The Ultimate Automobile

JOHN D. KNECHT, who lives with his family in Northbrook, Pennsylvania, is an advertising copy writer.


THE most magnificent automobile the world had ever seen was put on display November 17, 1966. The culmination of more than a half century of design and manufacturing experience, it embodied every mechanical advancement and every decorative feature dreamed of by man, woman, and child —and many more besides.

The new Glitterjet V-32 was introduced in Detroit, Michigan, after the greatest advertising and publicity campaign in history. The automobile was mounted on a gigantic “island” 150 feet long and 82 feet wide, which was moored in the middle of the Detroit River. The island was made of purple-and-yellow water-resistant planks, which were supported by six aluminum-coated plastic cylinders imbedded in the river bottom. Sixteen atomic-powered beacons, each of 1,000,000 candle power, beamed down on the Glitterjet from specially moored dirigibles, causing such a reflection by day and night that spectators had to wear dark glasses.

The reason for the Glitterjet’s blinding reflective quality was that every square inch of it was chromium plated. Not only were all body panels of chrome; the tires, the simulated wire wheels, and every nut and bolt in the basic body structure, as well as the engine, shone with dazzling brilliance due to chromium and recently devised methods of polishing it. All windows and the windshield were chrome coated in such a wax’ that the* occupants of the car could look out but people outside the car could not look in.

Inside, the Glitterjet was a miracle of brilliance, too. The upholstery was a special synthetic material resembling burnished brass. Glued onto the fabric were circular panels the size of dinner plates, painted purple. On I lii’ floor was an imitation Formica “carpet” with an early American spatter-dash pattern.

The Glitterjet was 101 feet, 6 inches long and 75 feet wide— larger by an appreciable margin than any car produced up to that time. Fins attached to the rear fenders extended 6 feet into the air. Yet, thanks to 7-inch wheels, the roof height was only 8 feet, 2 inches. Although the Glitterjet had but four of these wheels, 27 feet of its length was oxerhang. Included in this were a trunk large enough to hold a 1929 Ford Roadster and a seat at the xery end of the ox erhang xx’hich was reminiscent of the old Model-A Rumble Seat but which was called, in the interests of sales appeal, a Happy Seat.

The Glitterjet’s 32-cylinder engine developed 1000 horsepower, thus ending, once and for all, the horsepower race xvhich had been raging for some fifteen years. With this engine, the Glitterjet. claimed an acceleration from zero to 60 miles per hour in 2.3 seconds — in reverse. Top speed was 236 miles per hour, and gasoline mileage “at the 98-miles-per-hour cruising speed" was one-fourth mile per gallon.

For all this speed, driving ihe Glitterjet was remarkably simple (which was indeed fortunate, since the intricacies of driving a conventional car had by that time been forgotten: no one remembered exactly what a gearshift was; nor did any but a few older citizens know what a manual choke, a hand throttle, and a clutch pedal were). To put the Glitterjet in motion, the driver had only to touch an electronically operated green button; to increase speed, a yellow button. To turn, one had but to shift his eyes in the appropriate direction; and to stop, simply shout “Glitterhalt" into a dash-mounted microphone.

The grill of the Glitterjet was eighth-inch plywood, fashioned tubularly in a crosshatched pattern. The tubes were 6 inches in diameter to provide an “ultra-massive” appearance, and they were sprayed with chrome to resemble steel. Bumpers were polished plastic bars 3½ feet wide which extended 2 feet beyond the fender extremities on either side.

The price of the Glitterjet, including a 48-inch color television set mounted behind the front seat, was $18,997.43. Glitterjet’s advertising agencies, in explaining the low price, said overhead costs had been cut by eliminating stylists. These stylists were, it was felt, superfluous, since in the final analysis Glitterjet salesmen alone knew what would sell and what wouldn’t. Salesmen were polled every six months to learn what the public liked; whereupon the sales manager of Glitterjet drew the new model on a paper napkin while eating lunch. Glitter jet’s stylists were, in turn, converted to realistic salesmen at a special company school and then offered a franchise at an appropriate number of the company’s 500,000 Show Room Supermarkets.

If, from the consumer standpoint, the Glitterjet’s price seemed a trifle steep, this objection was eliminated by the company’s policy of selling its cars on a 35-year open-end mortgage plan. When, at the end of six months, the chrome became flecked with rust and the bolts began to corrode, the buyer was offered a “substantial trade-in” on a new model. Thus the opposition to the company’s Planned Obsolescence Program was overcome, and Glitterjet owners were kept continually in debt to the company.

The manufacturer of the Glitterjet was United Transportation Company, an amalgam of General Motors, Chrysler, Ford, and Nash-Hudson. It was, in 1966, the only automobile manufacturer in the world. This, of course, ended any worries about competition cutting into sales and profits. Furthermore, with only one company manufacturing automobiles, the economyof the United States (and the world) was more efficient and more in the spirit of the private enterprise system.

Sales did happen to drop slightly in 1967 (by 3,600,000), but United Transportation was spared concern even so, because by that time it had bought a controlling interest in companies selling aircraft, motorcycles, bicycles, and roller skates.