Five of the best car TV adverts ever shown in the UK

Five of the best car TV adverts ever shown in the UK

In case you're tired of modern ad nauseam

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 “Cog”

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.

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