Things that make you go spew: No1: Chrysler & Clark.

Mike Humble:

Lets celebrate some really awful cars and their respective advertising. 

Friends, Romans and Countrymen… I offer you Petula Clark singing the virtues of the Chrysler Sunbeam – the car that also became the Scottish Linwood plants last chance of survival…

sunbeam
Based on the Avenger but with little more practicality despite it being a hatchback. Chrysler begged us to put a little Sunbeam in your life.

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 stereo-gram reflect her generation to perfection. Beat pop combo’s like the Beatles, Nancy & Lee or Simple Simon and Fart 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 bloody 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?

“If you were looking for a hatchback car with the same level of practicality of a small two door saloon, your Chrysler dealer was the place to be in 1977”

Chrysler UK was about to launch the all new Sunbeam… well we say all new. Basically it was a small three door hatchback based on the wheezing clunker that originally the Hillman Avenger. If you were looking for a hatchback car with the same level of practicality of a small two door saloon, your Chrysler dealer was the place to be in 1977. Volkswagen had their Golf, Fiat had the zesty 127 – both with proper hatchbacks. The Sunbeam featured a rectangular piece of cut glass bolted to hinges – which leaked like a colander – the epitome of cost cutting.

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.

“Some regarded Petula in the `70s as being out of vogue, rather naff and vomiting inducingly squeaky clean – her critics were often less kind”

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. Some regarded Petula in the `70s as being out of vogue, rather naff and vomiting inducingly squeaky clean – her critics were often less kind.

sunbeam
From 77 to the turn of the next decade, the Sunbeam failed to really sell in numbers strongly enough to survive. By 1981 the Company was French, Petula had married one, packed her bags and scarpered there and the Linwood plant was soon after shut down.

The resultant advert cost Chrysler a small fortune and was seen as horrifying at a time where punk and raunchiness was seemingly the only way to crack the hit parade. Chrysler even ran an epic three minute advert which ran during the adverts and trailers at the cinema but viewed today it simply makes you smile because naff nostalgia sells. They even pressed the song onto Shellac and had dealers giving them away to the public for you to melt down into a novelty plant pot

Sadly it didn’t sell motor cars and the Sunbeam failed to make a real sales impact despite the rip snorting Lotus Sunbeam being a huge rally success. By 1981 Chrysler had sold the UK division to the French, the Linwood plant was closed and dear old Pet had married a Frenchman, packed her bags and buggered off abroad – I don’t blame her really, do you?

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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