By on December 22, 2013

Last week we ran a post of mine about the Jam Handy Organization, a motion picture studio located in the Detroit area that created many of General Motors’ promotional films for decades. A couple of the readers liked my idea of posting some more of those vintage films as a recurring feature here on TTAC. Jam Handy, though, wasn’t the only person who recognized the potential of using motion pictures to promote the sale of automobiles.


Ford had its own Ford Motion Picture Laboratories, but there was another “indie” in Detroit, so to speak, besides the Handy company and that was Wilding Picture Productions. Based in Chicago, Wilding operated a Detroit office, from where they produced films like Trail of the Rocket. It features Lucille and Johnny, a couple of singers whose television show is sponsored by Oldsmobile, who offers them a V.I.P. tour of Oldsmobile factory in Lansing. Like many of the Handy produced films, this was intended for theatrical release, so it had to be entertaining, hence a rather lame science fiction subplot involving a possible Martian spy at loose in the factory (though the little bit of social commentary on how Earthling behavior would negatively influence Martian society starting at ~6:00 is pretty humorous, comic books, be-bop music and television commercials!).

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

16 Comments on “Automotive Wayback Machine: Trail of the Rocket – Lucille and Johnny Tour an Oldsmobile Plant circa 1951...”

  • avatar

    Interesting to see a plant that by today’s standards is pretty much stone knives and bearskins. Amazing that there is so much variation in bore size that you need so many different sized pistons to make it work properly. So many areas for human error to creep in. Or for disgruntled workers to intentionally build it incorrectly…

  • avatar

    Hah, martians = commies!

  • avatar

    The movie makes more sense if you imagine Johnny dropped acid right after Lucille left to get changed.

  • avatar

    Wow.. crackle-finish lab gear, bakelite knobs and people healthy enough to climb airliner steps. I loves this stuff.

  • avatar

    A weird meta-thought: what if real alien lifeforms saw this and thought it represented how humans really were?

  • avatar

    Wow ;

    They spun that brand new Rocket V-ate engine to 3,500 RPM !! .

    Highly entertaining if weird and goofy .


  • avatar

    This was great!

    I have to share this with The Brougham Society, especially seeing how I have an Olds featured at the top of the page this week…

  • avatar

    The General[s,] Johnny & Lucille were in for a shock it was Sputnik by Lada.

  • avatar

    I found it charmingly quirky, it really did not take itself seriously (income tax? heh).

    The production techniques were fascinating, the amount of skill and resourcefulness to mass produce engines without the modern crutch of computerized technology (which now covers up a lot of sloppy engineering… field problem? do a software update). Probably at that time these may well have been among the best mass produced engines in the world. GM, Ford and Chrysler had provided engines for the military, and with most of the industrialized world in pieces there was probably nothing like this plant anywhere else.

    I’d match the skill of those production engineers, given their limited tools available, against anything today.

  • avatar

    I have heard a few rumors over the years that Jam Handy was also something of a cloak and dagger internal GM spy network. No idea if it’s true, but it sounds interesting. At least more interesting than Harry Bennett.

  • avatar

    That was just a swell futuramic moving picture. And very cheesy. But a good way to kill 30 minutes. Thanks for posting about it because I likely never would have seen that otherwise.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Thanks Ronnie! I was hoping for some recognizable scenes and found a few. In ’69 as a college co-op I guided a few tours of the plant. Running 24/7, it produced 1.25 million V8’s a year, the largest output from a single engine line anywhere, ever, iirc.

    The scale model of the plant was still in use in my co-op days from ’69-’74. Olds also had a sophisticated wood model shop which made the models as well as mockup engine and other vehicle parts.
    Some of the buildings still in use until the 3,000,000 square foot facility was demolished for the Lansing Grand River Cadillac plant dated to the teens and looked similar to those in the movie.

Read all comments

Recent Comments

  • SPPPP: “Permanent disablement” sounds interesting. I would like to hear details (the report doesn’t...
  • mcs: I’ve always been a fan of the 2121 Niva. The bada$zed 4×4 version. They made 650,000 of them....
  • Michael S6: My wife got a new green GrandPrix GT 2005 and it was a royal POS. This was a brand new model and Pontiac...
  • Superdessucke: Yup. If you got into an accident and that big plastic piece came off, you’d have that cheap...
  • Inside Looking Out: I had Lada 2108 and once in a while to cut standing still traffic on the road I took shortcuts...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber