Volkswagen isn’t exactly new to unique marketing campaigns. In fact, they boast some of the most interesting gimmicks and head-turning topics the vehicle industry has seen. “Think Small,” a revolutionary campaign back in the 60s’ completely changed the "bigger is better" mindset. And it’s still relevant today – the campaign is even called the dawn of modern advertising.
Since then, Volkswagen has produced several interesting campaigns like the 1964 Interchangeable Part Beetle poster, which later inspired the famous Volkswagen “Harlequin” in the early 90s’. Then, in 2005, the Pea Car appeared. And this time, Volkswagen wasn’t even behind this idea. While originally created for a video commercial only, the veggie car quickly drew attention from car enthusiasts.
How it all began
The concept of the Pea Car was developed by Matt Waller and Dave Monk, who were part of the creative team at the advertising agency BBH. They shared the idea with Muriel MacCallum and Sofia Costa, who led the brand team at Birds Eye Peas. So, it wouldn’t just be a usual commercial about veggies and how good they are for you. The commercial would include an actual car-sized Pea mobile to promote peas and healthier eating habits. The task was quickly undertaken by Asylum, a London-based special effects company. As for the car, a Volkswagen Microbus was used to create the famous Pea Car.
The Pea Car
In total, it took Asylum around six weeks to transform the Microbus into a vehicle resembling a pea. Though before the actual project could begin, the team first created a 3D model. When production began, the process involved modifying not just the VW Microbus but creating custom parts and even adding parts from other vehicles as well.
Since this car was designed to be a marketing gimmick, the structural integrity wasn’t exactly a priority because the car was supposed to fall apart during the filming of the commercial. It was actually one of the main aspects of the Pea Car. That’s also why fiberglass was used to create certain parts so that they could simply fall out easier.
Still, there was quite a bit of thought put into its production. The Pea Car was built by using a heavily modified chassis of an off-road go-kart, installing a Honda engine, and it didn’t have any gears. The chassis had to be modified to make the vehicle more stable and usable to begin with before any additional parts could be added. For the indicators, they used parts from a Lancia, the tell-tale lights came from a Volkswagen Beetle, and the famous green color was chosen to be none other than the Pantone 369c. Finally, once the car was complete, it weighed 1,653 (~750 kg) pounds and could only reach 60 MPH.
The fate of the Pea Car
Currently, the car can be found at the Unilever Ice Cream and Frozen Foods Co. in Walton on Thames. After the release of the Birds Eye commercial in December 2005, the Pea Car traveled around for a bit. It was showcased at events, museums, and vehicle presentations. It’s even said that at some point, the car also found a place at the National Motor Museum in the United Kingdom.
Interestingly enough, the quirky car garnered quite a bit of attention from people after the commercial aired. So much so that some individuals wanted to purchase the car. Unfortunately, the Pea Car was never intended for everyday use, nor was it even safe to be driven. Even so, the Pea Car is a great example of creative engineering and witty design.