The internet is such a great resource to find television advertisements of all vintages. So many great car commercials exist there that it’s easy to spend a whole afternoon jumping from one to another. So I’ve provided direct links to some favorites. I’m always updating this list, so check back regularly.
Some of the commercials below were funny on purpose. Some were not meant to be funny originally, but will make you laugh in retrospect. And others meant serious business. I hope you enjoy them, and if you don’t see your favorites on here there’s a very good chance you will easily find what you’re looking for.
Click on each year/model underlined in purple below to view commercials directly. This list is updated regularly and filed chronologically by year.
1955 CHEVROLET BEL AIR (1955-57 design) Life just seemed more magically wonderful during this time. Advertising narrators took their job with the seriousness of national newsreel commentators. Music had a happier tone and even the most basic features on the car had grand names.
1956 FORD THUNDERBIRD (1955-57 design) Introduces the ’56 Ford Thunderbird in front of a Greek style building with white columns. A very ‘50s-sounding narrator comments on the ‘Bird that “a classic design is ageless, it remains permanently new and exciting.” He sure got that right.
1958 PLYMOUTH FURY (1957-61 design) This is the make and model that starred in the Stephen King film “Christine”. Salesman cheerfully shows a Plymouth “value finder” comparison chart found in showrooms. But the slogan they had at the end is unforgettably good – “More car for your money today, more money for your car tomorrow”. It’s always enjoyable to see features we take for granted today treated as a big deal then…such as “full-time power steering”. I sure hope so!
196? VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE #1 Staunch, German engineers disassemble a Beetle in 40 seconds. Buyers are reassured simple engineering is better, and are encouraged to believe VW will always “carry all the parts for your car you’ll ever need”.
196? VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE #2 Demonstrates how quick and easy it is to fix a Beetle after its front fender and headlight are damaged. “Right now somewhere, somebody is driving their car into the garage”. The sped up film footage is amusing.
1961 FORD THUNDERBIRD (1961-63 design) Introduces the sleeker, Lincoln-esque T-Bird that replaces the square, unloved design of 1958-60. Features an innovative swing away steering wheel. And wow…a rearview mirror! “You can feel the eager might of the new T-Bird…”
1964 FORD MUSTANG (1964-66) “Coming just days away April 17th!” This first-run Mustang commercial introduces the brand new model during the middle of the ’64 model year. Mentions the lack of affordable sports cars in this day and accurately predicts how this car will be one that appeals to all types.
1970 DODGE CHALLENGER (1970-74 design) Jackie Gleason’s sheriff character from “Smokey & The Bandit” had to have been inspired by this commercial. A driver gets pulled over for driving what appears to be an unregistered race car by the sheriff. The driver tries to argue it’s the new production Challenger, but the sheriff isn’t convinced. As he points out the features on the car in defense, he only ends up making himself look guiltier. The video quality is poor on this one, but it’s still worth watching.
1971 VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE Features advice from Wall Street financial expert Allan D. Sutton about getting through tough times. “Buy a VW”. This commercial is so perfect for modern conditions that it could be replayed today alongside a modern, updated re-enactment with Mad Money’s Jim Cramer.
1971 FORD LTD (1969-72 design) Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling stars in this commercial. Mr. Serling points out how hard it is to find peace and quiet anywhere, even in the middle of a desert. He finally finds all the quiet he’s looking for in a ’71 LTD. Countless 1959-64 Twilight Zone episodes featured characters in desert wasteland situations, and this is a good tribute for fans of the show.
1973 VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE This ad from England features kids playing soccer commenting on various improvements on that year’s Beetle parked on the street. “So many improvements its beginning to show” is the perfect narrative. Humorous, especially as the owner of the car pulls off in it.
1974 CADILLAC MODEL RANGE (1971-76 design) This, and the next ’74 Cadillac Sedan De Ville commercials are both must see footage. The announcer’s tone of voice may be a little on the stale side, but that only contributes to the strong classic appeal of both of these. As befitting to a luxury car, conservative music and vehicle attributes are stressed providing a bit of kitch for enjoyment now. Eldorado, Fleetwood and Coupe De Ville models make an appearance.
1974 SEDAN DE VILLE (1971-76 design) Seeing the perfectly white, clean cement highway in the commercial will bring you back in time – most cement roads around us were built in the 1970s and it’s been thirty years since any of them were this clean.
1974 FORD LTD COUNTRY SQUIRE WAGON (1973-78 design) I had one of these growing up, and this design run made the car such an American icon that I feel it cannot be left out. A very sober, family-oriented pitch is delivered from a little league coach here.
