By June MacLeod, CHA Volunteer

“56 Chevrolet Corvette.  Immaculate.  $1695.”  That car and several others were listed for sale in the March 31, 1961 edition of the Coronado Eagle and Journal.  The dealer was Jon Duringer Chevrolet whose slogan was “Large enough to serve you.  Small enough to know you.” 

The Chevrolet dealership was located at 155 Orange Avenue (where Boney’s Market now has a business) with another location on Palm Avenue in Imperial Beach.  Originally, the dealership was known as Roberston-Darnell Chevrolet.  On March 9, 1961, it was announced that Darnell and Robertson had retired from the business and that Jon Duringer, co-owner along with Robertson, would manage both locations.  

Duringer was a 29-year-old Texas native who had come to the Robertson-Darnell dealership as a sales manager from a Chevrolet dealership in El Centro.   During the time that he was a sales manager at the Robertson-Darnell dealership, sales of new and used cars “rocketed”, according to one article,  as well as more business for the service department.  Much like his predecessors, the Chevrolet dealership had an active marketing plan and staff were active in Coronado events.  Advertisements show that the dealership did such things as hold a football sweepstakes for the various college teams, hold raffles to give away a car, sponsored teams in the pony league, provided new cars for the high school’s drivers education classes at no cost to the school, sponsored an annual junior golf tournament, etc.   Duringer served as president of the Coronado chapter of the Navy League and served as president of Rotary.   

Duringer was also very interested in promoting workshops and clinics on the new Chevrolets as a way to promote his business.  In the September 27 1962 issue of the Journal, there was an article discussing one of his annual previews of the new models; in this case, the 1963 models.     Over 125 garage and service station owners from Coronado and Imperial Beach attended this event.  The attendees at this 1962 preview were shown a “Candid Camera” episode depicting problems in the daily life of a service station attendant.   A few days later, Duringer hosted a preview for the public, showing them the new models that would be available for purchase.  In March 1964, he installed the first self-contained intercommunication radio system ever installed in any automobile business in the nation linking both branches of the dealership.  “This hookup saves half the time in many parts pickups and deliveries,” said Duringer, “and the other advantages are very great. Salesmen are in instant contact when they have customers, either with them or waiting for them. This is of tremendous advantage, too, because all our men are engaged in civic affairs, Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions Clubs, and are called many times in these activities.”   By August of 1964, Duringer was elected as president of the county’s Chevrolet dealers.   Another clinic that was hosted by the dealership showed a General Motors training film explaining the new smog control device being installed on the 1966 Chevrolets.  

In December 1965, Duringer attended celebrations surrounding the three millionth Chevrolet being produced at the Van Nuys plant.  He was chosen to drive a duplicate of the three millionth car, a Caprice custom sedan, down to his Coronado dealership to put on display.  He was quoted as saying ““It symbolizes the sustained vitality of the economy here in Coronado and across the nation which is making 1965 the auto industry's greatest year in history.”  

In the December 10, 1970 Coronado Journal, the issue’s front-page headline read “DURINGER CHEVROLET TO GO ON A FOUR-DAY WORK WEEK”.   It applied to the service and parts departments.  Apparently, this was the first car agency in the US to start this program.  The workers worked a longer shift, but they got an extra day off.

Since the late 1950s when the car dealership began in Coronado, those who worked there were an active part of Coronado life.  The staff participated in local activities and were an integral part of the city; so much so that Duringer ran for mayor in 1972.  In every Journal issue, there were ads for new as well as used cars at Jon Duringer Chevrolet.  Prices were different back then.  Gas was around 32.9 cents/gallon.  A new 1964 convertible cost around $2,750.  A brand new 1968 Corvair cost around $2200.   With its Coronado location so visible to drivers either boarding or disembarking from the ferries, how convenient it was to not have to leave the island to buy a car.   In addition, the dealership offered auto storage as well.  Unfortunately, after many successful years, the dealership quit doing business in 1974.