For our second installment of vintage auto-related travel ads, we’ll travel back to the 1950s and visit several places throughout North America – two ads from Canada, one from Bermuda, and two Hertz Rent A Car ads. Enjoy the ride!
CANADA, 1951 & 1955
Canada’s Travel Bureau was a heavy advertiser in American magazines during the 1950s. Here, two couples are enjoying a drive up Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula with Percé Rock in the background. The caption below the main photo implores Americans to come up North to “enjoy carefree travel on beckoning, uncrowded highways.” These folks are certainly doing that – a Cadillac would be one of the finest long-distance cruisers of its era, and with the Gaspé Peninsula about 900 miles northeast of New York City, a comfortable touring car would certainly add to the trip’s pleasures.
The view here is from Route 132 overlooking the City of Percé – still an impressive vantage point today.
Our second Canadian ad here is from a few years later (1955) and again features two couples in a convertible, this time a 1952 Chevrolet Bel Air at Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta. A Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman served as the mascot for this long-running ad series, but here a helpful Mountie appears to be giving some map advice to the wandering American tourists (Americans-staring-at-maps imagery was used more than once in this ad series). Again, the ad text stresses Canada’s uncrowded roads and – with no passport required – easy access for its southern neighbors.
Incidentally, while Canada produced dozens of ads for American publications in the 1950s, their budget didn’t seem to allow for multiple license plates. This particular imitation California license plate (#12R1679) appeared on numerous cars for these ads. We can forgive this frugality, of course – and at least the ads didn’t show the American tourists driving a Meteor or Monarch!
Bermuda’s Trade Development Board advertised heavily in US magazines in the 1950s and ’60s, and an analysis of tourists to the British colony explains the marketing strategy. A survey of tourists conducted by Bermuda’s ad agency affirmed that in the 1950s, the overwhelming majority of American visitors were leisure travelers, more than three-quarters were first-time visitors, and a surprising 39% decided on Bermuda as their destination within a month of their trip. Thus, American magazines were often peppered with ads for this temperate paradise.
It’s hard to get more alluring than this ad – with a soft sandy beach, clear ocean, and a Speedwell Blue Austin A40 taxi with a fringed canopy/umbrella top. I find myself most tempted by the Austin.
Being a small colony with a significant tourist presence, Bermuda has historically been full of taxis – well at least ever since Bermuda’s ban on motor vehicles expired in 1946. By 1950, “taxi driver” was the colony’s eighth leading occupation, with 455 residents plying the trade among its 32,000 residents. While not all taxis were fringe-roof models, many were, and they epitomized the idyllic nature of the destination. Fringe-roof taxis were particularly popular for sightseeing tours – for about $14 per day, tourists could hire a car and driver, and see may places beyond walking distance from their hotels. If I visited Bermuda in the 1950s, a long ride to a quiet beach in a fringe-roof British taxi would be high on my list.
HERTZ RENT A CAR, 1955 (Las Vegas) & 1956 (Valley Forge)
A few months ago we were treated to a Vintage Ad Tropes collection of Cars Parked Poolside. Hertz Rent A Car joined the pool party too, as we see with this 1955 Ford Fairlane Sunliner. Hertz was a prolific advertiser for decades, and many of the company’s ads were location-specific, such as this one, taken at Las Vegas’ Desert Inn.
When it was built in 1950, the Desert Inn was Las Vegas’ largest resort (at 300 rooms) and cost a staggering $3.5 million to construct. The Figure Eight shaped, Olympic-size pool shown here pioneered a few things too. For example, the shade canopies in the background were a feature rarely seen before. Meanwhile, the pool held a special attraction for men: Upon the hotel’s opening in 1950, the operators hired a female lifeguard, the first in Nevada, one of the few nationwide. The lifeguard, Jane Dillard, joked that “perfectly healthy-looking men suddenly develop cramps in the deep water and start yelling for help!”
This is what the Desert Inn looked like when opened in 1950 (the pool is in the middle). Many additions were built around the original structure, and the hotel lasted until 2000.
Fairlane convertibles appeared in Hertz ads for resort locations – not just Las Vegas, but also Florida, Sun Valley, Idaho and Victoria, British Columbia.
A far different venue was provided in our next Hertz ad. These folks are checking out the artillery at Pennsylvania’s Valley Forge Park (despite its historical significance, Valley Forge wasn’t designated a national historical park until 1976), in their rented 1956 Fairlane sedan.
Perhaps most amusing from a modern perspective isn’t so much the rented Fairlane or the setting, but rather the manner of dress. Dad’s wearing a tie, sweater and jacket, mom a coordinated outfit with white gloves, and grandma a feathered pillbox hat. At least the daughter looks comfortable – chances are that when she grew up and took her own family on vacations, her own dress was a bit more casual than her parents’.
And for those who keep track of such things, Valley Forge appeared in a great variety of ads in the middle 20th century, from cars to motor oil to whiskey. But of all of these, the family with the rented Fairlane is my favorite.
Other installments in the Auto-Related Travel Ads series: