One thing was new this year concerning the Super Bowl commercials - lots of car ads. From Eminem's spectacular three-minute long Motor City Chrysler ad to the continuing and impressive voiceover of actor Jeff Bridges for Hyundai, celebrity car ads were back in full force.
One thing was new this year concerning the Super Bowl commercials - lots of car ads.
From Eminem's spectacular three-minute long Motor City Chrysler ad to the continuing and impressive voiceover of actor Jeff Bridges for Hyundai, celebrity car ads were back in full force.
However, celebrity car endorsements aren't new, especially to us baby boomers and older. Perhaps the most remembered celebrity endorsement for an automobile was the beloved Dinah Shore, whose "See the USA in a Chevrolet" became an overnight sensation for car promotion back in the early ’50s.
When you look further into endorsements, you'll find some famous legends, from Snoop Dog's Chrysler golfing commercial with Lee Iacocca to the most famous of all Chrysler pitchmen, Ricardo Montalban and his "Corinthian Leather" Chrysler Cordoba in 1975. Even Frank Sinatra appeared with Iacocca, pitching the new Imperial from 1981-1983.
Still, it was the decade of the ’50s when television found out just how powerful a medium it was for selling cars, from "The Adventures Of Superman" relying on Nash and Nash-Healy automobiles for its stars to drive to the incomparable "You Bet Your Life," where legendary Groucho Marx sold the Desoto brand on his weekly game/comedy show.
At the state fairs and smaller speedways, Joie Chitwood not only worked television commercials for Chevrolet, he was under contract to use the new Chevrolets in his popular "Thrill Show," where stunt drivers would entertain millions with perfectly choreographed driving skills and death-defying crashes. The branding, however, was 100 percent Chevrolet, although Chitwood did use Ford cars prior to his Chevy deal in the mid-’50s.
The car and truck celebrity endorsement list is a long one, with present and not-too-long-ago celebrities like Sam Elliott (Dodge Ram), Kate Walsh (Cadillac), Justin Timberlake (Audi), Jill Wagner (Mercury) and even Bob Dylan (Cadillac) all taking part.
Out of the past, Celine Dion (Chrysler), Richard Thomas (Mercedes-Benz) and Howie Long (Ford) come quick to mind, as does Phil Mickelson (Ford), Jackie Stewart (race driver for Ford) and Tiger Woods (Buick).
Sometimes being in a car ad serves as a catapult for more celebrity status. Jon Reep was a fairly well-known stand-up comedian and actor, but nothing like the stardom he would receive after being the "Hey, that thing got a Hemi?" character. As for Farrah Fawcett, her 1975 Mercury Cougar ads are still talked of to this day.
And the list goes on. If I missed your favorite, send them in and I'll compile a list and report back with the most popular car or truck pitchman of all time.
Greg Zyla writes a weekly nostalgic and collector car column for GateHouse Media and welcomes your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, Pa. 18840.