It's not often that you flip through a copy of Popular Science without seeing something about cars, be it a feature on eco-friendly automobiles, a compendium on futuristic concept designs, or an article on crackpot DIY vehicles. If you look carefully through older copies of the magazine, you'll spot charmingly-illustrated advertisements tucked between the aforementioned stories -- and in most cases, they serve as a surprising testament to that decade's culture, as well as to the beauty of (most) vintage automobiles.
Click to launch the photo gallery.
As the image above shows, some of these ads are as nostalgic as the cars themselves. We begin in the early 1930s, just after the stock market crash threatened to shatter the American car industry. To ensure continued sales, brands like Chrysler, Ford, and Chevrolet produced budget-friendly vehicles that would retain their quality even when sold second-hand. During that period, our advertisements reflected our readers' practical sensibilities; we focused on durability over aesthetics and slapped images with bargain prices. A Plymouth for just $485? How could anyone refuse?
The war and post-war era marked an appeal to family values and consumers' new-found taste for luxury. Buy the "Knee-Action Chevrolet" to give Junior his first comfortable car ride! Drive the European-looking Studebaker to enjoy a "far-advanced new flight into the future!" We even catered slightly to the 1960s counterculture movement, as evidenced by the groovy aesthetic our ads took on once Volkswagen's Type 2 "minibus" became the hippie vehicle of choice.
We won't spoil the 1970s for you, so click through our gallery to see advertisements for various Corollas, Datsuns, Corvairs and more.
As a child, I used to pore over all kinds of magazines which had ads much like this. Now (a couple of decades later), I'm getting walloped with feelings of nostalgia seeing these. Makes me feel old and part of another generation, though I'm close to 40.