Video: GM Progress of Power, 1969

In the 1960s, GM led the auto industry with important research in alternative technology, from steam to electric to fuel cells, and the automaker boasted it to the world. This original 1969 GM film tells the story.   



In May of 1969, General Motors launched a major presentation to the national press at the GM Technical Center in Warren, Michigan. Called Progress of Power and hosted by GM president Ed Cole, the exhibition featured much of the automaker’s research on alternative power and vehicles to that date. And it was an impressive show indeed, including:

+   The Electovair and Electovan, the company’s experiments in silver-zinc batteries and hydrogen fuel cell technology.

+   Two cars with advanced steam powerplants, a Chevelle and a Pontiac Grand Prix. (The Grand Prix steamer resides today in the Jay Leno collection.)

+   A heavy-duty military truck powered by an engine-generator set with electric motors in the wheel hubs.

+   The company’s ongoing work in turbine and free-piston engines, including its latest project at the time, the TRX gas turbine bus.

+   A mini-fleet of subcompact urban vehicles, powered by both gasoline and electric drivetrains.

+   Research on reduced-emissions gasoline engines, including two rather advanced developments for 1969: catalytic converters and intake-valve throttling.

Fortunately for us, GM Photographic produced an excellent film on the presentation, and it’s a fascinating look back at the technology of the future—as it was understood in 1969, anyway. Video below.


3 thoughts on “Video: GM Progress of Power, 1969

  1. Gives an idea why the Fiero was saddled with a four cylinder. The upper management at GM was probably at this show as young employee’s, the shape of the Fiero is even derivative of the commuters in this movie.

  2. I was stunned to see intake valve throttling used as an emissions device. The idea is ancient and was used on the earliest horseless carriages for they didn’t have decent carburetors.

  3. So nothing is new. Electric cars with no range, steam that is a long drawn out starting procedures. Hybrids that you would not drive on a long trip. Still the case now, the hybrid Camry is really only a 90kph car unless you use the petrol engine and as Top Gear proved uses more fuel than a V8 BMW when driven moderatly fast!
    LPG has been popular here in Oz, but it has got too pricey and there is now no OEM models new. $ for $ at current LPG prices maybe a saving of 20%.
    The three wheels might have sold [then] in the UK but not now. Think Reliant Robin!!

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