One of the things you notice when you spend a fair bit of time looking through old newspapers is that oftentimes, there are a lot of advertisements for things which just don’t exist anymore, be it companies that are about three mergers removed from their previous form or just plain disappeared three decades ago, brands that have passed (lamented or otherwise) into the dustbin of history, or products whose time has long since passed. In particular, you see a lot of car advertisements, many for makes of automobiles that no longer exist, especially as you go further back into the archives to the days when a lot more brands of cars existed than you will find now.
Recently (well, sort of recently, I haven’t had much time for this recently) while I was browsing through 1951 issues of the Bellevue American for nothing in particular, I noted the significant concentration of new car ads in those papers, and thought that some of these would be interesting to post. Generally, when people these days think of Fifties cars, it’s the finned land yachts of the late Fifties that are the first ones to come to mind. In the early Fifties these designs were still many years away, and in fact many of the products being offered were still incremental changes of pre WW2 models.
In spite of this ad’s promise of thrilling power, back in these days the Pontiac brand was often advertised more on its comfort and durability than its rubber-burning prowess. A number of other Pontiac ads that I found in these papers touted cars built to last 100,000 miles (which seems like a lot, but these days it’s not uncommon to hear of cars lasting 200,000, 300,000 or even more miles.) It wouldn’t be until the mid Fifties that the Pontiacs would be completely redesigned. The Pontiac brand is expected to be phased out by the end of 2010, a victim of the recent upheavals in the automotive industry. Nonetheless, Pontiac has managed to outlast a lot of other brands over the years…
Including Studebaker, a longtime poster child for extinct auto manufacturers. Here we see one of the many different cars to bear the name of Studebaker Commander over the years, and one that shows the distinct yet (in some circles) much maligned Studebaker front end that has inspired many a joke over the years about not being able to tell which end was the front of the car. Although it’s a bit tough to read here (the photo was a tad blurry) the ad copy touts a victory for the Studebaker V-8 in a contest of fuel economy, which is always a nice thing, but probably didn’t matter quite as much back in the days when a gallon of gas could be bought for 20 cents (which translates to roughly $1.64 in 2008 dollars and a whole heck of a lot less than we were paying for gas back in 2008.) From what little I know of my family history on my Dad’s side (which has never been all that well documented) my Dad’s grandfather once owned a Studebaker dealership. There is also an apocryphal story I have heard once or twice over the years of my grandfather getting himself in serious trouble when a policeman came in to buy a Studebaker one day. The officer then told a story of how he was chasing a speeder, and while he was doing so, my Grandfather blasted by both the officer and the speeder in one of the Studebakers from the lot. Somehow I doubt the story is entirely true (at least in the form that I remember it,) but I can definitely say that cars do run in the family (as evidenced by the two posts below.)
Other brands chose to emphasize victories of a different sort, as is seen in this ad for the Hudson Hornet. In 1951, NASCAR was still in its infancy, and the Fabulous Hudson Hornets absolutely dominated the series. Driver Marshall Teague would drive a Hornet to wins in seven NASCAR races and 27 of the 34 stock car racing events he was entered in that year. Another Fabulous Hudson Hornet would propel driver Herb Thomas to two NASCAR Grand National championships in 1951 and 1953 (although Thomas started the 1951 season in a Plymouth, and raced in an Oldsmobile as well,) and Hornets driven by a number of drivers were also dominant in 1952. Unfortunately, the “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” theory could only take Hudson so far, as the Hudson brand was dropped by AMC as the company’s various brands were consolidated under the Rambler name in 1957.
I’ve got a fair number of other ads from this era in my archive, and perhaps if there is enough interest, I might make another post or two out of these. I suspect there would probably be much more interest in ads from the late Fifties and the muscle car era, and perhaps I might revisit those as well.