Many years ago, I came across a very rare picture story booklet of the Chevrolet National Sales Convention held at Detroit, Michigan on Sept. 9, 1954.
This indeed is a rare find, in that it was only issued to the attending delegates of the convention and was never intended to be in the public domain.
The 32-page booklet chronicles the event hour by hour starting at 8:45 a.m. with the arrival of over 700 Chevy dealers from across the United States. Everything but the sound of the thunderous applause which greeted the first appearance of the dazzling new 1955 Chevrolet sedan had been faithfully recorded. It’s a rare look into the sales culture of yesteryear.
At 9:03 a.m. the auditorium was packed with men in suits and ties eagerly awaiting the unveiling of Chevrolet’s finest car. At 9:27 a.m. the stage is darkened, then a soft glow bathes the parting clouds… the shaft of a spotlight stabs downward… and the crowd storms enthusiastically to its feet.
At 11:25, as part of the presentation, there was a fast moving fashion parade flashing a wide variety of new Chevrolet colours – four solids, and 21 two-tone combinations. Cool, deep green of the sea… a warm coral … chill beauty of glacier blue… fiery and dashing gypsy red.
For most of the morning General Motors brass commanded and orchestrated the events on stage until 11:50 a.m. At that point, quoting from the booklet, “Climaxing the musical revue, OPPORTUNITY IS OURS, the real star of the day was wheeled into position at the center of the stage to receive a vocal accolade from the huge cast. Back of the glass smooth performance by a professional cast was a tedious period of rehearsals that began August 20th in New York City and then was shifted to Detroit a week before the big day. Also contributing was extreme selectivity in filling the parts. From New York auditions by 770 men and women the cast of 60 was finally picked. A special score played by the Detroit Philharmonic Orchestra and special choreography, costuming and scenery gave a Broadway sparkle to the show and glamorized its selling wallop.”
Buzz words are natural to car enthusiasts and new ones were introduced at the convention like Turbo-Fire V8, Synchro-Mesh, Fire-Swirl Combustion.
On the marketing side of things the ‘55 was called “The Hot One.”
My recollection of the day, and pictured in the booklet, men always wore hats. Even at my young age at the time I wore one for church on Sunday morning. Ever wonder why the interior had a high roofline, well the engineers needed to accommodate the hats.
The afternoon of the convention was centred around the selling features of the vehicle. From a talk by the manager of parts and accessories department, he said the accessories market for 1955 will be big, but the important thing is that it is big for you. You can make it big for you by giving each new car buyer an opportunity to “eye” and ‘try” accessories. A radio that almost “thinks”… a mirror for every purpose… smart looking guards to protect finishes… home-like heating comfort for the winter roads… spotlights… back up lights… truck lights.
“Style-wise women, well versed in value of proper accessories, are salesman’s friend.”
The 1955 convention closes with a mammoth banquet. This by tradition is Chevrolet’s biggest social function bringing together top officials of engineering, manufacturing, administration and sales all of which were wearing carnations on their lapels.
To me the booklet represents a time capsule of memories when new cars of the day were transported to dealers under cover, showroom windows papered over and as kids, we were doing everything possible to sneak a peek before the official unveiling.