(first posted 5/20/2016)
I love this! I actually was required to watch this at work (for some reason). Reminds me of that song “I.G.Y.” by Donald Fagen. “Well, by seventy-six we’ll be A-OK…”
Wow, I haven’t thought of that song (or album) in ages. Great stuff. I think I still have it on CD somewhere. Donald Fagan & Steely Dan are favorites from forever-ago that my partner can’t stomach for some reason. They’re on my “Stealth Listening” list along with some more obscure Dire Straights, etc. The lengths one goes to in order to preserve peace and harmony. Ugh.
The irony of this video if we really think about it, is that there was really not a whole lot of progress made, automotively speaking, between 1956 and 1976. The 20 years from ’76-96, and obviously the 2 decades ending this year were FAR more prolific, based on widespread change in the industry. From ’56-’76 cars could almost be seen as the same over that entire 20 year period. Different styling for sure, but essentially just as inefficient, still gas powered and carburated, with very few innovations. Funny.
Steely Dan definitely seems to have a polarizing effect on people. I love their stuff. If one finds sarcasm irritating, you’d probably hate The Dan.
And I think your assessment of the two twenty-year spans is pretty spot-on.
“I.G.Y.” is so appropriate here, as well as “New Frontier”, although “The Nightfly” is my favorite song on this album.
I would disagree about “not a whole lot of progress being made”. The US auto industry may have stagnated from an innovation standpoint, but other countries/manufacturers normalized, disc brakes, radial tires, independent suspension, fuel injection, while US manufacturers normalized driving comforts such as power steering, brakes and air conditioning-biggest factors in making driving more palatable in the US.
Fabulous video either way and a great diversion on a Friday afternoon.
So much of that stuff is either in cars or in the works now, but GM was about 40 years too early. The big difference is that most of the cars with these features are not sedans now.
The system isn’t really autonomous but it is OnStar. Almost exactly.
Although OnStar never matched the flirtatious come-on of the lovely young lady shilling for her motel. 🙂
This is like “Father Knows Best”, meets “The Jetsons”.
If I had to guess, I’d say the voice-over for the ‘driver’ sounds like Bing Crosby, but then many of the crooners of the late 40’s and early 50’s sound the same. I may be off in my guess here. Also, haven’t we seen that ‘Firebird’ as a concept car of the past at an auto show or two? The Motor Trend International Auto Show in Baltimore a few years back had a display of these old concept cars, and I’d swear that car was one of them.
Oh, and to the Curbside Clue of the car in which they are sitting in stuck in traffic? I’m going to guess ’56 Chevy. Correct me if I am wrong fellow curbsiders.
Interesting that the driver / actor *looks* a lot like Bingo as well… right down to the ears.
It’s a ’56 BelAir convertible, Rick.
And the lip-sync job is SO bad…it’s laughable.
But it’s a sweet snapshot of the national optimism that characterized that time, at least if you were a white suburban male.
I wonder if Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera ever happened to see this promo film…it looks like it could’ve inspired “The Jetsons.”
They did, and pretty much every other GM Futurama promo film. Years ago, I got to talk to Joe Barbera at a Philadelphia gallery showing of some of his animation work, and asked about some of their influences. They were picking up from everything available, sci-fi movies, World’s Fair exhibits, anything that came down the pike.
They were right about one thing in 1976, many adults were still willing to light-up and stink up a car – with that “wonderful air-conditioning.” And the windows closed. Ugh.
My wife and I were reflecting on how we and many other kids in the ’60s and ’70s seemed to suffer “car sickness” on long trips. Our kids never suffered this, and its never been a topic among the parents we know. We’ve concluded the old car sickness was probably caused by relentless second hand smoke.
Why is it that when someone asked “Do you mind if I smoke,” nobody ever said “For the love of God, NOOOOO!”
HaHa, I was fortunate to be a little older, when front vent windows were still common. Those things were miracles for we kids in back when Dad lit up the constant succession of Tareytons. When the vent windows went away, our quality of life took a big hit.
I spent two hours scrubbing the metal dash in my ’69 F-100 after I bought it from my Dad when we moved to the Middle West. He smoked pipes for years (gave it up a couple decades ago, thankfully), and there were thick tobacco stains on the dash above the ashtray.
I had asthma as a kid (got car sick easily, too), and my sense is that it likely was at least partially from second-hand smoke.
