Home » This Old 1970s VW Brochure Was Illustrated By A Mad Magazine Artist: Cold Start

This Old 1970s VW Brochure Was Illustrated By A Mad Magazine Artist: Cold Start

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When I was a kid growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, like so many other little dorky, goofy kids, I was a big fan of Mad Magazine, because we had no memes and shit way back in those archaic times. Mad was a cultural icon for a very specific kind of youth culture, and I studied those magazines with such intensity that even now I can recognize the distinctive lines of the cartoonists that drew for the magazine. That’s why this 1973 brochure for the Volkswagen Sports Bug sparked such a burst of recognition for me; all of those befuddled people around that limted-edition Volkswagen were definitely drawn by a Mad magazine cartoonist. But which one?

The style is very distinctive; detailed and inherently comical, and with clear innate talent for rendering faces recognizable, which is, I think, incredibly difficult. I realized I only know a couple Mad artists’ names, like Mort Drucker or Sergio Aragonés. This artist was one whose work I know well, but never knew the name, which is Jack Davis.

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Davis did all kinds of movie posters and magazine covers and all sorts of other illustrative work in addition to Mad; hilariously, he once did a Sesame Street parody for Mad and then also did actual work for the real Sesame Street. The guy was that good.

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The brochure is pretty simple in concept: a massive crowd of people who seem to have just been doing some wildly diverse activities, often still in specialized clothing or with equipment, running like mad to look at these lightly modified Beetles.

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I mean, I get it, although I’m a little baffled at how confused they are as to whether or not the car is a Volkswagen. The Sports Bug has some custom stripes and blacked-out chrome and sportier wheels, but if those changes make you confused that you’re looking at a VW still, then perhaps you shouldn’t be walking around unassisted.

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The Sports Bug was a Super Beetle with better seats and a different steering wheel and the cosmetic changes you can see, but there were no actual performance changes; it was the same 60 hp 1600cc engine you’d get in any other Super Beetle or some Beetles.

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I like how much they talk about the MacPherson suspension and anti-sway bar like they were unique to the Sports Bug. They weren’t. Those seats look pretty great, though.

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They made 20,000 of these, which, by VW standards, is a pretty limited edition. Around back you can see the black trim over the air-intake vents, too. And, also, in this illustration below, it’s worth noting the older dowager with the Pomeranian thinks the steering wheel is “Positively Sensual” and there’s a dude in a Victorian-era diving suit who came up from retrieving sunken treasure just to see this car:

 

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All of these people seem wonderfully unhinged; it looks like this scene could be moments away from a full-on riot breaking out.

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I really like the blacked-out Chrome look of these Beetles, especially the black bumpers with the body-colored tape. They’re just fun. Also interesting is the fact that Volkswagen of America reached out to Karmann to build some Karmann-Ghias with this same sort of look; unfortunately, they did this without approval of VW Germany, so only a couple hundred were made before VW put a stop to it. I’ve never seen one of those!

 

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D8Mach
D8Mach
4 days ago

There were plenty of memes back in the day . Back then you had to physically interact with society in person so the memes of the day probably went unrecognized.

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
7 days ago

I’m tempted to print these pictures out and see if they make a Mad Fold-In.

James Carson
James Carson
7 days ago

Mad Magazine, Cracked and then graduated to National Lampoon and Heavy Metal. I very vaguely remember these ads, or it could be gas.

Jonathan Hendry
Jonathan Hendry
7 days ago

“Something going on?”
“Not going on – coming on!”

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
7 days ago

These are so awesome, fun and hilarious…I grew up reading Mad Magazine and Groo was also one of my favorites. This is wonderful art and I love the look of the Sports Bugs…slugbug steel blue and yellow!

Hamish48
Hamish48
7 days ago

first read after filching my Dad’s Mad: Spy vs Spy. Cut some of them out.

OttosPhotos
OttosPhotos
7 days ago

Lots of comic book artists did side work for ad companies. Bill Sienkiewicz (New Mutants, Thor, Elektra etc.) did a poster for the Nissan NX2000 in the 90’s that I had on the garage wall (it’s probably still there).

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
7 days ago

Fun Fact. If you fold in the back page of the brochure the image becomes a Meyers Manx.

George Wilson
George Wilson
7 days ago

Well played, sir…

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
7 days ago

I moved to the US in 1994, at seventeen, but reading pretty much every single back issue of MAD magazine has given me a solid understanding of the country. I can also communicate with boomers about things like the movie Love Story or anything they’re interested in without having seen it – I never saw E.T. or King Kong or any of those cultural touchstones but I will never have to let on, thanks to MAD.

