A constant reminder
The models were made especially for Ford and used to entice potential buyers to visit the local Ford dealership.
Essentially, the Ford brand's new model line was available in miniature each September. General Motors and Chrysler Corp. had similar programs, I believe. Today, some of those models are quite valuable. I've bought, sold and traded many of those promotional models over the years.
It's a program that Ford, GM and the Chrysler group should adopt again to draw prospective buyers to the showroom. And it's a good way for automakers to educate the next generation of buyers about their brands and product lines.
The Ford model cars served several purposes: On the chassis, several of the real cars' special features were listed. Molded into the Galaxie's plastic chassis were such phases as "Adjusts its own brakes," "Wide contoured safety frame protects all passengers," "Galvanized rocker panels" and "36,000 miles between chassis lubes." Even if the purchase of a real 1963 Ford was not imminent, the model car was a constant reminder, for me and my family, of Ford's new Galaxie. Finally, Ford's promotional model cars helped educate a generation of youngsters about the Ford brand and its wide range of vehicles.
That model car also fueled my dreams. I looked forward to the day I would get my driver's license and my first car. Ford continued the model car program until about the 1970 model year.
It would work today
Thirty-some years later, U.S automakers are scrambling to grab the attention of potential buyers as the market share for some brands is nearly in freefall. Their work is more complicated today because of Asian and European brands.
It is difficult even for experts to keep track of what's on the market; it's almost impossible for the average Jane or Joe who buys a vehicle every five years or so.
Today, automakers are rushing to get images of their performance vehicles into videogames. A generation has grown up "racing" the Nissan Skyline GT-R in such games, even though most have never seen the car in person.
Marketing execs point with pride to the Internet for reaching potential buyers -- click on to an automaker's Web site and pick the car of your dreams, right down to the color. Of course, you have to log in each time to see the car of your dreams.
Over the years, I've heard auto executives' frustration as they described how difficult it is to grab and hold the attention of potential buyers with a magazine ad. A few minutes of genuine interest is a big accomplishment.
But back in 1963 that ming green model car was a constant reminder of Ford's Galaxie. Occasionally, I saw it in my father's hands.
And, about six months after that miniature Ford arrived, my father got the car bug. He purchased a ming green 1963 Ford -- a nine-passenger Country Sedan station wagon -- for our growing family. That free, well-detailed model car was the stimulus of dreams.
The sheet metal has changed during the past 40-plus years. But I think the use of model cars linked to the introduction of car lines has as much merit today as it did four decades ago.
You may e-mail Rick Kranz at [email protected]