I don’t know about most of you readers, but I’m old enough to remember a time where you couldn’t just go to the internet to find out information on a fresh new car. Things were a bit more involved than that as Clint from the YouTube channel LGR shows us.
1996 wasn’t precisely pre-internet, but it was well before connections were fast enough to load tons of photos quickly and streaming video wasn’t even a thing yet. So say you had your eye on a sweet new Jaguar XJS in 96 but you didn’t have a dealer near you to go look at one, you could write up the Ford Motor Company — who at this point still owned Jaguar — and ask them to send you something called the Ford Simulator.
You’re probably yelling at your computer now: “Wait, he said there wasn’t any streaming video, so how could there possibly be a Ford Simulator??”
Ahh, well, the Ford Simulator (and by 1996 we were on Version 7.0, if you can believe it) was a piece of computer software that Ford mailed you in CD form. You installed it into your computer, and it functioned as a kind of digital dealer brochure.
You could get info on all of the 1996 model year Fords, Lincolns, Mercurys and Jaguars which included a kind of proto-configurator that let you pick a model and check various options boxes. You could look at not-terribly-accurate photos of the different colors on offer, and you could even watch short video clips to see the various models on the move.
The best, and maybe the worst part of Ford Simulator was the game. In Version 7.0, you find yourself plopped behind the wheel of a non-selectable and nondescript Ford product and tasked with driving to a specific location as quickly as possible. But wait, this isn’t some kind of ancient Forza Horizon.
There are some hazards on the road, including cops and other cars. If you get caught speeding you’ll be penalized, kind of. You also have the option to stop at the gas station and get a map or snacks to help you get to your destination.
Apparently, copies of the various Ford Simulator models are pretty tough to find these days and even if you do, older versions came on floppy disks rather than CDs, so you’re double-out-of-luck, most likely.
Still, looking back at things like this weird software is a neat way to appreciate how good we have things now as car enthusiasts. Still, I will confess to wanting to try the XJ12 configurator on that CD.