Top 80s car adverts

A look at some of the best car ads to come out of the 80s

By Tim Kendall | 1st May 2011

Ahh, the eighties. A rich, decadent decade, defined by such diverse cultural icons as Thatcher, the pin-stripe suit, filo-faxes, and the Golf GTI. And a fertile ground for the car advert. The creative juices of top ad agencies like BMP and Saatchi & Saatchi were in full flow and spawned some real gems. Against a background of landmark cars, the scene was set for some of the most memorable TV ads the car industry has seen. Here’s some of the best.

Peugeot 405 – Take My Breath Away

The ingredients for this one are relatively simple, but surprisingly effective. Peugeot’s masterclass in how to make a fine-handling gallic rep-mobile look sexy, went something like this:-

Step 1. – Set a large field of crops on fire.

Step 2. – Drive a Peugeot 405 perilously close to the flaming field and garnish the ensemble with shots of it powering unscathed, through repeated pyrotechnic explosions.

Step 3. – Set it to a soundtrack by Berlin.

Step 4. – When the farmer finds his field has been torched, claim the car suffered an unexplained ‘thermal incident’, and recall all 405s for investigation.*
*This never actually happened

VW Golf GTi 1987 – ‘Casino’

There were a few memorable VW ads in the eighties, but this one, by BMP DDB is pretty evocative of the decade, and the brand. You can read it either one of two ways:-

1. Failed city-boys and hapless gambling addicts drive Golf GTis.

2. Even if everything else in life has let you down, then you can rely on your Volkswagen. Perhaps VW should count themselves lucky that JD Power surveys hadn’t reached Europe in 1985.

Range Rover 1985

In the days before Clarkson annoyed Scottish rambling enthusiasts by taking a Discovery to the top of Ben Tongue in the Highlands, Land Rover pulled off a similar stunt with the original Range Rover in 1985. Driving one to the top of a Fell in the Lake District, with an exuberance unlikely to have been replicated by the Home Counties horsey set, this was a patriotic show of British engineering.

Volvo 850 T-5 – ‘Twister’

Okay, not strictly keeping to the self-imposed 80s brief here. This Volvo effort is from circa 1993 when the 850 T-5 was unleashed on an unsuspecting public. In much the same way that most teenage boys probably wouldn’t have a poster of Anne Widdecombe adorning their bedroom wall, Volvos weren’t considered sexy until the torque-steer-tastic T-5 arrived. What, 150mph? In a Volvo? Really? With my reputation? Yes, actually. And 150mph may not be a big headline figure these days, but just the fact that this Swedish labrador-frightener existed back in 1993, and even went BTCC racing, was hilariously incongruous.

To be fair, the tornado-chasing action man in this ad might be stretching the truth when he says it handles on rails. But having had one of these at my disposal in the late 90s, I know there are few more satisfying ways of wearing out a set of P-Zeros than at the wheel of one of these flying bricks.

By Tim Kendall
1st May 2011

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