Coincidental with the 1976 references, that was the year my Dad’s new 1976 LTD displaced our last car with vent windows. My folks did use those vents around town, but they were kind of noisy on the highway – and with air conditioning, they were tempted to keep them closed.
A friend’s mom had a ’66 Olds 98 that she had forever. She was a relentless chain smoker, and would never crack a window or vent. Speaking of automation, that car had the Comfortron automatic HVAC and it was turned on 365 days a year. On one longer trip out to their lake property, my stomach started to turn and I cracked the back window open in desperation. And was asked to close it. Thank goodness we were almost there!
I had a college era experience with chewing tobacco, beer, and a very hot sunny golf course. The nicotine hit nearly knocked me out and the nausea was intense. That was my last experiment with that. I did learn a few things in college!
I’ve literally wondered if we kids weren’t getting a shot of nicotine poisoning in those cars. And people would buy Dramamine, a motion sickness drug, and give it to their kids for car sickness.
Because back then smokers weren’t the one group you could treat like complete crap and discriminate against in any way you cared to. Smokers were considered normal members of society at that time.
Yeah, if you were black, not so much . . . .
So we’ve turned about on our discrimination.
I’m not sure that there is such a thing as discrimination against smokers. If there is, it falls in the same class as discrimination against people that yell out in movie theatres. There are some things that should not be done in civil society.
A family member that has struggled with on / off smoking for years once fired off about “smoking discrimination in restaurants.” We were in a restaurant at the time, and I pointed out that, among other things, we also aren’t allowed to pee on the carpet in the dining room. Public discrimination in that sense is relentless and pervasive.
50 years from now, people will wonder what anybody was thinking allowing smoking in public places. The list of issues is extensive. I still have an old and originally expensive ski jacket I wear for dirty tasks. When it was brand new, somebody sitting behind me in a football stadium dropped hot ash on the back of my coat and burned a hole in it! We were all cheering for the same college team, and everybody was getting along, so I’m sure it was not intentional. But, it sure was expensive for me!
That is the point: The national attitude toward smoking has changed enough in the past five decades that few people consider their behavior discriminatory anymore. Your comment about “peeing on the carpet” drives that home. Just the same . . . .
Take what is now-acceptable restrictive behavior towards smokers (banning from most public areas, willingness to tolerate their presence), remove the smoker and replace him/her with someone from a group who was not tolerated fifty years ago (black, gay, transexual, Latino, etc.). You can imagine the firestorm that would cause.
No, I’m not trying to start a diatribe on smoking, I’m more commenting on just how our society has changed in fifty years. In some ways we’ve become more free. In others, more repressive. And we are talking about something that IS legal.
I hear you, Syke, And in the spirit of polite debate, I think the difference is discriminating against people based on who they are (you don’t choose what ethnicity you inherit) and what behavioral choices they make (ie, choosing to smoke is clearly a choice).
In my opinion, these changing values are also a function of people gravitating back towards vital, yet crowded urban centers. Puffing on a cigarette is a private pleasure in a suburb or rural location, but do it in a city, and the smoker is literally blowing smoke in the faces of dozens of bystanders (as I can relate to on my daily commute), few of whom enjoy it. Belonging to another socio-cultural group, on the other hand, has no inherent, analogous effect that I can think of.
Living in the conditions of New York, sharing a crowded island with millions of other people, and having a certain appreciation for schadenfreude, I’ll admit to wishing on occasion that I could violently break wind in front of the smoker next to me. And if he or she should take offense? Well then, ‘What?! It’s my body, I’ll do what I want with it!’ 🙂
My Dad NEVER smoked, and I got car-sick as a kid. Both my Dad and I are prone to motion sickness. He and I could never do boats, and airplanes can be a little problematic for us. It was only when I started driving and was no longer the passenger that I stopped getting car-sick. The same is true in a plane. If I am the passenger, I get queasy if the turbulence is rough, but if I am actually flying the plane, I’m just fine. My mind is on other things (driver and pilot tasks, respectively) than it is on getting sick, I guess.
I’d be quicker to blame the ‘jet-smooth’ (aka sloppy) ride of the Chevy Impalas we had back then. I can ride (as a passenger) today in a modern car without getting sick, just as long as I am not reading or anything. Personally I’d rather be the driver (or the pilot ;o).
Yep, the “good old days…”
Must be fueled by ethanol, which would explain why this video is so corny
Fun to watch, I keep thinking they are headed to the home of the future at Walt’s Carousel Of Progress.
There’s a great big wonderful tomorrow…
Corny? Only by today’s standards.
While the dialogue is a bit formal and stilted, that’s how people behaved sixty years ago. Remember, in 1956 Elvis was just starting to take off nationally, rock and roll was still considered “race music” and not quite approaching mainstream, and, if anything is jarring, it’s dad not wearing a hat while he’s driving.
Our current informality in behavior is totally a product of the Sixties.
True enough. Elvis, along with The Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, Bill Haley and his Comets, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly and others were becoming popular with the teenagers around this time
I was born in ’56 and well remember suits and ties, hats and dresses being normal everyday attire for adults, as well as smoking everywhere, even the supermarket. Was raised Catholic and forced to go to church and catechism, was even alter boy and church organist for a short time. But even Leave it to Beaver and The Ozzy Nelson Show with Rick Nelsons budding “Rock” serenades were far less corny. Dad smoking his Pall Mall straights in the car. He quit in ’65, Mom never smoked except to experiment a few times, she didn’t like it.
Beatles on Ed Sullivan was around the time I became aware of what was happening in the world. The family gathered around the TV, OMG they look like girls, every song is yeah,yeah,yeah, etc.
Moving to SoCal from Portland in ’67 was culture shock to me, going from Frank Sinatra to Frank Zappa and Ozzie Nelson to Ozzy Osbourne, along with a trip down Sunset Blvd in the family wagon to watch the “freaks” was a real wake up that the time were changing at free fall speed.
I think you were born around 1950 so was more aware of the early ’50’s and you have a good point.
Yep, born in July 1950 (I retire in six weeks, hooray!) so I saw the Fifties with varying degrees of comprehension. Definitely everything before 1955 is a complete blur, but after that I was picking stuff up faster and faster. Like you, I was raised Catholic, and entered college intending to go into the seminary. I’m very grateful that somethings just didn’t work out.
Junior and Sis in that film are what parents hoped to raise back in the 1950’s. Teenagers . . . . . but not teenagers, because the entire concept of “teenager” was completely new, scary and threatening to the adults who were used to growing up always being going-from-child-to-taking-adult-responsibilities-in-ever-increasing-degrees. Until, by 18 you were an adult except that you couldn’t drink or vote. That was the attitude back then: responsibilities first, rights later.
I do remember being raised by adult standards, being expected to be “grown up” when company was around (which meant sitting quietly, or keeping quietly out of sight, period). Separate styles for my age group? The concept was totally alien to my parents, coupled with their thriftiness in buying clothing on sale (aka, last year’s styles) ensured that I went thru junior high and high school as a completely out-of-style dork. Which was fine with my parents as they went to great effort to ensure that I wasn’t hanging out with the “trouble” (actually, stylish and hip) crowd at all.
The Fifties were the real transitional period. Prior to then, life was The Depression, WWII, postwar responsibilities and an incredible amount of conformity in society The Sixties were the revolution, when society and individuality exploded. The Fifties were the slow change from the former to the latter.
I was born in 1951 and everything was more formal then. All through growing up I had sports coats, ties, white shirts, slacks and dress shoes. Later on had a suit. Last one I bought was to get married in 34 years ago. Today I haven’t owned any of these for nearly 25 years now, although for some odd reason have a pair of 50 year old wing tips that are still in good shape.
Except for the singing the people in the car were exactly as I remember the time period except as what others have pointed out, Dad is not wearing his hat and Mom if she was dressed up would in all likelihood would be wearing one also.
Though 1976 was a bit to optimistic for all this futuristic stuff, GM did envision future car innovations in this film. GPS, Hands free communication, self driving cars, touch screens are some of the “futuristic” innovations shown here that are ether reality and able to be bought by customers in 2016(GPS, Hands Free, touch screens) or in the process of being perfected(self driving cars)
In fact only a few years later (1958) the beginnings of the self driving car came to market in the 1958 Imperial. It was called Auto Pilot but today it is called Cruise Control.
I like those Motorama Turbine cars. I also like the Chrysler Turbine car(which was ground breaking itself)
So is the high speed safety lane normally 15 miles per hour?
Also one would think there’d be shift changes in the tower, or more than one person in the tower, or that there’d be more than one tower between the southwest and Chicago.
Back in the Fifties, science fiction dealing with the near future (say 15-20 years ahead) usually talked about a national computer network based off of three or four actual computers, housed in huge building complexes. The concept of micro-computers on each person’s desk didn’t exist yet.
