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Entries in cars (48)

Thursday
May122011

Futuristic Products, After the War (1945)

American companies during World War II often stressed sacrifice in their print advertising. If we can all just be patient, they promised, we'll have more televisions and personal helicopters and push-button kitchens than you can shake a rocket car at. 

 

After the war, the sun will power our homes.

After the war, we'll have plastic skyscrapers and frozen dinners.

After the war, life will be streamlined.

 

The June 24, 1945 San Antonio Express ran an article by Associated Press science writer Frank Carey that looked at the futuristic post-war products Americans were being promised. Dissecting a Labor Department report, Carey describes what it would take, with the end of the war, for these products to see the light of day.

I'm most intrigued by the article's optimistic outlook on plastics, "...and years after the war, we may even see automobile bodies made entirely of plastics." However, the report acknowledges that plastic's high price doesn't make it quite yet competitive with steel. Magnesium, plywood, aluminum.. it's fascinating to look at what people of the 1940s thought the future would be built upon.

Carey's entire article is below, but I'll leave you with one word about the future: plastics.

 

Dresses made of aluminum mesh...

Bathtubs made of plywood...

Transparent refrigerators made of plastics...

Automobiles with magnesium engine and body parts...

Such visionary products of the post-war world are either in the design or experimental stage, or they're being talked about as possibilities.

But the extent to which they might come into use depends upon various factors. Not the least is the dollar sign.

Discussion of the post-war outlook for such war-developed materials as polastics, aluminum, magnesium, plywood and synthetic rubber, is contained in a report made by the Department of Labor's bureau of statistics to the Senate subommittee on war mobilization.

The latter group, a brand of the Senate military affairs committee, described the report as "the first comprehensive statement of wartime developments."

The extent to which these new materials will be generally adopted is difficult to foretell," says the report.

"It is apparent that many of them will find larger markets than in the pre-war era period, but it is also virtually certain that not all of the facilities built during the war for the production of these materials will be needed. Comparisons of costs of various materials, which have not been of the greatest signifcance during the war, will again become important when peace returns."

And the report adds:

"The costs of production for these newer materials will be influenced not only by purely economic factors but by many political considerations.

"Of primary importance will be the policies followed in the disposition of government-owned facilities. For some materials, notably synthetic rubber, much will depend on the policies adopted with respect to foreign trade.

"Many of the new materials will compete with each other as well as the older materials for particular uses -- for example, plastics, aluminum, magnesium, and plywood."

The Labor Department's glance into the future was part of a comprehensive study of some 1400 technological developments made in various fields during wartime.

Of plastic, this picture was given:

Special qualities of plastics, such as transparency and resistance to chemical action, will fit them for varied uses in industry, the laboratory and the home. Continued use of plastics for structural parts and other articles in aircraft and automobiles is expected.

And years after the war, we may even see automobile bodies made entirely of plastics.

On the other hand --

"The future of the plastics industry will be governed largely by economic factors," says the report. "The price per pound of most plastics remains higher than that of many materials with which plastics compete.

"Despite the fact that articles of plastics are usually lighter than those of metal and that economies may be affected in fabrication, the price differential between plastics and, for example, steel is so great as to discourage large-scale substitution.

"There nevertheless remains a multitude of applications in which plastics are highly economical, because of special properties not elsewhere attainable or because of great savings in fabrication time and costs.

The report points out that the production of aluminum and magnesium expanded tremendously during wartime and says both materials may come into greater use in the future.

While the annual production of magnesium before 1939 was 4,000,000 pounds, production in 1943 was 368,000,000 pounds and the nation has production capacity for much more.

Indicated uses for aluminum, the report says, are for buses, automobiles, passenger ships and for the manufacture of household appliances, furniture, bicycles and burial caskets. But most uses, it adds, "are contingent upon a suitable adjustment of the price of aluminum relative to that of stainless steel, plastics, magnesium or other competing materials."

Desings have been prepared for automobiles with much aluminum in engine and body, "but the large-scale application of these designs will probably have to await further development of inexpensive mass-production methods of working with the metal."

The outlook for plywood in the post-war world "is promising" says the report, but it, too, will have to cope with competition."

Among possible uses are private airplanes, lightweight box-cars, prefabricated chicken houses and automobile bodies.

 

Wednesday
Apr132011

Pet Horse of the Future (1905)

The dawn of the Automobile Age made a lot of people wonder what would come of the horse. In the year 1900 author John Elfreth Watkins even predicted the complete eradication of all animals, aside from the few that we might keep in zoos. Some thought a new era of machines would quickly make animal labor inferior and therefore animals would have to justify their existence, continuously proving their worth so that humans wouldn't just wipe them out as our own population swelled.

This cartoon by Albert Levering appeared in a 1905 issue of Life magazine and imagines the lap-dog sized horse of a thousand years hence. It seems the artist may have been on to something, as one way animals seem to prove their worth is through being overwhelmingly adorable. Squee, etc.

This cartoon can also be found in the book Predictions.


Thursday
Dec092010

Driverless Car of the Future (1957)

TVs that hang on walls? Automatic lights? Food cooked in seconds? American power companies sure had the future figured out! Except for one little thing... we're still waiting on those driverless cars. The futuristic family from this ad bares a striking resemblance to the family of Disneyland TV's 1958 episode, "Magic Highway, USA."

