Monday, August 31, 2009

This is the cover of the Corvette Catalog Folder for 1961. It was shot at the GM Proving Grounds near Milford, Michigan. Shooting there was a real challenge because there was so much security involved. Arrangements to shoot there had to be made far in advance and approved by about a hundred people--or so it seamed. Each person to be there had to have been cleared in advance. There was always a wait when everybody arrived at the gate office and had to have their identity checked and approved once more. Then you had to have a special driver to get you around the facility. Only these guys knew all the regulations and could keep you from trouble. Your pre- selected location had to be cleared and closed to other traffic. Someone from Chevrolet had to be with you and responsible for all you did. You were not allowed to see into any of the other divisions buildings. 
Our location was a good one in that it didn't look like the proving grounds. It could have been almost any smaller road in America. The person standing with the camera is Warren Winstanley's assistant. Warren was the photographer for this and all the other shots in the catalog. The two fellows in the car were models. The rear view was on the cover because it represented the newest thing about the Corvette. Not only was the styling new but there was a real trunk for the first time. The rear styling gave a good look at what the Stingray would be like in a couple of years but nobody knew that at the time. The car isn't really moving but the illusion of some dust was created by throwing some cement powder at just the right time. I even helped with that on occasion. I had all the fake rally signs made back at our office along with the '61 sign that eliminated the need for other cover copy. This and the picture to follow are often used in publications about Corvettes. I wish I could remember who wrote the copy--maybe Vic Olsen.

This is page two of the '61 catalog and a nice transition from the rear view of the Corvette on the cover. Not much changed here except for some detail in the grill. Our model doing the driving gives a good impression of really moving but once again a little cement powder thrown on each side of the car helps with the illusion. This was a very modest catalog by todays standards. It was really only a folder and cost little to produce. Still, if you have one it is worth quite a few bucks and if you have the Corvette it is worth a ton. 

Saturday, August 22, 2009

This is an ad about a 1973 TV commercial. As I recall it ran only in Life magazine--maybe the Saturday Evening Post too. The commercial was a repeat of one done years before in the same location with pretty much the same result--great impact and recall. The original was called "Pinnacle" and was a real stopper at the time. There were reports of airline pilots doing a double take as they saw a car on top of the 2000 ft. high rock as they flew by. Both commercials were leadership statements about Chevrolet and it's position at the time. I made the recommendation to Chevy for the second version represented here. For lots of reasons advertisers seem reluctant to repeat ideas even when they are very good ones. Or maybe it's the creative people in the agency that feel they just can't use a concept thought of by someone else, at another time, even if it was a great idea. All of us making the ads want to do the next great one and the credit that goes with it. This is the only time I can remember asking Chevrolet to redo an idea and now that I look back I think I should have done it more often. 

I didn't go on the shoot for the commercial because all the pre-production and production needed were obvious when we viewed the original spot. I did however ask for a bunch of stills so I could put together an ad later. At the time there were very few ads and commercials that worked hand in glove together. The pictures in the ad kind of tell the story of how it was done and the copy tells the story of how Impala had improved over the years. There is more to tell about how it was done. The engine was removed along with the transmission, doors and trunk lid to lighten the car as it was lifted by the helicopter. Reassembly took place on top of the rock where it was discovered to be very windy and kind of dangerous especially for the young lady model. There wasn't a lot of extra room around the car for the model unless she was close to the edge so Doug Mahoney hid in the trunk of the Impala and held on to a rope wrapped around the young lady's waist as she waved to the camera in a helicopter. Doug is seen in one of the pictures helping the model into the helicopter. He was in charge of our LA facility where we prepared cars and trucks for ads and commercials--a jewel of a guy who could make things happen. 

When the shoot was all over and the commercial and ad in the works Doug presented me with a memento of the shoot--a small piece of rock from the top of the location mounted on a wooden base with an inscription that dated the event. I still have the "trophy". Thanks Doug.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

This is an interesting ad to me because of the people in it. The ad itself is pretty good and was shot by Warren Winstanley. I think we were at the Metropolitan Beach parking lot near Detroit. We used that location often when we needed a plain background. Chevrolet saved a little money when we used our family as models. The young lady in the car is Warren's daughter and the young man, I think may have been her boy friend. The "younger brother" in the back seat is my oldest son Tom. They were paid and had to sign a model release but didn't earn what real models would earn. It was fun for Warren and me to have our kids see what we did for a living. It is hard to see at this picture size but Tom is being offered a dollar to get out of the car and let his sister go alone with her boyfriend. 

Another interesting aspect of the ad is that Tom, the little guy in the back seat, got into the ad business too. He did pretty well and is now World Chairman and CEO of Leo Burnett