Accent on Living

PERFUME copy has always been something of a lark for advertising men. Relax. Have fun. And if you can strike off a nutty enough idea or a waggish bit of art, go right ahead. We in the perfume game don’t take ourselves too seriously. We prefer the saucy, the spicy approach. We’ll even take a flier in cold, naked lust on occasion. Get some heavy breathing into it. One whiff of “La Victime”— nice French angle there and any chump can pronounce it— and the man will start climbing the trellis. Okay, men — you’re on your own.

The perfume industry solved its public relations problems light heartedly, but Detroit is still trying to decide what to say and how to behave about its sports cars. The fact is that the recent revival of the sports car poses novel embarrassments to an industry that for the past twenty years has been more sedate in many ways than even the railroads, or the phone company, or the Post Office Department. Racing and performance competition have played no part for decades in Detroit’s posture to its public. Not even a salesman could guess within a thousand pounds what a car weighed—not that anyone cared to ask him — and the beau ideal of all motorists was depicted as a hawk-faced, graying man in a Homburg and dinner jacket, gliding hydramatically away from a porticoed mansion, his queenly wife — a regular Mrs. Exeter — at his side (jewels by Harry Winston). Such a man in such a car, we were told, enjoys special credit at the bank, his opinions receive deference; rich and popular on the face of it, he becomes more so, just by sitting there at the wheel.

Into this idyl intrudes, raucously, the sports car. There is no need to define precisely what a sports car is, for the British, followed by the Italians and the Germans, have been offering them to us in lively variety for several years now. These cars are small, by our standards: their appeal is high performance with relative safety, and a refreshingly zippy appearance. Their sales were sufficient to stir the American producers, and the industry’s reaction is not without its drolleries.

Studebaker went into production with what resembled a sports coupé — an interesting-looking car, but with a huge rear overhanging trunk instead of the Italian “fast back,” and with few if any mechanical differences from its other models elsewhere in the car. The trunk was necessary, apparently, because the “sports coupé” used for a rear seat the space that could otherwise have been used for luggage, and the net of it was a compromise — a car big enough for five or six occupants and luggage.

Chevrolet is feeling its way with the “Corvette,” a small, two-passenger convertible — and good-looking, barring its preoccupation with taillights. Chevrolet, which insists on an automatic transmission for the Corvette, has also displayed a handsome hard-top version. Chevrolet is actually in production with the Corvette; and Kaiser-Darrin is another reality, a sports car in production. Ford has announced that it will begin “this Fall” to turn out the “Thunderbird,” a single-seater convertible weighing some 700—800 pounds less than the standard Ford, with hand shift or automatic shift optional, and a 160 horsepower engine.

Here are efforts, at least, to offer new designs to the motorist and to recognize the market that exists for cars intended primarily for fun. But one of the overtones of the fun, where sports cars are concerned, is out-andout performance competition. How will Ford, to put it bluntly, stack up against Chevrolet, and how will they both fare — from 0 to 50, for instance — in accelerating with the foreigners? Perhaps if one is a bit sluggish on the take-off, its maximum speed may nevertheless be superior, and it is quite possible that one manufacturer or another may find that he has created an all-around lemon — a dog, in the parlance of the fancy. But these are questions to which customers will demand precise answers.

It is hard to tell on the evidence to date whether the industry will be willing to advertise its new wares and on what theory it will expound them. The painful respectability of Mr. and Mrs. Exeter in their vast, air-conditioned salon-on-wheels is hardly the note to strike with customers in windbreakers and long-visored caps who want to know all about the power-toweight ratio, exhaust manifolding, and aerodynamic underbody trays. Thus far the models actually offered for sale have received no fanfare whatever; their production is said to be “limited,”and it seems that no one quite knows how to extol them without offending the more Exeter-like type of buyer. The majority of manufacturers have solved the dilemma by producing no sports cars at all and by displaying instead, at motor shows, a grotesque assortment of supposed sports models which they blandly describe as “experimental cars,” or “style cars,” or “idea cars” — that is, cars “ for which we have no production plans.” Some examples in this last category are now in their second year of nonproduction, and the new models are being hailed as a great improvement over their nonexistent predecessors.

What looks like the hottest of all the dream cars is being shown by Pontiac, whose standard models are celebrated for galumphing, familysurrey orthodoxy, but which has boldly titled its not-in-production sports car “The Bonneville Special.” Buick, meanwhile, has displayed a not-forsale-and-no-production-plans version of a snappy little speed car which it calls “The Wildcat.”

These doings in general seem to suggest that Detroit is moving hopefully, if nervously, towards highspirited endeavors. What remains is to call in the experts who think up the perfume copy and to get going.