V-8: Stare into my can.....

Joke #1: Suzy knew that Timmy was right for the "club". He had no real friends, he loathed cooked meat, and he could not bear the touch of sunlight. One more rite of passage and he would be ready. She only needed to give him his first delicious, taste of salty, savory human blood.

Joke#2: V-8! Now with the goodness of eight blended vegetables, plus methamphetamine!

Joke#3: We've switched Timmy's Folger's Crystals with  Prestone all-season anti-freeze (now available in dex-cool formula). Let's see if he notices the difference!

Joke #4: We've switched Timmy's Prestone all-season anti-freeze with V-8 juice. Let's see if he can tell the difference!

Joke#5: It burned. Golly, it burned! Timmy mustn't make a face or Suzy would see it as a sign of weakness. Just a few more swallows and it would be over. He really wanted to be in the "club"... but V-8 sure was icky!


Westerm Auto Refrigerator - Primordial Photoshop

In 1957, if you wanted to "plus up" a product shot, you reached for your airbrush.... or you reached for your staff artist, who, in turn, reached for his (most likely "his") airbrush. This was back when "photo shop" meant "a shop where photographs are worked on".

First, you'd start by taking a picture of your product, and then having a print made in large format. You know... about the size of a canvas? The photo retoucher then went to work clarifying shadowy areas, adding contrast,  and generally highlighting the hell out of the product. Surfaces were made shinier. Areas of low contrast got dark outlines around objects.

Above, we see a refrigerator ad for Western Auto. I guess I'm not old enough to be familiar with the brand. But look at that fridge! Ignore the fact that the interior is molded in "intestinal pink", presumably to help you imagine how the food will look in your belly. It's been heavily airbrushed. So much so, that there is not discernible light source other than "sort of everywhere". The food products in the fridge look positively cartoony. The metal trim at the bottom has recieved the old "metal sheen" treatment.

The point was not to make it look more real. The point was to make it "ideal", which, depending on the disposition of your art director, may be "Disney style". My favorite part of this picture? The landscape outside the window. Rectangular marshmallow trees! Hooray! I want to go play outside in Picasso Grove after the photo shoot.

In case you don't like the pink interior, I'm sure the fridge was available in "avocado splatter" and "golden shower" to help you imagine your food exiting your body in various ways, if you're into that.


Baby Cot - Prepped for launch!

The year is 1960. The cold war is about as frosty as ever, and America goes about it's business, but just under the surface, everyone is holding their breath. When will the reds attack? Will we be ready? Will YOUR family be ready?
In the interest of national defense, our trusty British allies designed for us this tactical baby launcher. (Click on picture for larger, more readable version.) It could be cleverly deployed in the yard (or "garden" as the Brits call it) looking like any ordinary baby cot, looking for all the world like the cots the baby army slept on in their baby barracks.

But, should the Russians invade your nation, the baby cot could be quickly installed in a vehicle, making every family car a potential piece of baby-firing artillery. The proud parents would simply speed towards the target and slam on the brakes. The baby would then be launched through the windshield. Assming the baby had been primed with an explosive or incindiary charge, the enemy would in all likelihood snuff it... or be completely freaked out.

Unless, of course, the communists just chose to launch a missile at us. That would have made the tactical baby obsolete overnight. And sudden missile attack was what the whole cold war was really about the whole time anyway. Hmm. This whole "cold war" thing is more complicated than it seems.

Could it be that this baby launcher was invented just to be a baby cot? In that case WTF were you thinking, nineteen sixty? Look at it. It's positioned right between the front seat passengers so the baby wouldn't hit their heads on the way out. It couldn't be MORE of a baby launcher. Sometimes I can't believe our race has survived this long.


Chevy Delray - Back when "coupe" meant "beaucoup"

Joke #1: "Stevie! Hurry back! It's your turn to set the table once you and the dog are done out there."

Joke#2: "Honey, I gotta drive into town for some bread. Can you put down that box for a second and help me install the outboard motor?"

Joke#3: The other side of the Great Beverly Hillbillies House Swap.

Joke#4: Stevie had just forty minutes to hide himself in the wilderness before Daddy came after him with the Evinrude. The summer bloodsport sometimes felt like the only thing that kept the family together."

Joke#5: No more gangs. No more car alarms going off at all hours. No more stabbings. Judy was sure the family was going to love life in Berwyn.

Joke#6: "Honey, look how I'm holding the motor! Give you any ideas?"

Joke#7: The new Chevy Delray Coupe: Just enough car, when you only need to seat six, and carry a boat in the trunk.


'61 Corvair Van - Don't call it a wagon, and give me one.

In 1961, Popular Mechanics was excited to bring you previews of all the new car models in color. According to the magazine and a quick head count on my part, there were about thirty of them, and they were all domestics. No imported cars. It's not clear to me if that's because foreign cars were unavailable here, or nobody considered them as viable options. Heh, live it up, Detroit. You only have about 40 years until nobody wants your 6000SUX's anymore and you become a war zone.
But what's this? Oh, be still my foolish heart. What's your name? Corvair Wagon? Nonsense. You're a van! Don't call yourself a "wagon". Ssshh! No, don't talk. Just let me look at your row of happy windows and your wonderfully ridiculous white walls and your orange vinyl interior and your... gasp! Orange stripe! Such an orange stripe! I need to sit down. I must have you. You must come away with me, little Corvair Van. Come with me and we will drive to grocery stores and post offices and goodness knows what places we'll go together. You know what? I don't care where I go, so long as you're with me.

So it went, in the theater of my mind, when I set eyes on the Corvair "Wagon". I think vans should be blunt-nosed. The minivans of the 1990's  - well, ALL minivans - taught us that a van is ugly as a bowl of vomit when you try to slope the nose. It's like the van is ashamed of it's van-ness. A van is a shoe box. Let it be true to it's nature. This Corvair van looks like a birthday party on wheels. If I owned this thing and I had to go to a funeral, I'd need to rent something else to drive, because having this van in the funeral procession would be disrespectful, like wearing a clown suit. It's too happy.

Happy, that is, until it filps over on it's side. Long story short, the Corvair had an unfortunate rear suspension designed in such a way that, when you cornered, and the body leaned over towards the outside of the turn, the bottoms of the outside wheels ( the ones with all the weight on them) would tuck in under the car, making the car lean over even more. They could be very scary to drive. GM didn't fix the design problem until the 1964 model year.

This is a van version of the corvair car, so it's tall body gives it an ever crazier high center of gravity. This thing must have had an orange interior to help hide the blood from all the rollover accidents. You know what? I don't care. I still want one. Vans aren't meant to corner hard anyway, and if I do flip it over, my only concern would be, as they slide my broken body from under the Corvair, from blood-bubbing lips, "How's the stripe? (cough, choke) Did you save the stripe?"


Paul Anderson - Be the mighty tub of goo you always imagined.

Aah, the bodybuilding ad. They'll never become obsolete. Any magazine with an even slightly technical theme will have lots of ads selling muscle programs and boner pills. Try this: choose any TV show or printed publication and look at their ads, keeping a mental list as you go. This will give you a clear picture of who the producers / publishers think you are. It's hilarious and not a little insulting. Advertisements want to make you the person they think you're not.
Here we see an ad from the December 1957 issue of Mechanix Illustrated. "Mech Ill" is great for crappy ads, because it's the poor man's Popular Mechanics. As a result, the advertisers are the bottom feeders who wouldn't pony up the dough to appear in the last 50 pages of "Pop Mech" (as we call it in the biz, which means "the business", which is what we call it when we're in the biz, which I'm not.)

Paul Anderson was the world's strongest man, as published in the Guiness Book of Unverifiable Claims and Irrational Declarations (ISBN 464415, extra sloppy 1957 edition with no big words). After his hernia in 1961, Anderson was then demoted by the Guinness organization to World's Most John Belushi-like Man, Whoever That Is, as John Belushi was alive at the time, but was only twelve, and wouldn't become a famous slob until the mid seventies.

So meanwhile, the world had Paul Anderson. He wrote a book showing you how to look like him. I don't think I'd need a whole book to tell you that:
1-Eat Until you're exhausted. 2-Rest. 3-Continue eating. 4-Repeat until death.

Conversely, the steps to becoming trim and healthy are as follows: 1-Eat fewer calories. 2-Eat better food. 3-Do something physically difficult for a while a few times a week. Anyone not trying to sell you a book (or duped by someone selling them a book) will tell you the same thing. You're welcome. The part that fills up a book is the part about convincing yourself to keep doing these things.

Many big people have muscles of steel beneath all that extra weight. Carrying around an extra 80 pounds all day would tend to make one kind of strong. Many big people are perfectly healthy, so long as they look after their heart and blood pressure, etc. What makes Anderson so easy to laugh at is that he's holding himself up as a model for other men. He may have a lot of muscle, but he's got at least as much fat, too.

Mr. Anderson probably wrote the copy in his ad all by himself. Does it look like he hired an editor? "BIG BOOK FREE - WRITE TODAY". You see what he's done there? He's explained that A) There is a book, and B) the book is big. Therefore C) you should write today to get a copy. Bulletproof logic like that could easily be "BIG CAKE GOOD - EAT NOW!", and by the looks of him, this is a philosophy vigorously embrached by Anderson. Hell, if the book were full of deft syllogisms like that, you're damn right I'd buy it!


Riverview Flying Cars - No injuries... yet.

A lot of my friends' parents talk with moist-eyed happiness about Riverview Park, a Chicago amusement park that existed from 1904 to 1967. Life ran this page about the Flying Cars ride in 1957. The safety precautions of the time are slightly hilarious.
Click on the picture for a high resolution version you can read for yourself. The ride worked like this: the drum was motorized and the cars were freewheeling, held onto the drum by a flanged rail and floating clamp system. The drum rotates up to speed and the cars let it roll beneath their wheels. Then, the cars' brakes are applied, quickly accelerating up to the 30mph speed of the drum's surface. Patrons spin around the drum for two minutes before the brakes are released, letting the cars wobble to a standstill while the drum also slows to a halt.

Looking at the thing, I'm amazed that no one was hurt (according to the article, which is according to the park, which is not likely to publicize any injuries). The patrons are asked to keep their hands inside, just like any roller coaster, but look how easily some idiot could reach down and grab the car's wheel. The people are "tightly strapped in" by one belt across their stomachs. Their heads are free to flop around well above the body of the car, enjoying zero neck supprt. When the brakes are engaged and the cars accelerate, what happens to your neck? Maybe it's a trick of perspective, but it looks like those waiting in line seem really close to the machine itself.

These are not complaints. I'm in favor of people with poor judgement being allowed to horribly mutilate themselves in public for the greater good. It's just that, from the perspective of a person used to having a yellow padded horse collar drop down over my head whenever I got on the Shockwave, the Flying Cars ride looks really... what's the word?... "homebrewed", like something a guy would build next to his doublewide, without any oversight or forethought. It not only looks homebrewed, but also "home-investigated-by the-local-authorities", "home-subpoena'd", and "home-subsequently-serving-time-at-a-state-run-facility'd."


The Hall of Heads, Pt.1

Back in the 50's, there were a lot of magazines about building, tinkering, and getting a new job building and possibly tinkering with the baffling new technology of "tele-vision!!!". These magazines were weirdly similar. In fact, I'd say that, without flipping over to the cover, I'd be hard pressed to tell if I'm looking at a copy of Mechanix Illustrated (apparently not "spelling illustrated"), Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Science Mechanics, or Popular Illustrated.

