Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

The little black kitten is perched atop the jack-o-lantern, his chartreuse eyes wide open. He is surrounded by gourds and pumpkins and stalks of corn. A picture perfect Halloween Greeting from Buick for the cover of their October 1954 issue of Buick magazine, a monthly lifestyle magazine for Buick's many devoted drivers and a highly collectible issue today.

The magazine also introduced the exciting new 1955 Buick line up, including this Halloween-appropriate 1955 Super hardtop coupe. Look carefully and note how the BUICK lettering on the masthead precisely matched the block lettering on the hood of a 1954 or 1955 Buick. Also fun to remember that although this issue is fifty-seven years old, the picture still works today!

To each and every one of you, Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chevy Centennial Part 2: Chevrolet's Bewitching Bonanza

The presenting sponsorship is not a new concept. It dates back to the days of radio, when a program would have a single sponsor. Often the sponsor would be mentioned in the name of the program itself. The idea translated itself into television smoothly into the early fifties, and created a new opportunity for advertising called the "Roll-In".

The idea was simple- create a commercial that the program flows into seamlessly. The set, the actors in costume, all was continous. Generally the characters remained in character. "I Love Lucy" was a pioneer in this arena, with the Ricardos and the Mertzes seamlessly breaking into praise of Philip Morris and Hotpoint products.

Chevrolet was particularly adept that this as well. They broke into Prime Time Television with the Dinah Shore Chevy Show in 1953, and not only did Dinah share billing with Chevy, she also sang the Chevy jingle each week and appeared in the commercials as well.

By the early sixties, the concept was changing. The sponsorship tended to be shared by two or three different advertisers, so their name no longer appeared in the show's title. The concept of the rerun had also complicated the whole naming issue, but the roll-in advertising was alive and well. Also, some advertisers were beginning to sponsor several programs, so rather than "own" one program they became affiliated with several.

Chevrolet took an extremely prominent role in Bewitched- in addition to being one of the presenting sponsors (along with Quaker Oats,) Chevrolet furnished cars for the program and utilized its cast in roll-in commercials. You will note that there were different animated opens and closes for Bewitched that rotated weekly and bore the logo of that week's presenting sponsor.

But I've never seen anything quite like the spectacular Chevrolet created to launch their 1965 line up- they created a Super Commerical that blended the casts of three different Chevy-sponsored programs appearing together in a five minute announcement commercial. Bonanza, the Man from U.N.C.L.E and Bewitched were all Chevrolet sponsored shows and remarkably all took part in an unforgettable commercial.

The spot was called "Chevrolet's Bewitching Bonanza" and aired on Sunday, September 27, 1964 at the conclusion of that week's Bonanza. It opens on the set of Bonanza with Lorne Greene introducing Pernell Roberts as the latter drives a red Corvette onto the Bonanza set. Then Robert Vaughan appears along with a Corvair,and then the cast of Bewitched pop in- literally- ALL on the Bonanza set of Virginia City.

It is literally unheard of in advertising to mix the cast of the three shows in one five minute commercial and speaks to the emerging power of the television advertiser.

In this case, it is notable that all the actors use their real names versus their characters' names, but there is no mistaking the setting or the fact that they are all presented in character. Pernell Roberts for Corvette, Robert Vaughan for Corvair, Elizabeth Montgomery for Chevelle, Dan Blocker paired with Agnes Moorehead to introduce the Chevy II, and a young Michael Landon unveiling the full sized Chevrolet Impala Sport Coupe. And the parade at the end of new Chevrolets through Virginia City is not to be missed.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Chevrolet's Bewitching Bonanza, presented by Chevrolet and your Chevrolet dealer:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chevy Centennial- Part 1: The Sixties

Chevrolet celebrated its Centennial with a special commemorative commercial on last night's World Series broadcast. It's a fun spot showing photographs from the past and present. I enjoyed it, partially because I have so many pictures of Chevrolets in my family's album. I'll be sharing some of them soon.

But I thought it would be fun to highlight Chevy's big 100 by showing some of my favorite Chevrolet commercials. Here in the first installment, we'll look at the swinging sixties. Chevy is at the top of its game, and the advertising clearly isn't limited to what is physically possible.

