A Super Bowl without car commercials would be like square wheeled bike: it just wouldn’t make sense. You watch the ballgame, and during the commercial breaks, you see a sleek, big-budget, high production value ad for a pickup trucks, for luxury sedans, etc.

(Or VWs, of course, but we’ve already been over that!) That’s the way it is, and that’s the way it has been for years and years. Except maybe they weren’t always so sleek and were more, how do you say it… terrible.

This year, for the 2013 game, the ad gurus will no doubt show us a slew of “new” cars, most of which will be just about the same as last year’s model. Maybe there will be new tail lights on a BMW, maybe a touch screen steering wheel on an Audi. Who knows? (Other than the car makers and the folks who created the commercials, of course.)

But we’re not here to speculate on what you’re going to see in car commercials during Super Bowl XLVII, anyway! We’re here to take a drive down memory lane. Let’s look back across the many years of Super Bowl car commercials, and see what ads still have wheels, and which need to be permanently put up on blocks.

I’m going to go in reverse order today, so we can see the “devolution” of the Super Bowl car commercial over the years. To whet your appetite, here is a little infographic of one well know car, the Toyota Corolla, over the years:

So you see, things change over time. Now let’s see how much the ads have changed, too!

Note how in our first example, from the 2012 game, the focus is really more on humor than on anything about the car itself, a Chevy, at all…

Now let’s go back 5 years, and watch a commercial for the Ford F-450 Super Duty. First, note that damn – that is a lot of truck. Note also that this ad is utterly humorless, and is instead all business. Truck business, baby. Great production value though; this is by all accounts a well-made spot:

Going back a bit farther, now, here is a 1990 ad for a Nissan 300ZX. I think you can feel the bridge between the modern and the decidedly dated right here in this commercial; it’s right on the line, almost hokey but not quite. And also, take note that they imply that the car featured is faster than a jet. I mean… no it’s not.

Super Bowl XVIII, in 1984, contained this little germ—or gem, rather, yeah—for Toyota trucks. In my humble opinion, these trucks look, what’s the word? Right, terrible! (And also, I think the expression is to turn something on its “ear,” not its “rear.” Just saying.)

Ah, the 1970s! That decade had some great car/truck ads, right? Well, sort of. Sorry about the commercial’s visual quality, but looking beyond that, there’s a kind of humor to this commercial that seems strangely appropriate for today, even though this ad, from 1973, is 40 years old! See what you think:


And we end with a commercial from 1969, for the Plymouth Roadrunner. This commercial is great, in that it incorporates Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner from the classic cartoon series. But one must also note that they don’t tell you a damn thing about the car, other than that there is now a convertible model, and that you could go to a dealer and buy said vehicle. Hey, it’s got Wile E.’s wacky antics, and it ends with him running over a cliff, it’s OK by me.