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The Five Worst TV & Film Car Commercials Of All Time

Written by Andy Roberts

As film and television historian (my ‘day’ job), it has been a pleasure to endure some of the most endearingly poor advertisements for cars of the past sixty years. Here are five of my favourites:


1977 -  Chrysler Sunbeam

I am not just including this particular advert because it makes me feel exceedingly old -  I can remember when it was first aired on ITV on the 23rd July 1977 – but because it is a masterpiece of pure ‘fromage’.  Petula Clarke is a wonderful singer but even she could do little with lyrics such as ‘It’s the car that will give you the glow that will show when you go anyplace’. The Sunbeam was a very agreeable hatchback but the best that can be said about this commercial is that it had only slightly less cheese content than a typical episode of Crossroads. But only just.


1980 - Austin Mini Metro

It is important to bear in mind that I am focusing on the advertisement rather than the actual car. The Metro was an important, and a very timely, car for the British motor industry and one with a strong classic following today – all of which makes the launch commercial all the more poignant. The flag waving, the quasi-marital music, the theme of Britain being invaded by flotillas of overseas hatchbacks all create the unfortunate subtexts that a) anyone who did not rush to their Austin-Morris dealer was a communist agent and b) BL was desperate. Alas, the latter was true but at least this commercial was an improvement.


1980 -  Morris Ital

Even at the age of 10, I found this advert compulsively hilarious. I had no strong feelings for or against what was a facelifted Marina but the overdramatic voice over, the attempts of the script to equate a new Ital with the best of Turin’s designs and the manner in which the black Morris grudgingly accelerated past a slow moving Mercedes- Benz 200 W123 was funnier than any edition of Terry & June. One can understand why this commercial had to be commissioned but one can also imagine Ford and Vauxhall dealers nearly dying with laughter


1982 - Austin-Rover ‘VFM’

Actually, this advertisement is – in its own way – quite splendid, and 2016 marketing campaigns could do far worse than to follow its example. Who needs exotic locations when all that is really necessary is a large warehouse and Patrick Mower enthusiastically shouting at the camera. You thought that Patrick looked understandably perturbed in The Devil Rides Out – well, that is nothing to the sheer drama that he brings to ‘even the new Ambassadors have added extras!’ or ‘the best reason ever to move over to Austin-Rover!’. In fact, the entire production gives me a strange urge to buy a Morris Ital 1.3 SL ‘at only £3,999!’.


1988 – Yugo 311

Finally, and to prove I do not have a vendetta against BL, a masterpiece to conjure the days when cheap local advertisements were as much a part of a night at the pictures as inedible hot dogs. Whether the commercial was for a very unfashionable eatery or a garage apparently entirely staffed by Alvin Stardust lookalikes, the venue was always ‘only five minutes from this cinema’. But compared with this 1980s gem that promotes the Yugo 311, they are Citizen Kane; note the Avant grade camera work and performances that tread that thin line between ‘mesmerising’ and ‘sub Emmerdale’.  I wonder how many Yugos were sold on the strength of this masterpiece for all of their ‘trendy white paint job!’.



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