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The Hoover Senior is one of the design classics of the vacuum cleaner world. This cleaner was sold all over the world, and production lasted for over twenty years. In the USA it proved to be the most popular vacuum cleaner on the market, and was produced in a plethora of slightly different versions, whereas in the UK it proved to be a little less successful, due to the popularity of the smaller and less expensive Junior model, which was more suitable for the smaller British home.

The first of the Senior design appeared in 1957 in the US as the model 65 and 1959 in Europe as the 652, as shown on the left. These early models, with their distinctive pink coloured trim suffered due to problems with their use of plastics in the design; the vinyl dustbags were fragile, and tore easily, and if the cleaner was used for a prolonged period, heat from the motor caused the plastic dome covering it to melt and distort. But this aside, the performance of this cleaners on carpets was unquestionably good. In April 1960, Which? magazine, a British consumer publication, tested twenty-one vacuum cleaners, and the Senior was the only machine to score ten out of ten for carpet cleaning performance, and was summed up by the magazine as 'outstanding'.

The Hoover Senior was the final upright vacuum cleaner to be designed by Henry Dreyfuss' offices. This machine represents the wheel of design turning full circle, with the Senior incorporating many of the styling motifs of the first of the machines from the Dreyfuss office, the Hoover 150. The domed plastic motor cover, the floor nozzle that gently curves down, and the the tapered metal chassis all provide a link between the two cleaners. However, whilst the model 150 and its sister models reflect the industrial influences as seen in other appliance designs of the 1930s, the Senior is a far more colourful proposition. The Senior heavily draws on automotive imagery; the bright two-tone colour scheme, the wide, wrap-round headlamp lens, the fake grille at the base of the handle and the prominent, metallic badge on the front of the appliance.

In Europe, the original 652 was replaced circa 1962 by the 652a, which featured a two-speed motor, boosted from 420 watts to 625 watts when the tools were fitted. It first appeared in two tone grey, which was quickly replaced by a green and cream combination. By 1967, it had been replaced by the 6525a in two tone green (above left), and then the blue and white 6525c in 1970, which had a four position carpet height adjuster. It was phased out in 1973, and replaced by the U4002, although various exclusive models (the 6525e) and commercial variants (the U4082) carried on until the 1980s.

Despite its contemporary styling, the basic mechanical design and layout actually predates the work of Dreyfuss' design office by nearly thirty years, and is instantly recognisable as being a desendant of the original Hoover model 'O' of 1908. The soundness of this basic layout is indicated in the fact that it continued in production in domestic form until the 1990s, in the form of the European Powerplus models and the American Decade 80, and, nearly 100 years after introduction, the basic layout still survives as the US-market commercial Guardsman model. The differences between European and American versions were very subtle; the most notable being that US-market cleaners had their power switch located on the back of the handle, whilst European-market machines had a foot operated switch. There seems to be no obvious reason as to why this was the case, but it was a situation that both preceeded and outlasted production of this model. The cleaner was also given a different name in each of the two markets - In the USA, it was known as the Convertible (yet more automotive imagery), whilst in Europe it was initially marketed as the Hoover Deluxe, before becoming the Senior in the early 1960s, a name which harked back to the earliest days of the Hoover Company. Confusingly, when the Hoover Dial-a-Matic was launched in Europe in the mid 1960s, it was known as the Convertible in that market.

The design of the cleaner was however far from perfect. If the machine was tipped forward while switched off, heavy debris could fall out of the dustbag and through the cleaner onto the floor. This was not rectified until 1975, but a more serious shortcoming was the design of the connection of the accessory hose to the cleaner. Unlike most modern upright vacuum cleaners where the hose is permanently fixed to the machine, in the 1950s affixing the hose to an upright cleaner could involve unclipping covers, pulling levers, turning dials and unhooking belts. But this machine was far less complex for users. The adaptor for the hose slotted into the rear of the machine, a simple procedure which could be carried out whilst the motor was still running. Additionally, on all models save for early European examples and American low-end models, attaching the hose automatically operated a switch allowing the motor to operate at a higher speed. This ease of operation was compared to the operation of automobiles in publicity for the American market - New Hoover Convertible - The Cleaner with the Automatic Shift! read early advertising for this machine, headed with a rather innacurate illustration that furthered the motor car inspired allusions featured in the text.

The problem lay in the way the connector let a lot of the suction escape through the floor nozzle. The connection was far from airtight, and despite a motor using 625 watts of power, suction through the hose was at best barely adequate; indeed, for such an expensive machine it was downright appalling - this aspect of the cleaner was outperformed by the European Junior, which at 250 watts used less than half the power of its larger sibling.

But overall, the Senior was, and still is, an efficient and reliable machine, capable of cleaning carpets very efficently.