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1953 GM Motorama Extravaganzas – The Promise of Tomorrow

Beginning in 1953 General Motors pulled out all the stops and unveiled its new and elaborate Motorama shows at the beginning of a six-city tour held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. Exhibited at the spectacular presentations were the LeSabre, Buick XP-300 and Wildcat, Pontiac La Parisienne, Oldsmobile Starfire, Cadillac LeMans and Orleans concept cars, along with all of the 1953 production cars. The new 1953 Chevrolet Corvette was also introduced to the public for the first time.

Today’s feature contains two videos of GM films which cover the 1953 Motorama and the final preparations of the concept cars and the setup of the show at the Waldorf Astoria. The first of the two films “Building the Motorama” below shows the Cadillac LeMans in the lead image and the expandable view below courtesy of GM Photographic Archives, at 1:31 into the video and at 5:00 on the turntable where the pictures were taken before it left Detroit. The second video below “Motorama Moods” shows one of the presentations to the public – both productions are well worth the time to view.

1953-cadillac-lemans-1

  • The lead image and this second expandable view above show the Cadillac LeMans concept car being photographed before setting off on the Motorama’s six city tour in 1953.  

  • “Building the Motorama” includes final preparations of the concept cars in Detroit and the set up at the show at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

  • “Motorama Moods” shows one of the public viewings of the  General Motors extravaganza.

13 responses to “1953 GM Motorama Extravaganzas – The Promise of Tomorrow

  1. No short cuts in the budget, bet they could not repeat something similar today.
    America riding the wave!
    Thanks David, enjoyed this very, very much

  2. I attended several Motoramas including this one. My father worked for Frigidaire, a GM subsidiary at the time. I don’t remember standing in the long lines shown in the film so maybe there was a preview showing for GM families. I do remember being dazzled by the Le Mans but, looking at it now, the small rear-view mirrors and dashboard gauges running over to the passenger side look unrealistic, the round push button door openers were stolen directly from 40’s Lincoln production models and the unadorned, slab-side rear fenders do not seem to coordinate well with the creased and chrome-trimmed front fenders. Seems like the trunk lid got more of the designer’s attention. I think there was an implication that the car had a retractable hard top but don’t think I’ve ever seen the top in place.

    • Beauty truly is in the eyes of the beholder. I think the 1953 Le Mans is spectacular. It gave a preview of the 1954 Cadillac’s frontal styling. Four these were built. The one shown on the GM Motorama show circuit was given to or sold to Clarence Dixon Cadillac in July of 1954. Not long afterward, shoe store magnate Harry Karl bought it and had customizer George Barris make some changes to it which included a multi-piece removable hardtop, gold-plated parts, etc. It went through other owners and in May 1985 was destroyed in a building fire in Pleasanton, CA. Harley Earl had one titled to him for a while. That one may have been scrapped. Only two are known to still exist today. More details are in my book, “Motorama: GM’s Legendary Show and Concept Cars.”

      • David, your Motorama book is a bible of information I often refer to. You managed to locate photos I had not seen before! I look forward to your next title.

  3. In the first video – 1953 – there seems to be a second LeSabre in the background at around 4:51 to 4:56. It’s on the far right. I thought initially that it might be a full-sized rendering or maybe a cutout, but maybe it was real. Anyone ever heard of a second LeSabre?

    Of course, at this time Harley Earl was driving the car – weather permitting – on pretty much a daily basis.

    • It was thought for many years that there was only one Pontiac Bonneville until a guy called Joe Bortz and asked him if he wanted to buy the second one! That is definitely a LeSabre nose. The clay model perhaps? It would not surprise me if there had been a second one built.

  4. Loved the videos. I remember when the early post war Cadillacs came to market they were so hughely popular that people would form partnerships to buy and drive them on alternate days. The first Rocket V8 engines were hotrods for the time. In fact in 1952 GM had to raise the gearratio so people wouldn’t spin the tires when accelerating.. I always wonderd why my Uncle’s 1949 Olds seemd faster than his 1952. Those Motorrama based cars are true works of art.

  5. I love that Caddy! With it’s gorgeous curves and powerful front, it is at once sporty and an impressive brute.

    It reminds me of the timeless and elegant Eldorado.

  6. I do believe this is the Motorama my friend Mike went to when he was just a young lad in high school. He still talks about it today like it was yesterday.

  7. I saw photos of a 2017 Auto Show setup in today’s paper. The main differences? Everyone wore a hardhat, and nobody was smoking.

  8. Has anybody noticed that the LeSabre was not called Buick. This must be started by an automotive writer who was not auto minded or even into cars. The Buick XP300 utilized the same chassis as the LeSabre. How it was explained to me, Harley was responsible for styling and Charlie Chayne was responsible for engineering. I had brochures for both vehicles, however I can only come up with the LeSabre. In 1954, I was working for Cadillac,Chicago Zone new car prep when all o fthe trucks carring these cars were brought to “new car prep” at 22nd and Indiana. All of had 2 days to look over the cars and talk to the individuals who took care of them.

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