Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Chevrolet 1957 – sweet, smooth and sassy

1957 was a big year for Chevrolet. As America prospered, motor styling became increasingly rapturous – a ballistic missile/jukebox aesthetic was evolving fast and would soon achieve its apotheosis. The ’57 Chevy is still one of the most highly regarded classic cars and the most cherished model is the Bel Air (below). Massive advertising campaigns were essential to drive demand for the annual face-lifts and Chevrolet business was handled by the Detroit based agency, Campbell-Ewald. In general I feel no great affection for motor cars but the feverish insanity of 1950’s Detroit overcomes my resistance. I’m old enough to recall what boring things English cars were in this period – styled like Victorian sideboards and marketed by association with upper-class snobbery – shown against an endless backdrop of fox-hunting, stately homes, golf courses, debutantes’ balls, Dickensian coaching inns and cocktail parties with uniformed flunkeys in attendance. 

The Campbell-Ewald approach is much more to my liking – a cheerfully assertive message that you’ll miss out on something wonderful, exciting and life-enhancing if you don’t trade up to the very latest model with the unspoken message that nothing spells failure more clearly than being seen in last year’s model. Illustrators still got more work than photographers and dramatically exaggerated the dimensions and detailing on the vehicles into ecstatic visions designed to leap off the page and arouse the motorist’s deepest desires for status, speed and comfort. The advertising tag-line of the year was the alliterative “sweet, smooth and sassy” – sweet to taste, smooth to the touch plus a gentle nudge towards the erogenous zones. How else to describe the Triple-Turbine Turboglide? A second tag-line from 1957 was “velvet smooth and full of spunk” leaving even less to the imagination. I shudder to think what a British audience would have made of language like this. This selection features the work of the following illustrators, Alex Ross(2), Stan Galli, Bruce Bomberger(2), David Lindsay, Charles Allen and Paul Nonnast. 

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