Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Flybrian

Random Car Showcase: Edition IV

5 posts in this topic

Flybrian's Random Car Showcase Presents...
The 1969 Buick Century Cruiser
Through boredom and...well, just boredom, I bring you the fourth in likely many little 'diaries' of a completely random car.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Posted Image
Looking back, the most engaging aspect of Detroit's golden age was not horsepower, luxury, or even styling. It was the fanciful imagination that guided designers and dreamers in producing their concept cars. The term of the day, however, was dream car and appropriately so. This was a time was technology flowed from the labs into our lives with such ease and successive rapidity that the future seemed but a few short years away. And since our wildest dreams of the decade before was reality today, why not dream real big? So we did. And so did Detroit.

The Buick Century Cruiser was launched into the public's eyes in 1969. Taking center stage at Buick's traditional showcase venue - New York's Auto Show - the Century Cruiser was showcase of bleeding edge styling and advanced technological concepts. With a look sharing more in common with jet interceptors and missiles of the day than road cars, the knife-creased Century Cruiser featured seating for four in a sleek two-door bodyshell with a one-piece canopy 'door'. Finlike protrusions are likely more for show than true aerodynamics, but concealed wheels and tires would help it cut through the air. A hot-wire-molded single piece glass windscreen (a process later used on the Toronado XSR) provided excellent visibility...at least out of three sides. There was no backlight. The rear luggage compartment was electric and could be raised or lowered to ease in loading.

Posted Image
The inside of the Century Cruiser also bore much resemblence to contemporary jet aircraft with buttons, knobs, dials, and screens mounted overhead, in between the seats, and on the front console. A TV screen showed a panoramic view of the road behind you via CCTV cameras. Designed to drive on the fully-automated highways of tomorrow (where have we heard that before??), manual control was handled by pistol grips mounted in the armrests. Steering was accomplished by moving one or both backwards or forwards; squeezing the grips would accelerate the car while releasing pressure slows it down.

Upon entering tomorrow's glorious computerized superhighway, the driver turned control over to the state-of-the-art guidance system. Insert a punchcard with a preprogrammed route into the sidewall of the cabin, and the 'Electronic Highway Center' takes over driving for you until you exit the highway. You can follow along on a strip map projected onto a screen in front console, enjoy the scenary, or - as GM put it in a print ad - "catch up on your reading" and "twiddle your thumbs."

Sound fanciful? It was, though many individual innovations alluded to in the Century Cruiser exist today. Moving map GPS displays provided continuous route information. GM's satellite-based OnStar telematics system is a form of 'highway control,' providing assistance to drivers. Rear-mounted cameras help large vehicles park.

Posted Image
Yet somehow the reality of these forward-looking innovations lack the punch and panache of the Century Cruiser. Perhaps because the Century Cruiser was penned and engineered in a time where optimism in the American auto industry reigned supreme. But by the time it debuted, the dream cars' golden age was waning. Vietnam, Arab Oil Embargo, Watergate, and the Japanese. The focus was no longer on dreaming the future; it was on preserving a place in the present.

Perhaps one day soon we'll dream up big things again. But until then, we can look back on cars like the Century Cruiser and imagine ourselves what the future could very possibly be.

Posted Image
Sidenote: GM's advertising remarked, "You can't buy a Century Cruiser today..." but you can. Even today you can. Around the time of the real car's debut, Hasbro made a plastic replica as part of its Amaze-A-Matics series of cars. These neat little toys were designed to drive by itself around a route set up with cones. Unlike bumper or infrared toys that behave similarly today, these cars' routes were preprogrammed into a punch card inserted into the rear. The electronics inside read the card, and drove the card's route. Interestingly, this is identical in concept to the 1:1 scale's automated driving mode.

You can read a little more about the Amaze-A-Matic Century Cruiser here at Toy Room Collectibles or try to pick one up yourself on eBay. I know I'll be trying to!


**--If you have a suggestion for Random Car Showcase, feel free to PM me!--**

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Note that this is perhaps the only case of blatant GM showcar recycling: the '69 Buick Century Cruiser first appeared as XP-720, the 1964 Firebird IV. I believe there was a large degree of re-engineering done, but stylistically, the fact that these are the same cars in undeniable.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dream car is right.

I love these 1960s concepts... for some reason they never reek

of skepticism & blatant P&R bull$hit like today's "concept" cars.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dream car is right.

I love these 1960s concepts... for some reason they never reek

of skepticism & blatant P&R bull$hit like today's "concept" cars.

When I see ads from the 1960s of people smiling, I think of the unbridled optimism that existed in the early '60s.

When I see ads now of people smiling, I mostly think that they're either smug jerks or it's just plain propaganda.

Zeitgeist changes how you percieve things, and therefore changes advertising.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sweet car, I love it!

Chris

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0