Cutaway drawings were valuable advertising tools in an age where dazzling the consumer with engineering complexity was an effective strategy. This glamorous Art Deco tableau from General Motors is publicising the Chicago Century of Progress exhibition in 1933-34. The GM pavilion included a functioning production line turning out Chevrolet saloons, a fact that apparently enraged Henry Ford when he heard about it – especially as Ford had chosen not to exhibit until year two (1934). By this time the two major car-makers had seen off or absorbed most of the minor players in the industry and the exhibition would become virtually a private battle-ground between GM and Ford. Below is a selection of advertising cutaways from the pages of mid-century magazines of varying degrees of complexity and ingenuity. Some of them are especially extreme in their disruption of topographical integrity and offer the diverting spectacle of human beings striding purposefully to the edge of a precipice or descending a disassembled staircase, oblivious to the hideous fates that await them.
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