What If: A (Mid)Journey Through the (AI) Forest

It’s unique.

About twenty years ago I captured this image of a unique Dodge Ares while driving through a small town in New Hampshire. Since then, I’ve used it on Christmas cards, social media posts, and it was even used in a holiday CC once.

A few months ago I began experimenting with the Midjourney artificial intelligence image generator. It’s been fairly amazing, and I’ve used it to make images from the style of comic book covers to realistic photos of people and everything in between.

One of the unique things about Midjourney is that images are created by entering a prompt in a Discord chat channel, to which a bot responds with your images. Since it’s a chat channel you can see what images everyone else is making, and the prompts they use to create them (and in the process learn how to create better pictures, or pictures in a similar style).

Well, as I was working on some images, a picture of a rusted out Mustang in the woods very evocative of my Dodge Ares picture scrolled by. So, I copied the prompts for future reference.

And then I went a little nuts.

First, I tried a Camaro. Every time I asked for a picture it would give me four low-resolution options. From those I could ask for more variations, or upscale one or more to a higher resolution.

The results were often odd. Very odd. But along the way I learned a bit about how Midjourney “thinks” and what it “knows.” And what it doesn’t.

(From here on out the captions represent what I asked for, not necessarily what I got).

First, that Camaro. Here were the two best options:

Chevy Camaro

Nice! It’s definitely a first generation Camaro, if not exactly 100% right. (Spoiler, nothing is 100% right). The next one came out more Chevelle than Camaro:

Chevy Camaro

I decided to try something a little more recent: A Chevy Citation. That’s when I ran face first into Midjourney’s knowledge limitations:

Chevy Citation

Maybe a mid 1960’s Chevelle or Chevy II, at best. And then there was this:

Chevy Citation

It seems like it didn’t know what a Citation was, and without further information it interpreted “Chevy” as “Big 50’s Chevy with hints of Cadillac.”

I tried a Chevette. No dice. Though I got a bit of a hint of Opel Kadett, which makes sense in a weird way.

Chevy Chevette

Not even close, but the birch trees growing out of the hood are a nice touch.

Chevy Chevette

Maybe if I specified the year? 1979? That was even worse:

1979 Chevy Chevette

Finally, I gave in and tried a 1980 Opel Kadett:

1980 Opel Kadett

Not bad. Clearly, I was going to have better luck with European cars.


Not the Volvo I expected, but a fair facsimile nonetheless. I asked for a couple of Volkswagens. Without specifying the model, I got a Bug and a Bus.


Quite the VW logo. Throughout using Midjourney I’ve learned that it doesn’t really understand how to represent words or logos. They seem to like a particular type of shape to be mimicked.


I wasn’t sure if Midjourney’s orientation was more European or International, so I asked for a Toyota Hilux.

Toyota Hilux

It got the truck part right, but I’d be challenged to identify that as a Toyota. How about something newer, like a Tesla?

Tesla Model S

Well done! How about some classic cars, like Studebakers and Packards?

Studebaker Champion

Nope. Generic 50’s car. It looks more like it came from a secret GM division.

Studebaker Champion

As for Packard, this was the only one with something resembling a horse-collar grille.


The rest were more escapees from the GM styling studios:



Back to Europe. How about an Opel Manta?

Opel Manta

That’s not any Manta I’ve seen. Maybe an Olds Cutlass?

Oldsmobile Cutlass

It certainly says “Oldsmobile” but in more of a C-body way. Also, take note of all the signal lights in the bumper. It seems like to Mindjourney, headlights and such are shapes found on the front of this object, and it doesn’t “understand” that the two sides of the car are usually symmetrical. Most of the pictures I discarded had three (or more) headlights on one side, two on the other. As I asked for more modern cars with composite headlights this became less of a problem.

Taking a different tack, I generically asked for a minivan. One result reminded me of a VW Bus:


Another was appropriately generic.


A Mercedes?


I couldn’t get a Mercedes grille out of it. Not at all. So I tried a Lincoln Continental, which gave me an interesting amalgamation of Lincoln styling cues from the 50’s and 60’s. It’s a Lincoln, but not any Lincoln that ever existed.

Lincoln Continental

I was starting to figure out the cars had to be iconic to get a good picture, like this Land Rover:

Land Rover

…or this Jeep. Too many slats. Maybe it’s a knockoff.


Of course, I had to try my own Mustang picture:

Ford Mustang

A request for a Ford F-150 got me some interesting results. Older:

Ford F-150

…and newer:

Ford F-150

It’s not exact, but it made a Fiat recognizingle:


The same with a Deloran. About half of the Delorean images has Back to the Future accessories. Also, there’s that headlight problem, again.


Corvette! Easy-peasy:


It got completely confused by the concept of a PT Cruiser:

Chrysler PT Cruiser

But a BMW was no problem… and those headlights.


I wanted to see if Midjourney could depict a 2004 SsangYong Rodius, considered by some to be the ugliest car ever made. Alas, the AI couldn’t bring itself to create such a horror and gave me a generic minivan instead:

2004 SsangYong Rodius

A Pontiac Grand Prix wasn’t sufficiently famous, so I ended up with something that looked more like a Cutlass:

1974 Pontiac Grand Prix

But a 1966 GTO? No problem!

1966 Pontiac GTO

The picture of a 1964 Buick Rivera came out more like what would have happened if they adapted Riviera styling cues to a C-body. Interesting, really.

1964 Buick Riviera

To round things out I asked for a Dodge Ares K-Car and got a 1930’s Dodge instead:

Dodge Ares K-car

Also, maybe a kind of Valiant?

Dodge Ares K-car

Finally, I remembered that you can give Midjourney a reference image, so I used added a link to my Dodge Ares image to my previous prompts and specified the year 1983 and to give it a fighting chance. The first attempt looked more like an 1980 Newport:

1983 Dodge Ares K-Car

But the last one came out well. We’ve come full circle. The greenhouse is a bit weird and the Mad Max bumper guard is an interesting choice, but I like it.

1983 Dodge Ares K-Car