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When Chevy Advertised Its Truck’s Comfy Ride by Shaking a Dummy Plumb to Death

There’s a beautiful simplicity to television commercials from, say, 50 years ago. No computer-generated effects, no desperate appeals to your emotions, no internal canons or casts of recurring characters like some kind of Marvel movie (looking at you, Progressive.) When you wanted to showcase the supple ride of a vehicle traditionally associated with work, you hung a seat directly off a wheel, strapped in a dummy dressed like a cowboy, and let the the laws of physics do their thing.

This snippet comes from a promotional film Chevrolet made in 1972 that recently resurfaced thanks to the Instagram account classic_truck_products; it was also used by itself in a TV spot back in the day. The clip showcases the company’s “massive girder-beam front suspension,” which was anchored to the frame in two spots at a time when Ford’s trucks were still working with one. Actually, right before the relevant bit, there’s a head-on shot comparing both pickups, with their front bodywork completely removed ahead of the cabin, almost like a rolling cutaway. It’s really cool.

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But that’s not why you’re here; you’re here for the violently convulsing dummy. That happens about 7 minutes and 15 seconds into the video embedded above. In the exercise, two seats are hanging off the truck: one fixed to the wheel and another fixed to the body. The idea is that the seat tethered to the body is benefitting from damping, while the other isn’t. An actual human sits in the smooth-riding seat, and then the truck sets off for a path strewn with planks to mimic a bumpy road.

You know what’s about to happen, but it still doesn’t matter. Nothing can prepare you for the vigorous shaking of our flailing cowboy. Poor guy even loses his hat. The vibration is hardcore meme fuel, like the secret lost inspiration for David Lewandowski’s 2010s YouTube classic, “Going to the Store.” If it wasn’t, then the smirk of our live guinea pig in the seat behind at least deserves a second life as a reaction GIF.

That’s the face of a man who knows he picked the right seat. The Emulsion Alchemist via YouTube

I’m not sure what, if anything, this ad says about the ride quality of early-’70s Chevy pickups, but I do know that if GM ran this today with a new truck, it’d see a bump in sales, at least for the few Colorado trims normal people can afford. I don’t care about the size of your touchscreens—I just wanna know that you can give a body pillow whiplash real good.

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