Central Oklahoma Classic Chevy Club

General Motor's Curtice
for 1955, a billion-dollar change.
This article is from the November 1, 1954 issue of Time magazine.
The Battle of Detroit
Into a large, cluttered Detroit studio one day 18 months ago strode a trim, lean man with the suave good looks of an ambassador and the cheery smile of a salesman. Around the room were barrels of clay and modeling tools; on the walls were blueprints of cars yet to be born. Only a handful of people were allowed in the room; few even knew its location. On a platform in the center stood the reason for the tight security. There for inspection by Harlow H. ("Red") Curtice, president of General Motors Corp., was the topmost secret of the greatest manufacturing corporation in the world - a full-sized, blue-and-ivory clay model of the Chevrolet for 1955.
Red Curtice had followed the progress of the new Chevrolet from first sketches to drafting board to quarter-scale model to clay mockup with all the anxious looks a young father-to-be bestows upon his wife. Now he slowly circled the car, squinting at its lines and lightly touching its smooth surface. When his eye lighted on a horizontal crease in the molding of the trunk, he shook his head. "That's not good," said Curtice. "You'll see that it casts a shadow on the bottom half of the lid. That shadow makes the car look higher and narrower. What we want is a lower automobile that looks wider." At the side of the car, Curtice stopped again. Why should the belt line (i.e., the line formed by the bottom of the windows) be straight and unbroken? When a designer explained that only the two-door models would have a racy dip in the belt line, Curtice suggested; "Don't you think we might try it on a four-door type, too?" As he left the room, molders set to work making the suggested changes. A few days later, Red Curtice was back to see the results. Said he: "That's itl" Those two words were the signal for G.M.'s Chevrolet division to spend some $300 million to turn the clay model into a car on the production line - the biggest expenditure for a new model in auto history.

The Opening Gun.
The new Chevrolet - the first all-new model for 1955 - was the opening gun in the 1955 battle of Detroit. For Chevy 1955 will be a year of decision. This year Ford led Chevy in sales for the first six months, and for the first time since 1935 stands a good chance to beat it out for the year. With his 1955 models, Red Curtice hopes to put Chevy solidly ahead again.

For the entire auto industry, 1955 will also be a year of decision. The fight to sell cars will be the roughest in history. To get ready for it, the automen have spent $1.3 billion on the greatest number of model changes ever. Not only are Ford and Chevy at each other's throats, but Chrysler is out to get back the big share of the market that it lost to both of them this year. And for the smaller companies, 1955 may well answer a life-or-death question: Can they compete with the industry's giants, or will they have to merge into a new giant?

No matter who comes out on top, the consumer will benefit in the best free-enterprising tradition. He will get better cars for less money, either by outright price cuts or higher trade-in allowances.

Perfume & Promotion.
This week the Chevrolet began its competition for the customer's dollar in a circus atmosphere whooped up by the country's 7,500 Chevrolet dealers. Outside the Chevrolet agencies, hundreds of machines spewed forth varicolored bubbles by day; by night huge spotlights swiveled their beams across the sky. Dealers hung up miles of flags, banners and placards, hired clowns and calliopes, rented dinner jackets for their salesmen, splashed teaser ads through the press.* They spent $3,500,000 on promotion, giving away 2,131,000 balloons, 1,016,920 bottles of Prince Matchabelli perfume, hundreds of thousands of pencils, yardsticks, potholders, key cases and beanies. With the help of all this razzle-dazzle, Chevrolet Division Manager Tom Keating expects 20 million people to troop through his showrooms in the next few days.

* - One of them showed a mustached international smoothie, outfitted with Homburg and umbrella, whispering mysteriously to an innocent-looking girl; "I could arrange to import for you an authentic set of secret, smuggled photographs of the new Chevrolet!" Cautioned the ad: "Beware of impostors, Continental bounders and novel approaches. The new Motoramic Chevrolets will be seen by everybody at the same time."


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