Picks and Pans Review: Cruise Omatic

updated 12/19/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/19/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Yasutoshi Ikuta

Ikuta, a Japanese advertising man, writes that the huge tail fin, the most memorable design feature of '50s American cars, "perfectly matched not only the upsurge of nationalism in the United States, which, after weathering both World War II and the Korean War had risen to become the No. 1 superpower in the world, but also the boldness that Americans exhibited in general." Even those who don't go along with such extreme extrapolations, however, may enjoy this book's illustrations, all of which are magazine ads for American cars of the '50s. The extravagance of American advertising was never more flagrant than it was in such ads as the one that promised, "Now comes a dream of a car...a daring, fun-loving dream, realized in steel and chrome...ready to thrill those 'special' kinds of people at every age who tire of the ordinary and always seek the uncommon." (What else could fulfill this kind of buildup but a Willys Jeepster?) For those who are not inclined to spend a lot of time pondering such deep considerations of American culture as the relationship between its salesmanship and its aspirations, there is the nostalgia value of the book's ads for Hudson Hornets, Nash Ramblers, DeSotos, Studebakers, Buick Road-masters and Pontiac Star Chiefs. And if nothing else, the book's Edsel ads speak eloquently to the book's implicit condemnation of advertising excesses. (Chronicle, paper, $14.95)

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