A Little Car Humor From Another Era: Vintage Ads That Would Never Make It Today

Updated on May 2, 2019
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Kevin Scanlan is a car salesman in Henrietta, Texas, who would like to change car buying, one customer at a time.

First Things First - Don't Kill the Messenger

Let’s get the ugly stuff out of the way first. I am not a mean woman hater. I do not think women are dumber than men. Just to be sure I was right, I looked at some studies. The results are all over the board, but there is a general consensus that intelligence is so variable between individuals, that making generalization based on sex is difficult. If you plot out men’s and women’s intelligence on a graph you get the standard bell curve for each. Across the board it evens out pretty well.

So, women are every bit as smart as men. Period. In certain areas they far exceed men. They do better in school and are better educated then men. Those are the facts. So, don’t hate me for the following. I am merely commenting on the ads that follow. They come from a different era. AND that is the point. Any car maker that put out ads like these today would be massacred in the press and the stock market.

It Was Very Different Not All That Long Ago

I am not sure, but I think because of my age (almost 60) that I find these amusing. Not because of the blatant sexism, but because I find it hard to believe that this was acceptable. I did not drive when these ads came out and don’t remember them. I grew up in a “slightly” more enlightened time. It was a time when women were not thought of as equals, but it was still not acceptable to openly express views like in these ads. I can’t believe that people thought this way about their moms, wives and daughters. So, please look at these like I do. A look back at a time when things were very different. Women belonged in the house and cars were for men. Gladly we have moved on. Take the time to get a chuckle from these ads. Please read through to the end, because I have some semi-intelligent commentary about why these ads were acceptable and the egoism that drove them. Basically, I think these ads say more about men than women. But first a brief word from our sponsor:

The First Vintage Sexist Ad I Saw Was This One From Volkswagen

The very first offensive ad I ever saw was this one for Volkswagen. It took me by surprise. It also made me look at vintage sexist ads of the past. In this article I am limiting it to car ads, but trust me, there are far worse ads out there for general household products. I love the way this starts. “Women are soft and gentle, but they hit things.” If a guy stood up in a marketing meeting today and pitched that line, the first thing that got hit would be him - right in the mouth. Probably by one of those “soft and gentle” women.

YOU Must Maintain Your Image as a Man

Blame it on the Wife!

One of the best ads to show that cars are for men, and that they reflect their owner's manliness, is for a European car that I have never even heard of. It is not an attractive or sporty car. The manufacturer, rather than just playing up is value or utility, chose instead to accept its poor styling and tell the manly car buyer that he can escape judgment by saying it is his wife’s. That way he does not have to be ashamed of his crummy car. In reality he is is accepting the premise that woman have no need for self-esteem, and to make matters worse, he is basically blaming her for his poor choice in automobiles. In my opinion, she likely does need to work on her self-esteem. After all she married a thoughtless dud.

How About Some Demeaning "a Car is Like a Woman" Analogies

Is This a Car Ad or a Romance Novel?

This ad is hilarious. First it shows its shallowness by asserting that a manly man has three things - fine clothes, a fine car and only dates fine women. Here is the punchline for that. The "fine" car they are touting is a junky super economy car that was famous for unreliability. I know this because my wife had one many years ago. AND NO, SHE IS NOT A MANLY MAN!

Secondly, read the ad. It sounds like a bad seduction disco song from the 1970's...

"Go to her. Let her cradle you..."

"Surround yourself with the lushness of her interior appointments..."

Control her every movement - her every twist and turn - as you take a hold of her rack (and pinion steering)"

'She will carry you away as she peaks..."

You get the point.

Sexy Women Sell Cars

I find it funny that the ads of yesteryear seem to thing of women as dumb and bad drivers. Yet, when they want to sell a car what do they do? They fill the ad with either a picture of a sexy woman - so that the car buying man will equate that car with sexiness - or they use text that could be from taken 50 Shades of Gray. I get that the objectivation of women was accepted, but still find it odd that the dumbest and clumsiest thing in town is also the most important thing to make you look good. She is the reason that you need that special car. You are such a goof, that your only chance of attracting a woman is to have a nice car.

A Car Says a Lot About a Man—Or So He Thinks...

Silly —But is There a Point?

Yes - there is a point. These ads did a pretty good job of reducing women to objects and insulting them at the same time. So, what is the point?

It seems to me that these ads were designed to make a man feel better about himself, but putting down women. Maybe back then, with a different mind set, that would work. As for me? It is just the opposite. I read these ads and think - "What a loser!" If your only hope of getting a girl is your car? Well, I have an idea for you. Don't go car shopping - work on your personality a bit. Here is why - If you can't get a girl because you are a jerk in a junk heap, what happens when you get a nice car? Now you are a jerk in a nice car! And likely, your new car makes you think you "are somebody," and that added to your jerk factor. You are still a jerk! That is the problem, not your mode of transportation. And, if you blame your crummy ride on your wife - you should lose a corner off your man card.

These ads just reek to me of shallowness - and that is sort of sad. What was once considered machismo now seems like a lame cry for help. I would add more, but you get the point.

So, I will just fire up my Rosso Corsa Red Ferrari 812. I know, I know... Look I said it was lame and showed a shallowness of character - I never said I belonged in the deep end...

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