1959 Edsel - Relatively smaller.

In 1959, Edsel was happy to announce the new smallerness of their cars. Huh? Even now, Americans want bigger cars at any cost. Sure, we remember the small car craze precipitated by the oil crisis of The Seventies, and the overall shittiness of the asthmatic engines that the clueless engineers designed to power them, but it's weird to see a car company bragging about the shorter length of their cars in 1959.
But there it is in black and white dark grey and light grey: "Roomy without useless length... Because Edsel's new styling sensibility called for less length this year!" Weird, huh? As a guy who likes small cars for their handling and overall non-boatiness, it's a little gratifying to see something like this said in public as early as '59.

Until, that is, you consider that Ford dissolved it's Edsel division in 1960 because "the Edsel never gained popularity with contemporary American car buyers and sold poorly." Ah. This feels more familiar - the understanding that the vast majority of the population doesn't like what I like. Best to keep my head down and my mouth shut.

Americans only buy smaller cars when they feel forced to by economic constraints. Then they resent the small car that they feel stuck with. This is why small cars are burdened with the stigma of cheapness in this country.

Anyway, nice painting! As we have come to expect, the car is painted in great detail, and everything else is rendered a bit looser and more impressionistically, seemingly with a larger brush. This helps to keep the focus on the product.

At first glance, the proud couple seems to be stepping into an antique shop or some other barnlike country-fried establishment. But nope, a closer look shows us this is a high-class restaurant, with bow ties and everything. That must be the waiter's wagon wheel parked just outside the door. Notice that the interior detail of the restaurant is painted in very muted colors (beige and brown). Again, this helps to push it into the background and keeps it from calling your attention away from the car.

Also, we can see that my copy of the magazine was sneezed on by someone with necrotic rhinitis. It's no more than I deserve for liking small cars.

UPDATE: Steve Miller posted some deep knowledge about the history of Studebaker in the comments, and it's too damn good to be missed. Here it is in "post addendum" form:

Right idea, wrong car. Studebaker, after its 1957-58 success* with the no-frills Scotsman series(single sun visor, no door arm rests, choice of three homely paint colors, painted trim instead of chrome), whacked off the front and back of their standard-sized sedans to produce... the Lark! 

Upshot of the surgery? Studebaker's sales of 44,759 units in 1958 was almost trebled for 1959. The Lark enabled Studebaker to hang on to breath long enough to produce the astounding Avanti. But the moving finger had written -- the board diversified corporate holdings, and Studebaker stumbled to the curb -- in Hamilton, Ontario -- by 1966, ending 114 years in transportation and 64 in the auto industry.

*Success is relative -- the Scotsman series accounted for close to half of Studebaker's sales for 1958. But 1958 was a recession year, and a real horror show for the car business on the whole. So, not exactly an auspicious time for Ford to launch a new marque, especially one targeting a near-luxury market.

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Little Ads, almost exclusively just for grownups.

Here's a tiny two-inch ad from the back pages of a 1957 issue of LIFE magazine. Not having been issued myself at the time, until I saw this ad, I didn't know the history of the Tropicana. Turns out it was in Cuba, and that means that in the fifties, this was THE place to be. '57 would have been the height of the swinginest period for the Tropicana, making it just about the coolest place on Earth at the time. Imagine who you could have seen walking around at the Tropicana in '57.
Is the Tropicana still there? Oh, yeah. Still rocking it.

Knowing all this, it's kind of surprising that the Tropicana club needed to advertise. Knowing that they DID advertise, it's surprising that this weensy ad is so pathetic. I picture a full page ad in color. But, then again, maybe they didn't really need to try that hard to bring in the tourists?

Not far from the Tropicana ad was this one for Sonjay Mills, (then some other word that we can't read - probably "inc"). Where's Sonjay located? Bangalore? Nope. New York. Anyway, this is all secondary to the two languid babes draped over each other in their small clothes. What the hell gives? Checking the cover to make sure this is LIFE magazine, a family publication. Yep. "Party Time" lingerie? Holy smokes.

