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Friday, May 24, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Then and Now: Ford pavilion at Expo ’74

The first corporate exhibitor to sign on for Expo ’74 was Ford Motor Co. The commitment was made in January of 1973, just 17 months before the opening ceremonies in May of 1974.

Using all the power of the Ford Motor Co. creative staff, the concept and the parts came together.

A four-man creative team from Dearborn, Michigan, laid out the company’s plans for an exhibit. While most of the buildings on the Expo site were quickly constructed from wood and sided with plywood and painted, the Ford pavilion would be a geodesic dome with a diameter of 120 feet and a height of 45 feet. It had an aluminum skeleton with a skin of translucent three-ply vinyl.

With the theme of Expo ’74 being “sharing the environment,” General Motors, another exhibitor, displayed concept cars, including electric commuter cars like the XP512, a micro two-seater with a top speed of 25 mph. There were rotary engines and even talk of a hybrid gas-electric car.

But Ford went a different direction, with a theme of getting outdoors and camping. Designers filled the dome with the history of vehicles in the westward expansion, including an Indian dugout canoe, a covered Conestoga wagon and a 1929 Model A Ford.

A 22-foot “mountain” was constructed in Michigan, then disassembled and rebuilt in the dome.

Ford included modern versions of campers that mount on its line of trucks.

The company included displays of its current line of cars for 1974, including a Mustang II and a Mercury Cougar, with price stickers, which rankled some organizers as blatant marketing.

The pavilion had a small theater showing a movie about enjoying the outdoors.

The president of Ford Motor Co., Lee Iacocca, spoke at the opening of the fair and Ford’s pavilion.

“You’ve shown that the old spirit of Yankee ingenuity and know-how hasn’t died,” he said. “I like the way you kept smiling and working when people said a world’s fair was supposed to be held in New York or Paris and whoever heard of a world’s fair in Spokane?”

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