From its inception, the automobile lent itself well to marketing that utilized catch phrases, slogans and jingles. In conjunction with flashy, eye-catching banners or advertisements, they became a foundational component in the development of the American auto industry and an infant car culture. Moreover, with the advent of radio, they soon became an integral part of our collective culture and many became more familiar than the national anthem itself.
Catch phrases, slogans, and ditties can often be recalled long after the vehicles they promoted are moldering in a scrap heap or have been recycled into beer cans or toasters. A catchy jingle played decades later can trigger crisp, clear images of the vehicle promoted so long ago attesting to the power of a successful marketing campaign.
Slogans from the formative years of the automotive age often speak volumes about the times. Then as now, slogans and catch phrases often encapsulate the social climate of the time in which they were penned, the technological state of the industry and its supportive infrastructure. When coupled with colorful advertisement they become windows into another era, a time capsule if you will.
Tag lines for the Jackson, “No hill is too steep or sand to deep” and the Model, “Hills and Sand Become Level Land” give an indication of road conditions in pre 1907 America. Likewise, with promotion for the Allen, “The King of Hill Climbers,” and the Kansas City Car, “The car that climbs the hills”and“Climbs hills like a squirrel and eats up the road like an express train – the Gale.”
In the decade that followed motoring became a bit more refined and automotive companies began promoting products that did more than provide Spartan, durable transportation. The Pope Toledo was, “The quiet, mile a minute car” and the Marmon Six of 1913 was, “The easiest riding car in the world” but “The thrills of speed with perfect control are his who drives the Biddle”.
Some early automobile companies chose simplicity in their promotion. Maxwell was, “perfectly simple, simply perfect.” King was “the car of no regrets.” The Durant was “just a real good car.” “A car to run around in” was the Austin but “Ride in a Glide, and then decide.”
More than a few companies, then as well as now, chose rhymes and limericks to ensure brand familiarity. Nevertheless, some of the more memorable and successful campaigns were those that were simplistic references to the companies’ merits. An excellent example of the latter would be Packard’s, “Ask the man who owns one” and REO’s “Gold Standard of Values” or Studebakers “The Automobile with a Reputation Behind It.”
Others chose to appeal to ego or vanity in their marketing campaigns. The Empire was, “The Little Aristocrat” and Lozier was “The Choice of Men Who Know.” The Winton Six of 1915 was “The closed car so necessary to a successful social season.” The Dorris was “Built up to a standard, not down to a price.”
By the second decade of the Twentieth Century, many aspects of the automobile such as steering wheels replacing tillers and engines that consisted of an equal number of cylinders had become industry standards. However, some innovators insisted on thinking outside of the box and the catch phrases and slogans devised for promotion of their vehicles presents another intriguing snap shot of the times.
The Cartercar was “the car of a thousand speeds – no clutch to slip, no gears to strip – no universal joints to break – no shaft drive to twist – no bevel gears to wear and howl, no noise to annoy”, “Premier – The Aluminum Six with Magnetic Gear Shift.” The Amplex was “Valveless and Self Starting.”
Then there were the slogans that leave one wondering if the idea was to sell vehicles or to ensure the company was not bothered with annoying customers. Beggs was “the car that is made a little better than seems necessary.” The Daniels was “the distinguished car with just a little more power than you will ever need” and Gearless was “A common sense car with no tender or delicate parts.”
During the formative years of the automotive industry in this country, there was a car for every need and a slogan to promote them. If you drove solely for enjoyment then there were “miles of smiles” in an American. However, if safety was a concern then there was the Cole, “The world’s safest car.” If loyalty to a particular region dictated your automotive choice the Vaughan “made in the Carolinas” might be the car for you. For the frugal consumer there was the Hanover, “The Car That Saves Money Every Mile” or the Westcott, “The Car with a Longer Life.”
The Porter Stanhope of 1900 was “The Only Perfect Automobile” but the Ford of 1903 was “The Boss of the Road.” The Northern was “Silent and Dustless” and the Oakland of 1909 was “The answer to the man who says, “Show me.” With Oldsmobile, there was “Nothing to watch but the road.”
Another fascinating aspect of early corporate slogans is how often they have been recycled for a new generation of consumer. As an example consider Cadillac’s “Standard of the World” that dates to 1912 and Buick’s “When Better Automobiles Are Built, Buick Will Build Them” which is even older.
With the exception of use as decorative wall coverings for automotive enthusiasts, vintage advertisement today has largely been overlooked negating an important part of automotive history to the realm of mere novelty. When one considers that they are so important to understanding how we became such a car-dominated culture this is quite surprising.

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