Ship & Shore apparently made adorable nautically-themed blouses for noseless children. The look for spring was "blouses as fresh as a scrubbed-shiny face". I'll say. Their faces are certainly uncontaminated by noses. This must be was Lord Voldermort bought for his little girls.
"Nothing's too good for my girlsssss!"
This rather graphic illustration may have been a welcome sight to corn sufferers, but more likely they found it as grody as the rest of us. Thanks, Dr. Scholl's. We could do without the picture. Maybe show us a picture of the pad? Nope. Better include a fully rendered illustration of someone tweezing out some growths, leaving little corny sockets behind. Eew. Maybe I can get The Ship & Shore guys to just sand my feet off and be done with it, like they did to those girls' noses.


1958 De Soto Fireflite - Chrome, but little chroma.

Like everybody else in postwar America, De Soto was all about The Future. I wish there was still as much interest in futurism. "Styled for the future". When's the last time you saw a car ad bragging about futuristic design? Not that De Soto could be said to have an inside line on the styles of The Sixties or anything beyond. Far from it. Tail fins and chrome. This car has it's butt solidly parked in The Fifties.
That's nothing to hold against them, though. Predicting future trends is nearly impossible. It would have been  fairer to say that the '58 De Sotos were "styled for the cartoonsh vision of The Future" that everyone shared at the time. However, that wouldn't sound so good to potential customers.

I'm the only multicellular life form that thinks tail fins on cars were childish and stupid. People are more than willing to make fun of the giant picnic tables spoilers that racer boys mount to the trunks of their Hondas, but I'll bet the same people get all misty talking about tail fins, when they serve the same aerodynamic purpose as add-on wings and spoilers: none.*

Yes, I understand that aerospace was new and exciting at the time, and that car manufacturers wanted to include jet-age styling cues to their production vehicles, but you didn't see grown men driving around with pretend space helmets and ray guns, right? Cowboy shows were also popular at the time, but they didn't design cars with stuffed horsey heads on the front. Well, not production vehicles, anyway.

Anyway, this ad is interesting from a design standpoint. They've chosen to show a white car on a white background surrounded by (all white) people in white clothing. Why's that? The big title of the ad is talking about the interior room that the car offers. They also mention the exterior styling of the car, so you can't do a close-up of the inside of the car. With all the visual clutter of the human figures, how do you direct attention to the interior? Color. They chose an all-white color scheme and used a car with a red interior, so it pops off the page. The only other color in the ad as a low-saturation steel blue seen in the text, and the pinkish color of the honkeys surrounding the car. By using a bright red interior, they've directed your eye into the car first, and then to the people and shape of the car afterwards. Very clever.

Sorry for not painting out the magazine's groin today. This one would have been a fairly hard job, as the fold goes right through the sailor's backside and much of the car's detail. There would have been a lot of information to fake in.

*Yes, spoilers, and wings CAN provide vital downforce for racing purposes, and sometimes reduce drag, but those are added to a car only after proper wind tunnel testing and analysis. A Pep Boys- sourced rear spoiler on a front-wheel-drive Civic is pointless and stupid. It probably adds no downforce under 100mph, and even if the retard happens to have it pointing in the right direction (downwards), the wing is applying the downforce at the wrong end of the car, as front-drive cars suffer from understeer, not oversteer, which is the handling trait that rear spoilers are meant to reduce. If anything, the spoiler is probably adding aerodynamic drag, making the car slower and ruining gas mileage. Don't get me started.

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Zenith Color TV - Better than reality.

Throughout my many lives and careers, I've found that, when people know they're looking at a painting or illustration, their expectations change. People tend not to question a photograph (apart from obvious weirdnesses which are always attributed to digital manipulation). When looking at a piece of art, any discrepancies between what they see and when they expect are blamed on the artist, not their own brain. People want art to be idealized, and better than reality. So, sometimes, when photographing something kind of weird or "ugly", like electronics, they used to retouch the photograph to "plus up" the otherwise unappealing picture.
Zenith wanted to feature the build quality of their televisions. Trouble is, the guts of a TV aren't classically "beautiful", even when brand new and not covered in two inches of dust and cat hair. This photo was "improved" by an artist to make the metal components shiny and nice. They could have just done the whole thing as an illustration, but I'm 90% sure that, to save time and trouble, they started with a photograph and had an artist touch it up to beautify it.

