Larry's Right Arm from Crash Test Dummy Commercials

Larry's Right Arm from Crash Test Dummy Commercials

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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 (NHTSA) 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 costume designer, Wanda Watkins, to create believable dummy costumes. Watkins purchased race car driver jumpsuits – gray for Vince, blue for Larry – and applied silkscreened safety tape and bulls-eyes that simulated camera targets. One of Larry’s costumes had a detachable arm so that he appeared to be dismembered after a crash. For this costume, Watkins cut a sleeve off a jumpsuit. Apogee staff members made a prop arm and a shoulder appliance that allowed Whitney Rydbeck, who played Larry, to eject the arm.
Object Name
costume part
Physical Description
cotton (overall material)
plastic foam (overall material)
rubber (overall material)
overall: 22 in x 16 in x 22 in; 55.88 cm x 40.64 cm x 55.88 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
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Work and Industry: Transportation, Road
American Enterprise
American Enterprise
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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