Chrysler's 1956 highway hi-fi phonograph
Ah, yes, what a wonderful future world we live in. Look at what Chrysler thought of as a fashionable choice in 1956: the record player!
We know, what the hell were they thinking? Were they serous? Are you serious?
Well yeah, they were, although there were very few takers. Seriously, what sort of person would even consider something like this in a car? The audio environment it bad enough as it is, but to put something as, er, vibrations sensitive as a turntable in a multi-ton, way-too-floaty luxo-barge as a Chrysler (any Chrysler)?
What sort of madman would do that? Well, I just happen to know a few.
I’ve got this friend, Bob, real typical died-in-the-wool car guy. Currently into VWs as some sort of weird mutation of his long time Mercedes fetish. But for a while there, Bob was off the reservation and was playing around with things like Desotos and Chrysler 300s.
I remember flipping through the pages of some Chrysler club newsletter waiting for Bob to get in gear so we could leave his house, and I noticed an article about these very same in-car record players.
“Are you serious? Chrysler actually tried to put record players in cars?”
“Oh yeah!” Bob shouted from another room. ” Those things are ... ”
And he went on to describe to me just how sought after these things are by Chrysler collectors. They were offered, but very few people bought them, and the old stock has long since disappeared into that Indiana Jones warehouse. So finding a good original version is like a quest for some of these guys.
“Did they actually work?”
“Oh yeah, and they actually sound pretty good for a record player.” Bob’s a screenwriter and narration talent, so he knows good sound.
“While the car was moving?!” I asked.
“Good-God no. Only when it’s parked. no one in their right mind would use a record player in a moving car. It’ll scratch the hell out of your Patsy Kline records.”
Who knows what the designers and engineers at Chrysler were thinking back then. Putting a shock and vibration sensitive piece of gear in a car makes a much sense as giving Don Rumsfeld and army to play with; you know there’ll be lots of bad noise when you hit the first bump.
Anyway, so here we have it: What a bunch of auto-engineers thought was a good way to bring hi-fidelity sound to your driving experience, circa 1956.
Sure beats an iPod, no?
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