All these magazines understood the unbeatable selling power of the Disembodied Floating Head (DFH). Run an ad with text or illustration of a product and you may get some eyeball focus, but drop in a Floating Head and every reader will immediately tear his wallet free of his Sansabelt Loungers and throw bills at the magazine.

In this ad, the LaSalle Extension University has wisely used a DFH to make you understand how angry you should be about your current job, regardless of what your job is or how much you make. Nomatter what you're doing now, you will make more as an accountant, possibly as an accountant that resembles Nicholas Cage.

Here we see another ad, selling a machine that makes something. Mr. Warner doesn't need to tell you what the product is or how to sell the product his product makes. He doesn't need to, because he's cleverly inserted his own (presumably) Floating Head to prove to you that you need his machine that does something. To remove all doubt, he's also cropped off his own chin. Note that he carefully managed to squeeze in all of his hair. Diabolical! You win this time, Warner! Here's my money! What's the machine? Don't know, but there's bound to be a few still kicking around in basements across the country, now disused because the owners have earned all the money they could possibly need in the last fifty years. I'll just search Ebay for "machine" and buy whatever comes top of the list.


Weller Tools - A great gift for absolutely anyone.

Joke 1: "Give Weller Tools this Christmas. Just look for the Krispy Kreme boxes at your local hardware retailer."

Joke 2: "Weller Tools... Whether you give 'em or get 'em this Christmas, don't make this face or someone will make fun of you in forty years."

Joke 3: "Serving suggestion. Hands not included."

Joke 4: "Severing suggestion. Hands not included."

Joke 5: "TooooOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooools!".

Joke 6: "Merry Christmas, dear. Now please build us a house. I'm tired of living in a green void."

Joke 7: "Weller tools! Oh Trudy! You're the best platonic female friend a choreographer ever had!"


Wurlitzer Electric Piano - Oh, THAT Sound!

Steve Allen looks pretty funny in this ad, but he always sat that way. He had a kind of funny posture. Sort of hunched inward, like he was about to collapse in on himself. For those who don't know, he was the first host of The Tonight Show. That's right. Someone was alive before Johnny Carson.

Well, he was also a composer. that explains why we see him here, promoting Wurlitzer electric pianos. At first, the cheesyness of the photo had me all ready to make fun of it: "Buy a Wurlitzer piano today and we'll send you a free man!" Look how pleased Mr. and Mrs. Nonmusician are with their new man!

Then I realized it was Steve Allen. Then I realized this is the same Wurlitzer piano that my synthesizer mimics, to my perpetual delight. If you listen to any kind of popular music at all, you're familiar with the sound of a Wurlitzer. It looks corny in this ad, but the sound is 100% badass.

At the time, Wurlitzer liked to call them "electronic" pianos, because that was a relatively new technology and it sounded exciting. Now everyone calls them "electric" pianos. Why? It's because the sound you are hearing is created by a little hammer whacking a metal tine, like on a fork (but they're called "reeds" officially). That sound is then amplified by a pickup and speaker system. This makes it really an acoustic electric instrument, like an electric guitar. Today, an electronic piano would mean that the sound is stored on a chip and just sent out through the "audio out" jack. No moving parts, except for the keyboard.

Wurlitzer was a direct competitor to the Fender Rhodes piano. I prefer the sound of a Wurlitzer. Played softly, the sound is warm, like a Rhodes. But when you hit it hard, the sound overdrives and you get a wonderful distorted "bark" or farty sound that I don't associate with a Rhodes. A Wurlitzer can sound like it wants to kill you, and that's something that I value in a musical instrument.


Seven Up - The Weenie Feed

Jeffy was determined that this year wasn't going to be like last year. He knew now that he should stay away from the lobster. It's hard to ask for a date when your trachea is swelling shut. Gasp! There she was, just coming in the door!
"H- Hi, Becky! It's great to see you outside of school!" She looked nervous, like she was looking around for familiar faces. She smiled when he spoke to her, but he couldn't help but notice that she kept scanning the crowd afterwards.

