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That Thunderbird Touch

Filed under: Looked Into   Tagged: , , ,

Benjamin Chambers writes:

Cruising through The Complete New Yorker (TCNY) the other day—though without a unique Safety-convenience Panel—I ran across a great ad for the Ford Thunderbird on page 5 of the December 25, 1965 issue (click image for larger view):


It’s interesting how explicitly the advertisers (Mad Men, anyone?) tried to evoke the romance and cachet of flight: the sheer novelty of having an overhead, “Safety-convenience” instrument panel was used to connote the complexity of the cockpit, and the driver was shown wearing, of all things, a pilot’s uniform. Drive this car, in other words, and you will be captain of your destiny, far from earthly cares … Hard to imagine that idea resonating with anyone today who’s flown coach.

However, I was intrigued by two of the car’s new features: the Stereo-Sonic tape system, and the “automatic Highway Pilot speed control option.” Maybe I’m showing my age, but I had no idea what Stereo-Sonic tapes were, and was surprised to learn they were 8-Track tapes. I hadn’t realized they were introduced so early. (According to Wikipedia, Ford introduced 8-track players in most of its automobile lines in September 1965.)

The mention of the “Highway Pilot speed control option” made me wonder when cruise control was first introduced. Turns out it’s been around since the 1910s (!), though the modern version first appeared in a 1958 Chrysler.

Apparently, the guy who invented the modern version did so after he got tired of the way his employer kept speeding up and slowing down when he was talking as they drove along together. Who knew that highly-useful invention was born of such deep irritation? Maybe that’s why the driver shown in the ad has no passengers. Wouldn’t want to spoil the illusion of peaceful command by including insubordinates just itching to fix your wagon …

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