An on-board makeup table, push-button transmissions, a simple knob attached to the steering wheel: These were the outside-of-the-box features that auto designers dreamed up to thrill consumers in the 1950s and '60s.
Let's take a closer look at that retractable hardtop on the Fairlane, which Ford reportedly spent a staggering $400 million developing, here sold by Lucille Ball and a disbelieving Ricky Ricardo:By now you've noticed that car adverts from that era are liberally sprinkled with the casual sexism of the day. In the video below we see the ill-fated Edsel's unique steering-wheel-mounted transmission interface, presented to a woman as being "as easy as flicking a light switch." (And independent of sexism, check out the interesting speedometer design and its user-set visual alarm.)
While it's easy for feminists to simply be offended by the gender views of the time, if you can get past the inherent sexism of these Oldsmobile sales training videos—designed to show the male salesman how to sell cars that feature "what women want"—you can at least see what the auto designers were thinking. Recessed door handles were viewed as less likely to catch on clothes during egress and ingress:
In the pre-Danica-Patrick era, it was assumed that women would be intimidated by driving large, powerful cars—so we see the advent of tilt/telescoping steering columns and adjustable power seats:
Part Three of the video series takes a bit of a darker turn into scare tactics. But interestingly, the way they start off describing what design features will interest women, could be used to describe the modern-day consumer of any gender: People care more about the user experience, i.e. what a product will do for them, and not so much about how those things are technologically accomplished.
These last two videos have nothing to do with auto design features, but more to do with how to scam would-be car buyers of the era, and I include them just because they're funny. Apparently, back in the day, some foul-mouthed west coast car dealers would have a little fun at night: After shooting a conventional car commercial for their dealerships, they'd then shoot a darker, more honest, swear-word-filled version that detailed exactly how they'd rip customers off. Obviously these videos were never intended to air, and be warned: These are NSFW!