ELECTRICITY MAY BE THE DRIVER. One day your car may speed along an electric super-highway, its speed and steering automatically controlled by electronic devices embedded in the road. Highways will be made safe -- by electricity! No traffic jam.. no collisions... no driver fatigue.

I'm certainly no expert on energy politics of the 1950's, but I must say that the ad takes a weird turn when it starts explaining that power companies are so great because they don't have to wait for an act of Congress to get things done. Can anyone explain the subtleties of the dynamic at work here? Was it merely Cold War chest-pounding about free enterprise or was there a threat to nationalize American power companies around this time? 

Your air conditioner, television and other appliances are just the beginning of a new electric age.

Your food will cook in seconds instead of hours. Electricity will close your windows at the first drop of rain. Lamps will cut on and off automatically to fit the lighting needs in your rooms. Television "screens" will hang on the walls. An electric heat pump will use outside air to cool your house in the summer, heat it in the winter.

You will need and have much more electricity than you have today. Right now America's more than 400 independent electric light and power companies are planning and building to have twice as much electricity for you by 1967. These companies can have this power ready when you need it because they don't have to wait for an act of Congress -- or for a cent of tax money -- to build the plants.

The same experience, imagination and enterprise that electrified the nation in a single lifetime are at work shaping your electric future. That's why in the years to come, as in the past, you will benefit most when you are served by independent companies like the ones bringing you this message -- America's Indpendent Electric Light and Power Companies.

 

This image is from the ever gracious collector of dead tree ephemera, Tom Z. You may recognize Tom as the man who has supplied me with the vast majority of my Closer Than We Think collection. I owe that gentleman a beer or something.

 

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Thursday
Apr222010

The Streamlined Car of 1960 (1948)

Popular Mechanics produced short films in the 1940s and 50s that showcased technology of the near and distant future. This short was released theatrically on May 21, 1948 and featured "streamlined marvels on wheels." The narrator cheerfully proclaims of the second car (pictured above), "If you're looking for a 1960 model, this may well be it!"

Clip from the Popular Science Historic Film Series DVD.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Wednesday
Feb102010

Flying Automobile of the Near Future (1924)

It seems Eddie Rickenbacker's passion for futurism started early. A of couple weeks ago we looked at his excitement over the prospect of post-WWII frozen dinners, plastic skyscrapers, and the wireless transmission of electricity. But as early as 1924 Rickenbacker predicted that the flying automobile -- complete with folding wings -- would soon take to the air.

This article is from the November 23, 1924 Zanesville Times Signal (Zanesville, OH).

Imagine the convenience of being able to drive around in the city, as is done nowadays, and then when you start for some other town and get on a straight of way or enter a nearby pasture, to unfold the wings on the machine and take to the air! It will mean quicker transportation for the suburbanite, for people living at a distance from a large city, and for traveling salesman, who now uses the motor car and highways to cover his territory.

 

1924 Nov 23 Zanesville Times Signal - Zanesville OH Paleo Future

 

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Saturday
Jan162010

The Three-Wheeled Dale (1975)

My friend Andy, an Unsolved Mysteries nerd of the highest order, introduced me to an episode of the series which looked at the Dale; an economical three-wheeled car of the future. The Dale was to be produced in the mid-1970s by the not-quite-futuristically-named Twentieth Century Motor Car Corporation, and bore some resemblance to the General Motors three-wheeled concept car (in reverse) from 1964

Funny thing about the supposed 70 mile-per-gallon Dale? It was a fraud. There was no Dale car, and no intention to manufacture it. Twentieth Century Motor Car Corp was started by entrepreneur-poseur Liz Carmichael who, according to this People magazine article from 1975, was born Jerry Dean Michael. I love that Liz added the word "car" to her given last name.

Carmichael made off with thousands of dollars gleaned from excited inventors, until being arrested and charged with grand theft, fraud and securities violations. She jumped bail but was again caught after the airing of this episode.

 

Remember kids, the Future™ can be used for both good and evil.   

"We went to the research and development lab and observed what appeared to be people appearing to be busy but in wandering through the lab I saw no evidence that they were designing a vehicle or were in the process of making a vehicle." 

 

Previously on Paleo-Future: 

 

Friday
Dec112009

Quick-Change Car Colors (1958)

Imagine a Hypercolor t-shirt. Now, instead of a t-shirt, imagine a car. And instead of a lame 90's fashion fad, imagine a lame 90's automotive fad.

The September 21, 1958 edition of Arthur Radebaugh's Closer Than We Think illustrated just such a possible fad. I mean... innovation.

 The automobile industry is studying a new kind of specially sensitive car body finish whose color can be changed at will. An electromagnetic gun would emit rays that would instantly "repaint" the car in any desired hue or combination -- perhaps to harmonize with milady's new fall outfit.

D. S. Harder, retired executive vice-president at Ford, recently described research in this direction. He added that this new kind of "photosensitive" surface would also be self-cleaning -- with the silent energy of static electricity or a supersonic vibrator driving off all dust and dirt.

 

Previously on Paleo-Future: