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How US motor shows used to work

  1. You probably noticed that we’ve been bringing you all the exciting new metal from this year’s Detroit motor show. You probably also noticed that you were on a computer browsing an internet at the same time. 

    But there was a time when the world wide web was all trees and, instead of heading online, humans would converge at colossal exhibition halls to gawp at the latest metal.

    There was one event that stuck out, though - it showcased the most iron, was held in the biggest venues and has yet to be beaten for sheer pomp and glamour. What’s more, it was hosted by a single group - General Motors.

    Named Motorama, it thundered on from 1949 to 1961, showcasing the latest of its brands’ tech to a baying American public.

    Click on for more of GM’s “automobile extravaganza”.

  2. Unsurprisingly, the Motorama focused on prototypes, halo models and concepts, many of which were launched at the event, including the Chevrolet Bel Air nomad, Cadillac Eldorado, Chevrolet Corvette and Buick Wildcat.

    This image is for news reporting purposes only. It is not for resale. Any commercial or other non-editorial uses of the material require the express written approval from General Motors LLC

  3. From 1953, the Motorama toured America so GM could peddle its wares to the dustiest corners of the United States….

    This image is for news reporting purposes only. It is not for resale. Any commercial or other non-editorial uses of the material require the express written approval from General Motors LLC

  4. …which was a pretty major undertaking. This lot was needed to transport the 1955 event.

    This image is for news reporting purposes only. It is not for resale. Any commercial or other non-editorial uses of the material require the express written approval from General Motors LLC

  5. It drew colossal crowds - 10.5 million visitors went to see the Motorama between 1949 and 1961.

    This image is for news reporting purposes only. It is not for resale. Any commercial or other non-editorial uses of the material require the express written approval from General Motors LLC

  6. And here’s why - is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope, it’s the 1954 General Motors Firebird XP-21.

    This image is for news reporting purposes only. It is not for resale. Any commercial or other non-editorial uses of the material require the express written approval from General Motors LLC

  7. More pedestrian models were launched there, too - this Chevrolet Bel Air four-door sedan debuted in ‘53.

    This image is for news reporting purposes only. It is not for resale. Any commercial or other non-editorial uses of the material require the express written approval from General Motors LLC

  8. A year later there was this - the 1954 Chevrolet Corvette Nomad. It never reached production, but it was used in part to build the Chevrolet Bel Air Nomad Wagon.

    This image is for news reporting purposes only. It is not for resale. Any commercial or other non-editorial uses of the material require the express written approval from General Motors LLC

  9. As far back as the fifties, GM were keen to capitalize on their heritage - this pic’s taken from the 1950 GM Mid-Century Motorama.

    This image is for news reporting purposes only. It is not for resale. Any commercial or other non-editorial uses of the material require the express written approval from General Motors LLC

  10. And this is some promo bumpf from the ‘50 show, which was held at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.

    This image is for news reporting purposes only. It is not for resale. Any commercial or other non-editorial uses of the material require the express written approval from General Motors LLC

  11. This is the ‘53 show and that’s the Chevrolet Corvette making its first public appearance. We have the massive want face.

    This image is for news reporting purposes only. It is not for resale. Any commercial or other non-editorial uses of the material require the express written approval from General Motors LLC

  12. Concepts weren’t all go-faster models - this is comparably down-at-heel ‘55 Chevrolet Biscayne clap-door concept. Alas, it never reached production.

    This image is for news reporting purposes only. It is not for resale. Any commercial or other non-editorial uses of the material require the express written approval from General Motors LLC

  13. Some of the cheaper stuff got resculpted too - these two are Chevy Impalas from the ‘56 show.

    This image is for news reporting purposes only. It is not for resale. Any commercial or other non-editorial uses of the material require the express written approval from General Motors LLC

  14. We barely get a sign at the present-day auto shows, let alone one over-endowed with this much wondrousness.

    This image is for news reporting purposes only. It is not for resale. Any commercial or other non-editorial uses of the material require the express written approval from General Motors LLC

  15. We want to live in this dimension - flannel suits, radical visions of the future and CARS IN DOMES. This is what planning the 1956 Motorama looks like.

    This image is for news reporting purposes only. It is not for resale. Any commercial or other non-editorial uses of the material require the express written approval from General Motors LLC

  16. All of these made it onto American roads - Impala, Biscayne, Bel Air and Corvette.

    This image is for news reporting purposes only. It is not for resale. Any commercial or other non-editorial uses of the material require the express written approval from General Motors LLC

  17. The ‘59 event was SO retro it almost looks like a parody of itself. Got fins?

    This image is for news reporting purposes only. It is not for resale. Any commercial or other non-editorial uses of the material require the express written approval from General Motors LLC

  18. The 1961 show got a lot of attention, as did that year’s model GM lineup.

    This image is for news reporting purposes only. It is not for resale. Any commercial or other non-editorial uses of the material require the express written approval from General Motors LLC

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