Did you know that I actually developed an automobile?
Sounds audacious – just like the past ten years of this website. Seriously, this is a story that combined the imagination and an assignment for one of my college courses.
It was the Spring Semester of 1984 and I’m slogging through my second year at Los Angeles Pierce College. I was attending the community college, that was located down the street from my home – off of Victory Boulevard in Woodland Hills – to transfer into California State University, Northridge. My goal was to get into Northridge's Radio-Television-Film program. I finally transferred to CSUN in the fall of 1985.
Before I transferred, I had to get in some requirements out of the way. One was to take some sort of business course to earn California State University transfer credits. I enrolled in the Fundamentals of Advertising course that was taught by a retired gentleman who owned a carpet/furniture store somewhere in the San Fernando Valley. I believe his name was Siegel. He had stories for each class – sage advice for even those who did not consider a career in advertising and/or marketing.
The final assignment for this class was to create a campaign around a product from our imagination. It could be a brand or a product. Preferably a product.
It would not come as a surprise that I chose to create a campaign for a brand new car.
About the car itself, consider the automotive market in 1984 for a moment. The hottest segment at the time were these cool-looking smaller sports coupes. Cars, such as the Toyota Celica, Nissan 200SX, Mitsubishi Cordia, Isuzu Impulse, Dodge Charger (the Omni-based one, not the former muscle car), Volkswagen Scirocco, Pontiac 2000, and Renault Fuego – to name a few – were capturing the youth and enthusiast market at that time.
With that demographic in mind, I went deep into my imagination to come up with a Spanish-built import called the Jarama.
For context, I understood that I was really getting into trouble right off the bat. But, let me explain some things. First of all, why Spain? If you recall that back in 1975, Generalissimo Francisco Franco died. His dictatorship ended upon his death, opening the door for King Juan Carlos to gain control of the country towards establishing a constitutional monarchy.
Along with the new constitutional monarchy came new economic investment from across Europe and beyond. The national automaker, SEAT, would be bought by Volkswagen in 1982. After years of building Fiats under license, SEAT would transition into a key part of the growing Volkswagen empire in decades to come. Around the same time, Ford, Renault, Nissan, and General Motors had operations in place across Spain producing vehicles for Europe and other markets.
The other problem I had was with the name. Lamborghini sold a 2+2 coupe called the Jarama until 1976. One would assume by using the name, which came from the famous motorsports venue that once hosted Formula One’s Spanish Grand Prix, would had a licensing and trademark resolution between Lamborghini and this imaginary Spanish automaker.
The car itself would have dimensions similar to a MkII Volkswagen Scirocco, Renault Fuego, or Mitsubishi Cordia. The design was a bit angular, taking cues from some design ideas of the time. The grille was a slotted affair with pop-up headlights, leading to a fastback roofline and a hatchback that opened to the taillights.
The Jarama was to be powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that would put out about 115 horsepower. I had the car mated to a five-speed manual transmission or a three-speed automatic transmission. Oh, yeah, it was also front-wheel-drive.
The concept for this coupe was to emphasize the driving experience. It was to be the best handling car of its time with indepdent four-wheel suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, and rack-and-pinion steering.
There one controversial decision I made for this car. Despite never selling in the USA – except through the gray market – the Citroen CX was an inspirational car for me. It had a single windshield wiper that appeared to have worked very well. Therefore, I adopted it for the Jarama.
You might say that I put in some thought on the Jarama – for a community college marketing/advertising course.
The assignment centered on creating a campaign centered on this vehicle. At that time, I was a completely broke college student that took the Southern California Rapid Transit District bus to school and worked at a fast food restaurant. What resources do I have to wow this class full of transferring business students?
To accomplish this assignment, I dug deep into my own creativity and feeble understanding of advertising, marketing, and the automotive industry. With this "knowledge," I did my best to present my campaign for it.
I went to work cobbling together some large posterboards to present the car and its print campaign. I explained the demographics the best I can. I also brought in a big cassette recorder to playback the Jarama’s theme song: Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s “Runner.” It would have been better if I had a two-track recording of the song with the voice-over for the radio/television spot. Then again, I was working with very limited resources.
In the end, I presented the Jarama and the campaign to the class. Everything was “meh,” to be honest. I had one student challenge me about the single windshield wiper on the car. I did not know how to respond to that.
I forgot what grade I got for the assignment. I did OK in the class to get my credits towards transferring into CSUN. Hell, I’m surprised I remembered a good chunk of all of this.
Since then, I learned a lot about this industry to recognize how the vehicle development cycle works and that each company has its approach in turning a vehicle from an idea onto the assembly line. I wished I had this bank of knowledge back in the Spring Semester of 1984 at L.A. Pierce College.
I hope I was not the only one who had the imagination and spark to develop a new vehicle for the world – even if it was for a college advertising/marketing course.
All photos by Randy Stern