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The Meaning of Motoramic


The Meaning of MotoramicWelcome to Motoramic, a little shelf of the Internet where we at Yahoo! Autos plan to wrench together stories about the automotive realm and what drives you. We know the world doesn't need just another auto blog. We have other plans.

The word "Motoramic" came from the ad wizards at Chevrolet in late 1954 as their one-word slogan for the 1955 models. Drafted from a clean sheet of paper, styled to evoke General Motors' time-traveling Motorama shows of the 1940s, the '55 Chevys offered Americans the firstmass-market idea of what a modern car could be. Up front was a V8, behind a grille inspired by Ferrari; at the end was Chevy's first hint ofa tail fin. In between lay a lighter, stronger body and a design from GM styling chief Harley Earl's team that swept off the last cobwebs of war and depression. It looked like hope, and became the iconic American car. There's a reason every diner still has a picture of a '55 Chevy.

Despite that, no one really knew what "Motoramic" meant, and Chevy dropped it in 1956. It was forgotten for decades outside of people who clip old magazine ads and paper their basement walls with gold bowties. When Yahoo Autos asked me to launch a new blog about cars and culture, I stumbled across the phrase. After much thought, now I know what it means.


It's cooler to hate cars than enjoy them. Young people, so we are told, do not want to drive or own a vehicle, preferring to live where there's public transit and bikes — not just in the United States, but worldwide. "To more and more young people today," says one summation, "such cultural icons of the post-war generations as fast cars and shiny fenders must increasingly appear as prehistoric yearnings."

For older folk sitting in traffic watching time pass faster than miles, one can't help but think those youngsters have a point. Witness the mini-spat last week when an Audi contractor tweeted a photo of himself driving in suburban Virginia with an iPad on his steering wheel, open to his email. Two bloggers jumped on him for promoting the scourge of distracted driving -- even though both had also tweeted photos taken from the driver's seat while stuck in traffic. Distractions can be a safety hazard, but drivers aren't guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; they can't be expected to stay at attention through every second of growing gridlock.

Automakers often don't help their own cause. When they offer only choices between carbon-belching truckosaurs, sedans destined to be lost in mall parking lots or expensive hybrids that would come in third to the hare and tortoise, even the most ardent car geek begins to question their faith.


The thing is, it is a faith, and it's far from finished.

Name the worst model of car you can think of, and there's a club built around it, by owners who cherish and preserve them. There are no associations for the best microwave ovens or enthusiasts of high-end vacuum cleaners, but there is one for fans of the Chevy Celebrity and AMC Pacer. No other machine spawns such feelings, because as Jaguar founder Sir Williams Lyons famously said, "the car is the closest thing we will ever create to something that is alive."

Vehicles are still a symbol of responsibility and independence around the world, one that can't be substituted with an app. (That said, driving skills can be: Today's teens may not get driver's licenses at the rate they once did, but they spend far more time driving in the virtual worlds of Forza 4 and Gran Turismo, and customizing their favorite models.)

If you've never felt the pull of a muscle car howling at speed, or the thrill of summoning more horsepower than Napoleon, you're missing a valuable experience. Cars alone among machines seem like living creatures because only they help us feel most alive.

We aim to nurture that sense of wonder in all its forms, and the stories from the automotive world that deserve to be shared on Yahoo. We'll be updating several times a day, starting with our Dash every morning highlighting what's in the news. We have plans to roll out other features in the coming weeks, including new ways for readers to join us rather than just being told to sit and click. We also plan to use our skills to uncover stories you won't read elsewhere.

It's a view of everything interesting about the world of cars and the people driven by them: the fun, the frantic, the awe-inspiring, and the truth. That's what Motoramic means.

You can follow Motoramic on Twitter, or reach us through email at

Photo: hz536n via Flickr.