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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  • Motorrad 18 Apr 2012

    Porsche seem to be doing ok on the 'brochure' front.

    They keep sending me hardback books with their model range outlined in them. Bit posher than the sort of cr@p Ford gave me to entice me into ownership of one of their fine vehicles I can tell you.

    There was a fellow on here who posted a whole bunch of brochures and they made great reading.

  • Garlick 18 Apr 2012

    Fair point actually. When I was last at Porsche Reading I helped myself to some hardbacks.

    Motorrad said:
    There was a fellow on here who posted a whole bunch of brochures and they made great reading.
    Ace, how did I miss this?!

  • LHD 18 Apr 2012

    I've kept a full brochure collection of every franchise i've ever worked at the time.

    I've got Renault from 2002-2004, BMW 2004-2007, Ford 2007-2009, Land Rover 2009-2011 and Jaguar 2011-2012.

    I've even got the specialist sub models, special editions and performance ones.

    It's a LOT of brochures let me tell you.

    Edited by LHD on Wednesday 18th April 10:26

  • FunBusMk2 18 Apr 2012

    I had a large collection which I recently parted with to another PHer as they were just sat in boxes, in the loft. I sold some a few years back too - including a first edition for the 993, 911 Turbo (1 of 4,500) - this went for £70 to a chap in Sweden. A lot of my Rover collection went to the US, some to Spain. I must have made £250.

    I've kept all my BMW ones and keep getting new model brochures too. Like an idiot I sold some of my BMW Alpina brochures - I think I'm going to buy them back when I see one come up on Ebay.

    My Dad used to have a friend who was Sales Manager at the local Ford dealer - we would drop by and I would come away with anything off the racks that was new. I also had copies of every brochure issued at the franchised dealers I worked at (Rover, Audi, VW, Nissan). And of course, I'd collect bags of brochures from the Motorshow.

  • monthefish 18 Apr 2012

    "being the master of new car specs easy to do and made you the king of the playground/ office/ pub (depending on your age)."

    So true!

    It would be a travesty if they were stopped altogether - can PH not start a campaign or something...

    p.s. I think I had that Manta brochure!! - I remember fawning over the 'Berlinetta', and really wanting the 'GT/E' as it was the fastest.

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