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The greatest car adverts – 12 of the most memorable TV ads

The greatest car adverts – 12 of the most memorable TV ads Classic and Performance Car

Car adverts are often easily forgotten, cringe-worthy or just plain bad. But, they are brilliant on occasion. Here are some of the greatest.

Television adverts tend to catchy, if low budget affairs that are inserted in between viewings of soap operas and reality TV programs. Every now and then however, an ad comes along that can make us really pay attention – and when there’s a car involved, we might even forget whatever we were watching in the first place.
Just how many cars these ads actually sell is always up for debate, but the best ones are remembered long after the cars they feature have disappeared from our roads. We’ve selected a number of examples from the 1970s right through to the modern day. Let us know your personal favourites in the comments. 

Ford Puma – Bullitt 

Piloted by the king of cool himself, Steve McQueen, the Bullitt car chase has gone down in automotive history as one of the greatest. So, when Ford released an ad in 1997 mimicking that unforgettable chase – they swapped out the iconic green Mustang GT390 for a Puma. It was an instant hit, and although the clever video effects look slightly crude today, it’s a reminder of just how great the Puma looked back in 1997. Despite lacking a stonking V8, the sporty Puma had one of the best chassis around at the time, which would have kept it in touch with any American muscle around San Francisco’s undulating roads.

Renault Clio – Papa/Nicole


Promoting the new Clio range, the ‘Papa Nicole’ series of ads became a minor sensation in the UK during the 1990s. You would have been hard pressed to find someone who hadn’t seen at least one Ad on TV. The cars weren’t half bad either, especially the 150bhp Clio Williams, which was the forerunner of the hugely successful RS off-shoots. In all, eight episodes were made and they are still fun to watch today. 

Fiat Strada – Hand built by robots


The Fiat Strada may not have become the world beating 124 replacement that Fiat was hoping for, but the 1979 advert that introduced it to the world was a cut above the rest. Quirky styling and peppy performance from the range-toppers couldn’t save the Strada from slowly fading into obscurity, no doubt aided by its propensity to rust. Thankfully the advert is there for all to enjoy in full 1970s grainy resolution.

Honda – The Impossible Dream


Following an unshaven lip-synching man as he drives, rides and pilots his way around the world may not immediately sound like a successful formula, but when it is in a selection of Honda’s most memorable creations filmed in such a masterful way, it draws you right in. This is just one of a number of great ads depicting the culture of Honda and the passion they have for their craft. 

Honda – Cogs 

Another Honda classic. You might not remember the Accord all that well, but this clever ad campaign highlighted everything there is to love about Honda. It took a lot of takes, but the ad was all filmed using actual parts from the car. 

Audi R8 V10 – V10 pure sound

Sometimes less can be more when you are promoting a product as desirable and emotive as an Audi R8 V10. Focusing on its one most outstanding attribute could be just the thing. For this one you owe it to yourself and your co-workers to play the link below at the loudest volume on the best speakers you have access to.  

Citroen CX – Grace Jones

If you have ever seen Citroen’s CX advert from 1985, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever forget it. Calling it odd would be an understatement. What’s it about? If we had to explain it, we’d guess that Grace Jones is a sort of gigantic robotic garage for a Citroen CX, which she spits out into the desert for a quick understeery spin. One thing’s for sure, only the French could have created something like this! It is an absolute must see.

VW Passat – The Force

Drawing on the popular Star Wars franchise, and some childhood nostalgia, VW gave us an ad that became an overnight sensation. Airing at the 2011 Superbowl it quickly went viral and became the second most watched television advert in history. Such was its popularity that VW themselves tried to re-capture it’s magic in their subsequent adverts. Here is the original and best.

BMW E39 M5 – land speed record camera car 

Launched in 1999, the 400bhp V8 powered M5 was the fastest accelerating four-door saloon on sale. What better way to demonstrate this fact than with a tongue-in-cheek advert showing it being used as a camera car for a land speed record attempt. It set into motion the German horsepower race that continues to this day, so let’s ignore the fact that production models were limited to 155mph...

Porsche 911 – Daydreaming

A number of great Porsche adverts have been produced over the years but this one stands out as one of the very best. It may have been filmed for the American market but its message is universal and appeals to anyone with some petrol in their veins. If you have ever had a yearning to own a 911 then this one is for you.

Audi 100 Quattro – Ski slope

Back in the 1980s, Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system was big news, especially for a generation who had grown up sliding sideways in rear-wheel drive cars whenever it snowed. Seeing a family saloon accomplish what this Audi 100 did in this 1985 ad must have been quite something. How it got back down again was never shown...

Ferrari, Formula 1 and Shell

Ferrari’s long running association with Shell and Formula 1 were documented in this soul stirringly good ad featuring some of their most memorable F1 cars racing through the streets. If the sound alone does not make you want head out for a drive, then you may need to get your pulse checked. 

Not quite an advert...

BMW – The Driver Series 

While a number of these ads approach movie-like production levels, BMW went one step further with their efforts and actually produced a series of eight short films in the early 2000s to promote their product range. Featuring Clive Owen as ‘The Driver’ and A-list directors such as Ang Lee and Guy Ritchie, these shorts were highly ambitious and on the whole rather good. The inclusion of celebrities like Madonna and James Brown didn’t hurt either. With a reboot of ‘The Escape’ recently completed (www.bmwfilms.com), there could be more to come.

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