Mom and Dad had allowed him to invite two friends from school, and he had chosen Becky and Skip. Jeffy was pretty sure that Skip didn't like girls yet, so he wouldn't try to distract Becky.

After a few minutes of talk, Jeffy remembered to compliment her dress. "I will now compliment your dress." he began. "It looks like you're emerging from a green sofa, which is a thing that I like, sofas, I mean, which means I also like your dress, heh heh." So far so good! "How bout a drink? My parents gave me a case of Seven Up for Arbor Day, and I've been saving it for a special occasion. Hey, look! The bottles are green like your sofa dress! Isn't that kinda funny? Ha-ha-heh."

Jeffy grabbed a couple of bottles and got the caps off with his teeth, like Skip had showed him. Ow. It hurt. This was big. If she drank from a bottle whose top had been in his mouth, that was almost like kissing her! Incredible! She accepted the bottle right away. No funny looks! This was going great!

"Are you hungry, Becky? Here.. let me get you a mini weenie." Jeffy fumbled the first mini weenie into the prawn dip. Boy, was he nervous. The second one was steadier in his hand. "Here B-Becky, let me help you." She was smiling! This was great! Letting him feed her a mini weenie was like... was like... almost as if she symbolically were agreeing to....! No time to think about it now! Just concentrate on not poking her in the gums with the toothpick. His heart was pounding. He hoped she couldn't tell. Here goes! Wait. Was someone touching his leg? He hoped it was Becky!

Becky looked around. This party was not what she had been expecting. The only two kids from school apart from Jeffy was Skip. They looked identical for chrissakes, but one was a sweaty dork and the other never talked to her. This would be an early night. Just long enough for one crisp, refreshing Seven Up and she could make an excuse, and then go. Oh for... Jeffy was offering her one of those little stubby hot dogs. Eew. As if! Fine, if it'll let her feign food poisoning long enough to get out the door. "Okay, just use the fake smile you learned for cheerleading and get the hell out of here" she told herself. One thing was totally for sure. That hot dog was just a hot dog.


Haddon Sundblom's Santa - Pure Genius

Haddon Sundblom began painting Santa Claus for Coke ads in the 1930's. His work is amazing. The wikipedia article on Sundblom says that "So popular were Sundblom's images of Claus (Sundblom's images are used by Coca-Cola to this day) that the urban legend soon arose that Sundblom had actually created the modern image of Santa Claus." I'm not sure that that isn't true.
This ad appeared on the back cover of Life magazine on December 23rd, 1957. So, it's pretty scuffed up. You can see this pretty clearly in Santa's coat.

Sundblom's technique has the frustrating (to someone hoping to mimic it) duality that it's photo realistic and impressionistic at the same time. In less artsy terms, it looks completely dimensional and real, but when you look closely, you can easily see his brush strokes. One other artist I can think of that achieved this is Frank Frazetta. Some artists are what I call "ashamed of themselves", like Boris Vallejo. Vallejo doesn't want to leave any brush strokes or traces of his presence behind. He wants to achieve absolutely smooth photo realism. Sundblom and Frazetta manage a freaky balance wherein you can see the brush strokes, but they don't get in the way of the image.

To me, this is like someone cleaning up a room. The obvious way to do it is by carefully picking up each object and putting it back where it belongs. Obvious, right? That's Vallejo. Sundblom, instead, runs around throwing junk up in the air, seeming haphazardly. But when he stops moving, everything is right where it should be, neatly tucked away. This is what his painting looks like to me. Loose and tight. Sloppy but flawless. I can't do it, and few can. It's obvious toget results by clenching yourself ever tighter and gritting your teeth till they crack. It's an act of greatness to look relaxed and even careless, while creating something incredible.

