Best Super Bowl car commercials of all time

Super Bowl adsIt’s hard to believe, but Super Bowl ads didn’t used to be a thing. There were no three-minute opuses exulting the virtues of horse-drawn beer, nor widescreen cinemas verite urging us to find our common humanity in soda pop.

Luckily for us, automotive advertising has evolved over the decades to an art form, and nowhere does it reach such oxygen-starved heights as The Big Game.

These are our favorite Super Bowl car commercials.

Super Bowl I: Green Bay 35, Kansas City 10

Ad: 1967 Chevrolet Impala in a Glass Garage
Jan. 15, 1967

Way back in the beginning, Super Bowl commercials weren’t really a thing and 30 seconds of air time went for $42,000 rather than the $5 million it does today. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that fans began to notice the commercials. By the early 1980s, the advertising bar began to rise to the lofty position it holds today.

So, we don’t actually know if this 1967 Chevy Impala ad played during the first Super Bowl, but we hope so. It’s delightfully weird. 

Super Bowl III: New York Jets 16, Baltimore 7

Ad: Chrysler, “Scuba Diver”
Jan. 12, 1969

There’s one hard rule in graphic design: if at any time someone points to your work and says, “Does this look like a swastika to you?” you immediately scrap it, no questions asked.

After viewing this vintage Chrysler ad, we would like to propose one hard rule for video: if at any point someone looks at your work and asks, “Does this remind you of dolphins tripping balls?” you immediately scrap it, no questions asked. 

Super Bowl IV: Kansas City 23, Minnesota 7

Ad: Pontiac, “Humbler”
Jan. 11, 1970

What? You’ve never heard of “The Humbler?”

Pontiac’s Vacuum Operated Exhaust (VOE) was controlled by a discrete knob under the dash. When pulled, exhaust bypassed the stock mufflers for improved air flow, a measurable power gain, and twice the noise.

The increased decibels failed to conform to legal requirements in several states and the option was immediately pulled. This is the only known commercial sighting of The Humbler. 

Super Bowl VI: Dallas 24, Miami 3

Ad: Goodyear, Custom Wide Tread Radial Tires
Jan. 16, 1972

Watching this bloated Mustang wallow through a slalom on then state-of-the-art bologna rounds makes us wonder how anyone survived the Before Times. 

Super Bowl IX: Pittsburgh 16, Minnesota 6

Ad: Chrysler Carnival
Jan. 12, 1975

Oil prices had skyrocketed by 1975 and the auto industry responded with smaller, more fuel-efficient models. Well, most of the auto industry. In order to rid the lots of its large, unpopular offerings, Chrysler introduced the concept of rebates at its “Car Clearance Carnival” in 1975. 

Super Bowl XIII: Pittsburgh 35, Dallas 31

Ad: AMF (Harley-Davidson), “We Make Weekends”
Jan. 21, 1979

This ad for Malaise Era Harley-Davidson makes us die a little inside. The company was “bought back” by Harley execs and returned to Milwaukee just two years later, and the eagle once again soared alone. 

Super Bowl XIV: Pittsburgh 31, Los Angeles 19

Ad: Ford Thunderbird, “Spread Your Wings”
Jan. 20, 1980

This one is strictly for the nerdiest of car nerds.

At the beginning of the 1970s, computers were the size of refrigerators. Pocket calculators cost hundreds of dollars and weighed over a pound. By 1980, processors were small, light, and cheap enough to run the fuel gauges shown in this Thunderbird. It was the first face of the revolution that changed the world.

And that’s also Wilma Deering from “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.” 

Super Bowl XVI: San Francisco 26, Cincinnati 21

Ad: Subaru, New Subaru Brat
Jan. 24, 1982

A: How much do you want a Brat after seeing this?

B: The Subaru Brat is 55 inches tall. Ruth Gordon is in heels. 

Super Bowl XVII: Washington 27, Miami 17

Ad: Honda, V65 Magna motorcycle
Jan. 30, 1983

In case you were wondering what happened to the supremacy of American motorcycles in the marketplace, take a look at this ad for the 1983 Honda V65 Magna. The only thing that could possibly make it cooler is if was being ridden by a kung fu tiger with lasers for eyes. 

Super Bowl XX: Chicago 46, New England 10

Ad: Nissan, Nissan trucks
Jan. 26, 1986

It’s impossible to believe, but there was indeed a time in human history when the globally ubiquitous Nissan Hardbody didn’t exist.

The company was phasing out the “Datsun” name in the U.S., and this Super Bowl ad introduced the new line of small trucks along with the new name. 

