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Muscle Car Ads That Raised a Few Eyebrows

The Horsepower Wars during the 1960s and early 1970s produced some of the finest muscle cars ever created. And, at times, the Big Three used some pretty risqué means to promote them. Sex sells and car manufacturers, along with their ad agencies, used sexual imagery quite prolifically to attract attention to their racy advertising. Horsepower and flash were also used by car makers to entice the buying public into their showrooms. Bad driving habits were cleverly disguised in both imagery and text. Turn back the clock with us as we look back at some of the ads that raised a few eyebrows in the world of muscle car advertising.

The second generation Dodge Charger was a hit with buyers and Dodge promoted it quite heavily. One ad that struck a nerve with the fun police featured Ralph with his white 1969 Dodge Charger R/T. Seems Ralph’s new girlfriend feels second fiddle up against Ralph’s new love. At least Ralph lets her pick out the music and clean the bucket seats. Clad in a short skirt and blue jacket, she laments her situation isn’t all that bad.

Another 1969 Dodge Charger R/T ad that raised a stink with the censors introduced Julia. Her mother told her to beware of guys driving around in tough-looking muscle cars. Dressed in a low-cut short skirt, Julia states it takes more than a fast car to get her attention. Julia just needs to come clean and admit she’s caught Dodge fever.  

The 1970 Dodge Challenger knows how to treat a lady. Just feature her scantily clad posing with a Plum Crazy hardtop. As sexist as this ad may be, it appears Dodge was seriously trying to appeal to women. Yes ladies, you can own a muscle car that’s sporty, yet practical and thrifty at the same time. You could be Dodge material.

This ad for a 1968 Pontiac GTO looks innocent enough. But don’t be fooled. The driver isn’t pulled over to get his Rolling Stones 8-track out of the glove box. He’s looking for a challenger to drag race. Woodward Avenue in Detroit was known by the locals as the place for street racing back in the 1960s and 1970s. Members of city councils of towns along Woodward Avenue saw the ad and voiced their displeasure to General Motors. The councils felt the ad promoted drag racing and feared the ad would make the problem worse. To appease the council, GM conceded and pulled the ad. Like Paul Harvey used to say, “Now you know the rest of the story.”

Word is that judges around the country weren’t too thrilled about the tag line this 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge ad. Oh well, the verdict was unanimous. The Judge was a hit with just over 6,800 being sold its inaugural year.

A television ad that got Pontiac in hot water aired during the 1970 Super Bowl. The commercial highlights the Vacuum Operated Exhaust (VOE) option that was available for the 1970 GTO. This feature allowed the driver to open up baffles in the exhaust that reduced back pressure and increased performance when a knob under the dash was pulled. General Motors’ management saw the commercial and had the VOE pulled from the option list shortly after the commercial aired. This was due to increasing restrictions on emissions and noise levels being mandated by Uncle Sam. GM also did not allow the commercial to be shown again.

The Chevrolet SSR was part pickup, part roadster. During the 2004 Super Bowl, Chevrolet aired an ad featuring adolescent children seeing the SSR for the first time. Their foul-mouthed reactions result may have been humorous to the viewer, but to the childrens’ parents, the behavior was a tad inexcusable. As punishment, the old-fashioned penance of washing out the mouth with soap was administered.

This ad for the 1966 Ford Mustang may tout the benefits of the six-cylinder, but let’s be honest, it has something of a double meaning. The sexual revolution of the 1960s brought about loosened mindsets about sex and ethics. And this ad is a something of a double entendre, where a word or phrase has two meanings or could be understood in two different ways.

Ford came under fire from the British ASA for a Mustang ad that supposedly promoted unsafe driving. The television commercial starts with a reading of the Dylan Thomas poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”. As the commercial progresses, we see stressed out and disgruntled workers going about their day fed up with their work situations. The ASA banned the ad and ruled the ad’s message was in order to relieve stress, workers should vent their frustrations through driving.

Digital marketing professionals estimate that the majority of Americans are subjected to 4,000 to 10,000 ads every day. With that amount of exposure, grabbing the viewer’s attention is imperative. Advertisements that promote sex, stir our senses, or appeal to our sense of belonging seem to gather lots of attention. It’s also been said that an ad must grab the viewer’s attention in the first three seconds to be effective. Thanks for checking out some of our favorite muscle car ads that made the censors raise an eyebrow or two.

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