Print ads were still a great way to reach an audience during the 1980s, so naturally Car and Driver’s New Car Issues–Domestics in October 1986 and Japanese Imports in November 1986–were filled to the brim with advertising. Put on your Ray-Bans and talk a walk back down memory lane to see how marketers were wooing car enthusiasts.
Let’s start with the October 1986 issue of Car and Driver.
FoMoCo was trying sooooo hard with this car, though their first, best step might have been to call it something other than a Merkur, which nobody could even pronounce. I wonder how many people actually sent away for the Road Test Challenge kit?
Automobile Quarterly was a beautiful hard-bound book filled with useful information and glorious photography, as it should have been for $49.95 ($110 adjusted!). That one year subscription would have provided a grand total of four issues/books, so quite pricey though quite nice.
All the quality advertising in the world will never be able to compete with positive word-of-mouth from satisfied owners. Honda, Toyota and Nissan let their customers do the talking about quality, making the claims far more personal and believable to prospective buyers.
Who would have dreamed back in 1986 that Buick’s blasted Graphic Control Center–so thoroughly criticized at the time for being slow and hard to use–would wind up becoming the automotive ideal thirty years later. Let’s see: unresponsive touchscreen? Check. Confusing sub-menus? Got ’em! Worse ergonomics than conventional buttons? You bet! And yes, cameras would replace good sight-lines and plenty of glass as the way that modern drivers “see” things outside the car.
Franklin Mint was noted for crafting beautiful 1:24 scale models for car connoisseurs. The $120 price for this 1907 Rolls-Royce model would equate to $264 adjusted for inflation. Better keep this baby under glass!
Apparently, Nissan liked the back cover position–great for visibility if the magazine was lying cover-down on a coffee table…
Moving on to the November 1986 issue of Car and Driver, kicking off with a large Ford Motor Company fold-out behind the front cover.
After running a 2-page spread ad in the October issue of Car and Driver, Acura was back bigger and better with an even larger 4-page unit in the November issue.
I miss the days of Precision Crafted Performance at Acura! Though Acura today is about as exciting as oatmeal, there was a lot of buzz and energy around this brand when it was first introduced. Think of the impact this car had on the marketplace in 1987: the Legend was superior to anything on offer from American brands, and it was priced significantly lower than the premium European brands. The Japanese onslaught into the more profitable luxury market was charging full steam ahead.
Hyundai also had an enormous impact on the U.S. market when it was introduced. This audacious ad aggressively touted Hyundai’s low price and ample standard features. Hyundai would go on to sell 264,357 cars in the U.S. for 1987, an increase of 57% over 1986. Of course, the Korean brand’s reputation for terrible quality would soon emerge, and it would take the company decades to fully recover.
This was a car for the few indeed: scant numbers of U.S. buyers could be convinced to bring this thing home. To me, the Milano could well be the worst looking Alfa ever made. Must have been an acquired taste.
Bad Buick advertising is not just a current phenomenon… “Where better really matters”?!?!
This had to have been one of the earliest versions of the Certified Pre-Owned program. Given Jaguar’s lingering reputation for poor quality, it was a smart idea to offer this sort of extended warranty to help used car sales and residual values.
Could an ad look any more 1980s than this?
Nissan was back on the back cover for November, this time with the 200SX.
Whew! That was a lot of ads. Are you ready to buy?