Vintage Video Double Feature: Malaise Era Shopping and Shipping
After seeing these videos, you might wonder how the industry made it through the 1970s at all.
Ah, the 1970s, that horrible era when automakers transitioned from muscle-era glory to malaise-era crap. Today we've dug up two videos from this era of awful transition. One is about your depressing shopping choices, and the other about what it took to get those miserable cars into the showroom.
Chrysler's Dart and Duster vs. Nova and Maverick (1974)
A time traveler looking to buy a new car would have a hard time picking a lousier year than 1974. The oil embargo and subsequent fuel crises of late 1973 and early 1974 had shell-shocked customers and flash-frozen muscle car sales. Detroit's clumsy response to new emissions standards meant that horsepower dropped rapidly, and even brand-new cars were hard to start and would stumble when cold. Americans wanted small cars, but Detroit had lots of big cars. How would the Big Three cope?
This ten-minute film will give you some idea. Set against a background of cheery 1970s game-show music, Chrysler expounds the benefits of the Dodge Dart and Plymouth Duster as compared to the competing Chevrolet Nova and Ford Maverick. We wrote about the potent muscle versions of Chrysler's compacts, but here Mopar shows its practical side: Cheap maintenance, big trunks, and—heavens to Betsy!—color-keyed steering wheels. There are lots of cool shots of the cars, including interior detail. Keep a sharp eye out for ill-fitting vinyl and pitting on the chrome switchgear. Come on, no need to mope around the house and get all depressed over the political news—turn off those Watergate hearings and let's go shopping!
General Motors Logistics Management (1970 or '71)
Ready to get your geek on? In the late 1960s and early '70s, one of GM's biggest problems (outlined in John Z. DeLorean's not-quite-authorized autobiography, On A Clear Day You Can See General Motors) was that it was taking way longer than the competition to get cars to market. Shipping cars across a country the size of the United States is a nightmare, and this film outlines the steps General Motors was taking to speed up transport and reduce damage. Among the fixes: Non-stop transcontinental unit trains, the Vega Vert-a-Pac, containerized Cadillacs, and room-sized computers to track the shipments. Computer tracking is a no-brainer today, but remember that back in the '60s and '70s, the railroads could lose track of a freight car for weeks or even months. According to the film, GM had 11,000 freight cars on the rails each day, so this was a major problem, and it's cool to see how it dealt with the problem, 1970s-style. There were no automatic text alerts—if a load went awry, it was down to a human with a telephone to solve the problem.
This is a cool film with lots of photos of early-'70s cars (mostly '71 Chevys and Pontiacs), early-'70s computers, and early-'70s hairdos. Look for the inaugural unit train hauled by seven locomotives—and not just dinky little ones, but top-of-the-line, twenty-cylinder, 3,600 horsepower SD45s from General Motors' Electro-Motive Division. One notable blooper: The truck in the very last scene is hauling a load of brand-new 1971 Dodge Polaras and Monacos. How'd that get by the PR staff?