What is the Ultra-Glide?
In The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963, the Ultra-Glide is the expensive record player that Dad buys for the family car, called the Brown Bomber, in Chapter 8. Dad installs the Ultra-Glide, which plays 45s, in the dashboard so that the family can listen to records while driving, as the needle won't scratch the record when the car goes over bumps. Momma is very worried about the expense of the record player, but she relents when she sees how much fun the Watsons are having as they play their favorite songs with on the Ultra-Glide. Kenny listens to "Yakety Yak" several times and enjoys the deep sound of the car's speakers. The Ultra-Glide is a symbol of how the Watsons are a creative and loving family and how Dad and Momma really care about their family.
After Dad installs the Utltra-Glide, he and Momma tell the family that they are headed to Grandma Sands' house in Alabama. They will leave Byron there for the summer or longer if his behavior doesn't improve. They have threatened to leave Byron at Grandma Sands' house several times, but this time, they are serious, as they have been unsuccessful at getting Byron to improve his behavior on their own.
The Watsons plan to set out on a 1,000 mile car trip from Flint, Michigan to Birmingham, Alabama. Mr. Watson buys a TrueTone AB-700 Ultra-Glide for the car. This is a record player that you mount on the dashboard of a car and that is specially designed not to skip from the movement of the car while driving. The Ultra-Glide plays 45 rpm records, which were about twice the diameter of a CD and played one song per side. Ultra-Glides really did exist, and were sold for about 10 years beginning in the late 1950s.