1975 CHRYSLER CORDOBA (1975-79 design) Actor Ricardo Montalban may be most remembered for his role in these commercials speaking of optional “corinthian leather”. The commercial has background music that inspires false imagery of Spain, bullfighters, and gold coins from lost cities. “I could ask for nothing beyond the quality of Cordoba’s workmanship, the tastefulness of its appearance…” – priceless!
1976 VOLKSWAGEN MICROBUS (1968-79 design) Portrays Dr. Frankenstein and entourage of monsters in the process of escaping from an angry mob attacking their castle. “If you’ve created a rather large family, and have an awful lot to carry ..and you want to get away from it all, chances are a conventional station wagon won’t be large enough.” After packing up the Bus frantically and jumping in, the good Doctor and monsters all get away just in time. Very funny.
1977 LINCOLN MARK V (1977-79 design) The distinctive, curmudgeonly voice of actor John Houseman narrates this commercial from Autumn 1976 introducing the Mark V at the New York Museum of Modern Art. The way he emphasizes “Mark FIVE” twice is trademark Houseman. Note the vehicle shown in this “modern art” theme is not equipped with vinyl roofs that 99% of Mark Vs featured.
1977 CHEVROLET CAPRICE (1977-90 design) Good, serious commercial featuring a young Jerry Orbach demonstrating how the downsized, new-for- ’77 Caprice has five more cubic feet of interior room than older Ford LTDs (see directly below) and Dodges that wouldn’t see similar redesigns for another two years. This body style proved so popular it ran virtually unchanged through the 1990 model year.
1977 FORD LTD (1973-78 design) News anchor Hugh Downs hosts this commercial and pitches a rebuttal to the downsized-for-’77 General Motors full-size cars against the (still XL sized) Ford LTD. Fans of traditional big cars were put on notice that the LTD now offered the same length and wheelbase as the reduced Cadillac Fleetwood while being priced the same as the even smaller Chevrolet Caprice.
1977 PONTIAC GRAND PRIX (1973-77 design) I was always a big fan of mid-size Pontiacs from the 1970s, and wondered why the V-shaped hood design was not retained. “Some say it’s the most beautiful car in America…it’s already inspiring legends.” Hard to tell what the price shown at the end is about though.
1977 FORD THUNDERBIRD (1977-79 design) – This introduces the moderately downsized T-Bird that began its twenty-year brotherhood with the Mercury Cougar platform. One listen will bring back memories of the announcer’s voice that did all Ford commercials of this vintage. I enjoyed the theme of the car taking off, flying, and landing with applicable sales pitching details. Does anyone else remember seeing the “O” in Ford spelled with a light bulb like I do? “When America needs a better idea, Ford puts it on wheels” slogan was a good one. This one is worth watching for nostalgia.
1978 AMC PACER – A funny comparison to other competitors. American Motors knew the Pacer was a bit eccentric, and they seem to put a positive spin on that fact. For example, to point out its width, a Chevy Nova is driven inside a hollowed out Pacer shell. It fits! And who knew the passenger side door was longer than the driver side on these cars.
1978 MERCURY COUGAR (1977-79 design) One our favorite car commercials ever. Featuring Cheryl Tiegs, disco, a pimp-tight ride with whitewalls, and a wild jungle cat the car was known for…advertising simply does not get better than this!
1978 PLYMOUTH VOLARE (1976-80 design) Shows a guy cruising with his fishing buddies answering poignant questions of the day about how much he’s given up buying a Volare wagon. Even though the “Volare” song is not featured this is still one of the better Volare commercials.
1980 CHEVY TRUCKS (1973-87 pickups, 1973-91 Suburbans + Blazers). “Saturday night beautiful, Monday morning tough” theme is backed up with slices of life trucks endure, and country music. Strong Americana value, as ’73 GM trucks defined the basic look of all American pickups for the following twenty-plus years. Although whoever put this up tagged it as 1979, these are 1980 models.
1981 VOLKSWAGEN RABBIT (1975-84 design) Basketball player Wilt Chamberlain appears and answers the question what does he see in a Rabbit? “Me”. I had a Rabbit in the ‘80s and seeing this one with the same turbine blade wheel covers mine had really took me back. While I don’t often see Rabbits on the road anymore in the Northeast, it’s been an even longer time since I saw one with hubcaps intact.
