The Simpsons has given us a surprising amount of automotive-related cultural icons, including the Powell Motors Homer, the Canyonero, and even Homer’s own Plymouth Junkerolla. My favourite Simpsons car, though, may be the most mysterious: the strange, tiny car from a no-longer-extant country that a man named Crazy Vaclav tries to sell Homer in the famous Mr.Plow episode. No one’s really sure what that car is, but I think it’s high time we really tried to figure out what the story is behind that thing.
In case you’ve forgotten about this fascinating little machine, here’s the clip it appears in:
Remember now? Of course you do. I don’t care how fictitious this thing is, I want to know more about it. We don’t have much to go on, but let’s list exactly what we do know about the car:
• It’s a three-wheeler
• The country of origin no longer exists
• That country’s language used the Cyrillic alphabet, suggesting the car is of Eastern European/former Soviet Bloc origin.
The “H” that Homer is implored to put it in translates to “N” in English, and likely means “neutral.”
• The symbol of the car or perhaps company is a winged insect with a prominent tubular tongue; it looks most like a common housefly:
• The car has some sort of automatic or semi-automatic transmission
• The car is capable of burning kerosene as fuel. This suggests that the car may be using a diesel-type compression-ignition engine, since kerosene is closer to diesel fuel than it is to gasoline. It doesn’t lubricate as well as diesel, so perhaps it’s a two-stroke diesel that uses oil mixed in with the fuel?
• The car’s fuel economy is reported as being able to cover “300 hectares on a single tank of kerosene.” 300 hectares is about one square mile. This is a strange way to compute how far a car can go, since a hectare is a unit of area, not distance.
If, say, the car could cover the entire area in 300 hectares/one square mile on one tank, that could be as much as… let’s see. We’ll use the one square mile conversion to keep the maths easy. If the car went in zig zags back and forth for the length of the one mile square, then turned, and went the other way, if we say the “width” of the car’s path is, what, four feet, then that means with a mile having 5,280 feet, the car could go back and forth 1,320 times!
That’s a full tank range of 1,320 miles. Let’s say the car has (generously for the size of the car) a 10-gallon tank, so that comes to a very impressive 132 miles per gallon. Wow.
• The car seems to have a motto, or some type of advertising slogan associated with it.
Crazy Vaclav tells Homer
“Take it for a test drive and you’ll agree: zagreb ebnom zlotdik diev.”
OK, that’s about all the hard information we actually get. Now we need to extrapolate from this information to see what we can figure out.
Looking at the car, I previously speculated that it looks a lot like a Harper Invacar, and I still believe it does resemble one:
Now, the problem is that the Harper Invacar is British, a country that both still exists and has never used the Cyrillic alphabet. That means the car there cannot be a Harper Invacar.
I do think it is similar, though, and that it is, in fact, an invalid car: these were small city cars made specifically for disabled people to help them get around. The Soviet Bloc countries had several of these, including the SZD Invalid Car and the S3A Invalid car.
While both of these cars are similar in size and function to the mystery Simpson’s car, they have very different, four-wheel designs.
Really, design-wise, I think the mystery Simpsons car most resembles the design of the British AC Petite invalid carriage:
Note the similar proportions and size, the lack of wheel cut-outs, the headlight/indicator arrangement, and so on. So, with this in mind, I believe the car Crazy Vaclav is selling was a Soviet Bloc copy of the AC Petite.
I think the car is also likely from the late 1950s or early 1960s in design, but knowing how long Soviet-bloc countries kept cars in production, I think the car could be as new as the mid to late 1980s.
The Soviets weren’t shy about copying western designs when they felt like it; look at how they knocked off the famous GM LeSabre concept car:
I don’t think it would be unlikely at all if some Soviet satellite country needed an invalid car design and just tweaked one from some decadent Western country.
Now, what country may have done this is the question. We know it’s no longer around, and used Cyrillic characters for its language. I have a theory about this that narrows it down to two possible countries: Either the country was the People’s Republic of Bulgaria or was Yugoslavia.
I know Bulgaria is still around, but the old, Soviet-influenced, Communist People’s Republic of Bulgaria is gone. Yugoslavia is now gone, and was broken up into Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovenia.
My thinking that these countries are likely is because of clues in the motto: zagreb ebnom zlotdik diev.
Now, the first word, Zagreb, is also the name of a Croatian city. And, Croatia used to be part of Yugoslavia, which is now, as we know, gone. But, Croatian is not traditionally written in Cyrillic characters. The Serbo-Croatian language, though, can be written with Cyrillic characters, and was spoken in Yugoslavia.
So, maybe Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia also has an established automotive industry, notably the company Zastava, makers of the infamous Yugo.
Now, I think the former People’s Republic of Bulgaria may be an option because of the use of Cyrillic characters, and the fact that the last word of the motto, deiv, translates to the Bulgarian word for “girls.”
That’s the only other actually translatable word in the motto; the word zlotdik is close to the Polish word zlotnik, which means “goldsmith,” but I don’t think the car was Polish because of the use of Cyrillic, which Polish is not written in.
“Girls” as a word sort of makes sense in the context of an advertising slogan, especially from a somewhat chauvinistic era, when you might advertise that a car would attract the girls. If we assume that zlotdik is a sort of borrowed-Polish slang word, then maybe in Bulgarian the motto could be something like “Girls from Zagreb will think you’re a goldsmith,” suggesting that women love that gold, and will love you if you drive this thing.
That’s pretty flimsy, I know, but I’m not working with much, here.
Bulgaria did have an auto industry in its socialist period, making Renault 8s and 10s from 1966 to 1970 under the Bulgarrenault name. They also built Soviet Moskovitches, and the Fiat 850 and 124. So they could have built this car.
If we decide it’s Bulgarian, it could be called the муха, pronounced “Mukha,” which means “housefly.” Also, that would mean the gears may be, in Bulgarian:
н- неутрален: Neutral
Б-Бутам: Jog (Drive)
и-инв: Inv (inverse/reverse)
ш-шунт: Shunt (like a low gear, let’s say)
… and I’m just going to give up there. I can’t quite tell what that possibly L or E-shaped letter under Homer’s thumb is, and I was pretty desperate for even these, so I better quit while I’m ahead.
So, let’s recap. I believe the following:
The weird little car Homer tries from Crazy Vaclav’s car lot in the Mr.Plow episode is most likely called a Mukha, and is a Bulgarian copy of a British invalid car, the AC Petite.
The Mukha has some styling differences from the original Petite (tailfins, for example) and uses a two-stroke diesel engine capable of burning kerosene. The car is capable of an impressive 132 MPG, and if you drive one, I think you’ll agree…“Girls from Zagreb will think you’re a goldsmith.”
There. I hope that clears some things up for everyone. I know I feel better.