The spread we are looking at today dates from November 1977. In line with standard advertising practice it preys on the worries of consumers to make its case. Here is the text, neatly indicative of several prejudices of the day.
“Although man has come a long way since he invented the wheel, he hasn’t yet discovered a way of totally eliminating its deadliest enemy: the Gremlin.
And the gremlin’s favourite hunting ground is brand new cars. That’s why at Leyland Cars we invented Supercover. With Supercover every new Leyland car is given a thorough 69-point check for lurking gremlins at the garage before it’s allowed to be sold.
And should a gremlin turn up on the road, with Supercover, you’ve the AA’s 2,850 strong team of radio patrol men to call on for assistance. And if they can’t fix it in reasonable time, your car and your passengers are transported free to wherever you were going in the mainland UK. Superpower’s anti-gremlin protection lasts a full year with unlimited mileage and costs absolutely nothing. You can also extend Supercover’s full protection for a second year at low cost.
Man has yet to invent the perfect car. But with Supercover, you can drive confident in the knowledge that you’re covered by the best back-up service offered by any of the world’s motor manufacturers.”
The tag line for the ad is this “Supercover – because the best cars deserve the best back up”. Surely, one might ask, why the best cars need much back up at all?
It’s natural enough that Leyland Cars would imply other manufacturers’ cars are going to be prone to severe mechanical problems. So, the cars shown are the Fiat 131, VW Scirocco, Volvo 244, Citroen 2CV, Ford Fiesta, Datsun 100A and the Vauxhall Chevette. Here’s the oddest bit. The one BL car chosen – for modesty’s sake? – is not the Austin Maxi (the bane of my own father’s motoring life at some awful point in the late 70s) or the Morris Marina or MG Midget.
It’s the summit of Leyland car’s range, the Jaguar XJ-6. Sure, the Jaguar actually was fabulously unreliable. Appalling industrial relations marked 1977, meaning a casually engineered car was assembled with strategies borrowed from the manuals of industrial sabotage. You’d think that Leyland would do its utmost to keep Jaguar’s problems out of readers’ minds.
Why did they do it? Leyland Cars’ selection of the Jaguar as the sole representative of its range was possibly carelessness. More likely it was a malicious slight, a reflection of the bitter internal rivalries that ensured Leyland Cars needed to take out two page ads to reassure customers concerned about the when not the if of their Leyland car’s incapacitation.
In addressing the customers’ worries, this ad nicely reminded readers that Leyland Cars were indeed carelessly made and shoddily engineered rather than providing reassurance. Two own goals in one two page spread.