Journal: These Classic Cadillac Ads Exude Elegance And Glamor

These Classic Cadillac Ads Exude Elegance And Glamor

By Monika Repcyte
February 21, 2018
13 comments

“The power of a Cadillac never diminishes.” This statement was used in Cadillac’s advertising back in 1905—only a few years after the foundation of the company—and it characterizes the identity this legendary American carmaker managed to forge in the century since. Barring a few forgettable efforts in the 1990s, the brand maintained its status throughout the 20th century, and its advertisements have remained surprisingly consistent about what to emphasize on the cars and the lifestyles they led to, which surely contributed to the mythic nature of this American icon.

The cars that we think of when we hear “Cadillac” have extremely long bodies and expressive, round silhouettes, traits long associated with comfort (an indispensable quality in order to promote car as a means of transportation), safety (before crumple zones and airbags, size was one of the best defenses), and quality (longer, wider, better), but these weren’t the key factors of attraction, just contributions.

After the war, and especially in the sixties and seventies, the great big cars from Cadillac were marketed as specimens possessing supreme levels of finesse and a sharp elegance, especially in the case of the famous Eldorado models. The demonstration of “its great beauty and luxury” was augmented by associations with some of the other finer things in life; to drive a Cadillac was to be appreciated by the high society, as it were. All of the elements used in Cadillac advertisements depict this lavish material universe composed only of the peak social crowd and their most prized possessions: jewelry (diamonds by Van Cleef & Arpels or Cartier are depicted in many ads in the formation of the Cadillac “V”), impeccable dresses from the most exquisite garment materials (Cadillac heavily featured elegantly dressed women in their commercials, often on a night “out on the town,” the bill of which was surely a stately one), or even some extravagant embroideries, the associations elevating the car to the heights of supreme luxury—or such was the marketing plan anyway.

Of course, the emphasis on the car’s aesthetic magnificence was complemented with technical innovations that provided pleasures in the actual act of driving these land yachts. Innovations in this regard could refer to the “refined” engines that “move the big car so silently,” early air-conditioning systems, fiber-optic warning systems, and other safety features. The wide choice of interior and color options was also a key factor in demonstrating the Cadillac as a perfectly adaptable and personalized luxury car, magnifying its driver-focused character in a markedly different way than sports cars that define that in terms of road feedback and chassis rigidity—not so in a Cadillac.

In fact, every Cadillac advertisement is staged a little bit like a Hollywood scene and luxury and theatricality are the main components of their ad output over the decades. I hope you enjoy these vintage advertisements like I do, retro and nostalgic sure, but they provide some interesting and more timeless insight into how the automobile has been viewed as a symbol of status in addition to any mechanical merits. Another angle on the timeless debate of function and form, I suppose.

Image sources: oldcaradvertising.com, castleclassics.us

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Peter J Smith
Peter J Smith
4 years ago

After I bought my ’69 Superior Hearse, I contacted Cadillac with the VIN# to see if they could provide any info about my car. A week later, I got a box, a BIG box, from Cadillac’s historical dept. with notebooks full of information, dealer handbooks, sales brochures, you name it. If you own a vintage Caddy, contact them! They are VERY helpful.

Peter J Smith
Peter J Smith
4 years ago
Reply to  Peter J Smith

To be clear, I contacted Superior first, but, in the early 80s, their entire factory in Lima, OH burned to the ground, and, destroyed all their records.

Christian Bedford
Christian Bedford
4 years ago

The car I first drove was a 1965 Cadillac Coupe Deville. My father brought it new as a gift for my mother. Ours was painted Starlight Silver with a red leather interior the color of noir lipstick and a black, padded landau vinyl roof cover. It was powered by a 429 V8 with 340 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque that would quickly (0-60 in 8.2 seconds), quietly and smoothly transport me to another world. If I didn’t live in New York circa 1965, I could at least pretend that I was piloting the car down Madison Avenue, or up the Taconic Parkway for a weekend in the Hudson Valley. Driving the Cadillac is likely as close to piloting the Apollo 13 as I’ll ever get as well… The dash was a sculpture of chrome knobs and brushed nickel panels, and a sweeping speedometer whose needle would glide along up to 120 mph if you pushed it.

The promise of glamour promoted in these advertisements held true in real life as well. I remember my mother driving the car wearing her fur coats with either white or black elbow length gloves. It was definitely a different era, and one that these ads—with their focus on the finer things in life—highlight. By the way, my parents immigrated to the United State in 1959, they had four suitcases and $200 when they arrived. By 1965 they owned a home, and had arrived at the “American Dream.” The Cadillac was an important symbol for them in realizing their successes. Thank you for sharing these advertisements; they brought back nice memories of the car and my family at that time.

Russ Wollman
Russ Wollman
4 years ago

In the film “Tin Men”, which is loaded with luscious tail-finned Caddies, a wildly impractical Danny DeVito explains to Barbara Hershey, his sensible wife, why he can’t part with his ’61 Caddy Coupe even though hard times had come. “A Cadillac means you’re dealing with someone of importance.”

Look for the classic Cadillac ad titled “The Penalty of Leadership.”

There was plenty of substance behind Cadillac’s rise to the top of the motoring world.

Douglas Anderson
Douglas Anderson
4 years ago

One of my dream set up’s, is a 71 or 72 Cadillac slightly up dated with modern suspension and brakes, with air bags. Towing a vintage Formula Ford to the historic races. Now that would be a classic set up if there ever was.
Thanks for sharing these great ad’s

Bill Meyer
Bill Meyer
4 years ago

That Kafka guy…..still a cockroach.

Alexandre Goncalves
Alexandre Goncalves
4 years ago

Monica, thanks for the article!

I’ve just received this book from Taschen called “Classic Cars” and it’s about car ads since the beginning of the 20th century, till early 21st – I love it!

Cheers from Portugal!

PS: Franz Kafka – please, mind your manners!
Is that the correct way to address a person (and her work)?! If you think you can do better, just send your CV to Petrolicious – I’m sure they would love to see what you can do (and we too….)

Monika Repcyte
Monika Repcyte
4 years ago

Thank you so much:) I have this book, by the way, it actually inspired me to write this, funny thing you mention it!

Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka
4 years ago

Whereas now days about the only thing Cadillac exudes is EuroWannaBe pretense and flatulence

B Bop
B Bop
4 years ago
Reply to  Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka indeed !! Methinks Guitar Slinger has managed to worm his way back onto the site

Thomas Lavin
Thomas Lavin
4 years ago

Amazing job Monika! I had no idea these ads existed, the ones in the middle look almost like something from Kehinde Wiley. Can’t wait to see more stories!

Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka
4 years ago
Reply to  Thomas Lavin

Begging the obvious questions ;

How old are you ? And what planet have you been living on ?

Monika Repcyte
Monika Repcyte
4 years ago
Reply to  Thomas Lavin

Thank you Thomas! 🙂