My love of mid-century design knows no bounds and it’s particularly unbridled when it comes to industrial design. Machines. Cars. Radios. Appliances. Oh those glorious metal beasts of yesteryear in gleaming candy coated colors.
After decades of knowing appliances as unremarkable boxes (at their best) or totally undesigned assemblages of plastic parts (at their worst), it’s hard to remember that there was a time when appliances were truly exciting. Like new car exciting. In the 1950s engineers and designers worked around the clock to develop new features that would obliterate the doldrums of housework and turn everyday machines into objects of desire. And it’s for all these reasons that I got all worked up when I found this dirty old vacuum in a thrift store for $5.
This little two-tone ball of joy is a 1967 Hoover Constellation. It’s about the coolest vacuum I’ve ever seen, but the best part isn’t even how it looks—it’s how it hovers. That’s right, it hovers. Designed to expel its exhaust from the base, the Constellation generates enough air to lift it ever so slightly and glide across floors with ease, despite its lack of wheels. How cool is that?
The Constellation was introduced in 1954 and was originally designed with a central mounted pivoting hose with the intent that the vacuum could sit in one spot while you cleaned around it. Later the design was modified to change it to a hovercraft and was available in a slew of color options including pink, orange and baby blue. In 1967 the design was changed to this tilted axis for the model 843 and remained so until the end of production in 1975.
I’m fortunate that my machine, aside from just needing a good cleaning, is in great shape, works and has nearly all of the original attachments. I have no doubt that in time I’ll find the extension wand and the floor nozzle. Finding bags and filters will be less of a challenge as these machines have quite a loyal following. Thus begins another collection of things that have little practical value to me and yet I feel all the richer for having this mechanical wonder in my life. You can watch the Constellation in action in this 1961 Australian television ad.