THE FIRST CHEVY DEALERSHIP IN TITUSVILLE FLORIDA
You know how sometimes you "can't see the forest for the trees"? That's how I felt when our own Joe Whitaker discovered one of the oldest Chevy dealerships, Pirtle Chevrolet, in the southeast and the first one in our fair city of Tttusville, FL right on the corner of US-1 and Main street. Mind you I had been driving past that location since moving here in 1974 with no idea that I was passing such an interesting and unique historical place.
Now in all fairness to me, Pirtle Chevrolet does not occupy the corner at that intersection anymore. That's why I wasn't aware of its existence through the years. The dealership opened in 1930 and closed in 1940 when WWII interrupted new car manufacturing. The building is now owned by grandson Bob Pirtle and has been the Central Garage Antique Shop with a heavy emphasis on car memorabilia since 2000. In 1945 at war's end, Chevrolet wanted Pirtle to build a larger building and add an indoor showroom (previously the new cars were outside at the front of the dealership), but the Pirtle's decided against it and dropped their dealer status. Bob said that his Dad and Grandfather changed the name from Pirtle Chevrolet to Central Garage and did all kinds of automotive repair and service work plus machine shop and tooling work and provided wrecker/towing services to the North Brevard county area. After his Grandfather passed away and his Dad retired, his Uncle Charlie ran the garage as more of a machine shop until Bob took over the building in 2000.
1. A rare 1947 Frasier is parked on the original alignment rack on the garage floor.
2. The original front facade of the old dealership. Originally, an overhang covered the front parking lot. This area was the outdoor showroom where new cars were displayed.
3. Robert Pirtle, proprietor of Central Garage Antique,sstands behind the original sales counter (still equipped with original cash register and telephone) just as his ancestors did almost 70 years ago.
4. This is where the original parts window and offices were located behind the glass. Much of the original 1930's furniture and 30's and 40's era parts still stock the parts bins
5. Ancient Bear headlight aimer isstill on original tracks on the floor-ready to aim the next setof headlights.
Bob has kept much of the old Chevy dealership intact to preserve its hist ory The old office and parts department are still as they were sixty-six years ago, right down to the still-working original black bakelite telephone. Rummaging through those old parts bins was quite a trip for Joe Whitaker and me while interviewing Bob for this story.
While blowing dust off of old signs and parts and making one nostalgic discovery after another, Joe and I wandered into another part of the building where we found two old behemoths lurking in the semi-darkness; International and 5-ton Federal wreckers that were used in years past. The giant machines have been sitting idle for a few decades, but are still imposing to see up close. In the deeper gloom at the back of the building and covered in layers of dust , we found a diamond in-the-rough; a 1956 3100 pickup that Bob told us had been purchased almost new by his Grandfather, E. B. Pirtle, who use d it as a rental property service truck from 1956 until 1972. Joe said it was original except for the addition of a ladder rack in the bed. The truck is "Not for sale!" according to Bob. At that point we had been interviewing Bob for about two hours, which was plenty of information for me to write his story However, I think Joe could have stayed at the garage for days if I had let him. I know he has been back there a few times since the interview.
There is no doubt Central Garage Antiques in Titusville, Florida is a treasure-trove of old Chevy stuff and the buffs who love old car memorabilia and other antiques. I know I'll be back to visit with Bob Pirtle again because there are still a lot of cool items I want to check out more closely.
8. 1956 3100 pickup was purchased almost new by Robert's, Grandfather, E.B. Pirtle who used it as a rental property service truck from 1956 until 1972. Truck is "Not for sale!"
9. Original service invoice book-with just one invoice used!
10. Original used '55-'56 steering wheel on the wall.
11. Display counter still stocked with genuine parts!
12 & 14. Old International and Huge 5-ton Federal wreckers were both used by the dealership and garage.
13. Original dealer albums and paperwork from the last year of operation as a Chevy dealer on display and for sale!