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Six ways to sell the 1969 Firebird 400

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Vintage ads courtesy of the Automotive History Preservation Society.

Many automakers diversified their advertising content for the same car to reach more potential buyers, and Pontiac was no different. Prime examples of the imaginative techniques used to sell the 1969 Firebird 400 are revealed in various print ads that ran in the magazines of the day.

From the colorful, enticing, and celebrated artwork of Fitz and Van (Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman) depicting the low Wide-Track Firebirds in extraordinary locales with happy people in the background participating in exciting activities, to the moody single-car photographs, or ads with multiple Pontiacs, the 1969 Firebird was presented via several contemporary approaches. See if any of these ads look familiar to you, or if you can recall and discuss any of your favorites that used similar styles.

We’d like to put in a good word for hoods.

1969 Pontiac

Three levels of Pontiac muscle for 1969 are depicted in this ad. A pony-car Firebird 400 takes center stage with the midsized GTO, and the slightly larger and more expensive personal/luxury/performer Grand Prix behind it. The headline makes the reader immediately notice the hoods, two with scoops, and all with the optional hood tach to further drive home visually the sporty theme, while the text mentions all the hi-po engines offered for each model. The well-dressed young men, who are seemingly mulling over the choices, represent the target market. Notice that there’s no background to speak of, which is in stark contrast to the customary style of the Fitz and Van ads like the one below.


A sports car that rides as good as it looks. That’s a Break Away!

1969 Pontiac Firebird 400

This ad’s text is all about how Pontiac maintained the ride and passenger comfort without sacrificing handling in the Firebird 400. Not sure how many potential buyers would be swayed to buy one because it has special wheel-bearing grease, but I’m guessing that’s supposed to illustrate Pontiac’s attention to detail. “Hey, if the engineers care that much about the grease, imagine how well they must have tended to the rest of the car!” The dramatic angle of the Firebird 400 and flurry of activity in the background draw the reader in.


This is a rental car?

1969 Pontiac Firebird 400

I didn’t know there were Firebird 400 rental cars in 1969. Did you? Pretty cool to imagine walking up to a rental counter and then driving away in a Firebird 400. It’s a great way for potential buyers to take an extended test drive without being pressured by a salesperson—a win for the buyer. When a customer walks into a dealership to buy a Firebird 400 having already driven one, the salesperson has a lot less convincing to do—a win for the salesperson. Though do I wonder how much repair work some of those rentals required when they were returned…or how many needed new rear tires.


Firebird corrals 345 horses into 400 cubic inches. That’s a Break Away!

1969 Pontiac Firebird 400

A pun is presented in this ad with horsepower being discussed in the headline and text, and a ranch scene with a Firebird and horses in the artwork. The legendary Ram Air IV is discussed, a few additional details are listed, and the artwork is appealing.


The Graduate.

1969 Pontiac Firebird 400

Aimed straight at those in the 20-something crowd who are ready to step up to a Firebird 400, the ad copy for the “The Graduate” is loaded with specifications to educate the reader, while letting the lines of the car speak for themselves by using dramatic lighting on the body and a dark background. The helmet is a not-so-subtle implication of the Firebird 400’s dual purpose. Even though the motorcycle is being sold, there are activities that can be enjoyed with the Pontiac that require a helmet, too.


Nice going, America.

1969 Pontiac Firebird 400

Does this photo look familiar? Using the same art with different headlines and copy was also common, as shown here and in the “Is this a rental car?” ad. This one uses just a few words to catch the short-attention-span page-flipper’s eye.