Cold Start: The Mysterious Floating Glove

Cs Glove4cv

There’s some recurring design elements in these old car brochures that are worth pointing out, because they’re effectively gone today, or, in some cases, have mutated into something quite familiar, yet very different. The one I want to talk about now is The Floating Glove. See it up there in that 1954 Renault 4CV brochure? It’s in the trunk and by the shifter. That. The glove.

The floating glove was used as a way to show where and how to grab things, like, in this case, luggage or the shifter. Sometimes you’d see versions of it grabbing knobs on dashboards or tracing out shift patterns. It was sort of an alternative to an arrow for things that required direct hand manipulation. The fact it’s a glove was a workaround from having to draw an actual severed human hand, which likely may have creeped out people who enjoy choosing a car without seeing dismemberments.

Cs Glove2

I think the idea has adapted into the modern era with the various hand cursor icons that have come up in the age if graphical computer interfaces, with the most common variant starting with Susan Kare’s pioneering work for the Macintosh in the early 1980s.

You know what else is interesting about this pic? The spare tire location on the 4CV. As you can see, it started on the underside of the hood, which must have made the hood heavy and awkward to lift. By 1956, they moved it, which you can see here (1960 example but it’s the same):

Cs 4cvtrunk

Also, that funny-shaped suitcase in the 1954 pic is a funny visual cheat there. Who has suitcases like that? I think the battery moved in front of the tire in the later version, too. There’s also a bit of crash protection that comes from the tire being vertical and up front, too. I mean, in a 4CV, you should take whatever you can get.

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37 Responses

  1. A great old Ford ad I’ve always liked features not a floating but an embodied glove shifting. It’s a very ’60s glove, so it’s holes-on-the-knuckles style and is connected to a sweatered arm. “Fairlane’s Sunday Punch”, I think the copy read.

    Such a brilliant combination of mundane things to signal sporting performance, and relate to the person actually involved (which is rare these days, as everything in that vein now is about the vehicle, not the driver…fitting what driving is fast becoming I guess).

    1. It isn’t well known, but after Lurch demanded an exorbitant raise, Gomez Addams decided that Thing wasn’t worth keeping around and fired it. The ad agency modeling was a smashing success after Thing’s inability to find any other… hand jobs.

  2. The suitcase grasping glove is ridiculous. That is a right hand with the back of the hand facing forward. That means that the person must be standing on the passenger side and reaching over the fender. It would make more sense to stand at the front of the car, facing left, and picking up the suitcase with the right hand. In that case, the palm would face towards the front of the car.

  3. I want to know about the hand brake! If that was really bare metal, that would not be fun in the sun. You’d really need the Floating Glove edition for that.

    And is that the ratchet plate exposed to the open at the base? Is the pawl just in the shaft of the lever?

    What’s the eyelet just above it? Is that a seatbelt catch? Backwards land is freaky.

  4. I hope that by 1960 they had also re-thought the dipstick. While having it next to the parking brake may have seemed like a good idea I imagine that the length of the thing was awkward.

  5. The Floating Glove was a high demand model until the 70’s. That’s when his alcoholism and drug habit got the better of him. It’s sad when you think about the fact those vices were all self medication from the horrible PTSD he had from his time in the Resistance during the War. He was just getting his life back together and re-establishing his career when the terrible incident during a photoshoot at the Eifel Tower when a gust of when carried him off. It wasn’t until days later that they found him lying under a bush apparently ravaged by a feral dog.

    1. I’d heard Hollywood came calling. Things didn’t pan out, though, and after the Addams Family gig was cancelled the Hamburger Helper ads paid the bills for a long time until having been part of OJ’s Brentwood crowd meant he ended up spending most of 1994-95 in an LAPD evidence locker.

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