Car Adverts in The New Yorker (1975)

Dodge hoped the Charger Daytona would be the irresistible gift a man had to give himself. Especially if he was slightly older, and interested in injecting some sporty vitality into his life. The Charger, is as its name suggests, is a modern-day horse — a horse for a knight or cavalry officer. With a charger, a man can go anywhere — do anything. And yet this was not a commercial version of a pedigree racing car (like the original ‘muscle car’ version), but a rebadged Chrysler Cordoba, in what at the time was called the ‘personal luxury’ market.

With the US automobile industry suffering from the impact of the 1973 oil crisis, sports, or muscle car sales were down in the dumps. Charger sales had peaked in 1973 and fell dramatically in 1974, so this campaign was part of an initiative to rebuild sales. This mid-sized luxury car had ‘high-end trim’ and a self-consciously sporty look, although its ‘racy look’ was just visual styling. The Charger boasted blue leather seats, chrome trim, and a polished wooden dashboard. It didn’t have a clock — it had a ‘Chronometer’. Regardless of its styling, it was an all-American car (even if it was actually manufactured in Ontario, Canada).

The Triumph TR7 advert is striking because it looks very 1980s, instead of 1975. The sleek font, the bold graphic design, the glossy reflections, the back and electric red almost feels new wave. This is, after all, ‘The shape of things to come’. But, like the struggling US automobile industry, the British car industry, now amalgamated into the nationalised British Leyland, was also in difficulty, and desperate to flog its goods to America: the TR7 only launched in the UK a year later. Unfortunately, the car suffered from quality control issues, commonly attributed to industrial relations issues between the management and the factory workforce — this affected its reputation. The advert’s tagline ‘From the land of British Racing Green’ probably wouldn’t have made any sense to an American audience, especially considering the car is pictured in red.

The Jaguar XJ-12, another British Leyland product, was a luxury family saloon with a performance engine. Here it’s pictured on a lawn in front of a country home. It’s a ‘class of one’ because it was the only V-12 production saloon in 1975 — perfect for those high oil prices. The copy goes into extensive detail about the warranty, which is ’20,000 miles or 12 months’ for ‘any part of the car that is defective or simply wears out’ — hardly confidence inspiring. The Jaguar was an attractive, but conservatively styled saloon, with a powerful engine. With hindsight one wonders if the more performance minded segment of the US market were also looking for more flamboyant styling? Also, how appealing would an old country home be to an American audience — especially a predominantly metropolitan one reading The New Yorker? This definitely feels like it’s communicating a mixed message.