Please, Meet Miss Body-and-Fender and Her Friends

In which we pique your previously unacknowledged nostalgia for car-wash beauty pageants.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Mad Men did a stellar, highly stylized job of revealing the seamy underbelly of the Kennedy and L.B.J. eras. Under an amalgamated veneer of poodle skirts, Chevy Bel-Airs and brylcreem was a lumpen mass of DUIs, sexism, infidelity and racism. Rose-colored lenses: well-cracked. Roller skates: wheelless, up on tiny concrete blocks.

Still, there were charming moments. Though beauty pageants themselves have a mixed reputation—as do most institutions with Donald Trump’s imprimatur—a homespun car-wash pageant is pretty charming. Miss New Jersey, Miss Universe, Miss Cornfest, keep your industrial-strength Aquanet and white-hot ambition on the bigger stages. This pageant is for the women of one particular Los Angeles car wash, circa-1951. Unphased by the potentially unwelcome smooches of the dude in the Stetson, Misses Control Tower, Body-and-Fender and Tire-and-Battery bear their weird titles with elegance, curls set, one-pieces fitting snugly.

In the right, an older woman looks on with an ambiguous gaze. A prudish pearl-clutcher? A former Miss Exhaust-and-Muffler wistfully recalling her glory days? The Auto Part Brigade beams on, unaware.