In the 1980s, aerodynamics were cool enough to advertise

Aerodynamic Ads

By 1987, fuel efficiency wasn’t such an issue anymore, but aerodynamic profiles were part of our car culture. So, the formal-roof Mercury Cougar suggested its lines helped keep it glued to the pavement.

As the 1980s wore on, “aerodynamics” became a buzzword throughout the industry. The study of how car bodies flow through the air became a crucial new piece of the post-OPEC II puzzle for carmakers worldwide. As GM would tout in more than one of its ads, half of a car’s fuel is used to simply push air out of the way. Bluff car noses with upright grilles went the way of Nehru jackets, while roller disco slicked-back faces, high tails, flush glass, and air-diverting shapes were suddenly the order of the day.

Attention to aerodynamics yielded all manner of tangible benefits: quieter cabins, increased fuel efficiency at speed, better acceleration, increased control in windy and high-speed conditions, and stylish good looks (or so the ad copy would like you to believe)—all at the same time. Some car companies hailed this attention to detail as “free horsepower,” which sounded good when the ability to harness 200 horsepower sounded like a pipe dream that we would never see again.

In an effort to make their cars look modern and high-tech—even if, in some cases, an ancient chassis was hidden underneath—the marketing folks at the world’s car companies took a crack at explaining aerodynamics, and why it was important. To varying degrees of success.

Seeing these ads, it’s obvious that the idea was a new one for consumers in the early 1980s and, as time went on, the benefits of aerodynamic attention to detail were better understood by the public at large. Witness the early ’80s domestic car ads that carefully walk you through the benefits of fealty to the wind, while by the end of the decade such notions are practically a given. Also interesting: This isn’t just for sports cars—the principles of aerodynamics were being harnessed to make the general new-car buyer a better-informed (and ultimately more efficient) customer. European carmakers’ ads, assuming a greater enthusiast base than the general American car-buying public, often gave the vibe that they knew you knew what aerodynamics was all about, and got on with pitching their wares.

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