12/27/16 5:00pm

Carvana vending machine, 10939 Katy Fwy., Memorial, Houston, 77079

Along with starting up service at the new 8-story glass car dispensation machine on the former Big Tex Tree Nursery lot on I-10 this month, Carvana has released a bit of drone footage of the new facility (shown above). It doesn’t show the tower in action (though a video of a coin-triggered run-through of the original Nashville machine, which boasts only 5 stories of car-storage tower space, can be found here). The fly-by does show off some new grassy parking lot landscaping and the billboard that Carvana leased out to explain themselves, as well as a few of the residences on Lasso Ln. directly behind the machine. (That’s the east-bound Katy Fwy. on the left, with the flying ramps of Beltway 8 visible in the early morning haze.)

Photo of Carvana facility at 10939 Katy Fwy.: elnina via Swamplot Flickr Pool

Video: Carvana

I-10 Stackup
10/18/16 11:00am

Worcester's Annex site, 1433 N. Shepherd Dr., Houston Heights, 77008

The Kirby Group folks (behind Midtown beer and cocktail bar Wooster’s Garden and those since-demolished converted funeral home bars in Upper Kirby) look to be setting up for their Worcester’s Annex cocktail project south of N. Shepherd and 15th St.  The new bar (which is taking off the linguistic gloves and using the full-on British spelling of the name) is being built on the far southern end of the former Longhorn Motor Company lot at 1433 N. Shepherd, previously tapped as the intended site of the Heights Bier Garten; Greg Morago reported this summer that the 2 developments would be near one another. The bar is going up across the street from legally-tangled tortilla factory La Espiga De Oro (which was infiltrated and raided by ICE officers last year, after which the company’s owners were indicted for allegedly hiring undocumented immigrants).

Photo: Worcester’s Annex

Seeding the Heights
09/14/16 12:45pm

The Texas Direct Auto signage outside that 80-sq.-ft. Main St. office asking Red Line rail passengers to sell their vehicles may have hit a bit of resistance, but the company is nonetheless now aiming its ad campaign even higher: The drone video above (posted yesterday) shows the roof of the company’s space-themed downtown building on Leeland St. is now fully decked out with the same all-caps appeal for car sales. As a commenter pointed out yesterday, the nearby Toyota Center also shows off a rooftop label to flying passer-bys — though the arena goes one step further and lights up at night, as well:

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Direct Ask Over Downtown
09/01/16 11:30am

Alvarez United Transmission, 7730 Westheimer Rd., Briarbend, Houston, 77063

Word comes from Westheimer Rd. and Stoney Brook Dr. that the corner outpost of Alvarez United Transmission has now fallen beneath the canine-themed banner of Texas Direct Auto’s expansion. The shop is slated to be repurposed as a Sell Us Your Car! center, adding to the collection of Direct Auto facilites now guarding nearly all major highway ingresses to the city along with the Mars-themed Downtown locale. A rep for the company says the shop should be converted and ready to open later this fall; other United locations will retain their current allegiance and continue to operate.

County records pin the building at 7730 Westheimer to 1965, though signage at the site claims the business itself has been in operation since 1960:

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Transmission Transition
08/16/16 10:15am

Carvana, 10939 Katy Fwy., Memorial, Houston, 77079

The frame of the octagon-footed tower now rising at 10939 Katy Fwy. suggests that Carvana’s first Houston used vehicle vending machine may be a few stories taller than the 5-story Nashville machine that opened last year (the one featured dispensing a car in the mostly-online company’s noisy promotional video). Reader Tyler Battenfield sends the rainy day update above, showing the tower rising in place next to a more down-to-earth part of the structure, as shown in the construction plan preview that made its way to Swamplot back in early March:

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Katy Fwy. Auto Auto Dealership
05/04/16 4:00pm

Abel Motors, 2012 N. Shepherd, Houston Heights, 77008

A reader’s drive-by shooting at the corner of N. Shepherd Dr. and W. 20th St. captured a few photos of Abel Motors, whose new signage announces a move to parts even further north. The dealership’s new location at 9102 Airline Dr. will put it just south of Halls Bayou at the intersection of Airline and Gulf Bank Rd. across from the Cathedral of St. Matthew. (and amid a suite of other car sales and auto repair operations up and down the street).