Sister Division Pontiac was showing renderings of its cars in exotic European locations, painted by renowned artists Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman. Chevy went for a little one-upsmanship, and a live action commercial involving driving a new 1963 Impala convertible through the canals of Venice. No Photoshop in those days, so I'm wondering how they did this one. Submerged pontoon? Nuclear Submarine? However they managed to do it, I'm sure it was a budget buster.

The following year they decided to show a little American scenery instead. The helicoptered a new 1964 convertible (sans engine, transmission, and anything else heavy they could jettison) up to the 2,000 foot summit of Castle Rock in Moab, Utah. The hood, trunk, bumpers and doors were sent up on a second trip. Then the model (who was literally tied to the seat) and a production assistant who was concealed in the trunk. The result, named "Pinnacle," was a breathtaking spot which indeed put Chevrolet at its pinnacle. Still a legendary ad.

And some fun from the set of Bewitched. These three ads, all from the 1965 season, are "roll-ins" typical of the ere. Chevrolet was a presenting sponsor, and so they were able to use the talent and sets from the program and create ads in which the actors remained in character. The third one, for the 1965 Impala, is my favorite,

Congratulations to USA1 on 100!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Buick made them go slow, too

The 1984 Buick Riviera Torch Relay Car

Certainly Buick in the 1980's is best remembered for creating two of the fastest production cars in history- the Grand National and the legendary GNX. These two rocket ships challenged the traditional view of Buick and along the way managed to embarrass a lot of Ferrari buyers. Darth Buick, as they were nicknamed, is the stuff of legends.

But Buick was a bit more versatile than that, and also managed to engineer a fleet of cars to go slow. Yes, slow. It's a fun story and it turns out there's a lot of engineering involved in making a slow car.

Buick's Offical Olympic Sponsor Logo

Buick signed on to be be a major sponsor of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. It would be the first hosting of the Summer games on American soil since 1932, which coincidentally were also held in LA. Buick felt that the publicity of the Olympics would bring enormous new exposure to its fine line of cars.

The Torch Relay Route included 33 states

One major part of the buildup to the games was the Torch Relay. For the games of 1984, an enormous 84 day relay was planned, beginning at the United Nations in New York and ending up at Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles some eighty-four days and seven thousand miles later. And the pace car for such an event would be a very special Buick.

Actually, more than one. Three Turbocharged 1984 Riviera Convertibles were prepared as Torch Relay Pace Cars. Powered by the same basic engine as a Grand National, these cars were modified not for speed, but for slow endurance. They had enormously advanced computer controlled cooling and electrical power output systems- they were designed to be able to traverse all kinds of terrain smoothly and at speeds of 2 to 12 mph. The Rivieras were accompanied at all times by a fleet of two new front drive Electra sedans, and affiliated GMC support vans. In all, a total of 32 specially prepared slow moving vehicles were constructed for the special Olympic fleet.

Period advertisement touting Buick's involvement in the Torch Relay

The Torch is carried through the Buick Plants (from All Things Buick)

The white Buick Torch Relay fleet performed flawlessly as it traversed the country at a speed averaging 6 mph. The route traversed the United States in a series of zig zags reaching major cities in 33 of the 50 states. In deference to Buick, the Torch Relay traveled right through Buick's Headquarters in Flint, MI where Buick employees carried the Olympic Flame between the plant buildings while their coworkers cheered them on.

The Torch passes through Northridge, CA

All told, over 3,600 runners were part of the historic event. Gina Helphill, granddaughter of Olympian Jesse Owens was the first torch bearer and Rafer Johnson was the last, carrying the Torch into Memorial Coliseum on July 28, 1984.

The Torch is carried through the City of Orange, CA

The Torch Relay pace car for that final leg was car number 31, one of the three Riviera convertibles. At the comclusion of the games, the car was presented to the Los Angeles Natural History Museum as a momento of the games from Buick. It remains in their collection today, in as new condition, and can be viewed once a month when their vehicle fleet is open to the public.

Torch Relay Riviera #31 in the basement of the Natural History Museum.