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
7 days ago

Now I find myself wishing they had also hired Don Martin to do one, especially since he is pretty much the only cartoonist whose work I have ever been able to reproduce, since I can’t draw my way out of a paper bag.
https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/61tr1RNNhFL._AC_UF1000,1000_QL80_DpWeblab_.jpg

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
7 days ago

That person exclaiming “Hey, bucket seats!” was pretty funny since *all* Beetles had bucket seats; however, it does indeed make a bit of sense once you get to see what these particular bucket seats are like, with the fancy sport bolsters and all. Reminds me of what my dad liked to tell people about our old Beetle, that we had a red German two-door fastback coupe with bucket seats, four on the floor, and tested on the Autobahn. This was in the 70s so bucket seats and four on the floor were indeed noteworthy features and people in the U.S. were just beginning to learn about the Autobahn not having speed limits. So of course it was always good for a laugh whenever we pulled up in our humble red Beetle instead of a fancy and flashy Porsche.
And the crowds around the Sports Bug in these pictures remind me of what my parents told me about the Beetle that they had bought *used* shortly after they were married in the mid-50s (it was an oval-window Beetle, not a split-window one, though, as verified by snapshots in the family albums) and since this was in Michigan (!!) they would get a lot of attention; my dad had family living in nearby Detroit so whenever my parents went into town to visit family or to go shopping they would park in the street and come back to find crowds gathered around the Beetle pretty much all agog in wonder. Ha, now it’s come full circle, at least around here, if one were to park a Beetle in the street people would gather around it (but this time around it’d be because they were fondly remembering or being properly appreciative what was once such a staple of the automotive landscape and has lamentably all but vanished from today’s landscape.)

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
7 days ago

When we drove our ’76 VW camper bus around the US and Canada in 1984, VWs were still rare in the midwest. Oil changes were done at local oil change places, and we consistently attracted people who had never seen one before. The oil techs got to look at the underside from the pit and some were amazed that it had independent suspension all around.

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
7 days ago
Reply to  Knowonelse

Yeah, it’s pretty wild how much variance there could be in the automotive landscape. Even though the Beetle was the best-selling model of all time some areas simply didn’t have many, if indeed any, VWs at all. I grew up in a college town where both professors and students would have VWs so Beetles (& buses) were *everywhere.* And this was in East Tennessee where cheap air-cooled rear-engined VWs were popular in the Appalachians for their affordability and ability to go pretty much anywhere. I have an old four-wheeling guide where the author prefaces the book by cautioning newbies against being too smug and proud of themselves for reaching some summit in their 4×4 Jeeps or Dodges because they’ll invariably see some old VW Beetle or bus pass by just chugging merrily away.

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
7 days ago

I love that Jack Davis even added a caricature of Torch admiring the tail lights. Did you pose for that, or was it just that obvious to everyone at VW that you were a huge fan even at that tender age?

Leon Muks
Leon Muks
7 days ago
Reply to  Balloondoggle

Izzat a booger on his finger?

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
7 days ago
Reply to  Balloondoggle

If there is ever a Torch t-shirt, this kid should be on there

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
7 days ago

Yeah, Jack Davis had quite the career, all right. He drew a lot of stories for EC Comics, including their horror titles, and one story in particular that he drew, “Foul Play!” in issue #19 of The Haunt of Fear in 1953, was particularly memorable:
https://static1.cbrimages.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/goodcomics/2011/10/foulplay5.jpg?q=50&fit=crop&w=360&dpr=1.5
That particular story was cited by Fredric Wertham in his ginning up of the hysteria against comic books leading up to the establishment of the Comics Code Authority (that’s why EC Comics switched MAD from a color comic book format to a black and white magazine format to get around the CCA.) All the more wild that Jack Davis created artwork for Sesame Street.

Black Peter
Black Peter
7 days ago

I think from this era Jack’s work is only second to Wally Wood. Because no one was better than Wood..

James Mitchell
James Mitchell
7 days ago

I had a HS classmate who owned one of these Sports Bugs, it was metallic green and she made it even more distinctive by painting the fenders gloss black

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
7 days ago

Both MAD and Cracked were regularly strewn around the floor of my childhood bedroom. My silent-Gen parents were always worried about it rotting my brain, but the ’70’s paranormal psychic BS they read was far worse.

Loren
Loren
7 days ago

Sometimes those were some pretty smart reading.

ES
ES
7 days ago

was it just me, or was folding the back cover to see the secret drawing an almost shameful act? i was an actual altar boy, so maybe that was a shame force multiplier, but i’d always look around first, as though i’d just rediscovered my uncle’s penthouse/playboy stash.

Last edited 7 days ago by ES
Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
7 days ago
Reply to  ES

You’re not wrong.

Jonathan Hendry
Jonathan Hendry
7 days ago
Reply to  ES

I think they definitely leaned into making it seem like the secret drawing would be “dirty” after all why else would it be secret.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
7 days ago

I believe Jack Davis was also one of the illustrators for the “Little Annie Fanny” series in Playboy magazine, among his other comics work. Not that I ever looked at Playboy, except for an occasional article.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
7 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Yeah that interview with Bella Abzug was fantastic.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
7 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

There were articles?

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
7 days ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

Some, but very few articles of clothing.

ES
ES
7 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

huh, maybe that’s what i associated, based on my comment to Beranek above…

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
7 days ago

The second I saw the positively sensual steering wheel text bubble, I KNEW Torch would have to comment on it.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
7 days ago

Didn’t the Sun Bug also have those wheels?
I am studiously avoiding buying a Super Beetle at the moment. While it’s cheap, I don’t have a place to park it—and would likely Baja it, messing up a perfectly good sedan & sucking my car-fun funds even further.

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