The Yorktown hasn't sailed anywhere since 1975, when the Navy donated her to Patriot's Point Museum in Charleston, S.C., harbor. According to museum curator David Clark, "At high tide there is water around her, but she doesn't move at all, the water just moves around her."
So how do you shoot a commercial purporting to compare the performance of two automobiles "on the short treacherous deck of an aircraft carrier" at sea, and make it look real?
First you rent and paint the 40,000-ton, 872-foot Yorktown. Chrysler-Plymouth advertising manager George Hunt said the ship was rusty and beat up, so he had it painted. "We didn't do a downtown job. It was just enough to clean it up, but it wasn't as big a deal as it sounds."
Then you helicopter the cars onto the deck and "perform" the test (actually, a recreation of a series of U.S. Automobile Club tests in which the LeBaron GTS braked better than the BMW 528e) in front of 300 extras hired off the streets of Charleston and dressed in black jumpsuit uniforms for dramatic effect.
To take pictures of the BMW nearly falling off the flight deck, cameramen filmed the cars screeching across the deck, then stopped the action while engineers attached cables to the German automobile and dropped its front end over the carrier's edge. The cameramen then got back to work. Chrysler's television ad shows the BMW "driver's" expression as he emerges from his close scrape, and the American "driver" smugly looking on. All this to the swelling tones of George M. Cohan's "Over There."
Artists painted in the waves and whitecaps, a gun magically sprouted near the bow and the Yorktown's enclosed hurricane bow was redrawn to look open.
Curator Clark said it was "all graphics, because it doesn't look like that . . . . If I didn't work here . . . I would be dumbfounded."
Asked if Chrysler had any misgivings about its production techniques, a company spokesman said, "Oh no, no . . . we're not really fooling or trying to fool anyone . . . . After all, it was an aircraft carrier."