VW's Ads Were Once Gloriously Delusional

Before VW's famous, understated and witty DDB ad campain from the '60s, they weren't that different from any car maker when it came to advertising. That means they didn't necessarily feel so restricted by pesky, silly ideas like "the picture of the car looks like the one you're selling." As a result, early ads were... imaginative.


I actually love these early VW ads. They used a wonderful automotive illustrator and graphic designer named Bernd Reuters, and Reuters managed to paint Volkswagens in the way that a young, confident VW might have pictured itself, until it got a shocking glimpse of its reflection in a shop window.

These are Beetles and Type II pickups and busses from a sleek, elegant world, one where everything shines like pools of mercury and all forms are sensuously elongated and wind-swept into graceful arcs.

Even working-class trucks and buses manage to become as sexy as an oiled dolphin, stretched into potent torpedoes of cargo-hauling. Hell, even that ambulance looks like a refined ground-zepplin via Reuter's talented, if a bit disingenuous, brush.


This sort of illustration is long gone from car advertising, and, while lovely, it's not hard to see why — these images just aren't what the car actually looks like. I've inset the actual vehicle on some of these samples so you can see what I mean.


They even took these liberties with the Volkswagens that were actually lovely, like the Karmann-Ghia. And, for all of them, pictures of the car were inside these brochures, so they weren't being too deceptive, and you can't argue with the attention-grabbing quality of these paintings.


Also, for you skilled metalworkers looking for an amazing project: someone should create one of these in actual metal. Get a Beetle chassis, and then try and build a body according to the inaccurate but lovely swoops and curves of a Reuters illustration. That'd be incredible.

Hey, Jonathan Ward, you mentioned wanting a Beetle project once — how about it?

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