What makes a car manufacturing company successful? Executives from GE and Ford believe it takes three qualities: Productivity, Connectivity and Standardization. But here at JBugs, we think it might be the clever, funny and downright crazy advertisements that can help skyrocket a company to the next level. Check out the vintage ads we found from the early years of Volkswagen and you’ll see what we mean.

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VW History


With VWs’ Think Small campaign, the brand captivated its audience’s attention by using brutally honest jargon with a hint of sarcasm. Most of the ads emphasized negative characteristics of each car but turned them into positive attributes by the end of the ads.

Classic VW "Lemon" Advertisement

Take for example the Lemon ad, which featured a Beetle with the word Lemon underneath it. The ad describes how the particular Beetle was rejected by the inspector because of a blemish on the glove box and that one out of 50 Beetles do not pass because of simple imperfections. After detailing the problem with the Beetle, the ad goes on to say, “This preoccupation with detail means the VW lasts longer and requires less maintenance… We pluck the lemons; you get the plums." 

Scroll down for more clever classic VW Beetle advertisements from the 1960’s and don’t forget to check out the slideshow featuring amusing ads for Buses, Fastbacks, Squarebacks and Karmann Ghias. 

Classic VW "Ugly’s Only Skin-Deep" Advertisement

“It may not be much to look at. But beneath that humble exterior boasts an air-cooled engine. It won’t boil over. It won’t freeze over. And it will give you about 29 miles to a gallon of gas. After a while you get to like so much about the VW, you even get to like what it looks like. The ugliness doesn’t add a thing to the cost of the car. That’s the beauty of it.”

Classic VW "Has the Volkswagen Fad Died Out" Advertisement

"Yes. But it was an unnerving experience while it lasted. Because after we introduced our completely sensible car, people ran out and got it for completely frivolous reasons. When you drive the latest fad to a party and find 2 more fads there ahead of you, it catches you off your avant-garde. But as a car the VW was impressive. If you had to go someplace, it took you. Even when some cars wouldn’t. And when you got there, you could park it in places where others cars couldn’t.”

Classic VW "Don’t Laugh" Advertisement

"A Volkswagen police car may seem like a funny idea to you, but it makes a lot of sense to the city of Scottsboro, Alabama. Officer H. Wilkerson wanted a car that could patrol parking meters all day, 6 days a week, in stop-and-go traffic. Without breaking down and without breaking the taxpayers. One day in 1965, he chased a speeder and caught him. It’s hard to say who was more surprised.”

Classic VW "And if You Run Out of Gas, It’s Easy to Push" Advertisement


“See? We think of everything. Getting a Volkswagen to the side of the road is a pushover. So this year we’ve installed a gas gauge to help you remember. But we haven’t taken all the fun away. You still have to remember to look at it.”

Classic VW "Impossible" Advertisement






“A Volkswagen can’t boil over. It’s physically impossible. If you had to, you could drive a VW all day at top speed through a desert. Or edge along in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the hottest day of the year. You may get all steamed up, but not your Volkswagen.”

Classic VW "They Said it Couldn’t Be Done, it Couldn’t" Advertisement



“We tried. Lord knows we tried. But no amount of pivoting or faking could squeeze the Philadelphia 76ers’ Wilt Chamberlain into the front seat of a Volkswagen. So if you’re 7’1” tall like Wilt, our car is not for you. But maybe you’re a mere 6’7”. In that case, you’d be small enough to appreciate what a big thing we’ve made of the Volkswagen."

Classic VW "Mule or Beetle" Advertisement

"The Hinsleys of Doro, Missouri had a tough decision to me. To buy a new mule or invest in a used bug. “I get where I want a lot quicker. It just sets out there all day and the paint job looks near as good as the day we got it.” When a mule breaks down, there’s only one thing to do. Shoot it. But if and when their bug breaks down, the Hinsleys have a Volkswagen dealer only two gallons away.”

And don't forget about the slideshow for more classic VW ads for Buses, Fastbacks, Squarebacks and Karmann Ghias.

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About the Author:

While relatively new to JBugs & the VW scene, Sarah Dixon is an all around classic car, off-road, & motorcycle enthusiast. She has shown great interest in learning more about classic VW culture.

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