American Automobile Advertising, 1930–1980

An Illustrated History

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About the Book

This book provides a comprehensive history of American print automobile advertising over a half-century span, beginning with the entrenchment of the “Big Three” automakers during the Depression and concluding with the fuel crises of the 1970s and early 1980s.
Advances in general advertising layouts and graphics are discussed in Part One, together with the ways in which styling, mechanical improvements, and convenience features were highlighted. Part Two explores ads that were concerned less with the attributes of the cars themselves than with shaping the way consumers would perceive and identify with them. Part Three addresses ads oriented toward the practical aspects of automobile ownership, concluding with an account of how advertising responded to the advance of imported cars after World War II. Illustrations include more than 250 automobile advertisements, the majority of which have not been seen in print since their original publication.

About the Author(s)

Heon Stevenson has written for several classic car magazines, including Classic American, and has also written extensively on advertising and automotive history. He is a member of the Society of Automotive Historians and a Friend of the History of Advertising Trust. He lives in Cambridge, England.

Bibliographic Details

Heon Stevenson
Format: hardcover (8.5 x 11)
Pages: 294
Bibliographic Info: 282 photos (21 in color), notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2008
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3685-9
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5231-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii

Preface      1

Part One: Fueling a Fantasy      3

1. Igniting Desire      3

2. Fantasy by Design      29

3. “There’s Added Joy in Added Cylinders”      58

4. Pushbuttons and Plastic Tops      74

Part Two: Beyond Mechanism      81

5. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have an Escape Machine?”      81

6. A Neurosis Unleashed      90

7. “Plymouth—The Car That Likes to be Compared”      105

Between pages 118 and 119 are 16 color plates with 21 images

8. The Objectivity Factor      119

9. “Remember How You Hungered for It?”      129

10. “There’s a Ford in Your Future”      136

11. “Lady, Relax!”      145

Part Three: Reality Supervenes      161

12. Justifying the Indulgence      161

13. The Sybarite’s Progress      172

14. “Get More ‘GO’ From Every Gallon!”      182

15. Padding and Prejudice      189

16. From Utility to Suburban Chic      199

17. Back to Basics      214

18. Fantasy Under Siege      222

Overview and Conclusion      240

Collector’s Note      247

Notes.      251

Bibliography      255

Index      259

Book Reviews & Awards

“well-written and illustrated…highly recommended”—Choice; “highly informational text is the star here, no surprise considering that the book’s publishers are famous for their reference and academic books…fascinating…this book will enhance its reader’s understanding of the tenuous dance that occurred between consumers and automakers in the automobile’s golden age”—Hemmings Motor News; “very well-researched, organized, and written. Well-illustrated…highly recommended…a very interesting read and is a substantial contribution to automotive literature”—Mercedes-Benz Club of America; “excellently written, impeccably researched and thoroughly engaging…excellent analysis”—Classic American; “well researched, heavily illustrated book…an excellent read”—Cars & Parts.