I'm guessing that most of the components in TVs weren't chrome plated. Lots of the time, parts that are all function and no form are  zinc plated, nickel plated, or given some other protective coating to fend off corrosion. These coatings can look very nice if the part is polished or otherwise prepared before plating, but if they're going to spend their life hidden inside a TV, why go to the trouble? So, electronic components aren't always pretty to the non-geeky observer. The parts in this TV look like they're all polished and chrome plated. Instead of actually making a prop TV with shiny parts (which would be time consuming and expensive), they took a photo of the inside of a regular TV, brand new off the production line. Then, the photo was handed to an artist, and over the course of maybe a day or two, it was painted to look like jewelry.

 This was a pretty common practice in tool catalogs and stuff like that, but for different reasons. Machine parts and tools are often dull, and don't photograph well. It can be hard to make out the details in a photo of a steel tool unless you spend a little time adjusting the lighting to flatter the subject matter. So, it was pretty standard practice to paint up the photos to improve the clarity of the picture. Wouldn't it have been faster and cheaper to just add more lights around the photo shoot? Maybe, but then you'd spend time rearranging them or moving them around when you switch from shooting big things to small things. I guess it was simpler to have a really quick artist zip through the prints with a little white paint and an airbrush.

Here are a couple of tools from an old DoAll catalog. The one on the left has been retouched. The one on the right was printed as-is. Apart from the fact that the thing on the right seems to have a black coating to prevent rust, and the one on the left is bare steel, you can tell that the tool on the left reads better, because all the sheens and highlights have been exaggerated by the artist. This makes it easier for the customer to see what they're buying.

Zenith seems proud of the fact that their TVs had "no printed circuits". I don't quite have the engineering background to figure this one out, but weren't printed circuits better? I mean, don't printed circuit boards have a lower failure rate, due to the fact that they reduce the number of individual parts? Maybe someone with an engineering degree can contribute some wisdom in the comments? That'd be appreciated.

Zenith was swimming against the tide when they turned up their nose on circuit boards. They became the standard, because they are part of the reason that TVs last longer than we want them to. My old 32" CRT television was still working when I replaced it with a much bigger flat screen. My old TV must weigh 200 pounds. It nearly destroyed the suspension on my car when I drove it over to my mom's house to give it to her. It's still going strong over at Mom's, but the foundation on her house is cracking under the load.

It can also be said that printed circuits are part of the reason TVs can't always be repaired now. You can't really swap out a part. You just replace the whole circuit board, which is generally more expensive and troublesome than replacing the whole TV. Would it be better to have televisions that were easier to work on, but require much more frequent service calls?

Hmm. Could it be that nothing is wholly good or bad? Are we living in an inherently complicated world with no clear answers that places the burden of decision on every individual whether they like it or not? Impossible. Television couldn't be that wrong.

UPDATE: Holy crap the girl in the red sweater is hot! No retouching necessary.

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Picture-Phone - Finally!

Release the pigeons, people. The long-awaited Picture-Phone is here, so you can stop awaiting on it, all right? Behold, The Picture-Phone!
Sometimes, when we see these nutty old inventions in Popular Mechanics, they look as though they've been knocked together by an old man in a basement, because they were been knocked together by an old man in a basement. Not so, The Picture Phone. The hardware looks pretty finished because it was developed by Bell Labs. Soon, you could have one too. You only need to install a second phone line to handle the picture while the original line carries the phone call.

The refresh rate wasn't great. You got a new image every two seconds, which may be fine if you're just talking on the phone... maybe? Of course, by looking at the photos, you'd need to keep your face right in front of the camera, which isn't so handy, considering the camera's apparently narrow field of view. That'd be kind of a pain. Of course, Bell Labs would have tweaked the design to be less neck-twisting in time, IF it had caught on.

But what if you need to use the oscilloscope AND make a call?
Why didn't this catch on? Well, in 1956, all men wore suits around the house and women always looked like Betty Crocker, so they were always presentable. I've seen Leave It to Beaver, so I know this to be true. You wouldn't mind going on camera just to answer a call, back in '56. But, as standards of personal grooming slid downhill, dripped off a cliff, and oozed into a puddle at the mouth of a cultural sewer drain, the shirt-and-tie look kind of fell out of favor around the house. If everyone had a picture phone now, you'd be lucky to see someone wearing a trash bag on the other end of the line (depending on who you call). You've seen how people dress when they're shopping for a few gallons of mayonnaise at Wal-Mart? Imagine what they look like when they're "relaxing" at home. Now imagine the prospect of a career as a telemarketer. Not so glamorous, now, is it? be careful what you wish for.

