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Story of the Week

by A. Wayne Ferens
Images Courtesy of the New York World’s Fair, Bill Cotter, GM Media Archives
Published 5.25.2022

New York Worlds Fair 1The "Unisphere" centerpiece of the New York World's Fair

The 1964-65 New York World's Fair opened on April 22, 1964. It was immense covering 646 acres holding over 150 pavilions, public spaces, 110 restaurants, for 80 nations, 24 US states and over 45 corporations that had exhibits or attractions at Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, NY. The Fair’s theme was "Peace Through Understanding" dedicated to "Man's Achievement." The fair ran for two six-month seasons, April 22 - October 18, 1964, and April 21 - October 17, 1965. The 'centerpiece' being a Unisphere, the 12-story stainless-steel globe at the heart of the complex.

By the time the Fair opened in 1964, America's automobile industry had reshaped itself into the 'big three' which were General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. The age of the small independent automakers was over, as most of them either consolidated or went out of business. AMC and Studebaker were still in operation. In order to let the public know the auto industry was on solid ground, they played a major role at the NY World's Fair, sparing no expense in the design and construction of their pavilions with elaborate and innovative exhibits. 

The GM pavilion, one of the most eye-catching at the fair, was dominated by an enormous slanting canopy 110 feet high. Exhibits showed the range of GM's research activities and a vast variety of its products from automobiles to appliances. Highlights included the new Futurama, GM's classic ride into the future, taking the visitor on a trip to the moon, into the Antarctic, the jungle, the desert and a city of the future.  

GM Pavilion GM Media Archives 2GM Pavilion (GM Media Archives)

The 8.5 acre Futurama site was landscaped to display GM trucks, buses, railroad locomotives and earthmoving equipment. The Futurama white structure had a total capacity of 230,000 square feet, and the ride could carry 70,000 people daily.

Ford Motor Company introduced the Mustang to the public at its pavilion that featured International Gardens and the "Ford's Magic Skyway" ride that was designed by Walt Disney Imagineering, Disney’s research and development arm. It featured 50 motorless Ford convertibles that moved along a track through scenes featuring life-sized dinosaurs, cavemen and a futuristic City of Tomorrow. The pavilion contained a "Wonder Rotunda," surrounded by 64 towering pylons 100 feet high with an exhibit hall several blocks long that featured a large collection of Ford-built cars past, present and future. 

Ford Motor Company pavilion 3The Ford Motor Company pavilion             

The 304,998 sq. ft. pavilion was all about the Ford automobile and featured a Magic Skyway that transported visitors through a series of "time tunnels" to the City of Tomorrow, where they would leave their vehicle to view a collection of Ford products, dream cars and exhibits on auto styling.  

A drawing of the Ford pavilion 5An early rendering of the Ford pavilion

The Chrysler Corporation exhibit was one of the largest at the World's Fair and was designed especially for children. It was assembled on five islands linked by bridges and set in a six-acre artificial lake. Displays showed specific aspects of Chrysler's engineering, production, styling and operations. Dominating the display was a giant 100 foot walk-in engine with a huge revolving fan in front and an air filter on top, 55 feet up. Various aspects of the automobile world would come to life while seated in a moving car body on the airborne assembly line ride or walking through an 80-foot-long car to examine its giant components. including moving pistons weighing nearly a ton each. 

Another view of Chryslers Autofare 7A view of Chrysler's Autofare                    

 

The Chrysler pavilion with the mammoth engine in the foreground included moving pistons weighing nearly a ton each.  The giant US Royal Tire display in the background (above) was a operating Ferris Wheel and now sits along Interstate 94 in Allen Park, Michigan just outside Detroit.

Chryslers giant car 8Chrysler's giant car

The largest car in the world on display at the Chrysler pavilion (above) was 80 feet long with tires that were 20 feet tall. Walking through the giant car visitors could examine its extra large internal components.

There is no doubt all eyes were on New York when the fair opened to the public in 1964. More than 50 million visitors from all over the globe packed into Flushing Meadows’ Corona Park in Queens to experience everything this magnificent international exhibition had to offer.

By the summer of 1966, most of the pavillions constructed for the fair were demolished, and only a handful found new homes in various states across America. In 1978, the park became the home to the United States Tennis Association, and the US Open tournament is played there annually.

One thing is for certain, there will probably never be such a collective display of America's automobile companies on such a grand scale again. For more information on the NY World's Fair, visit the the official web site at www.nywf64.com. It's great!


Bibliography

Official Guide NY World's Fair

Bill Cotter collection of NY World’s Fair photos

GM World's Fair brochure

New York World’s Fair web site, www.nywf64.com

 

 

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