I’ve been going down a bunch of weird automotive rabbit holes today, but at some point you just have to stop, grab the crazy thing in front of you, and come up for air. So, in the interest of actually doing my job today, allow me to introduce you to one of the most delightfully dorky promo videos I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a 1987 Ford joint about the Mercury Topaz featuring a pair of initial-named dorks dressed in the palette of a fried seafood platter and a goofy conceit.
Our video begins with JD and RT exiting a metallic beige Mercury Topaz—which, it’s worth mentioning, fits the dominant chromatic theme for this video, intense beige, with the car’s interior being beige, along with nearly everything on the two dopily affable occupants.
JD and RT have been discussing, to their credit, some of the lighting details of the Topaz, including the plastic aero headlights, the “wraparound parking lamps” (which were also the indicators, by the way) and the “full width wraparound tail lamps.”
In short, it’s a conversation that would have found me very engaged and eagerly participating had I been there. Shit starts to get nice and goofy when JD or maybe RT—the one without glasses—starts to use a few automotive buzzwords that, despite being fairly well-known in the mid-’80s, like “aerodynamics”, really throw Beigey McGlasses a loop, leading him to start poking at what looks like a calculator.
But, you see, and here’s where the future-prediction part gets good, it’s not a calculator! It’s a hand-held computing device designed to translate automotive jargon into plain english!
Of course, Ford’s props department really phoned it in here, as that’s very much just a cheap calculator with a TRANSLATOR 8000 badge at the top, with crappy Chyron text clumsily slapped on in editing.
(CORRECTION: I was very wrong. These were actual 1980s translating machines! Langenscheidt 8000 series, with actual dot-matrix displays and everything. Amazing this could be pulled off in the ‘80s—I guess it was a simple word-to-word lookup type of thing!)
Now, I do have to give Ford credit for the imagining our current world of everyone holding powerful handheld computers, and I bet somewhere out there is some sort of jargon-to-normal-speech translation app, too.
Sometimes, the acronyms are pretty absurd ones that no one ever used anywhere, ever, like “MTX” for “manual five-speed transaxle.”
Man, that’s a half-ass thought balloon. In fact, it’s not even a thought balloon! Thought balloons are cloud-shaped, with little bubbles that extend into the cranium, where speech balloons are smooth-edged, with a pointy tail. This is visual language 101, people.
Anyway, you just need to watch this thing, because it’s a real experience:
Also interesting is the fascinating automotive footnote/oddity that gets mentioned in detail here: the fact that you could once get a Mercury Topaz (or its sibling, the Ford Tempo, with an all-wheel drive system!
This was a really interesting system, in the sense of how un-interesting it was designed to be. The AWD Topazes and Tempos looked just about the same as the normal FWD ones, with only a half inch of extra lift, and the system was activated with a little nondescript dash switch.
This was less to make the car an off-road toy and more to give nervous parents some feeling (perhaps illusion) of safety in nasty weather. The AWD ones were never exactly popular, but were sort of an ancestor of the vastly more common AWD cars we see today.
There’s also an especially strange part in the video when they talk about safety, and show a re-enactment of a wreck where a woman was saved by an airbag:
What’s strange about this is what the driver says about the moments before the wreck: she didn’t want to feel the pain of the wreck, so she closed her eyes, and hoped nothing would happen?
I suppose that’s really a pretty human response, but it’s still kind of odd to hear, especially in this context.
Other than that slightly grim tangent, this is a goofy, goofy romp and I believe watching this is an excellent use of your time.