When was the last time you watched a car advert on TV and gigged with delight, sat on the edge of your seat with nerves or dropped your jaw in awe?
Many advertisements have managed to do that in the past, and in their honour we’ve created a roundup of some of the best TV car ads ever shown in the UK.
Of course, the list could continue … share your own favourites in the comments.
Montego 1.6L tackles a car park
Drop Austin from the name and give it a peppy engine that puts the Ford Sierra and Vauxhall Cavalier to shame, and the Montego becomes cool. That was the idea, anyway, and to get the message across a number of in-your-face print and TV adverts were created to get the message across.
Whether viewers remembered the car’s features, such as the five-speed gearbox and “slide-and-tilt suroof”, or simply the imagery of stuntman Russ Swift driving it on two wheels and sliding it into a parking space, is another matter. But it is certainly memorable — particularly the final gag.
Honda was on a roll with car adverts in the early 2000s, thanks to UK creative agency Wieden+Kennedy; a number of celebrated TV spots positioned the brand as the leader in technology and innovation, while making it desirable, too.
The “Cog” ad promoted the idea of Honda quality as much as the car in question — the Accord Tourer — with the tagline, “Isn’t it nice when things just work?” To show that, the car’s components were turned into a vehicular Rube Goldberg machine, and the result is mesmerising.
It’s so impressive that many people thought it was faked, but other than filming in two parts with an edit to link them together (due to space in the studio), it was all shot “in camera” with no CGI. That includes the wheels, which were made to travel uphill thanks to counterweights. All you need is a massive creative and engineering team, four months and 600 takes. Simple.
Land Rover drives up a dam
If you’re selling the idea that your car can go anywhere, obviously you want to wow potential buyers by showing it going where no other vehicle would dare. Up the side of a dam is one of the most daring and visually arresting locations ever conceived, and certainly conveys the idea that, “Nothing — but nothing — gets in the way of a Land Rover.”
It was such a great stunt that Richard Hammond attempted to do the same thing with one of the last “old” Defenders on Top Gear, though as he discovered it’s not quite a simple as firing a hook over the top and starting the winch — there were many protocols that had to be followed to make it work … and vaguely safe.
And once Hammond got to the top, he had to be lowered back down again due to the way the cable was hooked up. The original advert didn’t let such logistical issues get in the way of a good narrative.
Triumph TR-6: Don’t test it this way
Humour, excitement, a quintessentially English voiceover … this effort for the TR-6 has all the elements of a great British car advert. The stunts may seem a little tame by today’s standards but they will have been pretty eye-opening for its day.
It also manages to get across quite a few of the car’s standout features, including the disk brakes and independent front suspension. In fact, we’re now hankering after a TR-6 ourselves.
Going through changes with the VW Golf
Directed by legendary British photographer David Bailey, this advert for the VW Golf shows a woman walking out of a house — and clearly a relationship. She discards her ring and fur coat but decides to hold on to the key to the VW Golf.
It was heralded as the old-school advertising industry getting onboard with feminism, though of course the aim will have been to try to sell more Golfs to women. Either way, it’s a remarkably poignant and effective ad spot.
- After this list of five of the best TV car adverts shown in the UK, you might want to check out the five best car adverts from the Super Bowl in 2021
- Patent to beam adverts into cars ‘worrying’, according to safety expert
- Audi apologises for ‘insensitive’ RS4 advert
- Goodwood announces ‘landmark moment’ in motorsport with comprehensive use of sustainable fuels for the 2024 Revival
- Dacia Duster redesigned for 2024 launch with rugged look and first use of hybrid power
- Bracelet made from an old F1 tyre used by Michael Schumacher could fetch upwards of £20,000
- Formula One 2023 season review: What happened in every race of the year leading to Red Bull’s dominance?
- F1 points table 2023: Which driver and team won the world championship?
- Automotive business leaders welcome £4bn Advanced Manufacturing Plan from UK government
- Nissan to build battery plant and three new electric cars at Sunderland factory
- Former Aston and Jaguar design chief unveils futuristic Skye ATV electric off-roader
- JLR offers free security upgrade to tackle high proportion of Land Rover thefts