PH Blog: the death of the car brochure

Like many things in life, car brochures aren’t what they used to be. As a kid I used to ask Dad to pick up the latest brochures while he was out and about - two copies mind you as I wanted one to keep and one to cut up for my bedroom wall and much excitement was experienced as I awaited the new Vauxhall/ Ford/ Rover range brochure.

These publications were fat and glossy, covering every model in luxurious detail with all bar the lowliest of trims getting a spread all to itself. It was a day I looked forward to and dealers used to advertise ‘new range brochure in stock’ on the showroom window as if it was a special day.

At first you’d flick to your favourite models, the sporty ones of course, but seek hard and you'd find details for the obscure 'taxi spec', the rare (at the time) 2.3 non-turbo diesel and I recall one fine year when the Tickford Capri made an appearance in the Ford brochure – I had no idea what it was but I knew it was special as it got three pages. Turning to the back you could see at a glance that the L had no electric windows, but the GL did, stuff like that made being the master of new car specs easy to do and made you the king of the playground/ office/ pub (depending on your age). Sure, you can get it all online these days, but it’s not as much fun and the average range brochure had more to read in it than the Sunday Times.

But the best part was the photography; every picture told a story that gave an insight into the lifestyle of the owner. A base spec car might be positioned on a building site with hard-hat wearing gents looking at some plans spread over the bonnet. A GL would show a middle management type parked outside a modern office looking serious in his grey suit carrying a briefcase. The top spec model would be ambitiously parked outside a rambling country pile or alongside some stables often with a driver or butler in shot. The sports car would either be on a winding road or at the squash court and of course the estate would show happy families having a picnic or generally smiling as they enjoyed outdoor life.

Think of the effort that went into that, every model of every range needed a new location and new models and once that was done they had to do it all again for the commercial range.

Nowadays you look online at a site which invariably doesn’t work because your computer doesn’t have the necessary plug in. You can’t get a simple image of it because art comes before function in today’s car photography and a full spec sheet for the range? Just register your details (everything from household income to inside leg measurement) download the PDF and then remember that your printer has run out of ink. Frustrating.

Of course I have now thrown away all of my old brochures, a decision I bitterly regret, but as the youth of today fawn over the latest microsite or ‘app’ for a new model with video and whizzy images, I will feel sad for the demise of the lost art that was the proper brochure. That’s progress, but you can’t stick an image from an iPad on your bedroom wall, can you?


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