Celebrate Christmas With These Cool, Vintage Car Ads
Is it just me, or Christmas car ads aren’t as fun as they used to be?by Ciprian Florea, on
The automotive industry has evolved dramatically over the past 50 years. Modern cars are more practical, efficient, and comfortable, and come with better technology. As the cars evolved, so did the advertising industry. Gone are the day when automakers created prints and posters to promote their latest products, now being replaced by high-resolution video ads for massive television and internet campaigns. With Christmas being one of the most important celebrations of the year, it’s around this time that most companies launch expensive publicity stunts.
This has been the case since the early days of the automobile, but instead of computer-generated footage made with big budgets, car makers used print ads to bring customers into dealerships. It might seem old-fashioned nowadays, but some of these old ads were quite inspiring and attractive. Naturally, some weren’t very good, but that’s the beauty of marketing. Sometimes you succeed and sometimes you fail with a bang. For this Christmas, I selected a few of the most interesting vintage car ads for a trip down the memory lane that goes as far as the 1930s.
Check them out below and let me know which ones you like the most in the comments box. Also, feel free to post the ads that you feel I should have included in this list. Have a merry automotive Christmas!
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Chevrolet Accessories - 1938
Chevy’s line of car accessories may seem like a modern gimmick, but the General Motors division has been offering them since the 1930s. And the marketing was quite solid, with Chevrolet running a few Christmas ads for them. Products listed as perfect gifts for the "well-dressed car" included dual-purpose hot water heaters, visor vanity mirrors, seat covers, fog lamps, rear-view mirror clocks, and radios. All these features are standard nowadays, but weren’t offered in non-luxury vehicles back in the day. The rear-view mirror clock seems like a cool accessory to have and I wouldn’t mind seeing it in modern cars. Rolls-Royce is probably the only automaker you could convince to make own in the 21st century.
Ford V-8 truck - 1940
Looking at this ad in 2017, the natural answer would be "of course we could have Christmas without a truck." However, this wasn’t an easy statement to make back in 1940, when affordable cars weren’t as roomy as their modern counterparts. The SUV wasn’t even invented back then, so the pickup truck was your only option to haul a lot of stuff around. With lost of shopping to do and a big Christmas tree to carry home from the market, the Ford V-8 truck was indeed a good option. Obviously not the only one available, but among the most popular. All told, this ad looks like it was designed for a coloring book.
Lincoln Zephyr - 1941
Rolls-Royce may be bragging about the air-cushioned "magic carpet ride" of its modern cars, but the term is far from new. According to this Christmas ad, Lincoln coined the phrase in the early 1940s. Described as the "closest thing to a magic carpet ever built by an automobile automaker," the 1941 Lincoln Zephyr featured the then new "glider-ride" suspension that was "so comfortably cushioned against rut and cobble you seem to cruise on air." It seems Rolls-Royce did not invent fancy PR talk either...
Plymouth - 1948
One of the very few Christmas ads that weren’t targeted at specific models, this Plymouth flyer was simple yet highly emotional. And, obviously pretty sharp. When a kid asks Santa for a Plymouth for his dad, things are getting pretty serious. I feel like this ad, which was published in 1948, would have worked better in the muscle car era.
Nash Airflyte - 1952
As soon as I laid eyes on this Nash print, I realized it’s not as meaningful as the others included in this article. It doesn’t really have anything Christmasy in it aside from the snow, but it’s on this list for two reasons. First, I’m a big fan of the Nash Ambassador. I like the "bathtub" design, the fact that the front wheels are also covered, and I think that Nash did a tremendous job at standing out from the crowd in the 1950s. And as some of you may know, it wasn’t easy with GM, Ford, and Chrysler around. Second, the ad is created in such a way that the car seems huge compared to the people and the houses next to it. Granted, the Ambassador was pretty big, but not that big. This is the perfect example of a simple, yet clever ad.
Cadillac - 1956
The blond woman, the angel over the shoulder, and the jewelry box in this ad are all part of the cheesy recipe that most companies used at some point in the first decade after World War II. Car keys in a jewelry box was also a commercial stereotype at some point, but I guess it’s easier to get into a women’s heart with a Cadillac instead of a Nash. Especially if its red.
Chrysler 300F - 1960
"The car of your life for the time of your life!" This quote alone is pretty solid if your in the car business, but putting it next to Santa Clause, a couple of kids, and a big red car makes it that much better. Fortunately, the Chrysler 300F was worthy of the "car of your life" title. When it came out for 1960, it had unique styling, a lightweight unibody construction, and a massive 6.8-liter Wedge V-8 engine rated at a whopping 375 horsepower. On the flipside, the "toilet seat" style trunk lid spawned many jokes about the car and Chrysler ditched the feature for 1961.
Dodge D Series - 1962
A pickup truck with a bed full of Christmas presents. This is definitely the best way to advertise a truck for the holidays and Dodge did the right thing in 1961. Oh wait, it gets better with Santa Claus inside the car. And a bit weird too with that reindeer that looks like a chihuahua puppy on the steering wheel. Oh well, I still like the Dodge D Series, especially if it has white stripes over red paint.
Hertz - 1963
Hertz may be famous for including the bonkers Shelby GT350 in its fleet back in 1966, but the company had plenty of cool cars on offer back in the day. One of them was the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and based on this ad, Hertz knew how to make an inspiring print. Granted, Santa Claus isn’t the type of guy that would rent a car, but I bet he’d enjoy drifting in a Stingray. I know I would!
Ford - 1969
1969 was a good year for Ford. The LTD arrived with a track as wide as a Cadillac, more rear-seat legroom than any of its competitors, and a powerful V-8, while the Mustang gained a larger, more aggressive body to become a full-fledged muscle car. FoMoCo also offered new or revised versions of the Torino, Falcon, Fairlane, and Thunderbird, essentially a car for every budget. The company took all this and wrapped it up under the "Put a ’69 Ford under your three" motto for a very successful holiday campaign.
Ford Mustang - 1969
The redesigned Mustang got a similar print in 1969. Although I’m not sure how many drivers actually tied a fir tree to the roof of their Mustangs, the "Merry Mustang!" wishing is exactly what Mustang fanatics want to hear for Christmas.
Ford Pinto - 1971
What?! Another Ford ad? Yes, but this time around from 1971. The Mustang wasn’t as popular as it used to be and Ford began to focus and more compact and fuel efficient vehicles. The Pinto was brand-new for the 1971 model year and Ford had high hopes that it would keep the company afloat during the oil crisis. Not a bad ad overall, but focusing on the Pinto rear end proved to be a bad idea when the compact started to show vulnerability to fuel leakage and fire in a rear-end collision. Definitely not the kind of car I would park near a fir tree...
Plymouth Voyager - 1986
Although it wasn’t exactly fun to drive as a full-size van, the redesigned Voyager, which was a rebadged version of the Dodge Caravan minivan, behaved like a car and offered enough room for a family of five and a lot of luggage. Although not as popular as its Dodge counterpart, the Voyager had its share of success and was voted among the ten best cars of 1985 by Car and Driver. This ad not only does the minivan justice as far as driving dynamics go, but it also showcases the huge amount of stuff you could’ve carried with it. Spot on!