My Car Quest

July 22, 2024

When Automotive Advertising Became Real

…for one brief shining moment…

by Wallace Wyss –

OK I’ll admit it. I was part and parcel of it in the beginning, back in the mid-‘60s, writing ads that gave scant attention to the mechanicals of a new car, trying to sell a car on the fact that it was beautiful, or spacious or, hey, implying that ‘buy one of these and you can live in a nice house like this’ (I still remember the ’62 Thunderbird Sports Roadster ad that showed the car parked next to a nice stone fence, and the implication was, buy a car like this and this is where you deserve to live).

Shelby GT 350 Advertisement

Then Peter Brock came along. Yes, the same barefoot-boy-with-cheek, Pete Brock who was first a driving instructor for Carroll Shelby at the Carroll Shelby School of High Perofrmance, then a t-shirt designer, and eventually car designer (Cobra Daytona coupe). But he also had a hand in laying out the ads and maybe even writing the words.

And I have to say his jus-plain-folks approach had reverberations throughout the ad industry, at least in so far as telling more about the car’s mechanicals in the case of muscle cars. I mean the purity of Brock’s ads is that there is no reference to beauty, no nice house in the background, no pretty girls, just the hard facts on the mechanical bits.

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And it was refreshing.

I think it was after that I wrote some similar Chevy ads, like one for a 396-engined car and called it “The Toughest Block on the block” and indeed it was. But I didn’t get into the detail of the Brock-created Shelby ads.

Sadly, Brock left Shelby’s employ just about the time the more sophisticated GT40s came in. He told me himself that “the Shelby employees looked at the guys coming in from Detroit to work on the GT40 as the enemy.” So the result was that J. Walter Thompson, the huge ad agency, started doing Shelby ads and wouldn’t cha know, they were back to the vague generalities and pretty houses and beautiful women.

Shelby GT 350 Advertisement

Maybe Pete Brock’s approach wouldn’t work anymore. It’s too honest. Just specs. and nothing else. Who needs wordsmiths for chrissakes? (Or am I talking myself out of a job?)

But I wanted to present these two ads, and the cutaway ad, to show that, damn it, when you are selling mechanical things to mechanically-minded people why not go heavy on the specs?

We don’t need to be razzmatazzed (Hey, I made that word up…but it fits).

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss was a copywriter for three agencies. He currently wears a fine art hat, for a list of Shelby-related prints, write


Shelby GT 350 Advertisement

When Automotive Advertising Became Real
Article Name
When Automotive Advertising Became Real
Maybe Peter Brock’s approach to advertising writing wouldn’t work anymore. It’s too honest. Just specs. and nothing else.

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