Yesterdays Drive: A brief review of car advertising in the 70s and 80s

BACK in the 70s and 80s, before driving-off, we’d pull the aerial up in order to get a radio reception. Once inside, we’d manually operate the choke and start the engine. After winding down the window and adjusting the wing mirror, a bit of strength was needed to turn the non-powered steering wheel.

Today’s cars are more reliable and there’s less faffing required to get moving, but there’s no mistaking the awe and beauty of some of the cars from back in the day. The car market has always been competitive and some of the advertising from the yester-years go about taking their competitors apart in a sly and subtle manner.

In this short article, I look at some of the cars advertising from yesterday-years… from the sexy to the all-out rip-speed beast.

A Sexy drive

Sexy is a matter of opinion but there were some cars where sexiness oozed from bumper to bumper. Their shape was unbelievably well-crafted and still turn heads when seen on streets today. Sexy could be served straight and undiluted or with a dash of adventure and sportiness.


The family drive

Having a car that could comfortably fit a family became a big boast. It was important that the passengers didn’t feel like a journey in the car was more like an endurance test rather than a pleasant experience. The Austin Allegro television advert boasted about having room for five, room to spare and room for long legs!

The cars on the posh end of the spectrum

Cars that really cut the mustard. Many of them were sleek and had that company car look. Owners of cars in this category were made a quiet statement or two: I’m classy and I know it and I’m not average.’


The practical drive

Estate cars ruled when it came to having an extra bit of room. A bit extra room for those bulky flick-lock suitcases or for transporting weighty furniture. The Volvo was seen as a robust, reliable, safety-first type of car. Practicality was paramount for the owners of cars in this category, which can be summarised as being no nonsense cars that won’t win any beauty contests but will do the job.

The all-out pedal to the metal cars

Practicality was left for dust when it came to these cars. Speed, speed and more speed was the only topic on the agenda. Drivers wanting to put pedal to the metal whilst making other motorists look like tiny dots in their rear view mirror. Today’s motoring  advertisements cannot mention speed, fast or any words indicating that the driver could outrun other cars (safety reasons and discourage potential speed demons) but this was not the case back in the day… broom broom screech eat my exhaust fumes!

Easy driving

Power steering, automatic choke, parking sensors, onboard warning lights, CD players, MP3 players, central locking, heated mirrors, adjustable mirrors, automatic front windows – all of these come as standard with our modern cars. The question of ‘What’s the furthest you’ve gone in that car?’ has disappeared from our motoring discussions – reliability has risen to impressively high standards. Whilst all these advancements are a huge leap forward to making driving easier and enjoyable, there’s no mistaking the beauty, fun and the nostalgic feeling when you see a Yesterdays Drive on the street.

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6 thoughts on “Yesterdays Drive: A brief review of car advertising in the 70s and 80s”

  1. Great post. My Dad had a Princess – rather elderly when he got it but still one of the best drives I have ever experienced. My ex back in the 80s had a Capri – his Mum (!) was so disappointed when he sold it, she said she really felt like someone when she was in the car. My first proper car was a Triumph Acclaim and I loved and still miss it but I was very tempted by a bright yellow Dolomite Sprint – my more sensible brother talked me out of it.
    Many of these cars were beasts to drive but you did learn to actually drive and how to handle a car – these days, you get in the car, start it up and it practically drives itself. I wonder whether anyone will ever want to write a nostalgia piece about present day cars?
    Thanks for the memories, David

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