Cold Start: Ad Copywriters Pick Some Weird Shit To Talk About Sometimes

Cs Sunbeam

So, look at this page from a 1950s Sunbeam-Talbot brochure. It’s lovely, right? Look how shiny that sleek car is, it looks like it’s been coated in Astroglide and dreams. They’re gliding by what looks to be the paddocks of some race, the whole thing is handled with a painterly masterfulness, and the ad copy is talking about the fact that the radio fits in a hole in the dash and that the windshield is pretty wide. What?

It’s the radio one that really gets me:

“The high-efficiency H.M.V. radio is designed to fit into the recess in the centre of the fascia panel…”

Who is this impressing? What potential Sunbeam-Talbot buyer is on the fence until they read that and thought “oh good, I like how they carefully engineered a thing on the car to fit into a hole on the other part of the car! That’s really clever, letting it fit where it’s supposed to go, instead of it, you know, not fitting or falling out! Sunbeam-Talbot for me!”


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37 Responses

  1. I am amused that the artist managed to get the proportions of the car so, erm, aspirationally wrong while at the same time getting the Talbot Lago racing cars in the background near perfect.

    1. I’ve seen several Sunbeams and they are tiny cars. Maybe people were just a lot smaller then. This artist’s rendition makes this car look HUGE. Those fender lines make it look like it’s 20 feet long. The man would be the same length as just the hood if stretched out on it.

      I guess they missed out on false advertising laws back then.

  2. Screw all that noise, I want to know what the hell is going on with that three-position “all weather hood”

    As an aside, should you be claiming that other people pick weird shit to talk about? Or is this one of those “its ok if I say it” things?

        1. My understanding is that it was intended for use only at low speeds. Even leaving aside the structural issues, I don’t imagine it would have made for a pleasant ride at speeds high enough for air movement to be a concern.

      1. I’m with Mr.Asa here: that’s cool-but I’ve got some serious trepidation going on about functionality.

        Somewhere, in a dusty attic, is a letter saying something like, “Oh, Constance, I so wish you had been here last week! Whitworth took Daddy’s new convertible around the Lake Drive with the top in the Chauffeur Position ( you KNOW he was trying to impress Eunice! ) going far too swiftly, when a gust from a squall simply RIPPED the top right off and deposited it IN the lake!….”

  3. I remember the episode of Mad Men when the team is trying to come up with a new pitch for Lucky Strike cigarettes. The head of Lucky Strike recites the process of how they prepare their tobacco, when he mentions they toast the leaves.
    Don Draper then remarks “It’s Toasted” which then becomes the new slogan.
    Advertising doesn’t have to make sense, it just needs something that appeals to the consumer. The person this car was aimed at (probably a candidate for Upper Class Twit of the Year) would have likely been impressed that (a) a sports car actually had a radio and (b) that it was neatly fitted into the dash and not just somehow hung on with some old coat hangers.

    1. Exactly this – British cars in the 50s (and well into the 60s) didn’t have slots for radios, so you’d have to fit one in the glovebox, so only the passenger could adjust it, buy an aftermarket console which wouldn’t fit properly and where you’d be fumbling around your ankles to tune the radio, or get your local engineering factor to create a bracket out of Meccano and hairy string under the dash so you skinned your knuckles on the radio every time you changed gear. So this (in relative terms) was a Big Thing.

      1. I spent my childhood in a MG 1100 sedan and it had a big Sony radio that was really a portable radio and a big steel box that it fit into that was bolted onto the underneath of the dashboard by the nice people at Kjell Qvale‘s MG store in San Francisco.
        As for heaters, I remember several cars and pickups that had little add on heaters and a Corvair with no heater at all.

        1. All Corvairs had heaters. Some of the very early ones had gas heaters that actually burned fuel to make heat. They worked wonderfully but killed mileage. The later Corvairs circulated the air past the exhaust headers. They did not work as well and often pumped oil and exhaust fumes into the passenger cabin. Many people avoided using the Corvair heaters, but they all had them.

      2. Not to mention that radios were huge before the transistor came along in 1959. It could be that the HMV unit that fit in the dash was a control set only, wired back to wherever they stashed the radio chassis.

        Even transistorized radios were very large before the DIN standard became commonplace. I’ve seen PCs that are smaller than those 1970s Delcos.

    2. Wasn’t Lucky Strike the ‘So round, so firm, so fully packed’ cigarette?
      I first heard that around the time I was moving from fart jokes to appreciating the female form, and it seemed -at the time-to be ‘a bit Esquimaux’ as great aunt Esmeralda liked to say

  4. When I was younger and still trying to figure out what to do with my life [who am I kidding; still actively confused], my Dad recommended becoming a copywriter because he said it pays well.

    I’ve not forgiven him for trying to commit me to a life of such existential agony and misgiving…

  5. It is funny, but I’ve also seen ’40s and ’50s car radios that took up more than a square foot of dash real-estate, so maybe somebody cared? Probably more important in a tiny roadster too.

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