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Classic Car Ads: Giant Floating Heads Edition

Classic Car Ad

Classic Car Ad

Chrysler Print Ad
This detail of a 1939 Chrysler ad could well have been part of the boat-ride scene from “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” though it likely wasn’t meant to be as unsettling.

I have long believed that a part of America’s innocence died when automakers began using photography in advertising instead of drawings.

Auto makers were not alone in employing the power of the floating head in ads.

Not only did old-school renderings allow for the wonderful (and deceptive?) exaggeration of a given vehicle’s proportions, they also allowed ad folks to create environments and situations that could never be realized with cold, stark photography.

One peculiar ad type employed mostly in the late Forties and early Fifties was the giant-head ad. I can’t say exactly what it was these ads were intended to convey. It would seem an ad meant to pitch a car ought to feature a car, but these ads featured people—which is charming, somehow.

I have gathered five giant-floating-head ads here for your enjoyment. Have a favorite class-era car ad type? Let’s hear about it.

More classic car ads


Credit this kid with the score of the century. A Cord 812 as a graduation present? The copy here is must read stuff. Giant heads talked differently in 1937 than they do now.


The ad asks car shoppers to be “modern,” but makes no mention of being gigantic. There’s a Soviet propaganda quality to this 1939 Chrysler ad that would have to be unintentional.


Can you tell? These floating heads are Canadian, which may explain the rosy cheeks. The Meteor was positioned between Ford and Mercury, and available only to our friends North of the border.

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Who needs a neck or torso when you drive a DeSoto? Per the ad, you can drive this ‘Soto without shifting, which is convenient when you only have one hand.


Okay, she’s checking out the car, but what’s this guy looking at? It’s possible he’s thanking the heavens above for the sweet deal he’s about to get on this ’52 Chevy.


One assumes this 1960 Dodge Dart isn’t haunted by relatives this family has lost in auto accidents, but it’s hard to say. Dead or alive, they do seem pretty happy with the Dart.

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