We’ve recently covered several taboo subjects that seldom appear in vintage car ads: Smoking and Religion. To me, these topics that are (mostly) off-limits to advertisers are far more interesting than topics that get used repeatedly until they become true tropes. With that in mind, today let’s take a look at another item that almost never appears in car ads and brochures: Guns.
As you would expect, many of the appearances of guns in car ads are in conjunction with various forms of sport shooting, in yet another example of the “lifestyle by association” trope. These can either be skeet/trap shooting (as shown above in the 1939 Pontiac Ad) or hunting (as shown below in the 1958 Mercury ad).
I found various examples of guns used in hunting (although not as many as you might think), so for the rest of this post, I’m going to focus on the really unusual appearances of guns in car ads.
Another unsurprising place where guns made an appearance was in ads for police cars (although again, not nearly as often as you might think). The 1947 Ford ad above is unusual (probably even unique) in that the officers are not only carrying firearms, but actually have them drawn. Even more unusual, the officer on the right is holding what is clearly a Thompson “Tommy” submachine gun with a drum magazine, something that a typical beat officer would definitely not have been carrying.
The 1955 DeSoto ad above is unusual not only because it features a firearm, but also because it does not feature a picture of a car (a separate trope that we will dig into in the future). From my research, this particular piece was originally a sign or poster intended to be used in showrooms, so vehicle pictures would have been unnecessary.
The image above is from a 1959 Dodge brochure, showing a child holding (presumably) a toy gun. As we all know, station wagons are versatile vehicles, but tail gunner is a use that I haven’t thought of.
This 1958 Mercury ad is very avante-garde for the time. It is something you would expect to see in an arthouse film and not an advertisement from a mainstream automaker. I’m not even going to try to explain it – I’ll leave it to the commenters to speculate as to what is being portrayed here.
In 1966 and 1967, Dodge ran a “Dodge Rebellion” series of ads, leaning into the US Revolutionary War with antique weapons ranging from pistols and muskets to cannons. Even though the pistol that the model is holding in the 1967 Charger ad above is clearly an antique, I gotta confess to feeling a little shocked when I first saw this ad while researching this post. Given how edgy Dodge advertising was in the late 1960s, I’m sure this shock value was the intended effect.
The 1966 Dodge Dart brochure (above and in the lead) seems to focus as much on the musket as it does on the car. Again, Dodge was trying to be as outrageous as possible in the late 60s, so this is pretty much par for the course.
We will close with this 1967 Dodge ad, which has an odd juxtaposition of the middle-aged couple driving the Coronet in the bottom with the James Bond-inspired model with a very realistic-looking toy dart gun sitting at the top.