(Don’t) Light Your Fire: Buick’s Opel GT & GS 455

June 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

1970 Buick Opel GT and Gran Sport 455 Print Ad

"Start off 1970 right:" Buick's Opel GT and GS 455 (Click to enlarge)

This 2-page ad for the 1970 Buick Opel GT and GS 455 appeared in late 1969. The Opel and its “mini-vette” styling first hit the roads of Europe and the U.S. in 1968, and no less an authority than motorauthority.com says of it: “Today the GT still raises eyebrows and people stick their thumbs up if occasionally one is passing by. It’s considered an icon in modern motoring history.” Many of them were painted orange, and they were (and are) reportedly very fun to drive.

The Gran Sport 455 was also available with the stage 1 engine and GSX high-performance options. Wikipedia states that the “relatively unknown, very expensive, and very rare, 1970 GS 455 Stage 1 drew a great amount of attention and controversy in the muscle-car world when in the 1980s it was listed as faster than any of the Chrysler Hemi cars in the original “50 fastest muscle cars” list. This Hemi vs. Stage 1 controversy has prompted several contests to settle the issue; it remains an unsettled matter and has been a great boon to car magazine sales over the years.”

I was curious about the ad’s “Light-Your-Fire” catchphrase, and of course its Doors connection. I had not realized that Buick had offered the band what must have been quite a sizable sum back then to use the song. As – again – found on Wikipedia:

“John Densmore recalls that Buick offered $75,000 in October, 1968 to adapt the song for use in a Buick Opel TV commercial (“Come on, Buick, light my fire”.) Morrison, however, was still in London after a European tour had just ended on September 20 and could not be reached by the other group members who agreed to the deal in his absence. As the band had agreed in 1965 to both equal splits and everyone having veto power in decisions, Morrison consequently called Buick and threatened to smash an Opel with a sledgehammer on television should the (presumably ready) commercial be aired. Various sources claim that this was a turning point in the band’s career and Jim started losing faith in the other members for selling out just for quick cash.”

I remember back even in the 1980s, when an L.A. band called The Long Ryders had a song in a TV commercial (or .. did they actually perform in it?). It just seemed horrible at the time, and if I recall correctly they were roundly criticized, at least by many of their fans. Now it’s commonplace, and with record sales way down, having your music used in an ad seems to be one of the ways a lot of groups make a decent portion of their living. Times do change….


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