Home » Holy Crap, Robert De Niro Did An AMC Commercial: Cold Start

Holy Crap, Robert De Niro Did An AMC Commercial: Cold Start

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You know Robert De Niro, right? Wildly famous actor likely best known for playing Harry Tuttle, renegade heating engineer from the 1985 movie Brazil? Sure you do. Well, at the very beginning of his career, when he was still playing parts with names like “Cecil – A Groomsman,” DeNiro also made a commercial for America’s favorite underdog, AMC. And not just any AMC: the commercial was for AMC’s top of the line car, the Ambassador, and, true to much of DeNiro’s future career roles, relies heavily on a lot of stereotypes of Italian Americans. Here, take a little journey back to 1969, to a New York City neighborhood where everyone talks at the same volume as a Boeing 747 taking off!

Don’t turn your speakers up too high:

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Holy crap is everyone loud. I bet you have to use a bullhorn to whisper to somebody. The lungs on that kid Richie who has his sneakers on the seat, holy crap is that kid loud! Anyway, DeNiro plays Joey, who shows up back at his old neighborhood in a 1970 AMC Ambassador, wowing everyone with how expensive they perceive the car to be.

Joey’s a CPA, so he knows how to handle his money, though, and the truth is the Ambassador isn’t that expensive, you see! That’s the hook! All those people, with classic TV commercial-level skills of worth assessment, think the AMC is a fortune, when in fact it started at about $2,090, or around $17,000 or so in today’s money. I mean, that’s dirt cheap today!

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The truth is the Ambassador was kind of outdated at this time, and AMC didn’t really have the resources to update it significantly. One easy tell was the external windshield wipers, when competing cars like the Chevy Impala would have hidden them under the cowl, as was becoming the style. I mean, to modern eyes, it doesn’t seem all that different than the competition, but it was, which is why AMC had to take such measures as becoming one of the first non-luxury cars to offer air conditioning as standard, which they made sure to play up, as in ads like this:

Also, if your test drive of a new car involves someone who isn’t you driving, be suspicious.

I suppose since we’re talking about famous actors who did car ads before they got big, someone in the comments will likely bring up Dustin Hoffman and the commercial he did for the VW Type 3 Fastback, so here, may as well watch that, too:

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It’s a clever ad, wildly different from the DeNiro AMC ad; where DeNiro’s ad is essentially a tiny character study complete with multiple characters and a richly detailed environment, VW places its car and actor into a featureless void, where they use a novel technical trait of their car – the two trunks, thanks to a flat-profile engine placed under the trunk floor at the rear – as the primary hook for the ad.

Also, Hoffman really climbs all over that thing, doesn’t he?

I think DeNiro is in a new movie we just wrote about for the cars featured in it, too! Who knew we had so much DeNiro content here?

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Max Finkel
Max Finkel
10 months ago

I want to buy an amc ambassador now

Lithiumbomb
Lithiumbomb
11 months ago

Can confirm the top speed of a VW Type 3… but it was the wall to wall carpeting that sold me.

BigThingsComin
BigThingsComin
11 months ago

My dad’s first new car purchase was an Ambassador wagon. Rode like a boat on the ocean.

Steve P
Steve P
11 months ago

They’re gonna go for a ride and Ritchie will mysteriously disappear for disrespecting the seats.

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
11 months ago

“Also, Hoffman really climbs all over that thing, doesn’t he?”

Hey! Hey Dustin Hoffman! Get the sneakers off the seat, will ya please?

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
11 months ago

“Hey! I’m trying to sell a car here!”

Plesiomorphus primitivus
Plesiomorphus primitivus
11 months ago

That is an amazing ad. I love the way they portray late 60s/early 70s New York street life. And the accents . . .

MiniDave
MiniDave
11 months ago

Brazil! Fantastic movie……the small cars were Messerschmitts, with a little add-on over the engine…..