Thankfully, the Picture-Phone had a switch allowing either user to turn off the camera at will. So, Bell Labs did have a certain amount of foresight. It's as if they could smell the winds of change in the air, and they could see the Swinging Sixties right around the corner - a time when people would be ordering some takeout in the middle of "freewheeling activities". You think Chatroulette was a freak show? If Picture-Phones became standardized, imagine being the poor kid at a pizza restaurant taking phone orders on a lonely Friday night in 1972. Imagine how different A. G. Bell's famous  quote may have been if Watson could SEE him while he said "I want you!" Thank heaven for little switches that turn things off.

My smarty-phone can do the see-n-say thing, but I've never used it. Have you? Maybe you've tried it once when you first got the phone, but do you use it all the time? Skype is great for meetings and video podcasts, but do you want to use it by default for all your calls? This Picture-Phone wasn't the last attempt to get people to look at each other while talking, and probably not the first. Has it been assumed by Science that everyone wants to look at each other while they talk? Why hasn't this idea caught on, especially when it's a hundred times better than the Picture-Phone and lives in your pocket all the time? I think it's because most of the time, you just want to communicate, not to "connect" with someone. There's sociology and psychology to consider when thinking about the Picture-Phone, and I think that's still being mostly ignored.

Also, if my phone is in video mode and you're using your phone like a normal phone, I don't want to stare at your earhole, even if you are wearing a suit..

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Married Love - The smutty secrets of sexy happiness.

In 1938, there were few places that a young bride could turn to for advice about the dirty parts of marriage. Women were still expected to be virgins at the time of matrimony, leaving them with little in the way of practical experience when the time came to get it on. Dr. Marie Stopes to the rescue!

Married Love, it turns out, was the real deal, and is still available from Amazon. Interestingly, Amazon describes the book as advocating "equality in marriage", despite the ad copy which implies that women are to blame when their husbands are "driven" to prostitutes.

There's some excellent "delicate language" in here. "Union" is a favorite when the ad seems to be reluctant to say "sex" again. The S word only appears twice in the whole ad, one of which is right in the title bar. Was there a limit on the number of times they could print "sex" in one ad?

The pen and ink drawing of Federal Judge John M. Woolsey is pretty funny. His hands are tiny! He looks like that hand puppet of the boxing nun.

Judge Woolsey was a real guy, and the controversy over Married Love is mentioned in his Wikipedia page! He died in 1945, so this ad ran seven years before his time was up. That's strange - in the drawing, he seems to have a baby's face... with the scalp and hair of Alan Hale.

The photo of the bride and inattentive groom (possibly thinking about being driven to prostitutes) is pretty great. Have a look at the groom's chin. That's some cleft! His chin looks like a butt. The bride can't take her eyes off of it. Kind of makes you winder what they'll get up to when it's time for "union". Maybe that's why she married him? What woman wouldn't want a man with two asses? For that matter, what woman WOULD want that? I have no idea. I just work here. How about I crop the picture for you and post it for your rude finger to save on your HDD of choice? You decide about the groom's butts for yourself. You're welcome.

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Ex-Lax - The uncommon cold.

I've been alive for, literally, decades. I've never heard of constipation being a symptom of a cold. The Research & Googling team managed to find some links that corroborate this allegation, so I suppose it's true enough. Apart from that, this ad for Ex-Lax offers us a pretty funny picture and some surprisingly blunt copy.
Maybe some people get constipated when they have a cold due to dehydration? I guess you lose a lot of fluids when you have a cold, which is why doctors always tell you to drink a bunch of stuff when you're under the weather. Maybe the cold-associated bodily dehydration stops the train from rollin', as it were. Wow. great post Phil. Keep up the fascinating work, genius.

Anyway, This ad is from 1947, a time when women's magazines used very delicate language to describe the simple truths of human existence. "Feeling undainty" is a phrase I read in a deodorant ad, if I recall. Apparently, the following words would have been too "indelicate" for the time:

"you stink"
"body odor"
"feel like a badger crawled into your body cavity, threw up on itself and died"
"personal trout-ish-ness".

