Worst Ads in History: 80's Car Commercials

"Get's 40 to the gallon, Clarke."

We live in a wondrous, blessed time in advertising. Studies indicate that in 2012 alone, the average person will be exposed to 700 Billion ads every ten seconds. From billboards, buses, benches, to baseball fields, (and that's just the letter B alone) you'll face bright colours and flashing lights screaming "BUY ME!" or Drink this, drive that!

For fuck's sake, your email inbox is 90% ads for cock pills, not to mention all the shit I'm trying to cram into this blog. I too dream of becoming rich off per-click revenue like so many successful stay at home moms who "never thought I could make $8000 a week sitting at home!!"

"Rent out your uterus for gold, Gold, GOLD!"

There was a time when television ads were the big-time expensive campaigns for any product- still today we count the days until the Superbowl so we can see Michael Bay's latest movie trailer, or a phone company's multi-million dollar stupid pet trick. I have to say though, the golden age of television ads was unquestionably the '80s. For a couple reasons, a main one being the FCC relaxed some of its restrictions regarding advertising to children which meant an explosion in Saturday morning cartoon toy tie-ins.

More on that later as in this post we're focusing on the auto market and my top favs for classic shitty car ads. And first up is one of my family's fondly remembered wagons, the Ford Taurus.


Taurus was an American car FOR US. I'll admit I have a soft spot for the Taurus since we had one for many years growing up. It did offer the built-in comfort of a rear-facing passenger seat in the back so you could pretend you were tying up imperial walkers in your snowspeeder on the way to school. Also I'm pretty sure this TV spot is narrated by a pre-noble prize Al Gore...


How do you take down Ford's "American car with a shape and a feel we've never seen before" and the even sluttier, compact Ford Tempo? With the Chevy Cavalier, built for Mother fuckin WINNERS. If Charlie Sheen was a car, he'd be a cocaine-fueled turbo-charged Cavalier. My only memory of one is a joyful, drunken high school ride from my buddy's girlfriend. So in my mind, Cavaliers are forever associated with hot, yet distant chicks with blond pony tails anxious to throw me out before anyone sees them with my bloated form sprawled on her back seat singing Aerosmith's "Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" at the top of my lungs.

AMC MothaFuckin' GREMLIN

Somehow a vintage car ad doesn't work without Ricardo Montalban.

When you think of American Motors Corp, encouraging phrases come to mind like "affordable," "economy-class," "cheap-ass garbage for poor people." It's little wonder then why they usually settled on equally elevated names for their compact shit-boxes like the ever so affable Gremlin. There's a wonderful marketing idea, name the car after a industrial revolution folklore monster that creeps into engines and fucks shit up. "You know they ship em over here in foreign cars too, even got tiny ones, little tiny Gremlins that fit inside your watch, same things that brought down our bombers in the W, W, 2..."

Honorable Mention to the 1995 Pontiac Grand AM

Finally, the FORD PINTO

Another reason not to leave the house on 9/11.

Lastly what list would be complete without the goddamn Pinto. Two words best describe this miracle of engineering: "Majesty" and "Civil Litigation following Wrongful Death." This is the infamous vehicle that became the go to example of how "evil large corporations care about profits more than people." You see, the Pinto was designed with a flaw in that the gas tank was situated so as to rupture easily in a rear-end collision. During production, when FORD realized the danger, they crunched the numbers and determined it would be less expensive to pay for lawsuits from injured or dead families' relatives than to redesign the car to make it, if not safer, LESS dangerous than its contemporaries.

Some say it was blown out of proportion and that the Pinto wasn't really any less safe than anything else on the road at the time, but to this day you still hear its name pop up whenever Ralph Nader is running for something.

If you have found any of the discussed ads effective, having struck a chord with you, the buying public, then stay tuned for next week's installment of WORST ADS IN HISTORY, where we'll try to sell your kids some quality lead-based paint in time for back to school.

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