Motorama: GM Showstoppers before the North American Auto Shows
Before the prestigious Detroit Auto Shows took over the Cobo Hall in 1965, General Motors took their favorite cars and prototypes on the road with the Motorama tour. The car show debuted in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, but as years passed, the cars headed from New York to faraway places like Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The idea behind the Motorama was to show off the best and shiniest choices coming out of Detroit.
The Motorama delivered the glitz and glamour that it promised. When the show debuted in 1949, about 600,000 people visited the Waldorf-Astoria and were treated to seeing a fleet of Cadillacs that were specifically designed for the show. Within five years, the show included orchestras, dancers, singers, and a revue show. The dream cars presented at the shows were prototypes that showed the relationships between the GM car branches and the company’s divisions like Frigidaire and AC.
Several of the most popular cars ever made were debuted at the Motoramas. The shows during the mid-1950s were especially memorable because GM first showed concept cars like the GM Firebird I, II, and III (which were powered by turbine engines), the Chevy Corvette, and the GM LeSabre. Many of the cars at the Motorama were often no more than shells, so attendees could check out the artistic exteriors and interiors. When the engines were shown, they were often only made of parts rescued from junk heaps and chromed to look fabulous and new.
One special car that first appeared at the Motorama was the 1955 Chevy Biscayne. The car, designed by Harley Earl, first appeared with a fiberglass body and a tail-light design that eventually appeared on the Corvette. The Biscayne was painted a dreamy metallic green, but it was the interior that turned the most heads. The Chevy Biscayne had suicide doors that showed off the front seats that swiveled so the driver and front passenger could easily get in and out of the car. The opening for the four doors was pillar-less, which was quite an accomplishment for a carmaker.
Sadly, many of the dream cars from Motorama all ended up in the same junkyard, Warhoops Salvage Yard of Sterling Heights, Michigan. The 1955 Chevy Biscayne ended up there, and so did many of the Cadillacs. Fortunately, the cars have been rescued and restored by loving hands.