Home » What The Hell, Let’s Keep Going With The Muppet Stuff: Cold Start

What The Hell, Let’s Keep Going With The Muppet Stuff: Cold Start

Cs A35 Gonzo Trafficator
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This Tuesday, I did a more Muppet-focused Cold Start, featuring a Brazilian VW Type 2 with an uncanny resemblance to a noted Muppet. The pro-Muppet comments were enough to feature more Muppets and cars yesterday, Gonzo and a Citroën Mehari, and some in the comments were suggesting I keep the Muppety theme going, so, screw it, why not. Let’s feature another interesting Muppet-related car today, the Austin A30 used as a taxicab in the Muppet’s second movie, The Great Muppet Caper.

I used that picture up top there because it features my own personal Spirit Muppet, Gonzo, seemingly reacting to an activated semaphore/trafficator-style turn signal with unbridled glee, which is pretty much the reaction I have to trafficators and semaphores, so that felt like a very personally-relevant image.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Before I show more of the car itself, I want to show you some interesting things I noticed about some of the cars in the highly chaotic opening scene of the movie, which is shot on some very densely-packed studio city set somewhere on the Universal lot. Look at this 1973 Chevy Chevelle Malibu, for example:

Cs A35 Muppet1

Those appear to be humans in there, not Muppets, but look at what isn’t there: a windshield! And look at all the effort expended in finishing up the windshield-less look: a bunch of gaffer’s tape around the edges. Kinda wrinkly gaffer’s tape, even. I imagine they did this to avoid severe reflections from the lights in this set, but it still looks weird.

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It looks even more alarming on this Lotus Esprit Turbo:

Cs A35 Lotus

That car would have been pretty new when this movie was made! Is the paint deliberately dulled, too? It looks almost matte.

But we’re here to talk about an Austin A30, which is a taxi used to transport the main Muppet characters (including Kermit the Frog and Fozzie the Bear, playing identical twins (if you get mixed up about who is who, you can tell the difference because bears wear hats) and of course, Gonzo, playing what I can only assume is a gonzo journalist.

Cs A35 Cab1

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The little A30, driven by the Muppets’ longtime theater janitor Beauregard, gets the crap hooned out of it throughout the movie, as you can see here:

That’s pretty good for a car with a 803cc engine making 28 hp or so.

Beauregard has some good lines in the movie, including this one about a suggestion for jumping:

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The A30 was an interesting little car; a later variant was the A35, which looked identical but had a slightly bigger engine. I know sources call this movie car an A35, but it’s my understanding that the A35 got rid of the semaphore turn indicators in favor of flashing light ones, so I think this one is an A30. It was very much a conventionally-mechanically designed car, just shrunken down.

[UPDATE: A commenter made some good points as to why this is an A35; maybe this is an A35 with the older semaphores added on? That’s possible!]

The A30 was marketed in a somewhat confusing way, as it was officially called an A30 Seven, but not an A37, which didn’t exist.

Cs A35 A30

This was so Austin could tie it to their first really successful small car, the Austin Seven. Remember, when the Mini came out in 1959, it was called an Austin Se7en, for essentially the same reasons.

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The fact that this tiny car was able to be modified for Muppet use, meaning there had to be room for a stunt driver and puppeteers in there, all hidden, is pretty remarkable. I’ve never seen how this car was modified for the movie’s use, but I’m really curious.

While not as well-known a Muppet car as Fozzie’s Studebaker or the Electric Mayhem’s bus, I think this little, abused Austin is worth appreciating. They took over 40 seconds to go 0-60! Why do I love that?

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Brau Beaton
Brau Beaton
2 months ago

When I was 16 I got cited for hooning my Austin A40 Somerset in a city park after one of my friends snided “This POS couldn’t spin its wheels out of a wet paper bag!” Challenge accepted!! I dropped it into second gear on the column shift and went on a donut tear through through a wet local soccer field. When I got home 4 hours later I was informed by my angry parents that I was required at the local police station. When I got there I asked how they knew it was me? The cop looked at me in disbelief, “how many A40 Austins do you think are in this city!” “Oh. Duh,” I laughed. He let me off easy for “driving on the boulevard”.
Loved that car. Bought it for $35. 30 seconds 0-60 at best if it could go that fast, 40mpg, and for some reason girls LOVED it. When I drove up to the school parking lot the first time, some girls all came over and started giggling about how it looked like a peanut. When I flipped up the semaphors, they all excitedly jumped in and asked me to take them for a ride. The pissed off looks of all the other muscle car owning dudes was clear in my mirror as we drove off. It rode like a bouncy castle too, which just made it way more fun.
Drove it until the rings broke a year later, but sadly back then no replacements could be found so I sold it for $200 to another fellow as a parts car.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
2 months ago

Serious question: When signalling, which finger does a Muppet use? (Also applies to animated characters)

I must know, please help.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
2 months ago

Some of my favorite Muppets were the characters from the Land of Gorch skits featured during the first season of Saturday Night Live: The Mighty Favog, Skred, King Ploobis, Queen Peuta and their court.

I loved these segments, though I understand the SNL writers (especially Head Writer Michael O’Donoghue) didn’t particularly like writing – as O’Donoghue put it – “for felt.” Jim Henson’s Muppet team was restricted from writing the sketches, so that task fell to junior SNL writers Tom Davis, Al Franken, and Alan Zweibel. Henson and SNL parted ways after season one mostly due to his disappointment with the creative arrangement.

Still, while it lasted, The Land of Gorch was a memorable chapter in Muppet history. Alas, they had no cars, though.

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
2 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

I recall those bits as well. Even first run they were cringe.

