Go Inside Ford's High-Tech CD-ROM Simulator From 1996

Gif: YouTube

Car buyers today have it good. They have automaker websites, dealer websites and any number of car-buying tools at their disposal, to say nothing of the tons of buying advice on websites. Back in the 1990s, things were harder. “Research” meant print magazines, newspaper classified ads and just trusting that your salesperson wasn’t a lying, cheating asshole. (Some things never change.)


Fortunately for ‘90s buyers, the Ford Motor Company and its Lincoln, Mercury and Jaguar divisions offered a better way. A high-tech way. A way that harnessed the incredible power of multimedia to inform and entertain prospective customers. Not just a showroom—a Virtual Showroom, created with the might of the CD-ROM:

This popped up on vintage tech channel LGR today, which I also learned is a great resource for reviews of obsolete old-school tech like digital cameras that ran on floppy disks and ZIP drives. Do you miss those things? I sure as hell don’t.

Anyway, this is version 7.0 of Ford’s virtual showroom series; the automaker released several of these on PCs throughout the ‘90s. Here’s an earlier one if you’re really that bored. The seventh iteration has info on all your favorite models, like the Aspire, Grand Marquis, Aerostar and Jaguar XJS. You can price out options, watch jazzy full-motion videos and even play an extremely boring driving simulator.

As the video notes, the internet killed this series eventually. You didn’t need a CD-ROM to do what Ford’s website could do, especially as more features were added over time. Today, it’s a fun way to look back at what tech was like before the world went online.

I’d play it today, if my computer had a CD drive.

Editor-in-Chief at Jalopnik. 2002 Toyota 4Runner.


Brad Landers

“OMG THIS SHIT IS FASCINATING,” said no one ever. Looking back, it’s a miracle that the world didn’t collectively burn down everyone working in technology at the time.

Ooooh, 1990's CD-ROM era computing was such a gas. A little trip down memory lane. In 1995, a top of the line ($4,400) Dell had a 486 processor clocking along at 66 MHz, and the hard drive was only 320 MB. Read that again. Yes, 320 megabytes.

The CD-ROM could hold 650 MB of data at release, which might be good for a laugh today, but back then software developers were losing their minds. Full motion video on a personal computer was possible, but no one did it because you’d need a refrigerator full of floppy disks to deliver it, and who the hell could spare 20 MB of drive space for a short video clip? The CD-ROM changed all that.

Everyone rushed to develop “multimedia CD-ROM content” as quickly as they could. To be honest, this Ford Simulator 7.0 looks cutting edge for the era. I mean, the landmark game The 7th Guest was only released in 1993. I remember reading about how that game for months before its release. I begged and pleaded with my parents for a “4x” CD-ROM so I could play the game.

Now, just imagine this. If there were a single error in the program that ran on these discs, you were screwed. There was no internet capable of delivering software patches of this size. It either worked, or you tossed all the CDs and pressed new ones.