Jbavi
Jbavi
11 months ago

Is it me or does that Ambassador ride really high? Was that the inspiration for the Eagle? Or were they giving him extra clearance to weigh down the trunk with bodies and bags of lye

J G
J G
11 months ago

https://www.hemmings.com/classifieds/dealer/amc/ambassador/2618214.html

You can buy the white manual wagon version here for a mere $23K. Seems steep but I do not know the market.

Ron Moore
Ron Moore
11 months ago

I said this farther down in the comments, but Brazil is an incredibly underappreciated movie. Happy to see a reference to it!

Next up… A deep dive into the design of the vehicles of Brazil? Both Jill’s truck and Sam’s government issue three wheel car interesting looking.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
11 months ago
Reply to  Ron Moore

Brazil has the perfect quote to mutter to yourself when you are wrenching: “Bloody typical, they’ve gone back to metric without telling us”

Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
11 months ago

Harry Tuttle in Brazil! Also, De Niro starred with Richard Romanus in the movie Mean Streets. Richard Romanus voiced Harry Canyon in the animated movie Heavy Metal. No word as to when Debbie Harry was first heard on the radio in an AMC ambassador.

Not sure what my point is here other than to wish everyone a very Harry Tuesday morning.

Chronometric
Chronometric
11 months ago

The verisimilitude of useless car features. The hidden cowl wipers did give the cars a cleaner look and might have protected them from freezing weather but they added complexity and unreliability with the vacuum-driven movable cowl and off-glass parking zone. For most consumers, they changed the car ownership experience about as much as an electric clock. Just like the pillarless hardtop, they were a thing that became a thing because some good marketing told you it was a thing.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
11 months ago

“You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Well, then who the hell else are you talking – You talking to me? Well, I’m the only one here. Who the f**k do you think you’re talking to?”

Travis Bickle, AMC Car Salesman

Sklooner
Sklooner
11 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

First thing I thought of

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
11 months ago

“10 minutes till Wapner is on.”
“STFU Ray! You are starting to piss me off!”

Last edited 11 months ago by Col Lingus
Data
Data
11 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

Of course I don’t have my underwear. I’m definitely not wearing my underwear.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
11 months ago
Reply to  Data

K Mart sucks…

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
11 months ago

AMC also featured a pre-Duddy Kravitz Richard Dreyfuss in Javelin ads around that time. Someone in the casting department at their ad agency must have been good at their job

Gary Lynch
Gary Lynch
11 months ago

Still hard to beat Ricardo Montalban.

Rollin Hand
Rollin Hand
11 months ago

Rumour has it that DeNiro actually became a CPA to give his portrayal greater verisimilitude.

Cuzn Ed
Cuzn Ed
11 months ago

“It’s got an electric clock.”

NewBalanceExtraWide
NewBalanceExtraWide
11 months ago

Film stock is expensive… Dustin Hoffman fumbling with the trunk latch? Good enough, let’s print that take.

Harris K Telemacher
Harris K Telemacher
11 months ago

They get Dustin Hoffman to show how big a VW is? Now THAT is clever advertising. The guy is 5’5″ tall and would blow away if someone broke a stiff fart. He could make a pencil case look roomy. Now you get Bubba “Hightower” Smith climbing around inside that vehicle? I’ll buy one today.

ES
ES
11 months ago

Now, i’m imagining Alan Ladd in the VW spot, shorter than Hoffman, but in a ten-gallon hat, chaps, boots, and six-shooter. He’d be scaling the seats like that cowboy character from the Toy Story movies.

Data
Data
11 months ago

Did people run out and buy Civics after he ripped the front seat out so he could drive it?

Maymar
Maymar
11 months ago

They did make up for it a couple years later by getting Wilt Chamberlain to hype up the Rabbit’s headroom.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FnpWK4iO3k

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
11 months ago

To be precise, he plays a terrorist heating engineer, a threat to the state for his fixing things without the proper paperwork.

That movie continues to get more and more relevant as the years go by.

“Wouldn’t you like more beautiful ducts?”

Ron Moore
Ron Moore
11 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

100% agree, parts of Brazil can be hilariously reflective of the world today. It’s an extremely underated movie!

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