For over thirty years, The Simpsons has satirised many aspects of American life, something which the car industry and car culture has not been immune from.
Myself and David Castro have been thinking about cars that have featured in the show, from The Homer to the Canyonero, and their references to real life.
Let’s start at the beginning, quite literally, as the show’s opening depicts each Simpson’s commute home, from work, grocery shopping, and school, with Homer arriving first in his pink saloon and Marge running him over in her orange station wagon. You know the drill.
These cars are the quintessential cars of an average lower middle-class family anywhere in the Western world, really, used for practicality more than anything else.
Marge’s station wagon definitely exemplifies this as it is used on occasions where a big trunk is needed. It’s been compared to the 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle Station Wagon and a quick Google confirms the similarity.
A few years ago, Homer’s car was revealed to be a 1986 Plymouth Junkerolla. The Junkerolla bit of that may be made up, but the Plymouth part isn’t, and the Junkerolla is said to be based on the Valiant, or the Reliant, depending on who you ask.
Both the Valiant and Reliant models fit the bill and, if I’m being perfectly honest, it’s a case of either/or.
It’s a cartoon, people, don’t read much into these things.
At the end of the day, that car is practically indestructible, and is regularly repaired in no time as if nothing had ever happened to it.
There are many examples but one that springs to mind is when it was clamped in the plaza of the World Trade Center, and Homer failed to talk to the parking attendant because he needed the bathroom, so, in his frustration, drove the car with the front left wheel clamped, before using a jackhammer to remove the clamp, causing the windshield to smash and a gasket to blow.
The Simpsons have owned other cars, including the Canyonero, used in the show to lampoon SUVs and their drivers.
Homer bought the Canyonero after drooling over one driven by its spokesperson, Krusty the Clown, although forced Marge to drive it after discovering he’d bought an ‘F-Series’ model, with a lipstick holder instead of a cigarette lighter.
Fuelled by the ability to muscle through traffic while taking 32 grocery bags home, Marge personified the stereotype of the SUV driver, who thinks their SUV allows them to do anything.
If you would like a car ‘with four wheel drive, smells like a steak and seats thirty-five’, then I’m afraid you’ll have to settle for a Jeep or a Hummer because the Federal Highway Commission has ruled the Canyonero unsafe for highway or city driving. Sorry about that.
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The Simpsons have never been afraid to embrace the future, exploring the world of self-driving cars two seasons ago.
A scene in which Homer makes a smoothie, waters a plant, and sunbathes, amongst other activities, reminded me of when self-driving cars were first mooted and people thought they would be able to kick back and relax.
That’s not the case in the real world, sadly, but the episode did a good job at satirising how technology has gained such an upper hand in our society to the point in which some are willing to let artificial intelligence drive their car for them.
The Simpsons have also tried to get to the heart of what the American consumer is looking for in a car, as demonstrated by The Homer.
Or rather The Homer was what Homer was looking for in a car, including a cup holder for the big cups from the Kwik-E-Mart, three horns because ‘you can never find a horn when you’re mad’ and a bubble that separates you from your kids in the back.
To be honest, I think Homer had some good ideas, but, in the immortal words of Top Gear, it was ambitious but rubbish.
And at a sale price of $82,000 (over $159,000 in today’s money), this ‘monstrosity’ as it was called forced Homer’s half-brother Herb out of business.
There are many more cars that have featured in The Simpsons, but if I went through them all, we’d be here a long time.
Perhaps it’s something we can explore more in the depths of the motorsport offseason.