Super Bowl XXIV: San Francisco 55, Denver 10

Ad: Pontiac, Transport
Jan. 28, 1990

Meet the Pontiac Dustbuster! “The SPACE vehicle of the 90s!”

*cringe* 

Super Bowl XXIX: San Francisco 49, San Diego 26

Jeep, “Snow Covered”
Jan. 29, 1995

The driver of this Jeep should have turned left at Albuquerque. Nonetheless, the charm of this ad was not lost on the judges at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, where it won a Grand Prix in 1994, the first automotive ad to do so.

“Snow Covered” was aired for nearly a decade after its debut.

Super Bowl XXXI: Green Bay 35, New England 21

Ad: Nissan, “Pigeons”
Jan. 26, 1997

This hilarious action movie spoof kept audiences glued to the screen by being entertaining first and advertising second. It won Bronze at Cannes. 

Super Bowl XXXVIII: New England 32, Carolina 29

Ford GT, “The One”
Feb. 1, 2004

Shhh. Just listen. 

Super Bowl XLI: Indianapolis 29, Chicago 17

Ad: GM, “Robot”
Feb. 4, 2007

Though the ad was centered around GM’s commitment to quality, it received heavy flak from critics for apparently glamorizing suicide. Nonetheless, it scored ninth in the annual Adbowl survey. 

Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23

Ad: Bridgestone, “Taters”
Feb. 1, 2009

Bridgestone took the top Adbowl spot in 2009 for its high-sterical take on nagging wives. We were a simpler people then. 

Super Bowl XLV: Green Bay Packers 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 25

Ad: Chrysler, “Born of Fire”
Feb. 6, 2011

Chrysler’s award-winning “Born of Fire” debuted the company’s new “Imported from Detroit” slogan. The ad highlighted the Chrysler 200 and featured Eminem performing his song “Lose Yourself.” 

Super Bowl XLV: Green Bay Packers 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 25

Ad: Volkswagen, “The Force”
Feb. 6, 2011

Viewers went wild for “Mini-Darth” back in 2011. The ad tells the story of a boy trying to channel the powers of Darth Vader only to fail in every attempt. With a little help from his father, however, the child finally succeeds in making a Passat come alive. Even after eight years, this remains the most watched Super Bowl commercial of all time. 

Super Bowl XLVIII: Seattle Seahawks 43, Denver Broncos 8

Ad: Audi, “Doberhuahua”
Feb. 2, 2014

Audi’s hilarious “Doberhuahua” aired to an audience refocused after Bruno Mars’ halftime show. In it, Canadian animal rights activist Sarah McLachlan implores the audience to use genetic engineering to rid the world of irritating yappy dogs once and for all. At least that was our take away. 

Super Bowl XLIX, New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24

Fiat, “The Fiat Blue Pill”
Feb. 1, 2015

This saucy ad used a familiar little blue pill to highlight the size difference between the Fiat 500 and the larger 500X. Or should we say XL. 

Super Bowl XLIX, New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24

Ad: Nissan, “With Dad”
Feb. 1, 2015

Nissan’s first Super Bowl ad in 18 years combined racing with absent dads . . . and . . . *sniff* . . . Harry Chapin . . . *sob* . . . It won audience acclaim . . . *snorfle* . . . and . . . *sniff* . . . where’s the damned Kleenex . . . 

Super Bowl 50, Denver Broncos 24, Carolina Panthers 10

Ad: Jeep, “4x4ever”
Feb. 7, 2016

This ad promoting Jeep’s 75th anniversary was so effective that literally every person in America bought a Wrangler over halftime.

Literally. 

Super Bowl 50, Denver Broncos 24, Carolina Panthers 10

Ad: Hyundai, “First Date”
Feb. 7, 2016

While overprotective dads run the gamut from comically annoying to promise ring creepy, Hyundai won hearts with this one while promoting its Car Finder feature.

For the record though, if Car Finder is used in this way, Dad is definitely leaning towards towards the creepy end of the spectrum. 

Super Bowl LI, New England Patriots 34, Atlanta Falcons 28

Ad: Kia, “Hero’s Journey”
Feb. 5, 2017

Melissa McCarthy played a fur-wearing eco-warrior in this award-winning bit of slapstick for the Kia Niro Eco Hybrid. 

(Fur hood trim worn at 0:33)

Super Bowl LII, Philadelphia Eagles 41, New England Patriots 33

Ad: Toyota, “Good Odds”
Feb. 4, 2018

The highest rated automotive ad of Super Bowl LII tells the story of Paralympian Lauren Woolstencroft on her journey to the gold. There wasn’t a dry eye to be found after it aired. 

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