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 🙂
Wow that is one ugly car. I think the tubes could have been fitted with some stolen JATO Jet packs for a little boost . Did it have a pop-up rudder ? Don’t tell me those clowns at Ford forgot the rudder.
For an extra exciting driving experience you could just ignite one JATO tube on the left or right side while motoring up a freeway at night. I’ve always wanted to do a donut on a freeway.
Yeah, JATO packs seem like the best option. Maybe this is how the myth of the rocket assisted car taking off and burying itself in the side of a mountain started? Have you ever seen the top Gear winter Olympics episode where they launch a mini down a ski jump with rocket assist. It didn’t go far but it looked impressive.
Donuts on a freeway sounds like a laugh, provided you don’t do too many and forget which way to go afterwards!
OK don’t laugh at me but as the worlds least authority on popular culture and television. Thank you for letting me know that their is something called “TOP Gear”. My guess is that it is a TV show. Am I right?
OK..go ahead an laugh. I won’t hear you any way.
No laughing. Yes, Top Gear is a British show with american, Australian (etc) spin-offs. It used to be a straight review of cars show, but under Jeremy Clarkson it’s bloomed into a wild beast drawing 350 million viewers around the world (they claim). It’s on BBC America, if you get that channel. They do things like drive to the north pole and launch cars on rockets (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_b4WzWFKQ20). It’s very funny and sees me through my morning bash on a treadmill.
It’s a standing joke that the show has a bigger budget than the actual UK space program.
I’ve never known how to judge cars. Mostly I go by color. If it’s a nice color, then I’m happy with it. Ugly? I just don’t know, although I can sure tell practical from silly. Like, is it a freaky terrarium, and how am I ever going to be able to wash the mud off it after a trip to the lake, and how will it corner?
For good-looking cars, I tend to like the big sedans of the early 1950s–great, pillowy behemoths. Or the sports cars of the 1930s–shazzam!
I have noticed that the cars you feature in your header are very handsome.
In fact, your whole blog is good-looking, and seems very practical to me. For instance, I had no trouble at all just now when I swabbed my monitor screen. 🙂
I’ve always had an opinion on what makes an ugly car, but never had the money to avoid them. In fact, if you like the car in the header then you do have a good taste in cars!
Despite my mick-taking of concept cars of the 50s, there were a lot of great cars from that era. My favorites are typically long open top cruisers, but I did have a ’59 Mini which was brilliant.
Glad the monitor swabbing went well 🙂