Home » You’re Gonna Crash! Cold Start

You’re Gonna Crash! Cold Start

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Even as a kid looking at car advertisements in the seventies and eighties, I was always sort of bothered by a number of the things that I saw, particularly the often-repeated staging motifs that seemed painfully detached from reality.

Cars parked in front of buildings made sense, but the car in question was frequently depicted parked on the sidewalk instead of the street. Who does that? Posing the latest model on a sandy beach always made for a nice photo, but the object of desire was usually a 2WD street machine that was absolutely, positively not going to get off that dune without a tow. These are just two tropes of heavily-staged images that, even as a ten-year-old, I could discern as the fantasies of ad agencies and not any sort of reality.

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Jason has already pointed out how malaise-era ads made it look like every person either had a private plane or was a hang-gliding enthusiast:

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Screenshot 7 9 Pinto

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At the very least, they owned a hot air balloon which they could stuff in the back of their Cruising Wagon:

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However, one of my greatest pet peeves has to be the “wheel turn on the road” picture. Look, I get it- cars look better and more “dynamic” when the front wheels are turned so that the viewer can get a good shot of your whitewalls or dope aluminum wheels. Still, during the dark ages many of the shots of these “driver’s cars” on the “open road” showed the wheels uncomfortably turned in weird angles.  The advertisement below features this bothersome trait on an infamous Chevy Citation, albeit the sporty X-11 version, a car that was theoretically a good match for a Saab 900 Turbo as long as you didn’t mind poor quality, intense torque steer, and what one magazine described as “a transaxle that feels like a gear bag and not a gear box.”

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Look at the front wheels: where the hell is the driver going? Why is he turning that sharply? It’s not enough to do a U-turn and way too extreme for the corner. Attempts at “action” shots like this have the reverse effect of making the cars look quite static – which it is, of course, no matter how much the sunglassed driver (who isn’t driving) leans into the imaginary maneuver.

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Here’s an Oldsmobile Delta 88 Holiday coupe, a “downsized” full-sized American coupe and likely one the most durable and reliable GM cars ever made. (Exception: the diesel version where The General’s choice to not add a water separator and acceptable head bolts doomed the American public’s taste for oil burning cars.) One must show off the color-coded wheel covers from the “Holiday” package, right? Sure, but again, this dude is headed for the weeds.

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This next one is really disconcerting. My guess is that they’re trying to show that the little Renault 5 “Le Car” has just used its mighty sixty horsepower to pass a semi, but in reality the angle of the car and wheels make it look like the driver popped onto the two-lane road without looking and we’re about to see a clip from Faces of Death.

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You can’t unsee this stuff, and it’s always bugged me. Of course, it also bothered me that the number of Piper Cubs and hot-air balloons in my entire neighborhood, let alone my Dad’s garage, was zero. Based on all the car ads I saw, I thought they were pretty common

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Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
2 days ago

Well, it’s ok since even if the Citation crashed, it would be no loss since it’s a…Citation! Ha ha…I know there are X-11 enthusiasts but that’s just something I’ll never understand

CTSVmkeLS6
CTSVmkeLS6
2 days ago

I would see them showing all the cool “active lifestyle“ stuff is basically the same as they do with all the pick up truck add these days… ‘Look how cool I am because I have this vehicle. You should buy one.’ Haha

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
2 days ago

No mention of the ability to drive across gravel/soft ground without leaving tyre tracks?

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
2 days ago

I love the TV ads showing a car creeping through a parking lot at one mph with the warning, “Closed course. Professional driver. Do not attempt.”

Jonathan Hendry
Jonathan Hendry
2 days ago

I do like that Pinto wagon.

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