Tire chains can be a driver’s best friend when it comes to handling snowy and icy conditions, but decades ago, General Motors offered something quite novel—even if we don’t know if it actually worked as intended.
What GM called “liquid tire chains” was an option across the entire 1969 Chevrolet lineup of cars, save for the El Camino and station wagons.
Hagerty discovered the unique option of yore and published the corresponding video, which details many other creature comforts available with the 1969 Chevrolet Caprice. As the ad told consumers, the Caprice could apply liquid tire chains to the rear wheels “so it won’t keep sitting there” in snowy weather. Drivers simply pressed a button on the instrument panel and a space-age polymer coated the rear wheels to provide traction.
It’s unclear just how effective this was, but probably not well, judging by the take rate. Chevrolet only sold about 2,600 cars equipped with the option and it was quickly discontinued after the 1969 model year. Still, it’s a pretty neat idea. It also goes to show how awful tire technology was almost 50 years ago.
Although the liquid tire chains weren’t long for this world, plenty of other options found on the 1969 Caprice still exist today. A rear-window defogger, engine block heater, and headlight washers are still common—if not standard—among today’s modern cars.
MAX-TRAC was a traction control system that was way ahead of its time. It measured the speed of the left front wheel and compared it with the output on the transmission. If there was a difference, the ignition would short-circuit so the power on the rear wheels went down.
Because the system had lots of maintenance-problems and emission-control regulations would not allow to keep the system as unsophisticated as it was, it was dropped at all for 73.
Below you find a description from the 71 Buick brochure and from a 72 manual. The text in the brochure is nice: “…..a miniature transistorized computer actually compares the speed of the front and rear wheels…”