Is This the Car Industry’s First Humblebrag?

Oldsmobile knew how to keep things very, very honest.

We appreciate truth in advertising—humility, where one might usually find bombast. Billy Wilder, not Billy Mays. That’s why this is our favorite advertisement in the world.

In 1903, Oldsmobile advertised its car (yes, singular) with the tagline: “Goes.” No mention of fripperies, no extolling the smooth ride or ample power, no praise of the looks. Nope. The selling point, in the earliest of automobiles, was that the car moved under its own power. The ad mentions the Olds Motor Company’s “23 years in the manufacture of gasoline motors.” That doesn’t sound particularly impressive today—had it lived, even Saturn would now be 30—in 1903, that many years of experience meant the whole operation began in 1880.

Today, people would complain if even the basic Civic LX came without Bluetooth, a technology much closer to magic than we’re comfortable with. A car’s locomotion is taken for granted; it’s the trimmings we’re obsessed with. And it’s good to remember than when these machines first dawned, horseless movement was a delight, not a given.

Truth.

Today, people would complain if even the basic Civic LX came without Bluetooth, a technology much closer to magic than we’re comfortable with. A car’s locomotion is taken for granted; it’s the trimmings we’re obsessed with. And it’s good to remember than when these machines first dawned, horseless movement was a delight, not a given.

Truth.