Fans of Calvin & Hobbes have been known to dissect and obsess over the smallest details of the beloved comic strip that ended in 1995. Now one enterprising auto writer has attempted what may be the impossible. Jalopnik’s associate editor Jason Torchinsky wanted to figure out exactly which model of car Calvin’s dad drove in the comics, and went to great side-by-side comparison efforts to figure it out.
The car in question appears many times over the ten years that the comic strip ran and is somewhat of the main accessory to Calvin’s father. Interestingly, Torchinsky points out that the car does actually seem to change over the years. What started in its very first appearance as a boxy sedan morphs over the years to something more like an economic two-door hatchback model. Reading through Torchinsky’s analysis of the possibilities was a trip, partially because cars in the ’80s were not that attractive and partially because I have distinct memories of all the possible cars he discusses tooling around my hometown in that decade.
Calvin & Hobbes creator Bill Watterson grew up in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. You can see the picturesque town square being devoured by Godzilla-sized Calvin on the back cover of The Essential Calvin & Hobbes collection that was published in 1998. Growing up there myself, I’ll confirm it is as adorable as portrayed in hand-drawn form, and the streets were crowded with VW Golfs and Rabbits in the ’80s as Torchinsky ultimately determines might be. Calvin was, and is, a giant lovable shadow over my hometown and while rumors of Watterson persist, he remains as reclusive in real life as he does in public.
Even the experienced auto writer couldn’t pinpoint just one car that he thinks Watterson used for inspiration over the decade he wrote Calvin & Hobbes, but he does narrow it down. While he believes the most common inspiration for the car is a late 1980 VW Golf, he also admits that there’s a good chance that the inspiration for full-color dream sequences may have been a Dodge/Mitsubishi Colt, as the full-color cars are just different enough. What do you think of his logic? All of his evidence speaks strongly to this big fan of Calvin & Hobbes. Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Comics credit: Bill Watterson/Universal Press Syndicate