On The Tube: Classic Super Bowl Car Commercials

January 17, 2013

Last year, advertisers paid an average of $3.5 million for a 30-second commercial spot during Super Bowl XLVI. Since the very first AFL-NFL World Championship Game in 1967, the “big game” has produced some memorable commercials (if not always memorable matchups). Here’s a look back at a few from the world of cars.







No One Can Match the Roadrunner

The first championship game to bear the name “Super Bowl,” Super Bowl III was broadcast on NBC on January 12, 1969. NBC’s Curt Gowdy handled the play-by-play duties. Bob Hope led a pregame ceremony honoring the astronauts of Project Apollo and the Apollo 8 mission, which had returned to Earth just 18 days prior.

Plymouth used the opportunity to promote a back-to-the-basics muscle car they dubbed the “Road Runner” after paying $50,000 to Warner Brothers for the rights to use the name and likeness of the popular cartoon character. Named Motor Trend "Car of the Year" for 1969, sales of the Plymouth Road Runner topped 84,000 that year.

Trucks That Take a Beating

Hardcore football fans remember the 1970s as the grittiest and most exciting decade in NFL history. Some game-day commercials were pretty cool, too.

Like Master Lock (a company that became a household word thanks to an ad campaign showing one of their locks taking a bullet), Ford understood that an audience that enjoyed watching a game as punishing as football would probably appreciate the same sort of commercial approach. This commercial for their F-Series line of trucks aired in 1976 during Super Bowl X, the first postseason meeting of the Steelers and Cowboys, which ended in a score of 21 to 17.

More Slippery Than Corvette

Remember when “rack-and-pinion steering” and “overhead cam engine” were the buzzwords for every car commercial under the sun? The year was 1979 and the Steelers and Cowboys were again facing each other in Super Bowl XIII.

With better gas mileage than a Mustang (25 mpg) and better aerodynamics (supposedly) than a Corvette, the Dodge Omni 024 was billed as the first sport coupe with front-wheel drive built in America.

She’s Back

Some of the most memorable Super Bowl commercials in history were produced during the 1980s. This one for the Ford Mustang in 1983’s Super Bowl XVII was definitely not one of them.

Coke had its Mean Joe Green campaign and Apple produced a creative spin on Orwell’s novel 1984 while the American auto industry was still busy trying to find its way after the shakeup caused by the 1979 oil crisis. A new performance revival in America was only just beginning the year Ford announced their “return” with this turbocharged, 2.3-L four-cylinder SVO Mustang. The car is now a classic but the big hair, the denim and the 11-percent financing prove that not everything old was good.

What is the most memorable Super Bowl car commercial you can recall from the `70s and `80s? The Historic Vehicle Association would like to know. Take a moment to comment below or head on over to the HVA’s Facebook page to share and see what other members are saying.



  1. Brent Toronto

    Imagine that ! 11.9% financing on Ford Cars. What a deal!

  2. Erving C. Johnson Ludington, Michigan

    Great piece of history. I have been a car not since I was a teenager and am now 75 years young. Started driving at age 15 in a 1939 Chevrolet 2 door sedan. I was a long time G. M. employee so cars and trucks have been my life. I also have been a professional driver so transportation is in my blood. Great to see these flashbacks and the day when cars were c ars/ Than ks for the memories