Max Headbolts
Max Headbolts
2 months ago

Given the age of the movie, the windshield surrounds were probably good enough, until the film got remastered in HD, you probably couldn’t tell the windshields were missing, what a neat easter egg! I bet you’re spot on, all that was done for lighting reasons, back when film was expensive with pretty limited editing capabilities.

Data
Data
2 months ago
Reply to  Max Headbolts

But the original 35mm projection in the theater would have exceeded HD.

Max Headbolts
Max Headbolts
2 months ago
Reply to  Data

My memory and film knowledge aren’t good enough to argue this, but I saw Ghsotbusters in the theatre again several years ago, and it definitely looked low-res compared to when I saw it in the theatre in as a kid. Rose coloured glasses, artifact of digital projection?

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
2 months ago
Reply to  Max Headbolts

Yeah, taking out the windshield for filming was a thing for quite a while, the Ricardos’ Pontiac on I Love Lucy comes to mind, also probably not terribly noticeable on the smaller black & white sets in general use at the time, but more obvious now. They also visibly dulled all the chrome on that one

Max Headbolts
Max Headbolts
2 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Yeah, watching something like Knight Rider in HD shows just how much we couldn’t see on analog televisions.

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
2 months ago

The A37 does too exist!
It runs north from the A35 at Dorchester in Dorset into Somerset through Yeovil and Shepton Mallet before terminating at the Three Lamps junction with the A4 in central Bristol. The road is entirely single carriageway, except in the Yeovil and Bristol built-up areas, at Ilchester (where it multiplexes with the A303), and north of Dorchester. Fosse Way
From the Podimore roundabout northeast of Ilchester to Shepton Mallet the route traces that of the Fosse Way.

Ok, it’s not a car,but still a car thing.

Trevlington
Trevlington
2 months ago
Reply to  Nic Periton

I was not expecting my home town to be referenced in the Autopian comments. Of course, as I read the article I thought: there is an A37; it goes through Yeovil!

Trevlington
Trevlington
2 months ago
Reply to  Trevlington

And while I am at it, the junction where the A37 originally met the A30 in Yeovil had the town’s first traffic lights installed

10001010
10001010
2 months ago

If you can keep the muppets going for the entire month of April I’d be cool with that

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
2 months ago
Reply to  10001010

Seconded.

Maybe we can get some Muppets in the Aztec with DT?

10001010
10001010
2 months ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

I’d click on that

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
2 months ago

I fully support Muppet-topian.

I you run out of Muppet movies and are looking for Muppet-adjacent movies with a bonkers cast of strange cars with strange modifications, I recommend Sesame Street’s “Follow that Bird”. You may want to avert your eyes when it comes to the treatment of that Beetle though.

Grey alien in a beige sedan
Grey alien in a beige sedan
2 months ago

It’s only a matter of time before Torch works in some article about Smurfs and Snorks too, just to balance out his coverage of Muppets.

10001010
10001010
2 months ago

There’s so much you can see when you’re under the sea.

Trevlington
Trevlington
2 months ago

Well, the Smurfs were used to advertise National petrol (gas) stations in the UK in the 1970s. I remember there was one on the A37 in Yeovil (see comment above) and that the owner drove a cream coloured Simca.

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
2 months ago

Oh, yes, by all means, keep the Muppets theme going, Disney’s stranglehold notwithstanding, this is part of why some of us read the Autopian 🙂
Hadn’t known about that film’s Austin A30, always good to learn something before I’ve even finished my morning coffee.
Speaking of Austins, in the film Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit Wallace and Gromit used an Austin A35 van (would this be considered a panel truck?? As per yesterday’s ontological musings about what constitutes a truck) for their humane pest control business, Anti-Pesto S.W.A.T. Team, complete with the personalized plate HOP 2 IT
http://imcdb.org/i011675.jpg
http://imcdb.org/vehicle_11675-Austin-A35-Van-AV8-1962.html
Yeah, there are quite a few Autopian elements in the Wallace and Gromit oeuvre, such as in A Grand Day when W & G are launching their rocket which refuses to get going until they sheepishly release the floor-mounted parking brake which looks like it came straight out of a Mini (or possibly their Austin A35, for that matter.)

Dingus
Dingus
2 months ago

Don’t stop now. You’ve obviously touched a nerve with your audience who appears to be Muppet fans.

Swedish Chef needs to make an appearance, bonus points for Robin Frog if there’s a way to get him in.

Comet_65cali
Comet_65cali
2 months ago

That’s actually an Austin A35. It has the larger rear window, painted grill with chrome surround, and indicators built into the body front and rear (double stacked at the rear.) A30s have normally a chrome grill, No indicators front or rear, and the rear window is a smaller half-moon shape.

Comet_65cali
Comet_65cali
2 months ago
Reply to  Comet_65cali
Interrobang‽
Interrobang‽
2 months ago

Genuinely, honestly, and truly: I watched this a few weeks back, introducing the kid to it, and the opening scene made me think, “Torch should write about this, if he hasn’t already”. The carspotting alone would be enough, but I was particularly alerted by those semaphores.

Side note: this (and most other Muppet productions) was filmed in the UK. That scene isn’t on the Universal lot, but rather Elstree Studios. A lot easier to source an Esprit, Austin A30 and Chevrolet Chevy Malibu over there!

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
2 months ago
Reply to  Interrobang‽

This could segue into the a discussion of Jim Henson’s Lotus Eclat that he drove while living in the UK..

Chronometric
Chronometric
2 months ago

Morning Muppet Mayhem. More!

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
2 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

Marvellous!

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
2 months ago
Reply to  Captain Muppet

Magnificent!

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
2 months ago

From you, I was expecting a link somewhere to the Moving right along, dugga-dung dugga-dung song, But I guess I’ll have to go on YouTube myself then 😀

Last edited 2 months ago by Jakob K's Garage
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