It was 1993 when the Delta L1011 touched down in Orlando and I breathed delicious American air for the first time. I was twelve years old and my family, like thousands more from Middle England, were headed for the neon artifice of DisneyWorld.
For all the addictive rollercoasters and lose-yourself fantasy of Magic Kingdom, and the big-budget thrill of MGM, EPCOT was always my favourite Disney destination. The slowness of pace might not have immediately suited my pre-pubescent urges, but the scale and depth of what was on offer wad me staring wide eyed and slack jawed.
And then I discovered GM’s World Of Motion, an attraction seemingly made for me.
“Welcome to your World Of Motion”
MY world. See that? For ME. From the glimpses of excitement visible tantalisingly through the electric sliding doors while I waited in the eternal Disney queue, I knew I would be hooked. When we eventually made it past the air-barriers and were welcomed inside by a lady with glossy red lips, we were handed each a copy of this Souvenir Brochure, and it’s a document that I would go on to thumb for two decades, with more sure to come.
Living in small-town England, anything American was rare and exotic. When we waited at Alamo Rent-a-car and Dad swung into view in a Medium Garnet Red metallic Lumina 3.1 Euro (I quickly learnt) it was a moment of ecstasy which now seems totally laughable, but which I fondly remember. The alien nature of an all-red velour interior, a bench front seat and AIR-CONDITIONING were of almost immeasurable excitement to me, the gangly kid who only ever saw American stuff on TV and in magazines.
“We’re always in motion, always travelling somewhere, always looking for the most satisfying way to get from here to there”
There’s little point in discussing the ride itself, it being the usual EPCOT animatronic show seen from a slow-moving train and I should imagine the majority of you have seen it for yourselves. I knew it all already, for the most part; we journeyed through time from the creation of the wheel through the Edwardian era with its horseless carriages. My eyes lit up, though, towards the end when you pass through a Futurama-inspired landscape with autonomous roads, bright white buildings and towers, and vehicles hovering in all directions.
But the bit I enjoyed the most was at the very end, when you’re disgorged from the train and into what was basically a very imaginatively staged GM showroom, and a place where I would begin drooling uncontrollably, over Pontiacs, Buicks and Cadillacs, for gawdsakes. The Chevy Corsica and that sexy little minx the Beretta. The big, curvy bathtub Caprice and a Lumina identical to our hire-car but without the ingrained stench of air-freshener. All of which were subjected to a severe prodding inside and out by yours truly.
“The reality of future technologies is being tested out today in GM’s concept cars- a family of personal transportation vehicles that are environmentally driven”
Concept Cars! Remember, at that stage I wanted to be a car designer; I spent my spare time at home evenly between drawing cars and reading about them. Being able to look at ANYTHING that wasn’t on the street for public consumption felt like I was being extended special privileges; me and the fifty thousand other EPCOT visitors each day.
“Prototype models of new vehicles and transit systems for virtually every form of travel overflow a special Transcenter area called the Dreamers Workshop”
I was absolutely in my element. As I was when I visited again in ’95. In ’98, though, a new and even more exciting development was taking place. The GM “Test Track”, which promised to take the lucky riders through all the stages of a cars development and testing, including a thrilling sixty mile-per-hour crash test. When we were there the ride was undergoing final testing; the Gods were pointing and laughing at me and I was denied the Test Track experience. Fifteen years on I still haven’t done it.
But the Souvenir Brochure lives on as a snapshot of that time that I was first exposed to the infinitely wide world of the American Automobile.
(Disclaimer: All images are of original manufacturers publicity material, photographed by me. GM and Disney can fight it out over the copyright rights if they wish)