Home » Muppet Train Keeps Rolling With Le Maximum: Cold Start

Muppet Train Keeps Rolling With Le Maximum: Cold Start

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Yes, that’s right, I read your comments and I heard you, so we’re wrapping up the week with more Muppet car stuff. You don’t have to twist my arm, which is ironic, because watching those foam-filled Muppet arms get all twisted around like fat udon noodles is always hilarious. Today I’m going to change it up in two ways: I’m going to leave those twin comfort zones of ’70s and ’80s era Muppetry and existing, real-world-identifiable cars and instead we’re going to talk about a more recent Muppet venture (well, only one decade old) and a car that never technically existed in the real world. The movie is 2014’s The Muppets Most Wanted and the car is known as Le Maximum.

The Le Maximum was built specifically for the movie, mostly as a way to get some gags out of the bird-out-of-air subplot of the very, intensely, clinically American Sam the Eagle being stuck in Europe, and really milking all of those European stereotypes, such as the predilection for tiny cars. I suppose the fillmakers didn’t think any of the many, many European microcars was exactly right, because they eventually made their own, and gave it the ironic name “Le Maximum.”

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The name is sort of explained in the scene where its introduced:

I mean, I get it, the size is positively decadent. Who needs all that vastness, really? It’s downright showy.

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Looking at Le Maximum, I think the designers did a pretty great job making a sort of composite microcar. In looking at it, I see two primary influences:

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I see Scootacar in the main body design and proportions, and a lot of exaggerated Mini in the front end.

I like how they gave it a face that’s less cute and more unhinged, like a tiny rabid badger or something like that. The face seems to be glowering a bit, determined  and focused, and then its attached to that gumdrop body.

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It’s fun and ridiculous and accomplishes its task perfectly. It’s also not some CG phantom; this is a real, functional vehicle, and, even more incredibly, was 3D-printed.

There’s a whole article about it here; it was built on a golf cart chassis, the body panels were all 3D printed, and what’s really incredible is that it fits not just a full-grown human adult, but two, one of whom is puppeteering the full-grown adult Muppet in there as well. You can see some of the cramped and clever packaging in these 3D wireframes:

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Look at that! I love that it’s actually drivable, too.

That article noted that the original design inspiration was an unnamed Russian car, and if I had to guess what they were looking at initially, I bet it was one of these SMZ “invalid” cars, made for disabled war veterans:

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I mean, I can’t prove this, but it’s just a hunch I have.

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I think what they ended up with works better for the role, anyway. The car itself is sort of like a drivable Muppet; in the same way Kermit is a strangely stylized amphibian, this is a strangely stylized microcar, and it’s controllable and steerable by a person. A puppeteer, if you will. Are we not all puppeteering our cars as we drive?

Oh man, that’s deep.

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EricTheViking
EricTheViking
2 months ago

You forgot Peel P50, the world’s smallest legal car. The Top Gear episode with Jeremy Clarkson was one of the best…

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
2 months ago

Holy Crap. Forgot all about the movie and the tiny car. Still can’t believe they stuffed a human and a Muppet in that thing.

Thanks Torch.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
2 months ago

THIS is what the Autopia cars should be – sans exhaust.
Batteries included.

Unless you’re a Bear.
Then your natural habitat is a Studebaker.

Last edited 2 months ago by Urban Runabout
MahNaMahNa
MahNaMahNa
2 months ago
Andy Individual
Andy Individual
2 months ago

There is a car (no idea of make) that looks very close to this that I see often in China. They look to be several decades old and they have a single seat. Same puff of exhaust coming from the tailpipe too.

Michael
Michael
2 months ago

It’s a dumb joke, but it’s such a perfectly executed dumb joke that you can’t help but love it. As it always should be with the Muppets.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 months ago

Its like a Mini got hit with a shrink ray to make a Micro!

Cyko9
Cyko9
2 months ago

I vaguely remember seeing this movie when it came out, and I probably just accepted that Le Maximum was real, since it’s plausibly designed. Sam’s voice isn’t sitting with me, though; I remember him a lot more grim and less Fozzy-sounding.

Black Peter
Black Peter
2 months ago
Reply to  Cyko9

yes… you’re right

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
2 months ago

Amazing how many people were so moved by a little felt, foam rubber and feathers. I’m old enough to recall watching Wilkins Coffee commercials featuring Wilkins and Wontkins and lots of period typical violence. Good times, and this has been a fun week.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
2 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Thanks. I remember that too.

notoriousDUG
notoriousDUG
2 months ago

I came for the cars, and stayed for the Muppet content.

10001010
10001010
2 months ago

We need more muppets! MORE!!!

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
2 months ago

“You can see some of the cramped and clever packaging in these 3D wireframes”
The 3D wireframe showing the knees-up driving position is reminiscient of Road and Track magazine’s April Fools-esque Cyclops II, from 1957, which had a knees-up driving position, just even more egregious:
https://www.conceptcarz.com/images/Cyclops/57-Cyclops-II_DV-12-AI-a03.jpg
The Lane Motor Museum has a replica:
https://www.lanemotormuseum.org/collection/cars/item/cyclops-two-replica-1957/

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
2 months ago

Cyclops was my first thought also. Those articles cracked me up back in the day!

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago

Well that’s an interesting use of a leaf spring.

Autonerdery
Autonerdery
2 months ago

I have a tendency at car shows/cars and coffee/etc. to end up parked next to something that completely overshadows whatever I brought; this was never more true when a Cyclops II parked next to my Corvair at a Concours d’LeMons. But it was so cool, I couldn’t be mad about it.

Chronometric
Chronometric
2 months ago
Reply to  Autonerdery
Max Headbolts
Max Headbolts
2 months ago

Been a big fan of all the muppetry this week!

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
2 months ago
Reply to  Max Headbolts

100,000% agree! Keep it going Torch!

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
2 months ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

All Muppets all the time.

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
2 months ago

That’s a really impressive amount of work to put into a car for a movie I’ve never heard of.

AssMatt
AssMatt
2 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

I think it’s the most entertaining Muppet movie since the original. Can’t recommend it enough if you like non-bro comedies.

Tim Cougar
Tim Cougar
2 months ago

I think the Russian inspiration is more likely the ZAZ 965.

A. Barth
A. Barth
2 months ago

Are we not all puppeteering our cars as we drive?

Indeed we are.

“I work my whole life, I don’t apologize, to take care of my family. And I refused to be a fool dancing on the strings held by all of those big shots. That’s my life, I don’t apologize for that. But I always thought that when it was your time, that you would be the one to hold the strings.”

Dingus
Dingus
2 months ago

This was satisfying. Thank you for scratching that Muppety itch so many of us have.

I’ll be watching videos of Muppet songs between meetings if you need me. If I get to Halfway Down The Stairs, I’m afraid I will not be doing a whole lot more past it.

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
2 months ago

“A nation of tiny cars will soon become a nation of…tiny people”

Sir Guy Grand

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
2 months ago
Reply to  Lew Schiller

Now THAT’S a classic.

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