Sunday, July 14, 2013

Vintage Chevy Bombs...The Atomic Kind


A 1949 Chevrolet Styline DeLuxe sedan, aka Operation Doorstep Test Car #3.
Today, an antique car with some flair and a period low-slung look is commonly referred to as a "bomb". Many enthusiasts prefer a lowered, mid 1930's to early 1950's Chevrolet to customize into their "bomb" of choice, and generally they retain the original features of the cars such as paint color and interiors while lowering and adding modest personal touches. This post isn't about those cars. This post is about vintage Chevrolets that actually had atomic bombs detonated above them in March of 1953. 
 

March of 1953 was a simpler time, right? Patti Page's "How Much is that Doggie in the Window?" was climbing up the record charts. The Cold War was gearing up, and the US was playing with thermonuclear weapons in the Nevada desert while military and civilians roamed around the area. Sounds like the good old days.

As part of the series of U.S. atomic weapons tests carried out that month nicknamed Upshot-Knothole, there was a test called "Annie" that involved atmospheric detonation of a 16 kiloton atomic bomb from a 300 foot tower. This test was part of 11 tests at the Nevada Test Site executed between March and June of 1953, and shot "Annie" was unique. It would mark the first time that civilians would be allowed to witness such a test in person, and on television.

In conjunction with the Federal Civil Defense Administration, a related study called "Operation Doorstep" used the "Annie" test to evaluate the effects of atomic blasts and radiation on common items Americans used in their daily lives. Power lines, electrical and phone substations, houses and even automobiles. We've all seen the iconic image of the house exploding during this test...


Its been part of rock & roll music videos, pop art, and Indiana Jones even made reference to this test in his last film, but that movie was so terrible I won't mention it anymore.
Insert Your Favorite Nuclear Family Joke Here.

In addition to the houses and mannequin families, there were 50 new and used cars and trucks that made it onto the Yucca Flats site to get a nuclear make-over. I hadn't learned about the automobiles until recently, when images started surfacing on classic car websites. I recognized some of the landscape and knew exactly what had happened to them. Below are a few of the Chevrolets that died in the name of science. Its sad to note than most of them are 1947 models, which pulls on my heartstrings a wee bit.





That's the history behind the strange car photos from the desert. As far as I know, the debris from these tests was analyzed and buried out in the Nevada test site. Atmospheric tests were banned after 1963 and now we probably do something equally as scarey without anyone knowing about it.

If you'll excuse me, I need to run out to the garage & give my old Chevy a few pats for good measure, and run the Geiger counter over it to make sure it doesn't click. You never know where some of those rust-free eBay auto parts came from...


-D

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