What makes 50s car ads cheesy? It could be that look to a lifestyle we no longer recognize such as men in hats and women in headscarves, or it could be the convoluted way they say things. Some examples can be seen below.
What about “super-sonic sleekness exciting the most spirited imagination”? (The Oldsmobile’s Golden Rocket) or even “the way it looks, handles and makes you feel” (Mustang). Indeed no one seems to advertise a car nowadays on how the car handles, possibly because it is a subjective thing. But it certainly gave the 50’s driver a good reason to part with their dollars.
When in doubt maybe you might describe your car as the “greatest ever” as a ’73 version of the Volvo decided to do. (There’s some strange copy in their advert “the more comfier you are (sic), the safer you and your family are”). It might just be wishful thinking?
Some pieces of copy might need you to become more interested in cars than you really are. “The best thing to happen to the 6 cylinder engine” – Chrysler Dodge. Why does it need to be a 6 cylinder engine? Would it be not so good if it was 7 cylinders? The 6 cylinder is apparently set at 30 degrees to produce a “bigger manifold system”. We’re not sure on the science, or really what they are going on about. To save a trip to the dictionary, the word manifold means “many and various” so it has the same meaning as system really.
It seems bizarre that advertisers would ever show cross-sections of cars to the public just to make them sell, but you need to remember that this might just possibly be the only car the driver would buy in their lifetime and it helped them to know it was reliable, even if they didn’t understand all the jargon involved. It was a case of “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” – if a picture of a car’s inside worked before it must surely work again?
You’d worry nowadays if an engine said it had “hurricane power” but that seemed to be all right for the Willys-Overland Jeepster. For those who have not heard of the vehicle a Jeepster only was manufactured for two years as was designed as a cross between a convertible and a SUV. Put like that, it’s no wonder they didn’t catch on.
You’ve got to love it when advertisers decide to highlight the most mundane items –for instance a Foam-Rubber Seat in a Mercury with the name “Lounge-Rest.” (Leather had yet to become the most obvious material for car seats). Strangely the carburettor has been nicknamed “Econ-O-Miser” because it doesn’t use that much gas, which seemed a common theme in writing copy for these types of advertisement.
A big thing seemed to be the way cars could “go for miles” on just thimblefuls of gas – this was before things like the Lanham Act, so it was much easier to lie at that time. Not that today’s advertisers tell the whole truth.