Remembering Briggs Chevrolet

By Diane Norek Harrison

SOUTH AMBOY—With the demolition of the famed Briggs Chevrolet building during the week of Oct. 7, I cleaned out more of my folders. Besides being a car dealership, Briggs sponsored many race cars through the years. Briggs Chevrolet has also sponsored a Little League team and bowling leagues through the years.

The building, as we knew it, had been a staple in South Amboy for over 60 years. Anyone coming into South Amboy’s business district from Perth Amboy or Woodbridge was greeted by the Briggs building, which stood on Main Street facing Broadway.

As demolition started, many were thrilled to still see Briggs Chevrolet writing on the building. The building later became the home of Rural-Metro and Multi-Care, both ambulance service, but was always Briggs Chevrolet to those of us who grew up in South Amboy.

Briggs Chevrolet was first owned by Bill Briggs, according to a South Amboy resident. His wife was Lillian. I was told that the Briggs family owned a four family house next to Allen Tools on Broadway and Second Street, where Krauzer’s is now. There was an alleyway next to the house, then another factory and on the corner across from Briggs Chevrolet was Dillon’s Diner.

In 1950, Briggs Chevrolet advertised, “Come in! Sit in the driver’s seat of Chevrolet for ‘50 and drive home the facts of its greater value in your own way and at your own pace.”

In 1963, the Sisters of Mercy who taught at St. Mary’s Grammar and High School no longer had to depend upon the parishioners for their transportation. Thanks to stamp saving of the parents, the nuns were able to get a sleek new Chevrolet to drive where and when they pleased. The keys for the latest model, nine-passenger Impala were turned over to Sister Mary Flavian by J.J. Quinn, district manager for the E.F. MacDonald Stamp Co., and Daniel Zack, president of Briggs Chevrolet. Mr. Quinn said the station wagon was the first item of the kind to be redeemed under a group savings plan recently initiated by Plaid Stamps celebrating its first anniversary.

I was told in the early 1970s, Briggs started selling Hondas.

In July of 1972, Briggs’ No. 1 driver appeared at LeMans, France. After starting amateur racing only five years ago in various centers in Michigan, John Greenwood has developed into one of America’s premier long-distance grand touring driver. That July he went after the big one at the 24 Hours of Lemans, France piloting the Briggs-Greenwood Corvette GT. The racing fraternity took notice of the young man in the patriotic stars and stripes Corvette when he streaked to the SCCA “A” Production Class title at the 1970 American Road Race of Champions.

Having put in some 18 hours of grueling competition already that season at Daytona and Sebring, the Briggs/Greenwood team, dubbed the “Tough Americans,” invaded France for an assault of the world’s endurance classic, the 24 Hours of LeMans, on June 10 and 11. Team co-sponsor Dan Zack, of Briggs Chevrolet, reported that the infamous #48 Corvette “ha(d) finally been sorted out,” and that drivers John Greenwood and television star Dick Smothers were “ready for their first win of the new season.” Unfortunately, the team had to bow out after 53 laps and was ranked 42nd.

In 1979, an advertisement for Briggs read “The finest auto body repair by Briggs Chevrolet/Honda at the Collision Center. All makes and models-free estimates with 24 hour towing service available and low cost rentals available.”

If I receive any more past information on Briggs Chevrolet, I will have it in a 2009 column.

If you have your own memories or past information for Carteret, Edison, Metuchen, Perth Amboy, Sayreville, South Amboy or Woodbridge, you can email me at or send copies of your material to me c/o CMD Media, P.O. Box 1061, Rahway, N.J. 07065.

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