Vince Crash Dummy Costume Head, 1990s

Vince Crash Dummy Costume Head, 1990s

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In the 1970s, few motorists wore seat belts because of apathy, distrust, or ignorance of the safety benefits. In 1985 the U. S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration partnered with the Ad Council to create television and radio public service announcements that would persuade motorists to buckle up. The Ad Council hired Leo Burnett, a talent company, which recommended the use of humor. Leo Burnett staff writer Jim Ferguson and art director / creative director Joel Machak created Vince and Larry, a pair of crash test dummy characters with personalities and attitudes. For the actual filming, Grant McCune, a special effects designer and a partner at Apogee Productions, worked with Apogee’s in-house costume designer, Wanda Watkins, to create believable dummy costumes with realistic heads. Apogee employees examined an actual crash test dummy and made fiberglass costume heads in two pieces (front and back) that were fastened together with screws. Among McCune’s other credits were props for Jaws (1975), including the great white shark (which he made with Bill Shourt) and detailing on R2D2 and other robots in the original Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), for which McCune shared an Academy Award with other special effects artists. For Vince’s head, Apogee applied numerous abrasions because the Vince character was an older, more experienced (i.e. beat up) dummy than his partner, Larry. Vince’s head also had a crack, through which he often pulled a rod or other automobile part after a crash. For the dialog, Tony Reitano, the actor who played Vince, used his jaw to move a mouthpiece up and down, exposing a white metal plate (“teeth”) or a black metal plate (no teeth showing), giving the illusion of speech. Reitano synchronized those movements with a prerecorded sound track of comedian Jack Burns as the voice of Vince.
Object Name
date made
ca 1990
Physical Description
fiberglass (overall material)
overall: 11 in x 8 in x 11 in; 27.94 cm x 20.32 cm x 27.94 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
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Work and Industry: Transportation, Road
American Enterprise
Road Transportation
American Enterprise
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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