Apparently, National Robotics Week happens each April. So, E3 Spark Plugs decided to celebrate with a shiny, smiley, chatty blast from the futuristic past. If you were a kid or a car buff back in the 1960s, you may remember Freddie Ford.
Standing nine feet tall and weighing in at 800 pounds, the original Freddie Ford was a talking quasi-robot made from Ford auto parts and designed to entertain crowds on the auto show circuit. A vintage press release notes “a heart made of switches, tapes and relays, skin made of sheet metal and aluminum” and an animated ability to answer a limited series of questions, doling out automotive advice and lobbing a few shameless plugs for the newest Ford models.
“Are those oil pans really your feet?”
“Yes, sir, these are 390 V-8 oil pans from the biggest V-8 that uses only regular gas. And remember….oil changes are only needed every six months or 6,000 miles.”
The original Freddie worked the show circuit for three years until retiring and being replaced with a smaller, more modern version. Freddie II stood just six feet tall and weighed just 500 pounds. But like most kids, he came pre-wired with a little more tech-savvy than dear ol’ Dad. Junior was equipped with a television camera hidden in his nose, allowing him to see his fans, and a chest-embedded Mustang speedometer with an odometer that registered miles as he talked, as well as a Ford stereo AM/FM radio.
The younger Freddie came with a console panel featuring 12 buttons that, when pressed, would prompt Freddie to answer questions in much the same PR-flavored fashion as his predecessor.
“What is meant by, ‘Walk softly and carry a big stick?’”
“The quotation is really, ‘Drive softly and carry a big six.’ You see, a new bigger 250-horsepower six is standard on Torinos, optional on Mustangs for ’70. You drive softly because it is such a smooth, quiet performer. Thrifty, too.”
Granted, neither Freddie, Sr. nor Freddie, Jr. had quite the performance repertoire of Honda’s moonman-esque ASIMO, who pours drinks, boasts his own iPhone app and can bust a creepy animatronic Hokey-Pokey; or of General Motors’ Robonaut, a C-3PO wannabe who last year became the first humanoid robot in space as a member of NASA’s Expedition 27 crew. But what the two Freddie Fords lacked in 21st century technology, they made up for in futuristic charm – a full three decades earlier. In fact, we kinda wish Ford would bring him back for the next major auto show.
Do you remember Freddie Ford? Post your memories on the E3 Spark Plugs’ Facebook fan page.