Automotive spectacle is an important part of our driving heritage. As the car entered into the mainstream, daredevils climbed into the driver’s seat and began crashing them into things. Even automakers got in on the action. The Plymouth Motor Cooperation released a film in 1935 that consisted of some of the best vehicular marketing in history. Dubbed “ Trial by Torture,” the reel opens with a person being stabbed with hot pokers and progresses to stuntman Jimmie Lynch “torturing” a 1936 model to prove its mettle — which involves driving it through burning walls and intentionally rolling it over at high speeds. It’s amazing.
Lynch toured America with a troupe of stunt drivers, known as the Death Dodgers, who repeatedly wrecked, jumped, and rolled Chrysler products to entertain crowds until the 1950s. In an era that predated seat belts, it was pretty ballsy and undeniably awesome.
These days, the public can just log onto the internet to get their fix of automotive mayhem. But the spirit of showmanship persisted, even as safety improved. At this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, the big news involved Volkswagen setting a new record for electric vehicles. However, there was a another record broken that was more fun to watch and would have made the founding fathers of automotive stunts proud.
Most automotive advertising has little to nothing to do with the actual car. It’s usually about presenting an image or hawking brand identity and then loosely associating it with a vehicle — Mercedes’ current “Grow Up” campaign is a perfect, cringeworthy example. However, enthusiasts know that the best car ads feature incredible shenanigans and loads of life-or-death action.
Dave Chapelle mocked Mitsubishi for its pop-and-lock Eclipse spot, while Top Gear honored Land Rover for winching a Defender up the side of a dam. Keenly aware of this is Subaru, which, after sending Mark Higgins and a WRX STI around the Isle of Man TT course in 2014, brought both man and vehicle to the world’s oldest bobsled run in St. Moritz, Switzerland to record another automotive spectacle.
Unfortunately, Subaru is more than 50 years too late for this particular publicity stunt. Ford filmed an identical feature in the Italian Alps with the Cortina GT way back in 1964. It even named the car after the Cortina d’Ampezzo ski resort, where it later held the event. Subaru may be calling it “boxersledding” today, but it’s really just a rehash of Ford’s classic “auto-bobbing.”