Curbside Cinema: The Cars of ‘The Great Outdoors’.


I’m far from being a film buff; I couldn’t tell you the history of the Hollywood system and why it evolved the way it did. Most of the references to classics that Quentin Tarantino lovingly puts in his films fly over my head. Dare I say it, I even enjoy the occasional Adam Sandler movie despite the fact that the second I start thinking about what I saw, I feel the need to write a sincere letter of apology to my brain for forgetting it existed. I only know that there are some movies I like, and if they are old movies I can expect to see some cool cars in them.


The Great Outdoors is the brainchild of the late, great John Hughes, who give us some of the most classic and iconic movies of the eighties. It stars John Candy as family everyman Chet Ripley, who has taken his family out of the hustle and bustle of Chicago (being a John Hughes movie, of course it is Chicago.) to have a relaxing time on the Perk’s Pine Log Resort. For this task, they summoned the help of their Jeep Grand Wagoneer.


Before the SUV Boom craze of the early nineties there were really only two off-road vehicles that could pull off doing the job of the current average soft-roader:  The Jeep Grand Wagoneer and the Range Rover. Of course, now the Range Rover has stopped catering to the people that would take them off road and instead going after the people that want a jet to ride on the way to their jet while the Wagoneer just got its funding cut off and got abandoned just before all the clever money started coming into the market. Used Wagoneer prices and the existence of things such as the Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ tells us that this was a mistake. Such things didn’t Trouble Mr. Ripley’s mind though, as for the moment he cares only for some well-deserved R&R. Alas it’s not to be.


No sooner have they arrived to the Resort we start getting some foreshadowing as a mysterious W126 Mercedes 560SEL is moving closer…


…And Closer…


…And Closer to our protagonist’s lodge. The ominous horns accompanying its progress to the lodge don’t leave much wiggle room for guessing the role that the people inside are going to play. The owner of said Mercedes is Roman Craig, Played by the always fun Dan Aykroyd, who seems to be having the time of his life playing the Boisterous Roman as he invites himself and his family to share the Ripley’s Vacation. What follows is ninety minutes of jokes, slapstick, raccoons and hijinks that, while certainly not the best Hughes had ever produced, are still quite funny and can be classified as a good movie overall. Such can’t be said about some of his other work. Home Alone 3, to mention one.


The Mercedes and the Wagoneer get the most screen time but, as we’re in CC Cinema, we have to take a look at the cars that fill up the streets and parking lots of this fair movie. Like this small comparison test waiting to happen. The Continental and the W126 were as far away as you could possibly get while still targeting “Luxury” as a market. You need look no further than the fake continental hump to see that.


Main street also seemed nicely populated, as evidenced by that lovely Two-tone Toyovan with white-lettered tires and…could that be something of the Chrysler group on the left there? I’m far too distracted by what look like an International Travelall on the right. Now if the van can move a little further down the road…


Thank you! A trio of pickup trucks. A Chevrolet C10 and an El Camino hold the American front while a Toyota pickup shows us the future of the Japanese pickup by looking slightly larger than its American brother. At first glance I even confused it with a Toyota T100 before remembering that in 1988 it wasn’t even a glint on a Toyota Designer’s eye.

The movie was a modest success in the box office despite lukewarm to bad reviews, making $43 Million out of its $24 Million budget. To finish it we get the cast of the movie dancing to ‘Land of 1,000 dances’, which it’s so contagious you’ll find yourself wanting to join in. If you need to fill an hour and a half of your time, check it out. I found it enjoyable even if it dragged a bit at times. You still get to see fun performances and plenty of that good ol’ fun.