Car Crash T.V : The Chrysler Sunbeam

Mike Humble:

You think BL had issues in the 70’s? Chrysler had their own problems with loss making car plants in England and Scotland coughing out a range of cars that were seen as bland and moribund. Sounds like a sexy ad campaign is called for then eh?


Despite being well into her seventies, my mum has a pretty good taste in music. With the exception of Michael Bubble or whatever his ruddy name is, the discs that she slings onto the sterogram reflect her generation to perfection. Beat pop combo’s like the Beatles, Nancy & Lee or Simon and Carbuncle nestle quietly alongside 7″ singles by solo artists such as Cilla Black and Tom Jones. Of all the artists of her younger times, only two make her wretch and tremble with agony – Englebert Humperdink and Petula Clark.

Just like Superman has his Kryptonite, my dear Mother has Petula Clark. Just half a bar of Downtown or This is my song is enough to throw a God fearing woman into a murderous frenzy. I once asked her to explain her reasoning to her dislike only to be told “she’s so squeaky clean she makes me sick“. Many of you will most certainly disagree but when it comes to celebrities advertising something as expensive as a motor car, the advert needs to be slick, classy and perhaps… a little bit sexy maybe?

Petula Clark – In the fifties and sixties she was a child actress then pop chart sensation but by the late 70’s her persona was seen as naff and out of touch with current trends. Perfect to boost the fortunes of a rather rubbish car? Erm… no.


Back in the late 70’s Chrysler UK were struggling to shift in decent numbers their hastily conceived Avenger hatchback – the Sunbeam. A rather boring car with a rather boring name that thanks to its rather daft glass tailgate with a waist high loading sill had all the practicality of bicycle with no seat. Following years of industrial torment almost as bad as BL, the American parents were not impressed at the desperate lack of productivity from the British former Rootes Group plants in Warwickshire and Scotland.

A decision was made to launch an epic TV commercial that would run on the telly as well as local cinema’s, not to mention billboard and media adverts. Fast forward into the nineties and Brian May rocked us in the minute long Ford commercial where they claimed: everything we do is driven by you. It transformed Fords flagging UK fortunes by being an upbeat and power ballad inspired tune. Despite having lyrics that were simply dreadful, the rock riff had people tapping their feet all the way to the showroom.

brian may
Say what you like about the artist or the brand but Ford and Brian May produced by far one of the most successful media and TV commercials ever made with their “Driven by You” campaign.


Going back in time again, Chrysler had a huge choice of female artists to choose from. Big names like Elkie Brooks, Suzi Quatro and Rita Coolidge spring to mind… all of them having broad appeal to all ages. After some long consideration they chose Petula Clark who by now was no longer the chart topping act she had been a decade earlier. In fact, she was seen in the UK as being a bit naff and the sort of music your Nan would listen to during the Jimmy Young show. Even Petula had cottoned on to this and packed her bags, married a rich Frenchman and moved to Europe.

The resultant advert cost Chrysler a fortune and was seen as horrifying at a time where punk and raunchiness was seemingly the only way to crack the hit parade. Viewed today it simply makes you smile because naff nostalgia sells.

Sadly it didn’t sell motor cars.

Brace yourself with a sick bucket at hand with the TV commercial in its entity – don’t say we never warned you! CLICK HERE

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