You can't say that! Classic car ads - part 1

By: Andy Enright, Unique Cars magazine, Photography by: Unique Cars archives

Presented by

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Shifting metal was a lot easier when the punters believed what you told 'em. Here's part one of our old car ad shockers...

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If there’s one thing that we’ve all become very good at in recent years, it’s our consumption of advertising. It’s claimed that we’re exposed to between 4000 and 12,000 advertisements per day. Heck, our own mag would disappear into thin air without the revenue courtesy of the ads in the back.

Spend a decent amount of time at anything and you develop a level of expertise. So we’ve become attuned to filter out the hokey, the cheesy, the offensive and the downright unbelievable. Advertisers need to work harder to win our dollars.

Don’t believe us? Let’s wind back the clock and trawl through a selection of ads from years gone by. Some are great. Some are toe-curlingly awful but very few of them would work today. So join us as we look back to a more innocent age, when the mere suggestion of a quartz clock or a set of sports floor mats could have buyers beating a path to their local dealer.

What were they thinking? ...


You know the exact premise behind this one. The client probably had a bit of a thing for ‘Anne with the big knockers off the telly’, and insisted on sitting in on the studio shoot to ensure it had the requisite British Leyland corporate look and feel. And in case you didn’t notice Anne’s upholstery, the copy finishes with "So you could say that it’s vital statistics such as these that make our Sherpa stand way out in front. Just like Anne." Good lord. Just no. 



The Maserati Shamal was famous for very little. Looking like a Ghibli that has spent way too much time in the gym, the bulging arches oozed testosterone. Or brake fluid. But in stealing Oakley’s famous strap line, this ad is both good and original, although the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good. Boom-tish. 



Vauxhall hoped to sell 30,000 Firenza Droopsnoots and despite the big spruik in this ad – who can resist the performance combo of acceleration ‘bordering on Porsche 911 country’ and drum brakes? – they only managed to shift 204 cars. The styling influenced the design of the Arcadipane’s Pursuit Special in the Mad Max films and the Firenza chalked up a successful racing record but as a rival to the established performance benchmarks, the public just didn’t buy it.



Here's something we miss; genuine safety innovation and engineering being sold in an advertisement rather than lifestyle fluff and nonsense. Volvo was to learn the hard way that safety on its own was a tough sell, and Mercedes soon graduated from these post-Nader era ads to leveraging the power of the brand. Ick.

| Part two: old ad shockers

| Part three: old ad shockers


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