Car Ads of Yore

I tend to use car ads in various talks and lectures that discuss trends of advertising, such as, back in the day, having twenty tons of copy in a ten ton ad was acceptable, women in a man’s work, the horrors of car style and safety, rather, the complete and utter lack of both.

I happened upon a site that, forgiving it’s clunky design, eye-bleed-inducing use of comic sans and giant page real estate leaching of Google ads, and other foibles, gets high marks for bringing many MANY many ads of yore to the masses in all their awesomeness. I rail on a mantra that content is king, i.e. design is secondary to the goods, so with that, delivers, in spades, so kudos to them. 

Buicks, full of handcranks and pull out transistor radiosHandcranks, we got handcranks. I dig that the car came with a pullout transistor radio, so you can take your mono wonder of radio waves to the beach. You’ll need the glove to keep all that technology awesomeness from burning the skin. 

one minute you're in your seat, the next you're somewhere elseWheeee! Like ejection seats! Seatbelts? Besides, every man (usually the drivers were men) drove better back then, or so they thought, because they were drunk. Not to mention those steel dashboards made it easy to simply hose the brain matter off and sell the car to the next victim owner to rinse and repeat, literally. 


Custer Couldn't Muster

Ones like this are real thinkers. Or maybe ad men (sadly yes, it was mostly men back then) weren’t required to know history. Or, if they did know it, misuse it. Or miss it’s point entirely or even what happened. Custer? What? Part of me cringes also because it’d be like saying “Even JFK’s head couldn’t stop a deal like this!” 


Get a buick, get the girl... supposedlyNothing says car advertising (and beer commercials for that matter) like the supposed babe appeal of owning your product. Supposed. Supposed. Supposed. Sorry, trying to add enough emphasis to that. SUPPOSED


Dodge is firmly interested in the male demo, clearly.“He’s taught me how to shift the 4-speed synchromesh. [hrrr hrrr] He let’s me pick out the stereo tapes. And clean the vinyl buckets. It’s not all bad [WTF?] He even mentioned marriage once.” Says the woman, submissively at the feet of the man. “It’s not all bad?” Which, the fact he “lets” you clean the seats, what a charmer. 

“… a 440 Magnum, whatever that is… ” “I’m attracted to you because you have a very intelligent face. My name’s Julia.” Thanks for letting us know all this Julia and thanks to the male ad copy writers for writing what they think your thoughts would be. This is a bit like in Penthouse where the women’s “fantasies” are actually written by a 47 fat overweight writer in some basement. Porn? Advertising? Tomato? Tomato?


SwingerFinally, a car for wife swappers. Why, it’s about time someone built something for that target demographic. “If you won’t take small for an answer.. you could be Dodge material.” Yep. that’s not suggestive. Nope. Not at all. 


A Valiant EffortForeign ad on the left, suggesting if you get the Valiant, you’ll have her turning head, as you’re airborne apparently. The US ad on the right I dig for the simple fact it has a totally random hand pointing coming from the corner. Oooo and look, they’re ordering something in the urban sprawl of tomorrow today!


Urban BlightSpeaking of sprawl… those crazy young hep cats listening to the that bee bop sure dig their [small] square of real estate, all the rage started in the 50s. Get a small patch of property to supposedly call your own next to other cookie cutter devoid of personality home nearby (note: under construction in this ad) next to another and another. The lockstep, er, I mean, hand-and-hand marriage of big oil and big Detroit intentionally driving [intentional pun] cities horizontally in the name of profits, rapidly ramping up the need for taxation at every level of government to literally pave the way for this environmental blight known as urban sprawl. Supposed “progress” at what’s actually everyone’s expense in terms of taxes, stress, commuting, costs, all for the profits of the few, packaged and sold at the supposed American Dream™. A clusterfucking of a society the likes the even in cold war Russia when the average Russian was told their people invented everything from the atomic bomb to the car to the ability to fly, they were skeptical that they were being lied  to. It’s a shame the average American wasn’t as smart as this, buying this “freedom” [sic] hook, line, and sinker. Now we have a bill of goods that is taxing (figuratively and literally) Americans to death with crumbling roads, not to mention the addiction for oil worse than a crackhead needs the next rock, financially fueling the same people far away who fly planes into buildings (that would be Saudis, NOT Iraqies, one is a terrorist country, the other is merely a semi-secular country the US used to destabilize an entire region of the world and create hate aimed at itself), and instead of trying to come up with a new solution to getting off the oil habit, lobbies and special interest and Washington kickbacks ensure the US will remain a nation of crack addicts looking for the next hit. This ad encapsulate this, it’s just a lot more subtle than you’d realize. With a slight dollop of the destruction of American manufacturing through the Walmarting out jobs overseas for cheap stuff which, again, profits of the few over the needs of the many, all based on false mass shoveled onto the dumb masses. Whoa wait, this is an advertising blog?

