1949 Jaguar Ad
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Born and bred in Britain, Jaguar automobiles gradually built a strong following in the United States in the years after World War II. Sports car enthusiasts in particular were thrilled with the XK series cars which first debuted for the 1949 model year. Quite a few catalogs, brochures and advertisements featured beautiful full color artwork of the cars' exterior and interior features.

While enjoyable to look at, these pieces of sales literature lacked a certain edge present in American advertising, especially in the 1950s. All of this would change by the 1958 model year when Jaguar's North American distributor, Jaguar Cars, Inc. of New York City, created literature and advertisements featuring real jaguars.

During the 1958 model year over 4,000 Jaguars had been exported to the U.S., the crown jewels of which were the new XK 150 and XK 150S sports cars. The XK 150 was available in three different body styles, including a roadster, coupe and convertible. While a 190 bhp engine was standard, the 210 bhp "special equipment" option proved far more popular.

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Jaguar cars were (and still are) considered the epitome of luxury. In 1958, the cheapest Jaguar XK 150 on the market was the roadster at $4,520. For less than half that amount, a buyer could purchase one of Ford or Chevrolet's standard models. Even the Corvette could be had for nearly $1,000 less.

Chevrolet's standard models. Even the Corvette could be had for nearly $1,000 less. If owning a Jaguar was a testament to one's wealth, so too was one's pet. At the time, the exotic pet trade was coming into prominence, and a favorite among the elite were big cats such as lions and tigers. Artist Salvador Dali famously owned a pet ocelot named Babou, whom accompanied him everywhere.

The appeal of these animals lay in their ability to distinguish their owners from the crowd, and this was a hallmark of the Jaguar advertisements featuring real jaguars. An advertising sheet for the XK 150 Roadster stated, "Only 7,500 Americans can get a new Jaguar this year...You just can't mass produce a superb car like the new Jaguar XK150 Roadster." The ad featured a fashionably dressed woman, right down to her white gloves. Alongside her was a spotted jaguar, complete with leash and collar.

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Variations of this image would appear through 1959. In comparing these, it appears as though the big cat in question was little more than the work of a taxidermist. No matter where it appeared in the photographs, its posture remained same. Imagine trying to keep a wild animal completely still throughout an entire photo shoot!

In other pieces of advertising, it is less obvious whether the jaguar was live or stuffed. One 1958 booklet featured the big cat in every factory photograph, from the 3.4 Sports Sedan to the Mark VIII Sedan. It was also present on the front and rear covers, seated in the Mark VIII Sedan. It was also present on the front and rear covers, seated in the passenger seat of an XK 150 Roadster. While the woman driving the car appeared to be singing, it was her furry friend which undoubtedly stole the show.

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By 1960, the big cats were phased out of the literature and the emphasis in later brochures and catalogs was on the cars themselves. From time to time real big cats have been used in Jaguar's advertising since then, though not as extensively as they were during those few years. Due to changes in societal values, they certainly aren't portrayed as pets anymore either!

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