1981 CHRYSLER IMPERIAL “Frank Sinatra edition” (1981-83 design). During this time, Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca was struggling to keep Chrysler out of bankruptcy by lobbying the government for a bailout. Frank Sinatra was so inspired by his fellow Italian’s heroic mission, he volunteered to be in advertisements with Iacocca at no charge for the sake of the company. They appeared together in a commercial introducing the new-for-’81 Imperial. “Frank Sinatra” packages were offered for 1981-82. I could not locate that commercial, but this is the next best thing featuring Sinatra singing “It’s Time”… for Imperial. Even though the Imperial is based on a Cordoba body frame and borrowed all its styling from Lincolns and the ’80 Cadillac Seville, it’s still a must see.
1983 MERCURY COUGAR (1983-88 design) My parents owned one and it’s sometimes hard to remember these were among the sleekest-looking cars on the road when introduced. Many 1983-88 Cougars were sold because they also did handle and perform well.
1983 HONDA PRELUDE COMMERCIAL (1983-87 design) Simply one of the best car commercials ever, with Burgess Meredith narrating. Even though the volume level is low and out of one side only, it’s still worth a watch.
1984 CHRYSLER Lee Iacocca talks directly to the American public in this one. Commercials featuring Iacocca since 1980 were received so well by viewers, he gradually became a major pitchman for the company himself. This is a great example, with Iacocca’s no-nonsense commentary about the company’s turnaround and its focus on product. “…Not bad for a company that had one foot in the grave”. It’s eerie how his message applies today more than ever, and I don’t know how much Chrysler remembered it. I always enjoyed Lee in the old commercials, when he talks it’s comfortable listening…much like hearing a favorite uncle storytelling.
1984 CHEVROLET CORVETTE (1984-96 design) I actually remember this commercial from spring of 1983 introducing the new ’84 Vette, thinking “awesome” at the time. That was the theme this commercial strove for in every angle with music, special effects, and wow features inspired by “Knight Rider” tv show. I really enjoyed finding this one, as now it seems a bit kitchier than I remember. I used to work on these at a GM dealership in the 80s, and this generation Corvette is still one of my favorites.
1984 CHRYSLER LEBARON CONVERTIBLE (1982-86 design) Ricardo Montalban continues his long reign as Chrysler’s “other” pitchman. I feel the LeBaron convertible of 1982-86 is significant because in ’82 it was one of the first two American models to re-introduce a convertible again since the ’76 Eldorado. Plus my mother also bought one new in ’86 and it’s still in the family today.
1985 CADILLAC ELDORADO (1979-85 design) This ad starts with a man in his 40s flashing back to his first summer job as a valet. Driving a then-new ’67 Eldorado, the young man dreams of owning his own. And now that day has arrived in 1985.
1985 HONDA PRELUDE COMMERCIAL (1983-87 design) Like all Honda commercials from this era, this one features the great storyteller’s voice of Burgess Meredith. The driver’s sunglasses and gloves are very Eighties.
1986 MERCEDES 190E (1984-93 design) This is an example of how serious Mercedes advertising used to be before the company shifted focus in the mid-1990s. Just about every Mercedes commercial from then shows cars tearing through wooded forests with a narrator saying their great tagline “engineered like no other car in the world”.
1986 MERCEDES 190E 2.3-16 VALVE (1984-93 design) This is a rare commercial for the limited production 4-cylinder 190E with a 16-valve cylinder head. Sold only for 1986-87 in the United States, these cars have taken on some collector interest lately.
1986 MERCEDES 300E (1986-95 design). This commercial introduces the new-for-’86 300E midsize series lineup.
1986 MAZDA RX-7 (1986-91 design). Introduces the new-for-’86 sports car. Actor James Garner was Mazda’s pitchman at the time and, as always, his style adds a bit of enjoyable dry humor.
1986 OLDSMOBILE CUTLASS SUPREME (1978-88 design) Great action scenes and angles of Cutlass Supreme driving on a beach. This ad dates back to a time when the now-defunct GM brand had some of the number-one selling models, the Cutlass Supreme being one of them.
1989 CADILLAC (all models) The first half of this video reminds viewers that “The only way to travel is Cadillac style”
1989 MERCEDES S-CLASS (1980-91 design) Skip to :40 to begin this commercial, which focuses on M-B safety advancements over the years. Great view of an S-class at the end.
1991 MERCEDES S-CLASS (1980-91 design) This commercial highlights M-B’s ASR anti-slip wheelspin traction control option which debuted as an option on 1991 models.
1997 SATURN – I enjoyed this grassroots testimonial commercial from a travelling salesman. “Chicks love it” was a great line.