Top 10 infamous bike ads

Published: 27 June 2014

Adverts from a pre-political correctness age. They certainly don’t make ’em like this anymore…



Life helmets | 1979
Californian-made Life caused a massive stir in the late ’70s with its campaign featuring body-painted models Tula and Diane West. The shooting of the ads was featured, revealingly, in Aussie magazine Revs while controversy was stoked four years later when Tula, AKA Caroline Cossey, who by then had also appeared in For Your Eyes Only, was revealed as a trans-sexual, having grown up in Norfolk as Barry Cossey, which put a different, er, slant on the headlines used, and all those posters on teenage bedroom walls.



The Norton girls ads
| Early 1970s
Arguably the most famous biking ad campaign ever all the more notable for using as one of its models Vivien Neve (here, in fabulous satin bell-bottoms), a Page 3 and Penthouse ‘pet’ who sprang to fame as the first naked model to appear in The Times (in 1971 in a Fisons ad). She also appeared in The Persuaders, alongside Tony Curtis. She died in aged 54 in 2002 after suffering from multiple sclerosis for more than a decade.



AGV helmets | 1977
This is the back page ad from MCN sister title, Bike magazine, in July 1977. Forget the dodgy artwork and just read it. Absolutely beggars belief doesn’t it? There were other variants in the series, too, all very symbolic of very different times and all now safely consigned to the annals of history. Luckily they’ve got Valentino now.



Yamaha XS750 | 1977
By 2014’s standards, this 1977 Yamaha ad is just wrong on so many levels it’s almost laughable. One of the oddest things, though, is how out of date it was at the time. The ‘Shaft’ link, of course, refers to the famous Richard Roundtree ‘blaxploitation’ movie from a full six years earlier. Shame, although flawed, the 750 was a world-beater at the time and the inspiration for Yamaha’s recent MT-09 triple.



Avon tyres | 1983
The early-to-mid ’80s gave one last hurrah for using female flesh in ads before the age of political correctness took over and British tyre manufacturer Avon did us proud with not one but four images. Not sure what it’s all about but despite the furore it created, it definitely worked. I put RoadRunner2s on my LC. And bought a white Tyreart pen.



Ducati | 1980
“Young lady, young lady! Are you alright? Let me help you up. Oh, and re-arrange your undergarments while you’re at it…” From a 2014 perspective, the only word for this series of ads from then Luton-based importers Coburn & Hughes, is ‘bizarre’. And that’s without commenting on the ‘Lays it on the line’ strapline…Oh missus.



BSA | 1968
Hard to believe that within five years of this ad BSA, once the world’s largest bike manufacturer, would be no more. Then again, maybe the signs are here for all to see, with the bike, an A65 Thunderbolt, already looking massively old fashioned next to the Swinging ’60s models.



Suzuki | 1981
Just one of a series of similarly striking ads ran by Suzuki between ’82 and ’83, others being: ‘Wild Bunch’ featuring the firm’s TS trailies and girls dressed up as cowboys; ‘City Slickers’ featuring the GT200X5 and GT250X7 and two girls in more spandex than the Roly Polys’ gym outfits and, perhaps best of all, ‘Warlord’, featuring a Sarah Brightman lookalike in a Bacofoil jumpsuit. Quality, the lot of ’em.



Moto Guzzi |1981
More from Coburn & Hughes, this time relating to its Moto Guzzi concession and with ‘Lays it on the Line’ replaced, with arguably even more innuendo, with ‘Long Legged and Easy to Live With’. Which, smut aside, would these days also surely fall foul of the advertising regulators for being patently untrue – a Guzzi? Easy to live with? In your dreams.



Bultaco | 1970
“Watch out love, you’ll have the whole thing up in smoke!” Ahh, how times have changed. Back then we had smelly 175 Spanish two-strokes plus doe-eyed girls with a fag on. Today we’ve weirdo electric offering which “Girls know… where there’s a Bultaco there’s not much manly and a 40-mile maximum range!” Oh well.