Early-installement weirdness. It’s a TV trope of unusual decisions and anomalies when a media franchise or series is first finding its feet, but it doesn’t normally reach commercials. At least, not to the same extent as it does TV shows. But that didn’t stop Vauxhall from getting really weird in 1973 with what was allegedly its first TV commercial ever.
See, Vauxhall has a griffin on its badge and someone thought it would be a good idea to bring that mascot to life. However, instead of animating the griffin to make it all very cute, Vauxhall’s ad agency took the live-action approach with fairly predictable results.
Good lord, what’s going on here? Okay, makeup in the 1970s wasn’t as advanced as it is today, but in this establishing shot, the Vauxhall griffin looks more like a gargoyle, or maybe a pangolin with wings. Hide your children, hide your dog, this is one costume that could frighten certain members of the population.
Things get a little bit more shocking when you get to the other half of the griffin. See, griffins are basically lions with the heads of eagles, but the lower-half lion costume looks shabby and a bit, um, nude. It’s giving Mike Myers Cat in the Hat vibes, except with infinitely more politeness. I wonder if there are any outtakes to this advertisement because the commitment to the bit is commendable. What’s more, I learned absolutely nothing about the Vauxhall Ventora the griffin was showing off in this segment, which could partially explain the model’s relatively low sales figures.
After jumping around all nimbly bimbly, the Vauxhall griffin shows off the Victor ES which was a vinyl-roofed special edition that looked rather nice. For those not familiar with the Victor and badge-engineered Ventora, it straddled the size gap between the U.S.-market Vega and Nova while seeming like a nicer proposition than either. It was the last Vauxhall to be developed independent from Opel, so it’s an area of pride in some ways. Oh, and it lived on until 2002 as the Hindustan Contessa. Smashing.
The griffin hops around some more before continuing his spiel with lines like “Vivas will abound,” and “Estates will bloom like flowers.” Both the Vivas and Vauxhall’s lineup of estates appear at the wave of a hand which suggests that this griffin has the magical powers to spawn GM vehicles, which has to be one of the most unusual superpowers a mythical being can have. Imagine if Cthulhu could spawn Geo Metros, or if Godzilla had the power to fire Nissans at circling aircraft.
While the Vauxhall griffin has a whiff of Old Gregg to him, I can’t help but be won over by his cheery demeanor. After all, who wouldn’t want to be wished a beautiful summer by a mildly alarming mythical creature? Maybe that means Vauxhall’s ad agency met its target, although could you imagine an automaker doing an ad like this today?
(Photo credits: Vauxhall)
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“the Vauxhall griffin has a whiff of Old Gregg to him”
Old Gregg immediately came to my mind as soon as I saw the top picture, but I wasn’t expecting the Mighty Boosh reference to make it to the article! This truly is a wonderful website.
I’m getting an HR Pufnstuff/Sid and Marty Kroft vibe here. Terrified me as a kid and still creeps me out today.
Vauxhall ad or a clip from a concurrent, Peter Gabriel-era Genesis concert??
Three cheers for the Old Gregg reference, and extra kudos for not linking! [shudder]
I’m heading off to research this.
Oh man, I’m excited for you!
Ever drunk Bailey’s from a shoe?
Loving that the semi-obscure Mighty Boosh reference wasn’t lost on a few of us 🙂
They couldn’t do this kind of stuff today.
Mythical creatures could be filing lawsuits for cultural misappropriation and that’s before all the now aged kids blame GM for their horror ruined lives.
In fact that might all start happening now since this evil has been unearthed again by some well meaning automotive historian.
He also appears to have been the original Tree Wizard. Maybe Ramesh got his powers from the Griffin.
I like how the griffin’s nose-appliance gives some Snidley vibes.
I spent some formative years in a college town infested by an avant garde theater troop. Occasionally they would overrun some public space and you’d have almost-naked elves slathered in greasepaint & glitter underfoot, but, incomprehensible though they were, they never rose to this level of creepiness.
A summer when Estates Abound would be nice, tho
There had to be some recreational drugs involved with the making of this commercial.
No thank you
Well, there you have it. Undisputable evidence that the 70’s had much better drugs than today.
Ha, 1973, perhaps not so coincidentally the same year as the film The Wicker Man. No, not the “No, not the bees!” remake.
it’s the posh accents that really get to me.. that BBC ‘received pronunciation’ which these days sounds like privilege and arrogance all wrapped up in one condescending horror show..
But the griffin is kinda cute.
I remember being utterly terrified by 1960s-vintage British TV, the Avengers with John Steed. This ad builds nicely onto that..
“Both the Vivas and Vauxhall’s lineup of estates appear at the wave of a hand which suggests that this griffin has the magical powers to spawn GM vehicles, which has to be one of the most unusual superpowers a mythical being can have.”
Sounds like the start of another “automotive would you rather” game. “Would you rather have a mythical beast that can spawn crappy GM cars at will or….?”
But Cthulhu *did* spawn Geo Metros. Who else could be responsible for those?
Cthulu can summon Geo Metros. One of the signs of the Great Awakening will be a parking lot full of Geo Metros.
Backup lamps AND emergency flashers. Luxury features, indeed.
Kind of interesting trivia that it took Vauxhall until 1973 to run a TV commercial – and that probably is accurate, I don’t believe GM even bothered to do any ad buys for brand in the US when it was sold here in the late ’50s/early ’60s, would have taken too much focus off their main 5 marques.
I’m just here for the “Electric Screenwash” luxury feature.
I love that they did this, but I can guarantee that they caused some kids nightmares.
The nightmares are how you know the ad had an impact.
If you have never been subjected to 70s British kid’s TV, believe me, this is tame by comparison. That shit was *weird*.
Maybe, but nightmare fuel really seems to evolve generationally.
Look at the Mickey Mouse costumes from opening day of Disneyland; they’re freaking terrifying, but kids of the day ate that stuff up. Similarly, clowns were everywhere on anything made for children back in the ’50s, and now coulrophobia is so common that even happy, cheerful clowns elicit an uncomfortable response out of many.
It makes me wonder what innocuous or even beloved thing will become the next “creepy” icon. My money is on animatronics. When I was a kid, going to Chuck-E-Cheese was an event to look forward to, and while the animatronic band was a little startling at first, everyone seemed to really like them. Now with the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise pushing the evil animatronics idea and the technology itself diving deeper into the uncanny valley, I think that public opinion on animatronics will flip in short order.
But I digress. My point is, the ’70s were a weird time, and maybe the young British Gen-X’ers really loved that freaky live action Vauxhall griffin.
Considering the nightmare-fuelling Public Information films in those days (eg “The Spirit Of Dark And Lonely Water”), or kids’ shows like ‘Children of the Stones’, this advert seems pretty mild.
13 years later, those same people had a meeting and said “Ya know, we should probably fuck up this generation too.”
And Zoobilee Zoo was born.
Young British Gen-X’ers did not.
That blog is so delightfully bonkers.