The Ford Rotunda, several city blocks long, contains a variety of exhibits, a number of which were designed by Walt Disney: fragile scale models of historic settings; huge figures of animated dinosaurs; displays of the latest wonders of science; and a paradise for automobile enthusiasts, featuring Ford-built cars of all kinds - antique, new, experimental, foreign-made. The building itself is one of the chief sights: a glass rotunda with 64 towering pylons at one end and a large exhibition hall at the other. Enough steel went into its construction to erect a skyscraper 125 feet square and 22 stories high. The emphasis everywhere is on cars. Part of the tour of the rotunda is made in automatically operated Ford-built convertibles riding on a special roadway.

Ford was one of the biggest exhibitors at the Fair, with a truly massive pavilion. The circular structure at the far end was called the "Wonder Rotunda," a name first used at the company's exhibit at the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago. The rotunda was circled by two large tubes called the "Magic Skyway," takings guests in full-sized Ford cars into the main exhibit building closest to the camera.  Just in front of the building, and also on the other side of the highway, are some of the massive transformers that supplied power to the Fair. (CD #TBD Set 342 #15)
Ford was one of the most popular shows at the Fair, and long lines could be counted on at almost any time of the day. A wide variety of Ford cars, trucks, and tractors were on display outside the pavilion. The newest cars were showcased in a special place of honor near the entrance, such as this convertible Mustang. The Mustang was first introduced at the Fair and it proved to be a very popular addition to the Ford line-up right from the start. (CD #26 Set 141 #1)
International Gardens. Hand-built scale models reproduce Colonial America, Merrie England, Aztec Mexico and medieval Europe - in all, 11 different lands of past and present. Settings include flowing streams, chiming clocks, spinning windmills and original music in the tradition of each land. (CD #26 Set 141 #1)
The International Gardens were incredibly detailed, full of things to catch the eye and help pass time on the long wait for the pavilion's main show. (Ford publicity photograph)
Next to the gardens tableaus were displays of the latest Ford cars. Guests could get one last birds-eye view of these automotive wonders as they rode a ramp that took them up to the boarding area for the Magic Skyway. (Ford publicity photo)


At the top of the ramp guests were treated to a performance by the unseen musicians of the "Autoparts Harmonic Orchestra." A close inspection of the instruments would show that they were all constructed out of automobile and truck parts. The same orchestra, re-painted in wild colors, was later used at HemisFair '68. (CD #9 Set 46 #22)


The Magic Skyway. Seated in convertibles, fairgoers are first taken for a ride through plastic tunnels around the outside of the rotunda for s sweeping view of the grounds, then on to the exhibit building and the fantasyland within.

Finally, after passing by more displays about Ford products and the company's history, it was time to enjoy the adventure everyone had been waiting for. A fleet of Ford convertibles rolled up to take riders on a trip back in time through the skills of Walt Disney and team. A hidden 8-track player in the trunk provided the narration, which was available in several languages that could be selected by pushing buttons on the car's radio. (Ford publicity photograph)

The Ford staff working at the pavilion had to quickly learn new skills to keep the line of cars moving quickly. When the ride was first opened the cars featured license plates from across the country; unfortunately, guests would ask to wait for a car from their state and the boarding area became jammed. As a result, the license plates were quickly removed. Throughout both years the staff had to deal with people asking to ride in one of the Mustangs, so extra ones of that model were added to the ride. (CD #35 Set 179 #2)
The cars used for the ride were standard production cars that were then modified for their starring role at the Fair. The engines were removed to save weight, and a special steering system was added to follow the ride track. The cars were actually propelled by wheels in the track floor. Items that could easily be damaged, or which could slow the boarding process, such as mirrors, were removed. Special bumpers were added as the cars tended to meet each other along the track from time to time. All of these changes were reversed at the end of their use at the Fair and the cars were sold at a discount to Ford employees. (CD #9 Set 46 #34)
The dawn of life on earth is seen first, with huge dinosaurs engaging in combat while primitive creatures soar overhead. Life-sized cavemen appear, in a triumph of electronic animation. Here we see the inventor of the wheel, who was also the new carts salesman - or so claimed the narration. (CD #6 Set 28 #27)
The climatic end of the trip back in time was a fierce battle between to roaring dinosaurs. When the Fair ended, the prehistoric animals were moved to a new home at Disneyland. The cavemen didn't make the trip with them. (CD #6 Set 28 #27)
In the Space Age, the fairgoer finds himself gliding on a superskyway over a City of Tomorrow with towering metal spires and the glittering glass of "bubble-dome" buildings. (CD #9 Set 46 #33)
Fields of Science. A separate "Hall of Science" highlights some of the prime research projects engaging scientists at Ford and Philco (a Ford subsidiary). Included here are demonstrations of laser light; the sounds of stars as picked up by radio telescope; and displays of the new vinyls, crystals and metals to be used in Fords. In addition to the Philco exhibits, which also featured more mundane subjects such as appliances, there were displays of concept cars, race cars and standard passenger cars in the "Product Salon.". (CD #26 Set 141 #1)
On the way out of the building guests could stop by this stand to get a plastic badge shaped like the pavilion and labeled with the name of their state or continent. The badges were very popular as they glowed in the dark; in fact, almost 50 years after the Fair, they still do!. (Ford publicity photograph)

Want more information on Ford at the Fair?

12-63 - Ford Times: Preview of Ford's Pavilion at the New York World's Fair
Business Screen magazine
4-64 - Ford Times: You, Too, Can Be a Gulliver!
7-64 - Ford Times: Excitement of the Wonder Rotunda, The

Press releases

"Auto Parts Harmonic Orchestra" Amuses Ford World's Fair Guests
Five "Adventures in Science" in Ford's Wonder Rotunda
Ford Offers Personalized Keepsake to World's Fair Visitors
Ford's "International Gardens" a Little Ford World's Fair in Themselves
"Magic Skyway" Narration in Four Languages
Many Works of Fine Art in Ford Wonder Rotunda
Master Showman Walt Disney "Imagineered" Ford Wonder Rotunda Attractions
"Mustang" Heads Stable of World's Fair Cars in Ford Wonder Rotunda
Note to Editor
"Space City" Part of Ford's "Magic Skyway"
"Wonder" Is the Word for Ford's Pavilion at the New York World's Fair


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