11 vintage Christmas car ads guaranteed to make your day merry
During the holidays, some of our fondest experiences with friends and family involve the cars of our past and present. Maybe that includes belting out your favorite carols over the radio, drifting through snow in empty school parking lots, hauling home the too-tall family Christmas tree, or surviving a death-defying trek to the in-laws’ house. All of the above elicit a myriad of reasons as to why cars and the holiday season go hand in hand. Automakers have known this for ages and take advantage of the chance to celebrate—especially if that means convincing people to splurge on a new ride.
Perhaps nothing in the automotive advertising sphere captures the spirit of the season as evocatively as these print ads of years past. This year, enjoy a walk down memory lane with these eleven festive selections.
A Cadillac couple
It’s a very Merry Christmas for this Mrs. indeed. Love is in the air. All dolled up, she’s looking every bit ready to get behind the wheel of her new red 1956 Cadillac coupe. The happy pair exudes an opulence fit for Cadillac ownership in the era of the post-World War II boom. It’s chrome and fins galore, and we’d gladly unwrap one of these over a pair of socks any year, please.
Chevrolet on Dad’s list
Dads know the drill. Every year they accept gifts with a smile while burying the disappointment of another year and another necktie. Chevrolet sought to solve this issue years ago, in 1936, when Christmas shopping probably seemed a lot simpler than staring into the gaping maw of the internet. Genuine Chevrolet accessories seen here came pre-wrapped and ready to go from the dealer, including a helpful greeting card. I hear the Super De Luxe Hot Water Heater was a mighty fine option this time of year!
A new Chrysler cat
Meeting Santa on the street is always better when you can roll up in style in a 1960 Chrysler coupe. Maybe it was the Golden Lion under the hood that caught his attention, or all the flashy emblems with enough shine to them to make Rudolph jealous. Either way, this Chrysler is letting Santa know that the whole family has been very good this year. Once he sees that new AstraDome cluster and those Swivel Seats, the sleigh will be soon headed to the shop for some, uh, modifications..
A Ford’s out front
In 1947, Ford’s rendition of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore is sweet music to a motorhead family’s ears. A cool blue night sets the scene of a small, hushed town, with an empty spot in the drive for that new Ford that the family all wants. Reflections on the ornaments place you into scenes of Ford’s state-of-the-art interiors. A nice additional touch is a key nestled on holly and waiting in the window.
So, proud as a Princess and rich as a Lord,
We glowed with our glory in having a Ford,
And thought, “When the kids start their Christmas-day hunt
For presents, they’ll find that a Ford is out Front.”
Santa hops into Hertz
Santa has his priorities in order. In this illustration by renowned illustrator John Philip Falter, the big man with the beard appears to be leaping from his sleigh in favor of a Hertz rental. It’s not just any old beater below, either, but a ’63 Chevrolet Corvette convertible, aptly finished in white with a red interior (of course). Santa’s descent looks to be a lot more graceful than the century-old rental company’s recent fall from grace into bankruptcy. You might consider the company’s comeback this October, however, to be a kind of early Christmas miracle.
Mom’s new Oldsmobile Six
In the December 1926 issue of The Ladies Home Journal, dad gave mother a gift of the most magical kind on Christmas morning. Their children rush out to the street where a new Oldsmobile Six sits parked and waiting for the family. Themes of taste and utility for the age’s archetypal American nuclear family are being sold in this one. Our favorite part is the quality of detail in the penmanship on the gift tag, a script you’ll rarely find on the tags of any gifts you’ll open nowadays.
Plymouth kids coming home
Jim’s coming home for the holidays in style this year in his own good luck charm, that red Plymouth outside the window. This illustration (circa 1947) transports you into the alluring sights, sounds, and smells of mom’s home cooking. Their holiday decor adds even more warmth to the kitchen, and oh, what a drool-inducing feast they have in store. Jim can finally relax and let someone else snag the wishbone this time—his dearest wish has already come true.
Plymouth school speeches
Here we have another gem from the minds at Plymouth, by illustrator Amos Sewell, in 1948. This little fella is having a rough go of it as he stands in front of the class and crowd, struggling to remember his lines. (We’ve all been there, sport.) It looks like it’s the end of the term at the schoolhouse when the holiday festivities are well underway. Too bad for him though, his parents brought home that new Plymouth and that’s all he can think about. Mother’s not amused, but don’t sweat it, kid. Sooner or later, you’ll find out that formal education isn’t the only road to success.
Volkswagen’s bow-topped beauty
If you’re going to receive a big empty box for Christmas, a Volkswagen bus has got to be the way to go. Taking the point further, VW claims in this ad from 1964 that one could stick a 40-foot tree through the foldable roof, or pack it in with 170 cubic feet of snow. Not that it needs any extra cooling at all, the air-cooled engine over the rear axle aids in traction, making this big rig not only stylish but sensible to take on winter trips with a human capacity of up to 9 adults. You’ll need all of them huddled in there for warmth, too, since all the hot air will escape through the roof and all of that glass.
The Christmas Beetle by Volkswagen
Beetles made the world go round. Volkswagen wasn’t kidding in this ad from 1964, when it said, “For Christmas ’64, ’65, ’66, ’67, ’68, ’69, ’70, etc.” The German giant sold millions of Bugs, which were as adorable as they were adequate and affordable for so many people—even if a Christmas wreath wasn’t included in the sale. Don’t forget, this is the little car that the snowplow man drives to the job.
Willys-Overland holiday indulgence
Featured in the December 1925 issue of The Ladies Home Journal, Willys-Overland implored readers to “Pool the Family Funds!” The ad reminds its customers that there’s no time like the present. Christmas superficialities, who needs them this year? Get an Overland Six! Willys-Overland pumps the brakes on the Roaring Twenties to focus on the family and say that consolidation is cool, especially in the form of an Overland Six delivered on Christmas morning.