Trope: a convention or device that establishes a predictable or stereotypical representation of a character, setting, or scenario in a creative work (dictionary.com)
For almost as long as there have been automobiles, automakers have been trying to show off their cars as aspirational purchases by showing them in aspirational settings in their ads and promotional photos. Many of these settings get reused to the point where we can consider them to be tropes.
What better to illustrate this than one of my personal favorite vintage auto advertising tropes: A car parked beside a swimming pool. After all, nothing says glamor and riches like an in-ground pool (sorry above-ground pools, nothing personal).
Unfortunately, many of these idealized settings require more than a bit of suspension of disbelief, where if you think for more than a few seconds about what is being depicted, the situation being pictured doesn’t really make any sense at all.
Like most things automotive, the “car parked poolside” trope is far older than you would guess. This 1926 Buick ad is the oldest example I could find, but there are probably even older examples.
This 1941 Plymouth ad is more prototypical of the genre: An actual photograph of a car being driven onto a pool deck, and a bunch of cavorting onlookers who totally don’t seem to be bothered by this in the slightest, as if this sort of thing happens all the time. Note that the people sitting in the chairs have to position themselves rather awkwardly, to avoid getting their feet and legs run over.
Here we see a family in a 1954 Cadillac Eldorado enjoying a nice Sunday drive beside a pool. Again, no one seems to find this even remotely unusual. Maybe the main road is closed and they are taking a detour.
The Key Biscayne Hotel and Villas in Miami was a popular place for GM to shoot poolside promotional photos in the 1950s. Perhaps management had a permissive attitude towards driving on their pool deck, or maybe the pool deck had easy access to the parking lot. Above is the 1954 Cadillac La Espada concept parked poolside at the Key Biscayne.
Here we see the 1956 Buick Centurion concept parked beside the pool. The raised tile on the edge of the Key Biscayne pool and slanted roof villas are both very distinctive.
And finally, here we see the 1955 Buick Wildcat III, also in almost the exact same spot and camera angle as the previous photo.
This 1954 Cadillac El Camino concept has a slightly different take on the parked poolside trope. Instead of being parked parallel to the pool, this one is parked nose-in, close enough for the radiator to leak into the water.
Lest you think I pick on GM too much, here is a 1957 Lincoln gazing at its own reflection beside a pool. Given the murky water and lack of depth markings, this pool may be more of a landscape feature than a swimming pool, but it is still damn strange to park so close to the edge that the passenger can’t even get out without taking a dunk.
This one is rather strange, even by poolside photo standards. Instead of pulling into a perfectly good carport about 10 feet away, Dad for some reason decides to park the ’59 Country Cruiser right next to the pool. A tad too much to drink at lunch?
This obviously wealthy individual is being a bit of a lout, parking his 1960 Imperial right in front of the pool, pretty much blocking it off. The rich really are different from you and me.
Finally, recognizing that it has already become somewhat of a cliche, AMC played around with the poolside car trope in this 1962 ad. Good thing I happened to be driving by the pool deck in my Rambler convertible to rescue the lifeguard. Who knows what would have happened otherwise?