American Harvest: Manufacturing the 1955 Chevrolet

1955-chevrolet-bel-air-sedanGeneral Motors was rightly proud of the all-new 1955 Chevrolet with its advanced chassis, styling, and small-block V8. In bright, beautiful Technicolor, here’s an original 30-minute promotional film singing the car maker’s praises. 



We feel it’s only fair to warn you that this film-to-video was produced using the “First, the earth cooled” approach to storytelling, a familiar technique in Jam Handy industrial productions. If you enjoy all the grand exposition on the history of agriculture and so on, you’re good to go. The production quality is first-rate, and the narrator is than John Forsythe (1918-2010), the famed actor whose career spanned six decades. But if you want to get straight to the automotive content, fast-forward to around the 14-minute mark. It’s perfectly all right with us.

At that point in the film, you’ll find interesting vignettes on tire and glass manufacturing, sheet metal forming, and gear making. The story eventually shifts to the production lines, showing how all these separate processes are interdependent upon one another, and how General Motors and its vast production facilities were woven into the fabric of American life. Hence the film’s title, American Harvest. 

Indeed: In 1955, GM was the largest private employer in the world, and its share of the North American car market was 54 percent. For the Chevrolet division it was an exceptionally good year with an all-new chassis, styling, and the exciting 265 CID V8. Sales passed the 1.7 million-unit mark, exceeding the previous year by more than half a million cars. Watch Chevrolet strut its stuff in the video below.