So, it's a little surprising to see Ex-Lax trumpeting such features as a lack of "violence" in their laxative's performance. Also, they're not shy about describing your " thorough bowel movement". Wowzers!

Anyway again, the picture of the sneezing lady could potentially be useful when you're emailing in sick or something. Please enjoy a special cropped edition of her at 1000 pixel width. Click through her for the biggun. Later on, you'll thank me for all the "get well laxatives" people send you. It's all in a day's work. You're welcome.

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Suit Slumber Party

Joke #1 - They talked on and on into the night, under the huge carp pinata. As a Cliff Richard record spun endlessly in it's crackling silence, everyone agreed things had gotten pretty groovy. They stared at the candle, wondering what all the fuss was about. Everything was going to be totally cool.    -Excerpt from the final minutes of the Paris Peace Accords.

Joke #2 - "So, like, if we amortize that advertising account over an extra six years, we can claim it as an expense until nineteen seventy seven? Dude, you're freaking me so out."

Joke #3 - "And in closing , gentlemen, I think you'll all agree that Janie is completely hot and I should ask her to homecoming. You're cool with that, Rob. Right? You guys only went out for a few weeks last semester."

Joke #4 - "Sir, I double dog dare you to go upstairs and sexually harass Kyle's sister."

Joke #5 - "Brant, there's no way I'm going to go out and score us some beer, I only have my ten speed! Why don't you go? You came here in your wife's 7 series tonight."

Jokes 6 through 10 are a massive Jokeburst from Jeremy H. Thanks for filling this one out, Jeremy!

Joke #6 - The CIA’s LSD experimentation unit was disbanded when it was discovered that they were receiving their orders from a giant carp.

Joke #7 - “I don’t think you have these ‘swing parties’ down yet, Hefner. Do you think we need hors d’oeuvres.”

Joke #8 - “The rest of us have moved to the floor, Farnsworth. You persist in sitting in your chair, Farnsworth. What’s wrong, Farnsworth? Are you… square?”

Joke #9 - 4 out of 5 people in this picture are Peter Sellers.

Joke #10 - The bright young men of John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier decided, after hot debate, that the future lay in passing the doobie on the LEFT hand side.

[Commenter jokes will be added to the post.    -Mgmt.]

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Trade School Sonnets - Cross-Slide Milling Head

Twas March, when first I spied
the lark, in wing-ed reverie.
Seem’d to me the first I bring
my soul to love that’s fled.

In remembrance of winter’s bite
do I shut the door so heavily
despite the bloom of spring.
O Cross-Slide Milling Head!

Thine is cutting might
of perfect interior radii.
With burr-less edges bright,
their contours e’er made me sigh.

I feel my melancholy
subjugated grindigly
with rotational multiplicity
and milling speed so blindingly.

If summer comes to find me lost
fear not, I have but dwelt
within the shed, a-milling
and in the milling shed.

My heart will hence recount the cost
of sadness strongly felt
less sadly and more thrilling
with Cross-Slide Milling Head.


Fruit of the Loom - Marketing in brief.

How do you sell underwear to men? It’s not easy. Show pictures of handsome, fit men, looking proud in their underwear? Well, that would work on certain men. Your average mainstream guy doesn’t like to think about his underpants, and he likes to shop for them even less. I’m guessing most men are going to rely on their wives to make their critical underpants acquisitions for them, and simply report on their real-world tests after the purchase. This is an inefficient system, but it’s the best we have.

What was Fruit of the Loom’s solution? Engage men’s interest by including images of recreation , and then tricking them into make an underwear decision while their minds are softened with endorphins. So, instead of two disturbingly happy men standing around in their underpants, you get two disturbingly happy men standing around in their underpants with golf clubs. This makes men think they can play golf in their underpants.

Oddly, the guy in front is holding both clubs, but the rear man looks happier, despite being empty handed. I guess it feels good to be cold enough to wear a sweatshirt, but warm enough to have no pants on. Hey, at least he didn't tuck the sweatshirt into his boxers.

As anyone can tell you, men are mentally identical to toddlers, and loathe dressing for any occasion. Present them with the fantasy of underwear golf and you have unplugged their forebrain, leaving their lizard brain to make the retail decisions... or rather, put in a request to The Tower for some retail decisions. Men will shout to their wives in the next room “Honey? Next time you’re out - like, in the world - can you get me some Fruit of the Loom briefs, boxers, and undershirts with arm and neck holes so large they barely qualify as shirts because I like golf?”