The N. Shepherd spot to be vacated sits catty-corner to the former car dealership property currently being redeveloped as a Mellow Mushroom-containing retail strip, and a block north of the Take 5 Oil Change getting into gear at the corner with 19th St. Here’s another shot of the corner, looking north across 20th toward the ex-Fiesta a few blocks up the road:

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Peeling Out
03/02/16 5:00pm

Carvana Vending Machine construction site, 10939 Katy Fwy., Memorial, Houston, 77079

Carvana has confirmed that the work going on now at the former Big Tex Tree Nursery lot at 10939 Katy Fwy. is setup for the giant car vending machine referenced in September bid documents labeled with the site’s address. Building permits issued in January were applied for under the name of largely-non-digital used-car chain DriveTime, an investor in the Phoenix-based startup that also allows Carvana to borrow facilities to prepare vehicles for sale.

The new vending machine could be the first in Texas; Carvana opened a vending machine in Nashville last November, and also has a pickup site in Atlanta for those who don’t want to deal with delivery service. A reader sends some fresh shots of the action at the site, as well as a glimpse at a building plan:

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Going Digital on I-10
02/24/16 1:00pm

Update, 3/2: A Carvana spokesperson has confirmed to Swamplot that the company’s first Houston vending machine will be located at 10939 Katy Fwy. This story has been updated.

Online car dealership Carvana appears to have been planning to place a multi-story robotic car delivery system on the I-10-side lot that Big Tex Tree Nursery vacated after the December holidays wrapped up. A reader notes some construction bid documentation dating from September listing a project for the company at the 10939 Katy Fwy. address: The documents show a search for construction contractors for a ‘car vending machine’, scoped to involve multi-level car storage and an automated lift to bring vehicles down to the 1st floor on command.

But it looks like those plans fell through — at least as far as the location on the former Big Tex lot. Permits were issued last month to non-digital car dealer chain DriveTime for construction of a new sales building on the site. DriveTime currently has 4 locations around the Houston area, including one further west on the Katy Fwy. past Highway 6.

Carvana plugged in its first vending machine in Nashville last November, after jumping into the Houston market in October. The above video shows the Tennessee machine in action: cars are shuffled down from their glassy perch after users place a Carvana token into a coin slot.

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Pick Up or Delivery
01/27/16 2:30pm

DeLorean Motor Company, 15023 Eddie Dr., Humble, TX, 77396

The DeLorean Motor Company will begin production of a limited number of new DMC-12s at its plant at 15023 Eddie Dr. in Humble — the first new ones to be produced since 1982. Following recent changes to federal vehicle regulations impacting small-volume car manufacturers, DMC will assemble the iconic gull-winged sports cars mostly from long-stockpiled parts at its facility just southwest of the intersection of 59 with Beltway 8, though the engines will need to meet modern EPA emissions standards.

DMC CEO Steve Wynne tells KPRC that the company expects to roll out the first of the unpainted stainless steel machines in 2017, and hopes to eventually produce a DeLorean per week. The company currently services and supplies parts for the original early-1980s DeLoreans, as well as renting out replicas of the DeLorean-based time machine employed in the Back to the Future movie franchise.

