Six Pieces Of Video Proof Fiat Used To Make The Most Entertaining Car Commercials
Mazda’s horribly condescending ads about the passion and soul of their regional-manager-mid-size-sedan-specials are only bested by those in Chevy’s “real people” campaign, which show precisely how air-headed they think their customer base really is by offering numerous examples of ostensibly hip people with fashionable clothes marveling at plastic dashboards because it will sync to their phones—presumably so they can belt out Katy Perry on their way toward rear-ending someone in a freak accident that was “totally, not, fair!”
It wasn’t always so bad though, and YouTube holds a lot of the good history of automotive advertising thanks to manufacturers like Fiat, who’ve shared their archives for our viewing pleasure. Any and all narration in the videos below is read in Italian of course, but there’s really no need to speak the language or look for a translation to enjoy these clips of a more triumphant time in Fiat’s history—or at least a period when they had more fun with the marketing budget. In many ways they’re exactly what you’d expect to see from the company in its late-1970s form, but between the chassis-mangling stunts and the encouragement to blow cigarette smoke straight into the headliner, I think you’ll find these vintage commercials are a comical change of pace from today’s, and a Fiat 124 jumping between rooftops sure beats the view of another computer-generated crossover driving down the PCH.
Rémy Julienne will make another appearance further down in this list, but this is my favorite of his stunts for Fiat. I assume the point of jumping a compact car along an empty carrier train is to demonstrate its robustness or dynamism—though I don’t think ad-speak had evolved/devolved to terms like that—but whatever the reasoning for this extravagant bit of dangerous driving, it’s a delight to watch today. It’s funny sure, but between the music, pacing, shot selection, and fully-compressed suspension, it’s a really well-done bit of advertising.
FIAT 127 Super
Falling squarely into the comedic side of the spectrum, I assume the thrust behind the above ad was to show how Fiat’s 127 Super was a machine to be appreciated and admired by all; whether you want to put your puppy-dog in the boot or the plastic-bagged goldfish you recently-won at the fair on the roomy dash, the car wouldn’t complain. But park one for a few minutes and you might return to find a bunch of kids accidentally putting Yo-Yo-shaped dents into it because they can’t resist playing next to it, or perhaps a professor-type sensuously running his hands over the interior fabrics as he breaks them in with a nice stinking cigar.
This one may induced some packing peanut PTSD for anyone who’s had to open an overstuffed package full of styrofoam. A Fiat full of ping pong balls opens its doors and hatch to reveal the Panda’s surprisingly sizable carrying capacity, and if you think about it in a cursory way I suppose it makes sense, but if you question it a bit more it’s kind of odd to show how big something is by showing how many tiny things you can fit into it. Questionable proportions aside though, I just hope the production assistants didn’t have to put up with more than one take of the mess-making.
So you think Ken Block was the first one to do a tight handbrake turn in a shipyard? Rémy Julienne is back in this one, and he’s got a bit more metal to toss around than he did for the train stunts above. Driving the doors off of a chunky 124 sedan, he literally outruns the competition in a series of plywood-bursting, building-hopping jumps and balletic drifts before he launches the car across the harbor onto the deck of a departing ferry. He’s really beating on these cars in a way you’d never see from today’s boring world of homogenized and safe advertising.
How would you show off a car’s durability in a minute or less? Videos of the suspension at full extension going over some rough terrain like in the case of the Panda below? Sure, you could do that, and you could also show one caked in dirt and chugging along down a harsh and barren road coated with ice. But what if you have access to a cargo plane and couple of parachutists looking for some extra work? Then you rig up a pallet for your Fiat 124, chuck it out of a plane, send a few good lads after it, and have them get in and drive it away once the gang’s all back on solid ground.
FIAT Panda 4×4
I’ve saved the longest for last, and though I’m not sure where one would’ve originally seen this commercial given its fifteen-minute runtime (it runs more like an internal information tape at points before switching back into TV-appropriate montages in between the basic engineering lessons), but if you’ve ever had a hankering for some off-road Panda action set to a synthesizer track, here’s the source. Putting aside the historical goofiness of the soundtrack and fashion choices, the funny thing about this ad is how effective it is. I trust what I’m seeing here actually happened, that the Panda could indeed traverse an unpaved mountain basin. Contemporary Jeep and its peers though? Who’s to say what’s made on a computer screen anymore?
If any of these were interesting to you, I’d encourage a look through the Centro Storico Fiat YouTube page to find more—the six above are just a primer.