Saturday, February 20, 2010

parts recall

Toyota's recent troubles had me thinking a heap about the history of the automotive industry and of the automobile proper. I started thinking about the recall of parts and auto parts generally, and how they've evolved. Thoughts turned to one of my favorite Chicago sculptors John Kearney. Kearney makes hearty animal sculptures out of welded steel car bumpers—a fixture that became pretty much a thing of the past once the industry started universally using Thermoplastic Olefins (TPOs), instead. I never knew that's what they called plastic bumpers until I looked it up. Now we will all throw around "TPOs" like it's going out of style. Here are a couple of Kearney creatures:

Incidentally, I also recently learned that you can tell what side of the car the gas tank is on from the driver's seat by looking at the gas gauge on the dashboard and looking for the arrow indicator.

No more gas station arrival panics/cranking the rear view mirror/leaning half way out the car/actually getting out of the car to answer this riddle. Then forgetting the moment you fill up. You may now coast into Flying J in the PT Cruiser the rental car company stuck you with (that makes you look like you are driving around in a big goofy John Fleuvog shoe), with all kinds of "I got this one" confidence. Now we are smarter.

My grandfather Jack was an engineer and, in fact, a Manufacturer's Representative for auto part companies. He was the guy responsible for selling individual fixtures to car companies. One fixture he knew inside and out was the air conditioner. My mom told me a story about my grandfather visiting his Aunt Gert in Sarasota, Florida who lived next door to the Ringling Brothers property. One day during his stay the air conditioning unit used in the Ringling animal stables broke down and my grandpa went over and repaired it. That is a true story. Lucky animals.

During my lifetime my father, a creative director in advertising, wrote commercials for Ford dealers while working for J. Walter Thompson, Chicago. My dad's big break for Ford national advertising came while visiting another client: King's Island amusement park, in Dayton, Ohio. While on a (presumably important) roller coaster (meeting), an announcer came on over the park PA saying that my father had a phone call. My father disembarked the ride, got on the horn, and on the other end of the line was the head of J. Walter Thompson New York. "Ralph," he said, "We're working on some Ford national spots here. We have some darn fine middles, but no beginnings and ends. We need your help." So my dad flew to New York to help create and install new parts for automotive ads.

Maybe I should fly him out to New York to help me write the end of this post.

No comments: