems. Sprinkled with vintage photos and original cartoons, the book enlightens readers about the role Los Angeles’ early auto retailers played in the growth of the car industry and the city.

Holter’s father-in-law, Nickolas Shammas, was one of these early automobile dealers. He founded Felix Chevrolet and, for decades, Holter ran the family business, which had expanded to multiple dealerships along what is today known as the “Figueroa Corridor” in Downtown Los Angeles. Holter’s interest in history and his connections to the automobile industry led him to write this book. He previously has written “Workers and Unions in Wisconsin: A Labor History,” “The Battle for Coal: Miners and the Nationalization of Coal-Mining in France” and “Woody Guthrie L.A. 1937 – 1941.”

ANNUAL exposition of automobiles took place for many years at the Pan Pacific Auditorium, whose architectural style is mimicked by the recreation center there now, by the entrance to Disney’s California Adventure and by the parking lot entrance to Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Florida.

Readers will learn about the creation of the Los Angeles Auto Show, which moved from Downtown for a very long run at the Pan Pacific Auditorium before moving back Downtown to the new Convention Center in 1972.

AUTO SHOW history in the 1960s, when the show was at the Pan Pacific Auditorium, now a city park and flood retention basin.

ORIGINAL RALPH C. HAMLIN automobile dealership on South Main Street circa 1906, before expanding to a larger facility on Flower Street. Photo courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Seaver Center for Western History Research, Ralph Hamlin Collection.

Omnipresent in the history recounted in Holter’s book is dealership owner Ralph C. Hamlin, father of the late local resident (at 101 S. Hudson Ave.), and longtime Junior League of Los Angeles (JLLA) member (and president from 1943 – 1944) Marjorie Hamlin Rainey. Family fortune allowed her to donate $1 million as the lead gift to build the two-story French Regency building at 630 N. Larchmont Blvd. just north of the Larchmont Chronicle’s latest home. The JLLA headquarters building was named Rainey House in her honor.

HAMLIN’S FRANKLIN CAR dealership on Flower Street. Photo courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Seaver Center for Western History Research, Ralph Hamlin Collection.

RALPH AND CLARE HAMLIN with daughter, Marjorie Rainey, center. Photo courtesy of Kathleen M. Bailey

RAINEY HOUSE, home of the Junior League of Los Angeles, which was built with money donated by JLLA member Marjorie Hamlin Rainey.
Photo by Casey Russell

Through the text and the book’s many vintage photographs, readers will become privy to the untold story of individuals who chose to take a chance on a new invention and industry that ended up changing American cities completely.

To pre-order “Driving Force,” visit It will be available in bookstores, including at Chevalier’s, on May 9.

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Category: Entertainment

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