Home » This Random Carolinian JDM Sighting Of A StepWGN Made Me Hunt Down Their Weird Old Commercials: Cold Start

This Random Carolinian JDM Sighting Of A StepWGN Made Me Hunt Down Their Weird Old Commercials: Cold Start

Cs Stepwgn 1
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Say what you will about the state of the world at this very moment, and all of its complexity and idiocy and seemingly intractable conflicts, but there is one silver –or at least pewter – lining: enough time has passed so a lot more JDM cars are eligible for importation into America. Mostly, we’ve seen Americans take advantage of this buy buying small, useful Kei-class trucks, as we’ve reported about here before, with all the associated dramas, but sometimes you do see other, non-Kei stuff. I mean, I myself drive a non-Kei Nissan Pao, and just the other day I saw this remarkable beast on the road: a first-gen Honda StepWGN.

Yes, that’s the right spelling; way back in 1996 Honda was predicting the coming rage in internet application naming (think Tumblr, Qzzr, Scribd, Grindr, etc.) by getting rid of those heavy, efficiency-killing vowels in the name. This was when internet access still was happening via free AOL CDs and what we now call “apps” we still called “programs” or “applications” and they came on 3.5″ disks.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

The StepWGN (and it seems Honda likes the all-caps for the WGN part) is much larger than a Kei-class car and has an engine over three times the size of the Kei’s 660cc maximum, a full 2-liter engine. This is a real minivan, and is also quite a clever design. It’s very boxy and tall, with a realtively small footprint but still able to seat eight people. That’s two full bridge teams!

The van has just one sliding door on the passenger side, leaving  the driver’s side looking clean and only penetrable by the driver’s door. Overall, it’s a real packaging triumph for the 1.5-box style, a very space-maximizing sort of design. Also, I kind of like the plastic roof rails, for some reason.

The StepWGN was targeted, unashamedly, at Japanese families, and commercials in the late ’90s-era often had this appealing crudely animated, kid-like style. Like this one reinforcing the storkogenesis model of human reproduction:

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…or this one where an animated elephant snorts up and then expels a whole family via its trunk:

…or this one, involving a family being swallowed by a whale:

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Now that I think about it, Honda really seemed to like putting families in grave danger from wildlife in these ads. Whatever sells vans, I guess, even if its fear of being swallowed by massive mammals?

This one is really, really distilled down to just a crayon rendering of the StepWGN name:

Finally, we get this glimpse into Honda’s overarching cosmology, where the whole universe is just one of the wheels of The Great Universal StepWGN that defines our entire physical reality:

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I mean, I understand this about as well as I do String Theory, so maybe I’ll become a believer in The Great StepWGN?

 

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Andy Individual
Andy Individual
23 days ago

Jason, I see the appeal to you. This is almost all tail light and I too do like that. Those lights almost look like structural elements, maybe in lieu of C-pillars. You should do a deep dive on load bearing tail lights!

Last edited 23 days ago by Andy Individual
Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
23 days ago

Frankly I understand string theory better than I do the math on this story. Really string theory is simple but also totally wrong. I am pondering the Autopian Theory of Publication though. Two Great Intelligent and Humorous writers escaping a dogmatic authority management to start their own business. Yet what made them best was humor and Monty Python like humor. Sure we need the hard facts but we have the good hard facts writers but we seem to be losing the core material that made DT and JT the great draw we loved when they worked at the other site. Guys don’t become the site you left to be free that is failing. Stick too being you.

Twobox Designgineer
Twobox Designgineer
23 days ago

I think one of the more remarkable points is that they were able to license a Beatles song for the commercials.

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
23 days ago

Maybe they can amortize the cost over time? …because they still use it on the latest Step WGN ads.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
23 days ago

Swap the Honda H logo for a VW logo and you’ll have a DubStepWGN.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
23 days ago

The back of that has some real Volvo WGN vibes.

Gee See
Gee See
23 days ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

Google up some Mitsubishi wagons.. those are doppelgangers to Volvo wagons on the 90s-00s.

Cam.man67
Cam.man67
23 days ago

Spotting JDM Hondas from this era is always fun. Just this past week I’ve seen 2 separate Z Turbos which of course led me on a deep dive into all the models Honda made that we never got. StepWGN is pretty rad.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
23 days ago
Reply to  Cam.man67

Wait ’til you see the Z commercials – ZZ Top’s finest moment, IMHO

Danger Ranger
Danger Ranger
23 days ago

“Hi, this is my stepWGN, I’ve never met my real WGN”

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
23 days ago
Reply to  Danger Ranger

+1 broken homes

Totally not a robot
Totally not a robot
23 days ago

How does one have a 1.5-box design? Isn’t half a box still just a box?

Unless you’re slicing the box across the diagonal, at which point it turns into a pyramid? But I don’t see any pyramids on this van.

Fred Flintstone
Fred Flintstone
22 days ago

Yeah, but, nah, but, yeah… that’s where the string theory bit comes in.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
23 days ago

You know why they spell Froot Loops F-R-O-O-T? Because there’s no actual fruit in them. Wonder what that says about a company the spells wagon, WGN?

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
23 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Every time a product like that says “made with real fruit,” I imagine someone eating an apple near a conveyor belt, watching the sugared corn go by.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
23 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Fruit by association, love it.

Bobfish
Bobfish
23 days ago

Didn’t think I’d be reinstalling Katamari Damacy today, but that’s why I come here. Treat yourself to the introduction movie, and that’s all I’m gonna say.

Dr Toboggan
Dr Toboggan
23 days ago
Reply to  Bobfish

Da daaaaaaa dadadadadada da da dada da da da… great now that’s going to be stuck in my head. 🙂

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
23 days ago

Oh man. That’s a great van, and those are great ads.

Grey alien in a beige sedan
Grey alien in a beige sedan
23 days ago

And here I thought that the StepWGN was a tribute to Tom Skilling. Oh yeah, it’s not THAT WGN.

Mercedes Streeter
Mercedes Streeter
23 days ago

That’s a name I never expected to see on here. Tom Skilling was my hero as a young, meteorology-loving kid. It was awesome how he explained what was going on rather than just telling you it was going to rain.

Larry B
Larry B
23 days ago

And you know who is brother is right? Look up Enron.

Mercedes Streeter
Mercedes Streeter
23 days ago
Reply to  Larry B

OH MY! Now that was a very different career path…

Arch Duke Maxyenko
Arch Duke Maxyenko
23 days ago

Hopefully the StepWGN doesn’t get stuck…

CPL Rabbit
CPL Rabbit
23 days ago

Vanity plate:
WTRUDN

Arch Duke Maxyenko
Arch Duke Maxyenko
23 days ago
Reply to  CPL Rabbit

Or JSTSTEP

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