Home » Again With The Bird: Cold Start

Again With The Bird: Cold Start

Cs Nsuspiderbird

When you poke through a lot of vintage car brochures, patterns start to emerge. Trends, fads, styles, perhaps even messages. Notes and clues from decades ago, hidden within the carefully chosen iconography of the staged photos, possibly telegraphing vitally important ideas and esoteric Secrets of Life. These can be the only explanation for a nascent pattern I’m seeing involving birds. Yes, birds, birds in cages, carried around in stylish mid-century rear-engined sporty cars. Like that 1965 NSU Spider up there.

See the lady dangling that bird in a cage over the NSU’s behind-the-seat cargo area? We’ve seen this before, remember? When I showed you that brochure for the Volkswagen Type 3 Ghia! Look!

Cs T34 Pack1

More birdcages! And also in a rear-engined sports car with a trunk up front, over the engine in the rear, and a cargo area behind the front seats! This can’t be a coincidence! There’s a message here, if only we can puzzle it out!

Cs Nsuspider Cutaway

The NSU Wankel Spider is a fascinating car on its own: it was the first mass-market consumer application of the Wankel rotary engine, even beating traditional rotary pioneer Mazda to market by three years, who brought their rotary-powered Cosmo to market in 1967.

As you can see up there the packaging was very clever and efficient: underfloor rear engine, and cargo room throughout the length of the car. It’s a real little gem.

But what’s the Message of the Birds? What about rear engined sports cars with weirdly significant amounts of cargo room and caged birds, together? What the big secret to living that the advertisers of old are telling us?

Think, dammit, think!


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37 Responses

  1. In addition to some of the other excellent comments above, I think it has to do with how delicate bird cages, and birds are.
    “Look at our stylish little roadster convertible. Its sleek, its clean, its fast, but its also well behaved enough you can transport your beloved little Polly Parakeet to your summer home.”

  2. The owner hopes that the combination of birdcage and convertible will make the bird think it is outside flying around rather than being stuck in a wireframe house – sort of a mini avian vacation.

    In reality, at anything over 15mph the wind will pin the bird to the back of the cage, detracting from the experience somewhat.

    1. Truth! When Sheryl and I rescued a parakeet (renamed Seven of Nine, yes, from Star Trek) that little bird hated going for car rides. Lots of noise and lots of flapping around.

      Unfortunately, poor Seven caught pneumonia and basically Thanos-snapped out of existence three days later (vet says old parakeets have no durability). Sheryl and I eventually replaced her with a green cheek conure since Seven was the companion for our other green cheek. The two conures love car rides, especially the scenery.

  3. I’ve always thought it’s the mid-century version of people with their tablets in vehicles…a subtle underscoring that this vehicle fits right in with your separate non-vehicular life.

    I mean for people who have those, not us. We like ads like those old Fairlane ones showing some guy with driving gloves reaching forward to dramatically shift into second or ones with smiling people piloting their Jeep on a beach with the windshield down.

  4. I would think it’s obvious why they’re transporting birds in the back of rear engined cars.

    Canary in the coal mine.

    They’re there to detect exhaust leaks from the engine.

    Mystery solved!

  5. It’s setting up a symbolic, visual dichotomy– the bird trapped in a tiny enclosure versus the bird-owner having the freedom of all this space. That’s how it reads to me, at least.

  6. I feel like birds were a **thing** in the 1960’s. Here are some cherry-picked examples:
    -My grandma had two 1960’s-era decorative bird cages hanging in her house well into the late 90’s. She never owned a bird.
    -My former boss found a 1960’s era incense burner in the shape of a chicken in an old supply cabinet
    -The Enchanted Tiki Room
    -Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”
    -The Byrds
    -Lady Bird Johnson
    -et al.

  7. The newly announced Autopian advertising algorithm is working well because in a piece about pet birds I saw an ad from The ShelterPetProject.org urging me to adopt a cat.

  8. Two German car brochures produced about the same time…methinks the ad agency/photog used the same set dresser and that set dresser really had a thing for birds in cages. Too bad it isn’t the same cage in both photos!

  9. Not sure about the bird, but Mary Poppins up there better have some magic to help Mr. Airline Steward get the large suitcase in his left hand into the Spider. Unless there’s a second Spider parked out of camera range, I’m not convinced *any* of the items he’s carrying are going to make it into the car.

  10. Precursor to the Monty Python skit?

    “That bird is nailed to the perch“
    “Lovely plumage, though“

    (Wish I could type in a British accent for full dramatic effect)

  11. You always get a bit of carbon mono oxide and other poisonous stuff in the heating system on a rear engined german car from the sixties, so I think it’s a “canary in the coalmine” kind of thing..

  12. The Beatles’ “And Your Bird Can Sing” was released in August of 1966. It clearly had an impact on art directors of the time. “You tell me that you’ve got everything you want…” Well, certainly, not that you have this NSU Spider. And the lyric “When your prized possessions start to weigh you down” is obviously symbolized by the massive amount of luggage in these small cars. Also in 1966, Cream released “NSU.” Coincidence?

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