Top Ten Best Car Ads Of The 1980s

Image for article titled Top Ten Best Car Ads Of The 1980s

In hindsight, we needn't have bothered with a poll in yesterday's Top Ten Best Car Ads Of The 1970s, because Ricardo Montalban's Corinthian Leather tour de force obliterated the other nine competitors with a 56% share of the total vote (the Top Ten Best Car Ads Of The 1960s vote was much closer, with the winner taking a mere 18% of the total). Now we're moving up to the decade of leg warmers, Iran-Contra, and electronic fuel injection: the 1980s! The Berlin Wall came down, the incidence of herpes went up, and we're celebrating all of it with today's choices. The 80s (which we like to refer to as the Turbo Mullet Era) produced some incredible car commercials; we're betting you'll have a harder time choosing your favorite than you did yesterday. Make the jump to see what we mean!


10: 1981 De Lorean DMC-12 Before the DMC-12 became a joke, thanks largely to a starring role in a trio of megahit movies, the stainless-steel-bodied, Northern Ireland-built car was considered a revolutionary machine. Sure, maybe John Z. shouldn't have attempted a white-powder route to financial solvency, and perhaps the horrific build quality of the DMC-12 was a black eye... but watch this ad and try to feel the optimism!

9: 1980 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am Cool as the concept was, installing a Quadrajet-fed turbocharger on the fragile Pontiac 301 V8 didn't work so well in practice. However, the Turbo Trans Am ushered in the Turbo Mullet Era, and for that we should be grateful.

8: Renault 5 Disco was still relevant in the early part of the 80s, but the sexy boiler suits and weird, brightly-colored graphics we generally associate with the later part of the decade can be seen in this UK-market ad for the car we North Americans knew as the Renault Le Car.

7: 1986 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z There's some speculation that Rob Halford is the guy flying the helicopter in this super-macho ad for perhaps one of the most 80s cars ever built. We can't be sure whether that's Rob, but we are sure that even the Camaro's target demographic might have detected a spark of manly lust between the protagonists of this little below-the-55-speed-limit drama.

6: 1984 Chrysler Laser Turbo When Darth Vader tells you it's time to buy a turbocharged Chrysler K car, you listen! Yes, Chrysler hired James Earl Jones himself to do the voiceover on this ad, then turned their low-bidder special-effects crew loose on some of the cheesiest whiz-bang graphics imaginable.

5: 1981 Datsuns This ad is just plain scary. A man who appears to be a UFO cult leader brings five of his prettiest acolytes into a Datsun dealership, where he purchases a 210, a 310, a 510, an 810, and a 280ZX. Don't stare into their eyes, lest you wake up getting probed by the Greys.

4: 1988 Porsche 944 Turbo The word Turbo was pure magic back in the 80s, but many turbocharged cars of the era didn't have the power to match the hype. Not so with the Porsche 944 Turbo, which put up performance numbers that still look pretty good today.

3: Citroën CX Grace Jones drives a Citroën CX out of her own head, yells at the camera, then turns around and drives back into her head. We cannot explain why, but we totally want a Citroën now.

2: 1985 Plymouth Duster This is the legendary "Cocaine Factory" Duster ad, broadcast during the first-ever MTV Music Awards. While the Duster name died with a whimper, this ad will live on forever as a showcase of every single 80s cliche ever put on film.

1: 1980 Datsun 280ZX 10th Anniversary Edition We've had some tough contenders for the prize of Best 80s Car Commercial, but do they have what it takes to go toe-to-toe with the Black Gold 280ZX Guy? The Disco Era may well have reached its peak in 1980, and the sheer Quaaludes-and-spirochetes awesomeness of Black Gold certainly represents some sort of cultural high-water mark.


Rob Emslie

Man, the '80s ruled. All the women had huge hair and tight skirts. All cars rode to a kickin' beat and even androgynous white guys could dance up a storm.

I don't remember the '80s as being quite so effervescently fun-filled, but then that was when I started my love affair with Al- Alcohol that is.