two facedActually while I’m talking about big corporations and the American government fleecing the average American who has short term memory issues and is easily swayed, here’s a couple case and points. In the 40s while they couldn’t actually build cars, due to the war effort, companies could certainly deride and slam other companies for, one could allege, hamper the war efforts. Granted the US hasn’t had any actual wars since WWII, everything since is merely an invasion of convenience for it’s own government’s ideological (misguided) beliefs, still, one can imagine how well this would go over if say a company said “those soldiers would have died had they been driving Fords.” It’s bad taste. But for some reason to me, not as bad taste in that the same company that was implying it was helping win the war better than it’s competitors, would go on and tout that they were now saying “no no, wait, those Germans we were calling names the last decade, it was in gest, we love those crazy Krauts, here, here’s one of their cars! Wait? What? Too soon?” Then again from what I know about Opel quality, it was basically a bunch of Germans getting the last laugh at the expense of American’s wallets.


love and rockets


To make sure that car companies didn’t completely fall into a trap by WWII vets, they did jump on the technology of the cold war and space race technology. We’re all lucky Chrysler WASN’T making rockets or Lovell wouldn’t have been only telling Houston he had a problem, but his Apollo craft’s dash was made with plastic cheaper than a defective styrofoam cup made in China. I would be remiss though in this post to NOT have an ad that showed the totally BIZARRE car design choice of fins. Were these cars supposed to fly? What was the point of this? US is the land of excess in so many bizarre ways, I think fins and whale tails are proof of this, the whole need for the unnecessary and outlandish over common sense. And to those studying ad copy out there “Unleashes a Hurricane of Power” is redundancy. 

Have a bombing good timeWhich of course, the whole rebellion thing, well, big Detroit auto really doesn’t care what side they come down on, provided it’s the one where there’s profit. I can’t help but think these ’66 Dodge ads are pretty much along the lines of trying to appeal to anyone from the anti ‘Nam sentiment to white Black Power sympathizers to whatever milquetoast baby boomer feigning action types they could find. Mind you, by “compacts” Japanese cars hasn’t really started hitting US shores yet, so basically they’re coming out against other US competitors and, well, their own small car lineup. And yes I find the “up with man-sized Dodge Dart” a bit sexist all things considered for their choice of model. 


dodge say what?But hey, here’s a little somethin’ for the men who like other men I’m guessing. Size matters? So his dad is “bigger” but “compact.” How does his wife feel about that? And the mother driving the car on the right should shield her daughter for seeing public voyeurism like that. 


keep on truckinSpeaking of the era of drugs use (or rather, one where it was more mainstream), I dig this keep on truckin’ ad. By “dig” I mean “find it ridiculous.” I never could stand this style but if it sold cars, not to mention tacky 70s t-shirts which, sadly, yes, I was saddled with wearing at one time (thanks for trying to make me “cool” mom) then maybe at least from ad advertising aspect, it worked. Then again, by “worked” I mean you had no choice, like bellbottoms, which sucked, and as Denis Leary once mentioned, it’s a wonder why anyone in the late 60s to early 70s even got laid wearing them, but you hadn’t a choice, that’s all they sold. Sing it Denis. Same with this type of style, you couldn’t avoid it if you tried.


the cars that go boomI think Plymouth could have easily justified the higher price, not to mention moving more units, by adding “6. Pinto’s can explode in a fireball if hit from behind, what’s your life worth to you?”



Well Getaloadathat! I can’t read this, most likely a jingle from their commercial, without my mind hitting the gutter harder than Gary Busey after a bender. The guy though, he’s just a regular Kurt Thomas, that or because it’s a Dodge the doors have already rusted shut and this is only egress. “Getaloadathat… I can’t get out of my car!”


softroaderThe interesting thing about the soullessnessization of America with it’s coveting bigger better as theoretically safer (theory) SUV as a go anywhere vehicle which, most idiots who buy them the closest they get to overroading is when they cross a poorly maintained railroad crossing, reality is, many old cars like this Valiant can probably offroad just as good as, say, a Hummer, or a Denali. No joke either. If ever there was a posterchild for conspicuous consumption of the American consumer, it’s the SUV. And those who drive them who think they’re something different than just a tall station wagon [bzzzt], try again. That’s all they are, but less efficient versions. It was nice to see this ad because it’s preaches the truth in a sense this car, ad set-up or not, is seeing more mud than most SUVs on the road today will ever see in their lifetime.


fonts are funSo now you’re waiting for me to be snarky about this ad. Well, nope. No snark. I actually really dig the typography (for you kids, there was a time fonts were done by HAND, yeah I know, hard to wrap your head around). I like the use of colors and the use of type. Yes, it’s a dated ad in  every sense and, considering the car companies and big oil were trying to put the railroad out of business, one could say there’s a sense of irony, or at least poor taste, but outside of it’s dated, the parts there are there are nicely done. Seriously.

green machineFinally this ad is perhaps the best. Why? Simple. Simple always wins. Always. This car ad is like an Apple ad from four decades ago. Yes, it has too much copy for today’s tastes, but look at it. Car. Person. Title. Info. Simple. To the point. Everything an ad should be, nothing more, nothing less.