Cruise O Matic: Automobile Advertising of the 1950s

by Yasutoshi Ikuta


This book is a reissue of one originally published in 1988 as a hardcover. Written by a Japanese advertising professional and avid collector of US automobilia (who already has several other US advertising-related books to his credit), it manifests the peculiar, sometimes over-the-top 1980s Japanese fascination with all things American.

But since the book contains mostly illustrations and little text, this bias is confined to the brief, and uncritically gushing Introduction to the undeniably colorful 1950s.

The intro sketches the American psyche within the most basic context of postwar optimism to post-Sputnik anxiety. It is this “moment in time” aspect that makes US auto advertisements so very entertaining and distinctly different from the rather austere European ads of that era. Not only are the US cars a flamboyant expression of a unique, albeit short-lived, outlook on life, the ads themselves are similarly exuberant in their use of color, hyperbole, and inventiveness of new words for slogans.

Author Ikuta feels that the “powerful influence of advertising on the American society rivals even that of education and religion.” To illustrate the point he has collected “the best auto ads of the period” from five mainstream magazines of the day: Life, The Saturday Evening Post, Look, Collier’s, and Holiday. Also included are a few foreign-car ads from Morris to Toyopet, tables of 1955 new car sales, and a year-by-year chronology of the US auto industry, 1950–59.

The ads illustrate abundantly that intelligent, intentional design means things look the way they do for a reason. Looking for such reasons leaves few stones unturned and leads to discoveries far beyond the obvious. Image reproduction is a bit iffy, with overall flat colors and in many cases the type (in the posters) is so light as to be barely legible.

The look of the book is in keeping with the ‘50s style of its subject matter and shows marvelous attention to detail. For instance, the ISBN number on the back cover is made to look like a license plate (rounded corners, and all four screw heads point in different directions). The 125 illustrations are mostly color, full-page, and very well reproduced. As so many titles in Chronicle’s catalog this book is cleverly designed and should, aside from its subject matter, appeal to anyone who appreciates a well-made book.


Copyright 2016, Charlie Baumann (

Cruise O Matic: Automobile Advertising of the 1950s
by Yasutoshi Ikuta
Chronicle Books (April 15, 2000)
108 pages, 125 b/w & color illustrations, softcover
List Price: $18.95
ISBN-13: 978-0811827775

RSS Feed - Comments

Leave a comment

(All comments are moderated: you will see it, but until it's approved no one else will.)