Vintage Ad Non-Trope: Smoking

1933 Fisher Body Ad

Smoking is a smelly, dangerous habit, one that I luckily have never felt the urge in which to partake. However, last century smoking was a much more socially accepted practice than it is today. Watch just about any old-timey movie made before 1960 or so and it seems that everyone is constantly taking a “Montclair Moment.”

Despite the commonness of smoking back in the day, car makers seemed to have been hesitant to depict the practice in their ads, and I struggled to find more than the tiny handful of examples depicted here, which is why I am referring to it as a non-trope in this post.

1933 Fisher Body Ad

Not surprisingly, one of the few places where it made sense to depict smokers was in the car’s ability to remove said smoke from the passenger compartment. One of the primary selling points of the “No-Draft” ventilation pioneered by Fisher Body in 1933 was its ability to quickly and easily remove cigar and cigarette smoke. Both the ad above and the lede photo are from this advertising campaign.


1963 Mercury Ad

1963 Mercury Ad

This 1963 Mercury Ad similarly shows the benefits of the Mercury’s Breezeway rear windows. The look of utter amazement on the face of the female passenger is priceless.


This 1937 Chrysler ad features writer Alma Archer extolling the benefits of her Chrysler while doing a play on words on the habit-forming nature of cigarette smoking.


Perhaps the only other place where it made sense for automakers to depict cigarettes was when showing ashtrays, as in the 1938 Hudson ad above. For a feature that virtually every car had as standard equipment until the 1990s, there are almost no advertisements showing ashtrays or cigarette lighters being used. I guess it was just assumed that every car came with a lighter and an ashtray and that everyone knew how to use them.


Speaking of ashtrays, I honestly thought no manufacturer would ever show something as gross and disgusting as a full ashtray in an ad, so was I shocked when I stumbled upon this 1962 Ford ad. The cigarette “butts” clearly cut up, unsmoked cigarettes, but still a pretty bold move on Ford’s part.


This 1954 Willys ad is bizarre. I think they are trying to do a send-up of the “film noir hardboiled detective” trope (hence the cigarette), but it really just comes across as strange and creepy.


1965 Fiat 600D ad

Lastly, we have this ad for a 1965 Fiat 600D. As with the Willys ad above, the smoking here is not shown for its own sake, but rather in service of another trope – in this case, the “Millionaire tycoon smoking gigantic cigars” trope.