Vintage TV Ad: 1979 Oldsmobiles – Archie Manning Suits Up For Royal Oldsmobile

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Back when I was a kid in New Orleans, Archie Manning (of the Saints football team) and Oldsmobile cars were both phenomenally popular.  One of the highly successful NOLA car dealers, Royal Oldsmobile, built on this popularity by bringing on Archie Manning as a pitchman in this 1979 local TV ad.  Let’s take a look at this piece of vintage TV history.

LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 17: Quarterback Archie Manning #8 of the New Orleans Saints drops back to pass against the Los Angeles Rams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 17, 1972 in Los Angeles, California. The Rams defeated the Saints 34-14. (AP Photo/NFL Photos)

Archie Manning served as the Quarterback of the New Orleans Saints for 12 seasons, beginning in 1971.  In spite of the Saints enduring rocky results year-after-year and frequent Head Coach changes, Manning was an excellent QB and a perennial favorite in his adopted home town of New Orleans.  Manning is also the father of two 2-time Super Bowl winning Quarterbacks: Peyton Manning (Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos) and Eli Manning (New York Giants).

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By the late 1970s, Manning’s fame was at a high point and the team started doing better (sadly the Saints never made the playoffs under Manning, but his was a great run nonetheless).   Given that Manning was such a local favorite, it was only natural that he would make a great spokesman for a car dealer.  At the time, Oldsmobiles were huge sellers in the Big Easy, and if you had an Olds in New Orleans, odds were you bought it either at Mossy Oldsmobile on South Broad or at Royal Oldsmobile on Veterans in the NOLA suburb of Metairie.  Archie Manning wound up “on the team” for Royal Oldsmobile, and the result was a classic TV commercial.

Added to the end of this spot on YouTube was also a commercial for BNO (Bank of New Orleans—now part of Home Bancorp).  BNO was one of the backers for the construction of the New Orleans Super Dome, which at the time was the largest enclosed stadium in the world and the official home of the Saints.

But the best part of this clip naturally was Archie Manning strutting his stuff with the cars and the people at Royal Oldsmobile.

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One of the cars featured on the showroom floor at Royal Olds was this 1979 Delta 88 equipped with the Holiday Coupe package (look carefully and you can see the bucket seats inside the car).  This Silver Metallic coupe also featured the very attractive Custom Sport Chrome Wheels and a Dark Carmine Red Padded Landau roof.

My wife went crazy when she saw this car, since her mom also had a 1979 Delta 88 Holiday Coupe in Silver with the Carmine Red buckets.  The only difference was my mother-in-law’s 88 Holiday Coupe had a Silver Padded Landau roof and wire wheels covers.  Just as in New Orleans, Oldsmobiles were very common back then in Bergen County, New Jersey (suburban New York City) where my wife’s family lived.  Their 88 Holiday Coupe was the car my wife learned to drive in, just as many of her friends also learned to drive in their parent’s Oldsmobiles (and I learned to drive in my mother’s 1979 Ninety-Eight LS).

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Introduced midway through the 1978 model year, the 88 Holiday Coupe was created by adding option package Y98 to a base Delta 88 2-door.  Priced at $288 ($1,068 adjusted), the Y98 package included bucket seats with Sport console and T-handle shifter, sport steering wheel, dual body-colored sport mirrors, body-colored wheel covers and special identification.  While the Buick-built 231 V6 was technically standard, I’d wager that virtually all 88 Holiday Coupes came with an Olds V8, most likely the 350 4V.  The 88 Holiday Coupe package was available from mid-1978 through 1981.

Oddly, while sales of the 88 Holiday Coupe are broken out separately for 1980 (3,547 sold) and 1981 (1,637 sold), separate sales totals for the Y98 package are not available for 1978 or 1979.  For both 1980 and 1981, the Holiday 88 package was added to about 50% of the base Delta 88 Coupes sold in those years.  So applying that same 50% of the production mix for the Y98 package to the sales of base Delta 88 Coupes in 1979 (16,202), you’d wind up with 8,101 units, give or take.  So this Silver 88 Holiday Coupe in New Orleans (and my mother-in-law’s in New Jersey) were fairly rare cars out of the ~1,000,000 Oldsmobiles built for 1979.  For contrast, 60,687 of the plusher Delta 88 Royale Coupes were sold that year.

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Though I’m not sure I buy Archie’s claim that he sold Oldsmobiles for Royal “in the off season,” I do know that if he had, he would have done very well.  Just imagine the customer reactions: “y’all aren’t gonna believe this!  I just bought my new Ninety-Eight Regency from Archie Manning!!!”  Though my parents always worked with Walter over at Mossy Oldsmobile for our cars, if my mother could have bought a car from Archie Manning, then Royal would have definitely gotten her business.

And, yes, that color combination of yellow with a white vinyl top and tan interior was a very popular one in hot, humid New Orleans.  My mother’s 1975 Ninety-Eight LS was that exact combo, and the look was still going strong for 1979.

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Whether or not he actually sold Oldsmobiles, Manning was believable as a pitchman.  In today’s world of superstar athletes with inflated egos and inflated pay packages, down-to-earth Archie Manning is downright refreshing.  Plus, you can legitimately believe that he and his family would have driven Oldsmobiles in real life.

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Perhaps a fully-loaded Custom Cruiser to tote around oldest son Cooper and second son Peyton (Eli wasn’t born until 1981).

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Or maybe a new-for-1979 Hurst Olds with the 350 4V Rocket V8.  Black and Gold were certainly the right colors for the Saints Quarterback!

No matter what, Archie was an effective and genuine pitchman for Royal Olds, and much more believable as a real brand supporter than Peyton Manning was in his gig with Buick, where the Super Bowl-winning Quarterback was shown driving a Verano.  In real life, the only way that would have happened would have been if there was a colossal screw-up at the rental car counter…

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But I can definitely see Archie wanting to chat with the folks in the Service Department at Royal.  Note the 1978 slant-back Cutlass Salon in the service line—was it already in need of on oil change?  Or maybe it was a service loaner?  Or left-over unsold inventory–after all, even the powerhouse team at Royal would have had trouble unloading those hunchback Cutlasses…

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And I do believe Manning would have loved shooting the breeze with the Royal Sales Team.

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And of course he would have enjoyed schmoozing with the ladies.

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All in, this ad represents a great nostalgia trip for a NOLA boy like me.  It brings me back to a time when great athletes still proudly had their feet firmly planted on the ground, and Oldsmobiles were still a desirable choice for Americans seeking a nice, high quality car.

I’m happy to say Archie Manning still calls New Orleans home, and he is a proud father and grandfather (with some very impressive offspring).  Through the years, Archie and his wife Olivia have done tremendous good works for the city, especially after Hurricane Katrina.  He was, and is, a class act all the way.

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Sadly, Royal Oldsmobile is no more.  The prime real estate where the large dealership once stood, across from the upscale Lakeside Shopping Center, is now a Whole Foods Market.  This current shot shows the parking lot brimming with mostly imported brands, as is typical today in NOLA.  But back in the day this was Olds country! I always used to enjoy going by the Royal lot at this location and seeing row after row of shiny new Oldsmobiles–of which Archie Manning undoubtedly sold more than a few, either for real “in the off season” or by way of this TV spot aimed right at the heart of New Orleanians.

Thanks Archie.  The people of NOLA will always be your Number One fans.

RIP Royal Oldsmobile.