In the 1951 Tex Avery animation “Car of Tomorrow” we learn of the “Glass Bottom Car” that allows drivers to see below them. This way they can look down and see if the pedestrian they ran over was a friend of theirs. 50′s era racism and sexism abound in this uncensored cartoon:
In 1955′s “Four Wheels, No Brakes” we get a satirical glimpse of car dealers as Pete Hothead finally decides to get a new car:
A world overrun with automobiles is the dystopian nightmare of the cartoon “Automania 2000” from 1963. So many cars have grid-locked that people have just been living in them for the past 5 years. The cartoon is an anti-consumerist critique of 1950s excess.
Designer Christian Annyas has a cool collection of Chevrolet speedometer designs spanning 1943-2011. Above is the 1970 Chevy Nova. Most are analogue, or analogue looking. I can’t stand digital readouts and digital clocks.
I had a friend back in 1980 who had a jukebox in his rec room that played 45s. One of the discs we played over and over again was “Cars” by Gary Numan. It was the year of cheesy Christopher Cross and Olivia Newton John tunes and Numan’s music sounded so high-tech, heavy and out-there that we loved it. Now he’s shilling for Sears and their DieHard battery with this odd rendition of “Cars” using autos set up like the keys of a synthesizer.
There’s a used bookstore in Maryland I’ve been frequenting on trips down 95 and last week I scored Brock Yate’s “The Decline and Fall of the American Automobile Industry“. Having read some of Yates crotchety screens in the Wall Street Journal I figured I’d at least get something entertaining and I haven’t been disappointed. The book documents the trumpeted launch and immediate failure of General Motors J-car line from 1981. He talks of the insular “Detroit Mind” which produced a car that was supposed to compete with the European and Japanese imports but wound up being just another anemic, ill-fitting American rustbucket, albeit with a smaller wheelbase than usual. Yates was at least 20 years ahead in outlining the reasons for the eventual bankruptcy of GM. His book is an indictment of the 50′s and 60′s organization men who rose to the lofty heights of American hubris but didn’t have the creativity or foresight to redirect their giant multinational corporations to produce high-performance, reliable cars at the end of the 20th century.
The ad above is for the Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport, built on the J-car base in the mid 80′s. The transparent grandiosity of the name of the car is comical. “Celebrity”? I suppose I could be famous if I drove one around, but not for the reasons GM is touting. “Eurosport”? Let me guess: it’s designed to compete with Mercedes/BMW/Volvo? Their ad company should have been fired for cramming 6’6″ Ken Howard, who played a basketball coach on TV’s “White Shadow”, into the drivers seat and having his head continually rub against the roof liner. When I’m looking to not-fit into a car to drive slowly across vast expanses of highly polished studio floors I’ll head straight for the Chevy dealer.
The Euro package came with mammoth 14″ alloy rims, V6 power, sport handling and black and red-lined trim and badges that look more appropriate as a logo for the latest Nightmare on Elm Street than on a domestic car. I love it.
Bonus: This article in Popular Science takes the odd position of testing America’s “Eurosedans” against themselves, instead of the European high-performance cars they obviously strive to be.