Clever, Fruit of the Loom. Very clever.

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Look What's New In Brick!

Hey do-it-yourselfers, what's the newest in brick? NOT brick! That's what! All over America, homeowners are covering their walls with exciting new products that closely resemble brick. These products aren't made from stone at all, but vinyl, cardboard, or other completely safe, fire-resistant material that is guaranteed to please for decade to come! Let's stare!
Simulated brick panels bring the classic American look of brick indoors at a fraction of the cost in a fraction of the time, with a fraction of the thought. Best of all, nobody can tell! Here, a homeowner with no special skills or bubble level is using simulated brick to cover an ugly "baby stain" on his living room wall. You can be just as ignorant and get professional results with simulated brick! Simulated brick can be easily bent and formed with a bar heater, so it can neatly  go around corners, over windows, or cold air returns. There's almost nothing you can't do in a quick, barely-considered afternoon!
Simulated brick is available in a full range of decorator colors to match your every home. From cartoon red to cartoon white to cartoon blue, your simulated brick house will scare off the huffingest, puffingest of big bad wolves! Unless he has a match. But wolves don't use matches, so shut up!

Simulated Brick is made from many materials, like fiberboard, asbestos, or other substances that will almost never become an airborne particulate  respiratory hazard, because they'll look great forever and ever and you'll never tear it down. Who would tear down beautiful brick? Never! That's who!

Once your house has gorgeous and undetectable simulated brick in it, you'll have all kinds of gorgeous and undetectable ideas.
For example, this homeowner has chosen to bring the outdoors indoors by placing these folding lawn chairs in their living room. The couch and television had to go someplace else to make room for their new fireplace and chairs, but there was plenty of room in the garden for those. Their new simulated brick fireplace is only rated to display a photograph of fire, due to some minor fire code violations, but laws can change. Let's get voting, people!

Simulated brick is recommended by the American Fiberboard and Compressed Wasteproducts Council as a beautiful alternative to reading a book.


1975 Vega - Smokin!

Who wants a big two-page ad for a 1975 Chevy Vega? That's right, YOU do! Get ready for some graphic gifts at the bottom of the post, because you gots an honest face an' it's Friday.
Let's celebrate Friday the 13th with a much-criticized Chevy Vega ad. It appears in a few "Crap Cars" - type books which is kind of a shame because I kind of like the way it looks. But then again, I tend to like small hatchbacks.

The aluminum engine block in the Vega had problems. Since aluminum is so soft, engineers usually lined the cylinders with steel sleeves to prevent excessive wear from the pistons as they went up and down. Not in the Vega. The Vega's cylinder walls were bare aluminum, somehow "impregnated with silicone" to act as a lubricant. This cost-cutting, combined with lackadaisical maintenance on the part of many owners, led to chronic problems with burning oil. Recalls and redesigns eventually fixed the problems, but the Vega had already been branded a lemon in many people's minds.

Anyway, I painted out the groin of the magazine so I could have the Vega without a crease going through it. here are some stages of that process, for those who are interested in the stages of that process. Click for the biggers.

The patient, before surgery. Gonna say "no" to some crack.
Stealing a piece of door to hide the crack.
The shut line of the door was drawn back in by hand, like in the old days.
Stealing a section of door to hide the wavy edge of that highlight, created by the lighting and body contour.
Stolen door piece, pasted and warped into place. I had to do this a few times , as the "good area" was pretty small.
Dots connected, ready to make the world go away.

This window presented a weird problem. You can see the building behind the car. Since I intended to make the window semi-transparent, I needed to make the window full of uniform color so the car wouldn't look funny over a different background. I copied the gray stuff around the seat belt and filled the window with that, before partially erasing it all.

Here's a treat for you Vega fans out there... both of you! It's the star of today's picture on a transparent background, stored in glamorous PNG format. Fun to paste into emails or send to former victims owners of Vegas. Get your rude finger ready to right click these beauties onto your hard drive. Left and right, big and small.

Big version, left. I even flipped the text on the tires, the GT decal,  and the badge on the hood. Who's your buddy?

Small version, left.

Big version, right.

Small version, right, or, as my seemingly Italian fingers like to type, "versino".