Craziest 1970s Pitchman: When Neil Armstrong Pimped Cars

Published on December 5th, 2011 in: Dancing Ourselves Into The Tomb, Issues, Media |

By Emily Carney

The best visual representation of the madness in 1970s advertising is probably former Apollo astronaut and space hero Neil Armstrong being seen advertising Chrysler automobiles.

neil smiles

Neil Armstrong, despite being the world’s first man on the moon, is rarely seen and virtually never heard. He’s perhaps the polar opposite of Buzz Aldrin, who remains the most publicity-hungry US astronaut of all time. Astronauts were not strangers to advertising during the 1970s. Frank Borman, Apollo 8’s rather stern commander, did advertisements for Eastern Airlines (in all fairness, he was the corporation’s CEO). Pete Conrad (Apollo 12) and Jim Lovell (Apollo 13) could also be seen advertising airplanes and insurance, respectively. However, Neil Armstrong remains the most unusual—and somehow, the most persuasive—pitchman of the group.

Before becoming an astronaut, Neil Armstrong was a civilian test pilot who pioneered the experimental X-15 space plane. After he left NASA in the early 1970s, he briefly taught engineering at the University of Cincinnati. No one heard from him publicly. What did Neil think about being the first man on the moon? Did it change his religious or political views? No one knew, as he chose to keep his private thoughts private. (Meanwhile, Buzz Aldrin let everything—and I mean EVERYTHING—hang out in his first autobiography/hot mess, Return to Earth, in 1973.) Neil elected to keep his mouth shut about everything—except Chrysler automobiles. In 1979, he did some well-received TV ads which showcased the then-new models.

This advertisement attempts to make light of Neil’s reputation as a paragon of all things engineering. It’s rather funny to see Neil do a Vanna White-esque hand sweep to illustrate the aerodynamic sportiness of one of the Chrysler models. Despite his reputation of being one of the shyest public figures ever, he does a convincing job and made me want to buy a Chrysler due to his quiet brand of badassery. He’s kind of like someone’s really smart, nice dad telling you what car you should get.

The next commercial shows Disembodied Head Neil discussing warranties. He uses his hands for emphasis once again (why do I find this hilarious?) and he walks beside a group of now-antiquated station wagons. Neil also did some print ads for the car maker.

Allegedly Neil did these ads because he was a huge fan of Chrysler automobiles; he didn’t want to advertise something he didn’t believe in. This is why we never saw Neil shilling Sex Appeal Aftershave by Jovan (Neil had Moon Appeal; he didn’t need Sex Appeal!) or Van Heusen shirts (Neil didn’t need a damn shirt, just a spaceship). We never saw Neil hanging out smelling chicks’ hair (“Gee, your hair smells terrific!”). No, our man wasn’t into all that. Neil made one believe that Chrysler automobiles were man-rated by NASA and damn it, you should just believe that and marinate on that thought for a while.

Would you buy a car from Neil Armstrong? Hell yeah, you would.

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