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Motoramas


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(1949–61)

General Motors staged eight Motoramas between 1949 and 1961 attracting a total of 12 million visitors. Planned as extravagant shows to promote new lines of automobiles to both public and media, they were initiated at a time when demand for new models was high and manufacturing industry able to meet it for the first time since the end of the War. The first show took place in 1949 in Boston and New York, attracting almost 592,000 people at the two venues to view the elaborate displays complete with glamorous human models and a singing group, the Motorhythms. In the following year the Motorama was staged in New York only, attracting 320,000 visitors in a week. The third GM Motorama was held in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City in 1953 and was the first to feature Dream Cars or Cars of the Future. GM used these displays to gauge public reactions to future styling possibilities and performance features. Perhaps the most striking car on show was the Glass‐Reinforced Plastic Chevrolet Corvette sports car, although other models using this new material also attracted considerable attention. The Dream Car concept had originated with Harley Earl's futuristic Buick Y Job of 1937. The 1954 GM Motorama was also held at the Waldorf Astoria, with an orchestra and singers providing a musical accompaniment to the six shows daily. The whole presentation was media tour de force, involving fashion models, film show, and a Broadway cast as a complement to the six Dream Cars that were shown on raised turntables with the XP 21 Firebird experimental gas turbine car as the main focus. A similar sense of theatrical extravagance pervaded the 1956 GM Motorama that was previewed by Bob Hope for CBS Television. The Highway of Tomorrow displayed there featured the futuristic Firebird II, alongside five other Dream Cars, which contrasted strongly with the 26 production models on display. The final Motoramas of 1959 and 1961 relied more straightforwardly on production cars and elaborate settings to capture the public imagination, with the Firebird III gas‐turbine automobile the only Dream Car on display in 1959.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.


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