Last week, some of you may have been as disappointed as I that Ford could only produce a plastic model for the Gyron. I mean, the whole balancing on two wheels idea is so mad you’ve got to love it, and to not make it real was a fabulous opportunity missed.
Ford on the other hand must have been thrilled with the whole mock-up-for-concept-cars idea, because they did it again (probably because it was cheap). This time they decided to make up for the lack of wheels on the Gyron. But that wasn’t their only thought, they obviously though tacky was the way to go, and all they needed for a serious concept car hit was more tacky.
In 1962 they hit the tacky nail right on the head. At the Seattle World Fair, Ford unveiled the Seattle-ite. They could have called it the Seattle Show Car or the Seattle-o-rama and got a laugh, but no, these were serious suits who fully understood the power of running things up flagpoles and flip-charts, and they weren’t going to let humor get in the way of their glory. The rest of us doubled up laughing even before seeing the car.
When I say car, I’m really talking about another Ford model. This time a half scale monstrosity that skillfully blended features taken from a potting shed with a significant proportion of the worlds chrome output for the year. This abomination was cooked up by what Ford called their “advanced stylists.” God knows what their less-advanced stylists were working on.
In an attempt to convince the world that the Seattle-ite was a real, serious car (I can’t write that without grinning), they took this cunning wide-angle promo shot (either that or they found a four foot tall model).
Some people rave about how important the Seattle-ite was. Six wheels, they say, lots of grip for better cornering. Ah yes, but if cornering was so important to these “advanced stylists,” why make the thing so big even a Greyhound driver would get an inferiority complex? And if extra wheels was such a good idea, where are all the six wheel cars today? And don’t go giving me the whole Tyrrell P34 thing. It won a single race and the guy who did it, Jody Scheckter, left the team declaring the car “a piece of junk.” Maybe Ford was feeling guilty over the two wheel Gyron thing.
People talk about the fact that the car was designed to use different power sources. Quite how a chunk of wood and modeling clay can be called “designed to an engine,” I don’t know. They had all the usual 1960s power plant suspects, and obviously, nuclear power was on the list. But apparently the idea was that the engine could be easily swapped, so you might use a 60HP unit around town and a 400HP unit to go across country. Why you’d need over 6 times the horsepower to travel across the country beats me but it sounds fun. Mind you, who’s going to say “let’s fit the crappy engine to go downtown”?
The glass in the canopy was supposed to be variable density to give “cool, diffused light on the interior, eliminate glare and permit efficient air-conditioning.” Permit? I think this was Ford’s idea of a joke. On a summer’s day in Texas the canopy of this thing would be hotter than hell. If I had to sit in it I know I’d “permit” the air-conditioning to run. In fact, I’d permit the temperature to be screwed down as low as possible, and the fan to run flat out.
If you thought the canopy looked be like a greenhouse, you’re right. Ford thought so to, they even fitted a louvre vent window like the ones seen on potting shed to the rear of the canopy.
The pièce de résistance is the rear of the car. The purpose of the four chrome, er, pipes? is beyond me. Jet engines? Hideously polluting exhaust pipes? Waste cans to throw your big gulp into? Any ideas, let me know 🙂