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Floating Bird: Cold Start

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My real job deals with the design of retail spaces, so I do know a thing or two about what makes sense in terms of displaying products. For example, I probably wouldn’t show a hair dryer sitting on the top a snow-capped mountain. It would make no sense to show a washer and dryer sitting on a beach. Somehow, years back a number of automakers didn’t think the same way.

[Ed note: The Bishop is pitching in for Cold Start while Jason is out and I’ll be damned if he isn’t doing a great job – MH]

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There are a large number of mid-century-era advertisements from car brands where the cars are placed in situations that are decidedly not car-like. Often they beggar belief as to not only what they’re trying to show, but in some cases the mind boggles as to how they must have made these images happen in a pre-CG world.

One of the most famous is a television spot from General Motors to promote the new 1964 Chevy, a clean-looking car that I’m sure GM never expected to go on to be the star of rap videos and appear in lyrics where antagonists are attempting to steal one’s Alpine head unit from the dashboard. For this spot, a new convertible was helicoptered to the top of a very tall and skinny Castleton Tower in Moab, Utah. This was an actual car and actual person sitting on a tiny surface 2000 feet above the desert floor. According to some sources, winds delayed the retrieval of the car for something like two hours, so the model (who had a harness on underneath her dress) and hidden crew were stranded briefly.

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Chevy even recreated the scene a decade later with the decidedly less cool 1973 model, including details to show how the sausage was made.

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This commercial seems to be one-upmanship from Chevrolet of this spot for the 1963 Thunderbird.

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The ’63 model was one of the so-called “Bullet Birds”.

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Classic and Collector Cars

This is a Cold Start but just for the hell of it here are the T-Bird classifications for those who want to deep dive:

1955-57 Classic Bird: the Two Seater

1958-60 Square Bird: the first Four Seater (Mister Mister’s Broken Wings video)

1961-63 Bullet Bird: the rounded off, jet-engine-taillight 1961-63 model

1964-66 Flair Bird: more rectilinear Thelma and Louise car


1969-71 Glamour Bird: the fuselage-shaped landau bar one that you could get as a four door

1972-76 Big Bird: Chevy Suburban-sized behemoth

1977-79 Torino Bird: Ultra-popular downsized basket-handle roof model

1980-82 Box Bird: awful looking Fox-based boxy travesty

1983- 88 Aero Bird: ultra-cool euro-style model with Turbo Coupe


1989-97 Super Bird: sophisticated legit touring car model

2002-05 Retro Bird: love-it-or-hate-it revival of the two seater

That’s more than you wanted to know there. Anyway, the Bullet Bird in the ad is obviously floating on some paper-mache-covered barge or whatever that is, hiding the big pots holding palm trees and whatever ballast to keep the thing level with a 4000-pound personal luxury coupe on one end. A camera crew sits on the shore a couple of dozen yards away smoking cigarettes and taking shots. They even have one from earlier in the evening where they waited until it was dark, likely leaving the lovely models out on the float for hours and needing food and a bathroom. Again, why would the time and effort be put into this, especially when the whole staging of the image is so painfully obvious?

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If nothing else, it DOES get still get our attention sixty years later. If you’re in advertising, you should know that there’s nothing more important than that.

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Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
4 months ago


Last edited 4 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
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