This Ford Fairlane ad wants us to believe that the car was tested on the roughest roads of Europe. It's advertising, so of course it's dishonest at best. Still, I don't think there's they tried very hard to find tricky testing grounds.
The copy in the ad seems to cherish the boatlike qualities of the Fairlane. "U.S.A.! Sailing along a newly built highway, the '58 Ford handles like a dream." Plus the car features something they call "Even-Keel suspension". The idea of a '58 Ford making it through a Roman-era European city is laughable.
Lots of European cities have been around since before there were cars. The streets were designed for foot traffic, and humans and animals have a turning radius of zero. This is one reason that small cars have always been popular in Europe. The other is that gas proces have always floated around their natural high price in Europe, but in America, they've been kept artificially low with the help of government subsidies. As of January 25, 2010, a gallon of premium in Europe cost the equivalent of $6.83, whereas in the U.S. it cost $2.95. So, Europe has been dealing with expensive "naturally priced" gas for a long long time.
So anyway, there's Europe with super narrow streets meant for humans and maybe horses or something. A 1958 Fiat 500, for example, had a wheelbase of 72.4 inches. The Fairlane had a wheelbase of 118 inches. That's pretty close to double the length.
To be fair, the ad sings about the ride quality of the Fairlane (read: tall squishy suspension) and not the agility. But it imples that European roads are somehow the worst in the world, making them an ideal place to test the quality of a car.The difference between an American car and a European car is usually size and handling, not the floatiness of the ride. In truth, almost anything you do to make a car handle better will make the ride stiffer. This is beginning to change, with the advent of electronically controlled suspensions and magnetic hydraulic mediums, which can change their viscosity when a charge is applied. However, these technologies are mostly found on higher end models at this point.
To see the fundamental difference in the way Americans and Europeans think about cars, consider the kinds of popular motorsport in each country. In Europe, they like Formula One, in which super high tech cars race at speeds of 220 miles per hour through road courses and ancient cities. Americans like Nascar, where you can watch Hillbillies drive in a perfectly smooth circle at 188 mph. In europe, they also like to race four cylinder sedans up an unpaved mountain course for half a day, but Americans like to race 1100 horsepower cars in a perfectly straight line for six seconds at a time.
Granted, the American way of racing means you can keep an eye on the "action" without moving too far from your beer cooler. U.S.A.!