Anyone who has walked through a shopping mall or downtown shopping district recently has seen H&M stores multiply like rabbits in recent years. From Sweden, H&M is a pioneer in inexpensive fashion that has had as much worldwide impact on the market for clothes as Ikea has had on the market for furniture. Their most recent marketing campaign, visible in their store windows and on their website, has prominently featured a distinctly 1960s American car — not surprising from a company based in a country known for its love of classic American cars, as described on this website over the years (here, and elsewhere).
Oddly, however, the car has been thoroughly anonymized, unlike classic cars used in countless fashion photo shoots that are chosen for their distinctiveness. Even more jarring, the campaign is for a clothing line whose tagline is “The 70’s continue to reign supreme for this fall’s statement look.” “This is not going to go well,” many are probably thinking at this point.
The car is a 1966 Ford Fairlane, based on the stacked headlights, the shape of the front and rear fenders, and the shape of the grille, which extends the full width of the front end from headlight surround to headlight surround. An unusual detail is the chrome pods atop the front fenders, not used on any 1966 Fairlanes as far as I could determine, which on a contemporary Mopar would be turn signal indicators. The car itself is a four door sedan with dog dish hubcaps, as plain as they come.
This Fairlane is made even more plain by the deletion of all badges, which would be a “Fairlane 500” on the rear fenders of the higher-end version or a “Fairlane” on the front fenders of the base model. The anonymizing does not stop there.
A 1966 Fairlane should have FORD over its trunk lid trim panel and tail lights with a vertical bar and a reverse light in the center, but on the featured car the nameplate is missing and the tail lights have simple red lenses. The anonymizing was so thorough that at first I thought that the car was a 1966 AMC Ambassador, hence the title of this article. A CC Capsule by Perry Shoar has described the 1966 Fairlane as already “Jet Age Generic,” and airbrushing or Photoshop has further scrubbed this car of identification as thoroughly as the FBI Witness Protection Program would scrub a person of anything identifiable.
The use of an anonymous 1960s American car to promote a line of clothes inspired by 1970s American fashions is more than a bit off the mark, and it is surprising from a company based in a country where many people know as much about classic American cars as any Americans do. Most likely, H&M’s advertising agency wanted a classic American car that would not distract a viewer’s attention from the model and clothes, and this square, beige, plain 1966 Fairlane fit that bill. At least it is a victory for plain-Jane, dull-colored sedans with dog dish hubcaps, which receive little love outside of CC. For better or worse, H&M uses this advertising campaign worldwide, everywhere where it has stores from Sweden to Saudi Arabia, where ironically a woman could not wear these clothes in public or drive a car.
A better representative of an inconspicuous 1970s American car to sit quietly in the background of a fashion photo shoot has appeared here, found ideally located in Sweden. Next time, H&M’s advertising agency may want to consult with CC for advice on period American car selection.