Now that I'm studying the painting, I noticed something funny. I know Santa is posing in a brightly lit room, but fire is still brighter that lamps. The fireplace doesn't look very "glowy" to me. It doesn't seem to be shedding any light on Santa's coat. Maybe that's intentional so that it wouldn't upstage Santa or the soda bottle, the obvious focal points of the piece? I dunno. Sundblom's was still a genius.


Fiberglass - May be hazardous. Have your daughter do it.

Fiberglass is weird stuff. It's still debated whether or not it's a carcinogen. Mostly, the anti-fiberglass people are bothered by it's similarity to asbestos fibers. The difference is that, when glass fibers break into smaller particles, they only break across the fiber, giving you little crumbly bits. Asbestos fibers can only break longditudinally, or along the length of the fiber, resulting in ever thinner, pointy little spears. When inhaled, your body can't shake them loose. You can't cough them out, and they stay there forever, irritating your lungs and possibly killing you as a disease called mesothelioma. Glass fibers can be expelled from your lungs, and as of yet, fiberglass is not considered a carcinogen.
Yeah, great and all that. Fiberglass still has lots of other unpleasantness to offer. Fibers can lodge in your skin and cause irritation. Inhaled particles can cause coughing and nosebleeds. OSHA guidelines recommend wearing a respirator, several pairs of gloves, a space suit, and a backup spacesuit in case you snag your first spacesuit on a nail crawling around your attic, which you will. Of course, the sticker on your hammer insists that you wear goggles and a hardhat every time you even look at the thing. So, grain of salt.

Apparently, in 1958, the hazards of fiberglass weren't understood. At the time, fiberglass had been on the market for twenty years, but apparently everyone blamed their itchy skin on communism or something. Until I saw this ad, I didn't even know fiberglass was used to make air conditioner filters. That's kind of horrifying - blowing air through fiberglass to distribute fibers into your house for easy inhalation all summer long.

In panel three, they show the little girl (with the creepy retouched eyes) holding the filter with her bare hands. Yikes. When I insulated my attic, I wore a bunch of clothes to keep from touching the stuff, and when it accidentally brushed my wrist, it brought on a barely suppressible attck of the heebie jeebies. After the attic ordeal, I had a cold. brutal shower like in Silkwood.

Incidentally, if you get fiberglass in your skin, it's better to wash the area with cold water. Warm water will open your pores, encouraging the fibers to work their way farther in ...unless you're a darling little girl, I guess. Then it's okay to have an Owens-Corning sandwich for supper and sleep under a blanket of R-30.


Grape Nuts - Sexism for Breakfast

Ho hum, another morning of servile drudgery cleaning up my husband's shit. I'm sure glad it's 1958. It was either live a slave's life as a housewife or become a nurse. Dum de dee dee daaaa.
Wash and iron shirts. Check. Saddle soap his golf bag. Check. Gather up the golf balls and put them back in their... wait a second. If I were a clever and slightly mischevious woman, I could have a little fun here by pretending it's not the Eisenhower administration and imagine I'm playing golf like a person with free will might do!
 Oh, but I can't. I'm only a woman, and therefore my only birthright is a life of servile drudgery cooking and cleaning for my husband. I mustn't touch his golf clubs or he'd... Hey! I had Grape Nuts this morning! I feel sort of like I'm full of energy (and many shattered tooth fragments from tying to chew the stuff), but mostly energy! I feel like having a little fun. I think I'll imagine that my vacuum cleaner is a golf club and bop a few balls around the bedroom here. That'll be a hilarious twenty seconds! Thanks to Grape Nuts!
Oh, that was a decadent good time. If only I had the right to actually own golf clubs or leave the house long enough to play a round of real golf! Sigh. But this can never be. I'm only a woman. Ah well. Back to my happy, tiny life filled with screaming babies and filthy mopwater. I can't wait for my husband to come home and gobble the food I prepared while hardly noticing what it looks like. And after that, I can't wait to sit on the opposite end of the couch and watch whatever he wants on TV, while enjoying his cigarette smoke and sewing up holes in his socks. I'm so glad it's 1958. This is the best time to be alive ever.


