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Adverts of the Week - Wolseley

What a magnificent car’, the three business-like gentlemen seem to be saying. ‘We like the cut of the owner’s jib for anyone who appreciates the 6/99 is clearly a chap amongst chaps. He obviously deserves a seat on the Board of Directors and 5,000 guineas per year’.

The PR material for one of Britain’s oldest motor manufacturers was often populated by such figures, several of them invariably smoking a pipe and many clearly on the verge of doffing their hat at the very sight of a new Wolseley. 


Respectability’ was a constant keynote with Wolseley’s publicity and the occupants of this maroon 6/90 (one of my top ten favourite cars of all time - not that I am biased) would look downright smug in many other vehicles. However, they just are secure in the knowledge that this is a car for ‘very particular people’ and any bank manager or senior solicitor thinking of trading in their Rover P4 75 would have been lured by the promise that with a Wolseley you were in ‘distinguished company’. The overall impact of the advert for the smaller 4/44 is not quite as impressive, partly because the illustration does not reflect Gerald Palmer’s well-proportioned lines but mainly because it is accompanied by some abysmal punning.

Aspiring to own any Wolseley in the 1950s and 1960s included dreaming of an entrée to a new world of Rotary club dinners and gin and limes at the local tennis club. A duotone green 1500 is seen as the ideal vehicle for the sort of well-groomed couple with a mortgage on a link-detached villa near Winchester and an account at Bourne and Hollingsworth department store. The sales copy for the 15/60 set out to reassure potential buyers that even though the Pininfarina styling was a genuinely radical departure for BMC this was still a ‘true Wolseley’ beneath those flamboyant tailfins.


The same applied to the Mini-derived Hornet and the suave fellows here look utterly gleeful at the prospect of driving a car with leather seats as standard while the young lady at the top of the frame seems positively ecstatic. Meanwhile, an Enid Blyton style family crowd around a blue Hornet as they congratulate Daddy on his newly enhanced social status. The walnut veneer instrument nacelle was one of its main selling points, elevating the Wolseley above Morris and Austin Minis although it is strangely absent from this airbrushed rendition of the interior. You just know that the young Hyacinth Bouquet dreamed of owning a new Hornet.

As the 1960s progressed, BMC assured all decent and sensible drivers that a two-toned Wolseley 1100 will insulate you from mods, loud music from The Kinks, those new-fangled road signs and all the other challenges of everyday life in 1966 for just £767 9s 10d.  Four years later, there was a surprisingly low-key approach to selling the 18/85S, as this was a veritable Triumph 2000 rival. The final car to bear the famous illuminated ghost light was the 1975 ’2200’, which makes the background of a setting sun rather sadly appropriate.  Car magazine thought it ‘good enough to make you realise that at almost every set of traffic lights you are surrounded by inferior products’ and the marketing is clearly positioning the last Wolseley as an Audi/BMW alternative.

And, of course, no feature on Wolseley advertising would be complete without a mention of the role that the marque will always be associated with  ‘Already used by 23 constabularies’ proudly boasted BMC, for teddy boys, spivs and various ne'er-do-wells would find no hiding place from the long of the low in their black 6/90.


‘Over and out’.



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