Ah, the press photo. The lovingly prepared image of a manufacturer’s latest model, deliberately shot to show the car’s best side. Nothing is left to chance – the car is meticulously washed, waxed and buffed until it shines like a National guitar. Unless of course the subject matter is a 4×4, whereby a smattering of mud, sand or snow is perfectly acceptable.
Modern press photos are invariably devoid of people. The fear for manufacturers is that the wrong choice of person could stereotype the new model. Newspapers and magazines also prefer images devoid of people, unless they’re hidden behind the wheel of a good tracking shot.
A couple of years back I helped Simon Clay on a shoot and was given strict instructions on what to wear, which way to look and the face to pull. I was surprised to see a photo from the shoot reappear on MSN Cars before Christmas. There I am with an expressionless face looking into the middle distance.
I should set PetrolBlog readers a challenge to find the photo in question, with a packet of BlogNobs on offer to anyone who finds it. A kind of literal ‘Where’s Wally’. Clue: I’m not wearing a red and white jumper.
Back to the subject in hand – I think it’s a shame that people have disappeared from press shots. If nothing else they added a little humour and gave us something else to look at.
So, in a new and occasional feature for PetrolBlog, we’re going to sift through the filing cabinets and give those old press shots a new lease of life. And because Friday afternoons are the time people are most likely to spend watching videos of people falling over on YouVimeo, or trawling through pictures on InstaFlick, we’ll only roll this out then. A pre-weekend treat/horror show/time-waster <delete as applicable>.
First up is the Skoda Felicia. A car notable for being the last Skoda to be based on the Czech company’s own platform and the first Skoda to benefit from Volkswagen’s input. It was essentially a re-bodied Favorit with a new selection of engines (including Skoda’s first ever diesel lump). It was better equipped than the Favorit, safer than the Favorit and indeed, opened the brand up to new customers. It was just a shame that the Favorit’s unique quirkiness and charm had been stripped away in the process.
Fortunately, Skoda UK kept the quirky and charming flag flying high with its choice of press images. Sit back and enjoy a flashback to the mid-90s. Best viewed with a backing track courtesy of Blur or Oasis. This was the height of Britpop after all, Wonderwall.
This early press shot is seen as a forerunner to Downton Abbey and sees a couple of casting hopefuls off to see Julian Fellows in his small country crib. Sadly, although the couple arrived together, they fell out after the driver exited the M6 at the wrong junction. They now choose only talk to one another through the muffled sound of a car windscreen.
Incidentally, the working title for Downton Abbey was Carson & Master Bates. Not a lot of people know that.
This is a quite terrifying photo. Although the couple pictured were overjoyed with their Felicia, their neighbours weren’t quite so keen. The man with the multiple-crease trousers would have to endure constant grief for his purchase of the Skoda, forcing his wife into a semi-reclusive existence (these were the days before Skoda was cool).
Deciding they could take it no more, they positioned themselves on the Hovercraft slipway and awaited their fate.
Shame really, as the mint condition Felicia SLXi looks rather appealing.
I don’t know about you, but I like nothing more than driving to my local pedestrian precinct, jumping out of the car and perching myself on the bonnet to read a copy of the Daily Express. Brief moments to treasure before I’m escorted away by the resident security chaps and told (for the eighth time) not to return again.
When I’m not reading a newspaper in the precinct, I like to head to the municipal leisure centre to flick through a copy of Auto Trader. Preferably in some kind of double denim outfit, which is both practical and warm. Although the buttons and poppers do tend to leave nasty scratches on the bodywork.
Pedestrian precincts and municipal leisure centres are all well and good, but there’s nothing like a green trouser suit, a picnic basket and a thatched cottage to show some premium aspirations. These were the days before supermarket home deliveries, so you won’t find a Waitrose van just out of shot.
Given the brilliance of the new Superb, the aspirations for the Felicia estate weren’t too far wide of the mark.
When the casting interviews are over, the shopping is done and you’ve bled WHSmith dry of interesting publications, how do you like to relax? Why not head to your local stream, park perilously close to a bridge and a spend a few hours staring at your bare feet? Magic times.
Coming up next time on Retrospective: the Citroën AX.
In the meantime, I’m off to hunt down a mint condition Felicia on eBay. And if I have enough cash leftover, I really fancy a new double denim trouser suit. Lovely.