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How they used to advertise…

Today’s car adverts are subject to all kinds of red tape and diplomacy. Back in the day, however, things were different. The advertising men, no doubt in a nicotine-filled room, took no prisoners with their bold - and sometimes a bit sexist - adverts, of which we’ve picked ten of our favourites. You won’t see ads like this in the magazines of today!


By Chris Pollitt

Mini – ‘For Simple Driving’

Mini, Mini Clubman, Mini automatic

Oh, it starts off so innocently. The image of the slightly panicked woman has a certain innocence about it. What Mini is saying is that one of its automatic models is simply a joy to drive. Then, just when you think it’s swerved the chance of any offence it ends with, “It makes driving as effortless as sleeping. Sleeping, luv. You lie down, close your eyes and…” We wish we were making this up.

Austin – ‘Make the Pennies Count’

Austin, Austin A60, BMC

We have no idea where to start with this one. Mainly because we don’t know what “a gay-blade-about-town” is? Though the ad does go on to reference “gay Dads”. Was the Austin A60 an LGBT pioneer? Possibly. Or perhaps it’s actually an old phrase referring to a handsome swordsman. We’re not making that up. The ad was also a bit sexist, suggesting that men don’t shop, so to save the pennies, they should ask their wife. And then there’s the line about it being worth more when you trade it in. Is talking about the car after the one in the advert wise?  

Renault – ‘In Search of the Sun’

Renault, Renault 5, Le Car

We’ve never looked at our car and contemplated how useful it would be as a sun lounger. Not once. Nobody has. Because this isn’t what cars are meant for. Still, that didn’t stop Renault from engaging in this weird mashup with Aquasun cream. The whole thing looks strange, but also deeply unsettling. A car should not be that close to a pool. They’re putting a lot of faith in the handbrake.

Vauxhall – ‘Viva Corners on Coils’

Vauxhall, Vauxhall Viva, Viva

The late ‘60s were a simpler time. Nowadays everyone is shouting about autonomous this and electric that. Back then, you could excite the head of marketing with something as simple as coil springs. When they brought rack-and-pinion steering into it, he must have passed out. It’s all slightly ironic though, as the Viva wasn’t nearly as sporty as the advert suggested, but bless them for trying.

Triumph – ‘Made for Swingers’

Triumph, Spitfire, Triumph Spitfire

Pardon? Swingers? We’re going to go out on a limb here and assume this American advert is referencing swingers as in the ‘cool cat/musical/Sammy Davis Jnr’ sense. Not the ‘keys in a bowl on a Friday night in a Barratt housing estate’ sense. They both look happy for it to be that, anyway. But then they would, after all, “any swinger digs the Triumph Spitfire Mk2.”

Gilbern – ‘Weekend with a Friend’

Gilbern, Gilbern Genie, Genie

Can you imagine seeing a broadsheet advert for a car you have to build yourself in today’s papers? No, of course not. That would suggest the need for manual labour, and people tend to avoid that in 2019. In 1966, however, the notion of building your own car in a bid to save £470 was a strong advertising tool. Even if that meant the roads were filled with Gilberns of dubious quality.

Vauxhall – ‘Tradesman’s Entrance’

Vauxhall, Vauxhall Chevette, Chevette

Now, this might just be our filthy mind, but this advertising slogan sounds a little crude. You know, because ‘tradesman’s entrance’ is slang for, well, you know. So to sell a car on that merit seems, at least by 2019 standards, a little odd. We get where Vauxhall was coming from though. The hatchback was a relatively new thing in the 70s, so why not shout about it?

Austin – ‘More a Way of Life’

Maxi, Austin Maxi, Austin

Today’s car adverts show the vehicles in sunny resorts, or hooning around tracks, or transporting annoyingly beautiful families to urban, modern destinations. In the ‘70s, there was little concern for ‘lifestyle’ influences. So instead we got a man in a white coat loading a washing machine into an Austin Maxi. How they sold any with such a depressing advert is beyond us.

Triumph – ‘A Gentlemanly 1½ Litre’

Triumph, Triumph Dolomite, Dolomite

Here’s visual proof of how things have moved on. Tell someone it takes your car 10 seconds to get to 60mph today, and they’ll laugh. Back in the ‘70s, it was something to be proud of. Not only that, it was something you could advertise. These days the ASA (Advertising Standards Agency) takes a dim view on the promotion of speed, so it’s seldom mentioned. It makes old adverts like Triumph’s even more significant, really.

MG – ‘Britain’s Beauty Spots’

MG, MG Midget, Midget

Let’s end things on creepy tone, with this crass slice of advertising gold from MG. Can you imagine a modern brand suggesting you go and ogle the fairer sex in one of their new cars? No, not at all. But way back when, it was perfectly acceptable. All it does now is makes Midget owners seem a bit… leery. And as we know, that’s not the case. The advert is proof that today’s advertising standards are probably a good thing.

Huge thanks to Yesterday’s Drive on Twitter, who takes the time to not only find all these old adverts, but also scan them in an upload them. If you want to binge on the adverts of old, go and give them a follow.

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