For 1960-1961, Plymouth’s Aero Wheel suggested a space-age payoff

By 1960, the Space Race was on. Instead of waiting for the government’s space agency to get us there, Plymouth gave Americans the option of launching on their own thanks to the Aero Wheel.

The horn bar that–wink, wink!–was not merely a horn bar suggested a launch (right button) and return to the launching pad (left button).

Ad copy clarified the matter:

Take the wheel of a ’60 Plymouth. The driver’s seat holds you high and comfortably (and it even controls, ingeniously, a system that automatically locks all the car doors the instant you start the engine.) That’s Plymouth’s inviting new Aero Wheel in your hand. The Teleview red-line speedometer ticks off your travel, ribbon fashion, across the face of a modern “floating” instrument pod. Every modern advance is here before you to make driving in the 1960 Plymouth easier—and more exciting. 

Mention of spacesuits and helmets was omitted, but otherwise the formula was sound. The driver and passengers were automatically sealed in the capsule, everyone transfixed by the Teleview metering, and one-hand operation sufficed.

So there must be a good explanation for the poor sales report.

“Plymouth sales alone [without Valiant, a stand-alone brand that year] dropped to seventh rank in the American industry [in 1961],” we learn from Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975. “The radical new styling was one factor in this decline.”

I suspect underreporting of registrations because so many cars went straight into deep space without the driver’s understanding the function of the left-side button, and surveys went without response.

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