Presto Toaster Oven - Well Done

In another life, I think I could have been really happy as an industrial designer. "We need a toothbrush holder. Design one that looks good." That sounds like a decent way to spend my day. The trouble is, as with most creative efforts, that there's always a committee of visually illiterate drones who have to all agree on your design. That's how good ideas get mangled. This 1968 toaster oven from Presto made my eyebrows go up. I think it looks pretty cool.
A toaster oven is hard to get excited about. You just want it to work and not look like an ugly lump on your kitchen counter. This one is an artful collection of a few simple rectangles that manage to look elegant and light. The can opener / knife sharpener is pretty great, too.

We are currently in the design era of biomorphic shapes. Nobody wants to admit that consumer products are basically made of rectangles. The guts of the device are rectilinear in nature, but then they're wrapped in a plastic shell that is desperately trying to look swoopy and curvy, concealing the shapes inside. This doesn't work. This "rectangle shame" results in a product that, to me, looks forced, awkward, and embarrassed of it's true nature.

Here are some examples of current toaster ovens that a quick google search showed me.

All of these designs started with a rectangle or shoebox shape. They then had blobby shapes stuck on them to make them seem... I dunno, organic? It's like the head of the design house threatens to fire anyone who puts a straight line on anything. Straight lines are efficient and simple. These examples are overcomplicated things that look more congealed than designed. Biomorphic designs can be done well, of course, but we rarely see good examples. There must be some. Why is it so hard to think of any? Frogs? Swans? Parameciums? Those are all good shapes, but I don't want to cook my breakfast in any of them.


Inflatable Bumper - Like an Airbag, But Stupid

"Inflatable bumper?" you say. Wouldn't something like that need to be enormous, and made of impossibly strong material to stop a car? Then you see the picture. "Oooooh, isn't that cute... Somebody's an idiot!"
The likelihood of a plastic bag stopping a four thousand pound car is wildly optimistic. You'd think that cars were much heavier in 1972, but oddly enough, they were about the same. A '71 impala weighed 4200 pounds. Same as a 2007 Honda Pilot. The pilot is smaller, but safety equipment and electronics are heavy things.

Anyway, it's clear that Hadley's first concern is the safety of the car. The driver remains unprotected. In a collision, there are two impacts: the car hitting the ice cream truck and you hitting the dash board. The subsequent delightful multiple impacts of dreamsicles and ice cream sandwiches tumbling down over you is unimportant, because it's 1972, you have no airbag in your steering wheel, and you're wearing the steering column through your chest.

Better than that, the whole system relies on the driver "sensing an emergency" in time to push the button, ensuring that the car will be saved, once his remains are hosed out of the interior, of course. The assumption with this idea is that the driver has constant flawless perception as well as the reflexes of a housefly. If the "panic button" were mounted anywhere on or near the steering wheel, you'd hit the button with your nose, elbow, spine, liver, etc, but just after the initial impact, and long after the button could do you any good. Or, assuming that a miracle occurred, you do manage to hit the button and your car bounces softly off of the lucky obstacle. Then what? Can the bag be repacked by the user or do you have to drive around with a giant balloon on the front of your car until you can make it to the dealer to have it re-stuffed? Airbags generally tend not to have misfires. Sensor technology just wasn't there in 1972.

The silliness of this whole invention makes itself immediately apparent to almost anyone who's ever heard of "inertia". If Sir Isaac Newton were here... well, he'd be a zombie. More importantly, he'd write a letter to the editor of Motor Trend demanding Dan Hadley's address, so he could go round there straight away and eat Mr. Hadley's brain. After all, he wasn't doing much with it. Sadly, though, we'd have to break the news to Zombie Newton that the article is from 1972, and he had overslept. Even if we knew for a fact that Hadley had died testing his invention since then, it would be small consolation for poor Zombie Newton.