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Back to the Production Line
07/09/15 12:30pm

Tesla North Houston, DCT Airtex Business Center, 14820 North Fwy., Houston

Zzzzzzapp!! Workers are finishing up construction inside the Houston area’s second Tesla store for its grand opening on Saturday and Sunday. It’s in the DCT Airtex Business Center, a new tilt-up building on the east side of I-45 between Beltway 8 and FM 1960. Like the Galleria storefront that’s been open for a few years now, the showroom is a company store, not a dealership: You’ll be able to order a Model S or Model X online, then take delivery at the company’s maintenance facility in Westchase (and take care of the paperwork at the courthouse yourself to get the title and plates). But of course you won’t be able to buy a Tesla on the premises because Texas laws require cars to be sold through a dealership, and Tesla won’t sell them that way.

Unlike the Galleria store, free juice for Tesla owners is available in the drive-up spaces out front:

Tesla North Houston, DCT Airtex Business Center, 14820 North Fwy., Houston

The building at 14820 North Fwy. is just south of E. Airtex Dr. If you don’t like what you see, the Tom Peacock Nissan and Cadillac dealerships, Corvette World, and Lone Star RV are perched on the same feeder road, and the DeMontrond complex of Kia, Buick, Volkswagen, and RV outlets and a Lamborghini dealership are just across the highway to the south.

Photos: Matt Musick

Plugging In
06/18/15 11:15am

Ferrari of The Woodlands, 1501 Lake Robbins Dr., Suite 150, The Woodlands, Texas

The ground floor lease space labeled Suite 150 in the 2,000-car parking garage at 1501 Lake Robbins Dr. in The Woodlands Town Center — just a couple doors down from the storefront in the same building that used to house Northside Fiat — is now home to the Houston area’s second factory authorized Ferrari dealership. Unlike your typical dealership (and the same owner’s Ferrari of Houston, at the top of the bend of the Southwest Fwy.), there’s no lot and no service or parts department.

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Waterway Square
05/14/12 9:59am

Expect to see workers moving dirt on the 1.5-acre site at the northeast corner of Greenbriar and 59 within the next few weeks; the city’s planning commission last week voted to approve a variance granting permission for a 7-story auto dealership building at 2120 Southwest Fwy. to poke a few feet further toward Greenbriar (at left in the above rendering) than regulations allow. The result: the country’s largest — and tallest — flagship Audi dealership, featuring a 2-story car display case on the corner of the third and fourth levels that’ll bring the latest models up to eye level for drivers on the raised freeway who aren’t looking where they’re going.

More views:

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04/24/12 11:36am

A North Carolina company that already operates 18 car dealers in the Houston area plans to build the largest “flagship” Audi dealership in the U.S. on the north side of Hwy. 59 just east of Greenbriar. The dealership would consist of a 7-story building fronting the Southwest Freeway and containing offices, parts and service departments, a parking garage, and a ground-floor showroom. A more dramatic showroom, though, will be on the top floors, where drivers stuck in freeway traffic can ogle recent Audi models parked on display. A fenced-in parking lot for 87 cars would sit behind the building on the north side of Lexington St.

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10/04/11 3:23pm

Silicon Valley automotive startup Tesla Motors plans to open a Houston dealership for the company’s all-electric cars within the next 60 days — in the Nordstrom wing of the Galleria. The company-operated store, inspired by Apple Stores, Starbucks, and airport frequent-flier clubs, will include samples of the company’s Model S and Roadster models that visitors will be encouraged to climb into, as well as a Design Studio for assembling and pricing an EV to your own specifications.

Photos: Tesla Motors (store in Lone Tree, Colorado); Purva Patel (Galleria)

06/03/10 12:09pm

It looked like the end of the line for the Chevy dealership in the streamline building at the corner of Houston and Washington Ave just west of Downtown: GM notified Knapp Chevrolet last May that it would not be renewing its franchise agreement with the 62-year-old Houston company. But a law passed by congress and signed by President Obama in December set up a neutral arbitration process for jilted dealerships, and late last month Knapp learned that its appeal had been successful. Unable to obtain new cars from GM for about a year, Knapp has survived by buying inventory from other local Chevrolet dealers. Expect to see a few more cars on the lot soon, now that Knapp has been reinstated.

Photo: Chris Adams