A Dictator on Ice

So many fun, and occasionally dangerous, advertising gimmicks were utilized in the early years of the automobile industry. This innovative approach from Blue Sunoco Fuel and Studebaker appeared in December of 1933 and featured an ice-covered Studebaker Dictator:

Here in Nebraska, it is not unusual for an automobile to look like an iceberg on wheels when left outside during wintry conditions, but this Studebaker was a brand-new car, driven right off the production line and into the plant’s refrigeration room. There, with Blue Sunoco fuel in the tank and Sunoco motor oil in the crankcase, the car was loaded down with huge cakes of ice. Then the temperature of the room was brought down to 20 degrees below zero and a wind machine, blowing at a rate of 50 mph, sprayed water on the ice-covered car. In this frigid state, the car was left to sit for almost 48 hours.

During the above process, one window of the car was left open. This enabled one Miss Eloise Metz of South Bend, wearing layers of warm clothing, to be placed through the open window along with heating pads and hot coffee. Once she was ensconced in the ice-laden car, that window was sealed tightly with ice. Then the car was towed to the business center of South Bend where a large crowd and several timekeepers had gathered. Miss Metz was told to start that frozen car, and start it did, taking only three-fifths of a second to do so.

That seems like a fairly effective marketing technique. One has to question the approach of christening the car with the distinctly un-American name of “Dictator” in the first place, however. I have heard it said that the term “Dictator” was chosen because it meant that the car was dictating the standard for the industry, but then why were the other cars in the Studebaker stable called the President and the Commander? Also, check out the caption under this 1934 photo:

That relaxed attitude toward authoritarianism did not last long with Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler operating nefariously on the international stage, and people soon realized the Studebaker wasn’t the only dictator that should be put on ice. The Dictator name did not age well, and the Studebaker company quietly retired it a couple of years later.