So, likewise in the communication towers. Electronics were still expensive yet. Portable radios were still tube receivers weighing about 12-15 pounds, mainly due to the weight of the A and B batteries. And they cost $10-15.00 at the time. Transistor radios? Double to triple that price. The typical teenager’s hand held transistor radio was a product of the early Sixties.
And part of it is just keeping film production costs down. Keep in mind, to do this, you’re talking the same equipment (and nearly as much of it) as an MGM film being shot back then.
Even by actual real world 1976 electronics were smaller but still not cheap. 1976 Sony BetaMax $2,500.00 ($10,400.00) today!
I remember that one. Our request to our wedding guests in 1980 for gifts was to help us raise the $1000.00 needed for our first Betamax. Yeah, we were tacky, but we didn’t need any stuff to start up a new household.
Three years later, Beta was on the ropes and you could buy a perfectly good VHS machine for $300.00. And the prices kept dropping.
Seeing (choreographer) Michael Kidd’s name in the credits, I expected dancing–then I learned that this is from a combined film & live stage show (big cast, live orchestra, and so on). Interesting that in LA the Motorama had five times the square footage to display everything:
More details about the show:
The rest of the story:
Did anyone notice that “The rest of the story” also had an article about the GM Areotrain which was also shown at the Motorama? GM was trying to cover all it’s bases I guess. The Portland Zoo Railway has a little brother version of it that is still running today.
How come GM did a movie of a future world of cars all seemingly designed by Virgil Exner? He was already at Chrysler in 1956!
I guess GM was ahead of the curve in picturing the risks of Global Warming, even in 1956. How else to explain that desert-dry, hillock-tufted landscape they depicted? Even today, you’ll not find anything like that within 663 miles of Chicago.
And, really? They sat in that turbine valiant XNR-1 thing for 6-1/2 hours without a restroom break? What stamina!
Monument Valley (or animated approximations thereof) has long been a favorite locale for film makers. I wonder what the Navajos charge production companies?
Aha—I knew I’d seen this promo picture before:
Well that was awesome. Even the background music is relentlessly optimistic. I think I saw a dustbuster van in the background on one of the cloverleafs…
Even the seating arrangement was a product of the times. There were high tech things going on in that front seat that pretty female brains would not be able to absorb so they sat in the back seat where they wouldn’t have to worry about it, while the men handled the technical details perfectly.
It’s really only been in the last decade that the development of self-driving cars moved to placing the technology entirely in the CAR, rather than partly in the ROAD.
Unlike many versions of the road-based concept, this video sort of addresses the question of autonomous and non-autonomous cars on the same road. It appears that the guidance system was on the inner lanes only. Interesting how they previewed dedicated HOV or express lanes that we actually have now, just not with the self driving feature.
Sounds like the motel had something like the Sleep Number Bed. But about that pre-digested food, ewww . . .
WAIT – You mean this stuff really wasn’t what America was like in 1976? I clearly remember 1976 and grew up in Chicago. Those roads were near where I lived. My dad worked at that highway tower. We owned several Thunderbirds. My brother was a turbine mechanic. My mom was that hostess at the overnight lodging. I lived underground under all of that living with the Morlocks dating Weena. We were let out when the sirens sounded. Rod Taylor saved us from being eaten.
The statue just outside our house.
I can’t imagine why anyone thought a gas turbine could ever efficiently power a car or a clear glass roof would be livable in half the country, much less the Arizona desert. Despite the tinting and small size, I have to keep my hard-plastic sunshade closed all day in the summer.
I doubt the Onstar people were as spiffily dressed, either.
I can’t imagine why anyone thought a gas turbine could ever efficiently power a car
At the time, Chrysler were already making great strides on that.
From what I have gleaned the problem with turbines (other than horsing fuel) was the time it took the turbine to spool up.
You’re well behind on your gleaning.
I love this! Except for the part about “predigested food cooked by infrared”. LOL
Let the Tubes warm up first…
The1950’s were definitely a time of unbridled optimism, although things didn’t exactly work out as GM planned: environmentalism, Ralph Nader and automotive safety, the arab oil embargo of 1973. Between the 1950’s and the 1970’s cars changed mechanically very little except for changes mandated by the federal government regarding safety, emissions and fuel economy. Stylistically cars are nowhere near the jet cars shown in this film; about the closest to that idea was the GM dustbuster vans and they were a total flop.
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