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A Ford test driver teaches you how to drive… in 1971

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Still image from video below.

My son recently got his driver’s permit, which means a few nights per week we take a ride with him at the wheel so he can practice for his license test in December. Fortunately, he’s making very good progress. With driver’s education on my mind lately, I came across this film that was presented by the Ford Motor Company and produced by The White Association in 1971. It’s part of a series of shorts that cover safe driving techniques.

If you’re middle-aged, the moment the film starts, you’ll be transported back to high school. Even if you never saw this particular one back then, it has all earmarks of the others of the era. It’s not a shocker though, so don’t worry, there’s no blood.

It’s all about how to make good decisions while on the road. Shown early on is an official-looking three-ring binder with title pages and traffic diagrams. There are also overhead shots of driving situations, driving on a closed course, and driving on public streets though the early 1970s suburbs.

The opening scene of the ’71 full-size Ford negotiating the cones makes me want to pop my White Lightning DVD into the player to watch Gator McKlusky elude the police in his similar, but lower-priced model, Ford Custom 500.

Though the presentation can be a little dry at times, the music is perfect for the period in which it was produced, and there’s a variety of thought-provoking elements to discover that have little to do with driving technique.

For instance, why is the test car so incredibly dirty? You notice it right away. You’d think that the corporation would want their car to be clean and shiny for the cameras. Are the producers trying to show you that the testers work so hard with the cars that they get that dirty, and it’s somehow a badge of honor? Possibly.

When the test driver is traveling up the Eight-lane road, at 2:03 and 2:08, there’s a broken-down car on the median with its hood up. We pass it too quickly for me to figure out what it is. Can you make it out? It would be ironic if it was a Ford.

Also notice that there are an awful lot of Fords in some of the public road scenes. I wonder how many of them are there on purpose, either just to be seen or to keep unknowing traffic away from filming for safety reasons.

At 3:35 it appears that we’re traveling in the opposite direction on the same eight-lane road, as we can see the broken-down car on the median again, but this time from the front. Can you figure out what it is yet?

At 4:29 we see the red full-size Ford and the Maverick that we spied earlier on the eight-lane road. Nice Torino convertible at 8:37. How many other interesting cars can you spot?

These films are enjoyable to watch for the nostalgia they evoke, and their lessons still hold true. Though my son is too young to remember these types of films, I’ll still show it to him just to reinforce what he’s already learned.