Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Classic Ads: 1961 Buick Special

When you view old ads for cars, take a look at who's driving to figure out who that model's marketed toward. This ad for the 1961 Buick Special, their compact model, makes a big deal about the availability of Easy Power Steering. The driver of the car in the illustration is a woman with two children in the passenger seats. Is this a commentary on the sexism of the 1960s that, now with the addition of power steering and a smaller car, parallel parking was now so easy a woman could do it?
Perhaps I'm reading too far into it. Perhaps General Motors simply felt that the compact Special with easier steering effort would appeal to women, many of whom no doubt wanted a car that was more practical, easier to drive and park than the boats their husbands drove. Nothing wrong with that.

At any rate, I'd love to know exactly how power steering makes a car like this more agile at speed. Maybe it's like my dad's truck - almost no steering resistance; you just crank the wheel enough times fast enough and it usually goes where you point it, unless you're going too fast for the tires to grip. With narrow 1960s bias-ply tires, though, your handling limits are going to be pretty low.

This ad appeared in the February 3, 1961 issue of Life magazine.

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