Capital Region Scrapbook: Revved for the show

Auto dealers in Schenectady during the mid-1950s prepared to promote their products during the 1955

Joseph A. Haraden wanted people to see the U.S.A. in a Chevrolet.

Raymond Warner preferred folks tour the country in a Studebaker.

Harold W. Hathaway asked men and women to hit the road in a Hudson.

All three men — auto dealers in Schenectady during the mid-1950s — prepared to promote their products during the 1955 Schenectady Auto Show. Seventy-five shiny machines were parked on the floor of the state Armory on Washington Avenue during early February, ready for public inspection. Every company had something good to say about modern conveyances of 55 years ago.

Oldsmobile wanted people to notice the line’s new color schemes. Two-tone paint jobs, first introduced in 1954, were on the rise in 1955. On two-door sedans, upper front fenders, door panels and roofs received one color; the lower body and rear deck got a matching tone. Mint green and grove green, turquoise and black, and blue and white were among the popular combinations.

Some companies invented words to describe their engine technology. Pontiacs were all equipped with “strato-streak” V-8 power. Ford engines came with “trigger-torque” abilities; Lincoln’s “turbo-drive” automatic transmission was supposed to make driving a breeze, and Packard was counting on a “torsion-level” ride.

Other makers capitalized on innovations and achievements. Studebaker’s “ultra-vista” construction offered more visibility out the windows. The Hudson Hornet’s “Championship 6” cylinder engine had won more than 150 stock car races. And General Motors was crowing about its “autronic eye” invention. The “eye” sensed headlights of approaching cars and automatically dimmed the GM headlights. As soon as the other car passed, the “eye” returned front illumination to normal brilliance.

A bonus for the Scouts

Schenectady Boy Scouts just wanted to see big crowds at the show, which ran from Feb. 7 through 12. Explorer Scouts of the Schenectady County Council received proceeds from the open house, and received every 50-cent admission paid by motorheads of the day.

Car fans got their money’s worth. They toured the big metal models, but also watched mambo exhibitions performed by members of the Sealey Dance Studio of Schenectady. Students showed off in other dances with titles like “Hula Babies” and “Louisiana Hayride.”

Drivers also tested their skills behind the wheel. Testing equipment was supplied by the naval depot in Scotia, and was used to select Navy drivers. Gordon C. Stancliffe, president of the Schenectady Safety Council, realized wives and husbands would try to use the tests to determine superiority behind the wheel. Marines, safety council members and others manning the booths would not make any judgments.

“Officially, the council won’t try to arbitrate any family disputes,” Stancliffe said.

Categories: Life and Arts

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