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Gremlins: The Unsung Car Christmas Movie

With the holiday season well underway, many people are settling in to watch classic Christmas films such as It’s a Wonderful Life, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Carol, and others. While we enjoy those flicks, we were recently reminded that Gremlins not only is a true Christmas film, but it also features a diverse collection of automobiles and some insightful commentary on the automotive environment in 1984.

If you haven’t seen the film in a long time or haven’t seen it at all, this is a perfect moment to do so. When you do, keep an eye out for these automotive gems.

Hero Billy Peltzer is a young man who enjoys drawing comic books and watching classic horror films. To put it another way, he’s not a car guy, therefore the 1967 Volkswagen Beetle he drives in the movie fits him nicely. It’s plain, inexpensive, and uninviting. Fortunately, he doesn’t have to go on a high-speed chase with the little German automobile because he would have been outmatched by practically any other vehicle on the road.

Beyond that, right at the beginning of the movie there’s powerful commentary made utilising the VW Type 1 as the centrepiece. While Billy is attempting to start the car on a chilly, snowy morning, next door neighbour Mr. Futterman uses the occasion to bash foreign cars.

Refreshingly, the script never takes sides in what was a heated debate back in 1984 but instead portrays the outrage many like Futterman felt about the destabilization of the Big Three as Volkswagen, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and others made further inroads into the US market.

When it comes to Futterman, he has a unique tractor that he refers to as a “Kentucky Harvester.” It’s unclear whether the tractor is a Ford 3910 or an International Harvester. We’ll say it’s open to discussion because we’re not heavy equipment experts and it’s difficult to get a good look at the item.

Some people are shocked that Futterman is allowed to drive on public roads in such a vehicle. We’re betting they’ve never lived in a rural area before. When the gremlins drive it through the Futterman residence, it creates an interesting scene, giving us some bizarre Killdozer vibes. You get a peek of the 1956 Nash Metropolitan 1500 they had parked outside during that sequence.

Barbie’s Corvette, the pink little convertible Gizmo drives in the department store, must be mentioned. It’s one of the film’s funniest and most memorable scenes, demonstrating that even the small guy, like us humans, wants to drive something entertaining.

There are other additional cars in town, most of which are from the 1970s or earlier, such as the 1976 Chevy Nova 9C1 Sheriff Frank and Deputy Frye drive. It’s refreshingly accurate in terms of how not everyone drives new cars (something filmmakers seem to struggle with in a lot of period pieces). A 1982 Chevy Camaro that Billy drives past on his way to work when his Beetle won’t start is notable to us. Sure, it’s nothing extraordinary, but it’s the closest thing the movie has to a muscle car.

Photos via IMDB and IMCDB.


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