Bart, would you go start daddy's car? Marge:
What? There's nothing to worry about. Bart:
Well then you
start it! Homer:
Alright, fine! I'll take a cab!
A favourite assassination method of mobsters
alike is to hook up a bomb to the ignition switch of a car, so that it will lie dormant until some poor soul starts it.
While the intended target is, naturally, the car's owner, this trope is the number one killer of chauffeurs
and valets — which occasionally raises the Fridge Logic
of why you would put an ignition-triggered explosive in a chauffeured car in the first place — and has claimed its fair share of helpful Dead Sidekicks
and Disposable Women
There is an interesting case of The Law of Conservation of Detail
attached to this trope. In normal circumstances, little to no screentime is devoted to a character walking to their car or starting it. Hence, whenever this does
happen — especially if you see a close-up of the key — the more Genre Savvy
viewer probably has a distinctly uneasy feeling in his stomach
. Wait for it... three... two... one... ignition!
Another dead giveaway is if the car is a gift from someone the recipient really shouldn't trust
Variations include remote-detonation and bombs hooked up to other parts of the car, but the idea is to kill the occupant. Cars turned into suicide bombs
A subtrope of Vehicular Sabotage
. See Every Car Is a Pinto
for cars blowing up that have no reason to
Unrelated to steam engines and Stirling engines, which really do work by "external combustion".
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Anime and Manga
- One of the manga adaptations of Mobile Suit Gundam, ''Gundam: The Origin", covers a lot of backstory from prior to the start of the anime. One scene has loyalists of spacenoid leader Zeon Zum Deikun use a car bomb against the sons of his successor Degwin Sodo Zabi, who many suspected of having assassinated Zeon to take his job.
- In Grisaia No Kajitsu, Makina's sister is seriously injured by a bomb placed under her car.
- Golgo 13. A criminal gang attacks a hijacker who's parachuted into the Amazon with his three million ransom. Actually they've been Lured Into a Trap, as the hijacker is Duke Togo who has a contract on them. As Duke masscares the attackers with machine guns and rocket launchers he's prestashed in the area, their leader decides Screw This, I'm Outta Here! and runs for the vehicles. One of his mooks starts a vehicle a moment before he does and blows up. The leader looks at his own ignition key, throws it away and decides to go on foot. He doesn't get far.
- In the Batman Knightfall saga, a villain has stolen the Batmobile. Batman gets in the car, starts it, and kaboom! Cut to Robin screaming, when Batman walks by and says he got out just in time, realizing it was booby-trapped, "because that's what I would have done."
- The Punisher once ran into villains who took to modifying taxis with booby-traps that would horribly kill the driver. When he realized this, he switched cars with the bad guys pursuing him, who forgot whose car the remote activated...
- In The Godfather, Michael's blissful escape from mob life in Sicily comes to an end when his new wife, Apollonia, decides to bring the car around for him. He gets Five Second Foreshadowing when one of his compatriots, Fabrizio, panics and runs off when he realizes Michael isn't driving himself.
- A cut scene from the sequel has Fabrizio dying this way on Michael's orders.
- Yuri's uncle in Lord of War, after Yuri gifts his car to him.
- Subverted with a side order of Dangerously Genre Savvy in the film version of The Sum of All Fears. Dressler has his bodyguard start the car first, as he's savvy enough to know people like him get offed this way. After a tense moment, the car starts just fine. When Dressler (who was established early in the film to be a chain smoker) pushes in the car's cigarette lighter, it explodes as soon as the lighter pops back up. The bodyguard who started the car survives.
- The X-Files: Fight the Future, where the Well Manicured Man is eliminated in this fashion.
- This is of course the whole set-up to Speed - the bomb is rigged to activate at the bus hitting 50 mph, and detonate upon it going under that speed.
- In Johnny Dangerously, Roman Maroni does this to you if you park in his space.
- Parodied in Mafia (the Jay Mohr comedy), where Mohr's character is in the car when this happens. He survives, but loses most of his skin in the accident (leading to a major Squick moment when he eats a tangerine, leading to a multiple Vomit Indiscretion Shot). By the time he meets up with his wife again, he only has a small bandage on his cheek. When he is asked what happened, he replies, "Car exploded."
- In For Your Eyes Only, the Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me self-destructs when one of the bad guys tries to use the butt of his gun to break into the car.
- Famously done in the opening scene of Casino. Sam is narrating to himself as he walks out of a restaurant into his car, and it explodes when he turns the key. Subverted, however, as we see later on that he survived.
Sam: When you love someone you've got to trust them, there's no other way. You've got to give them the key to everything that's yours. Otherwise, what's the point? And for a while, I thought that was the kind of love I had.
- Angels & Demons (The Movie): The Dragon is killed this way.
- In The Dark Knight, a judge is shown out to her car by secret service types with sealed instructions as to her destination. When she opens the envelope, the note contains only a single word: "UP". BOOM.
- As with the book, so with the film: in The Pelican Brief, attempting to kill the protagonist.
- A mob boss in The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight is terrified of being killed by a car bomb and always has one of his underlings start his car for him. At the end of the film, he is killed by a bomb that is triggered when the driver's door slams after the engine has been started.
- In Scarface (1983), Tony is supposed to help a hitman kill a government official with the remote-detonated variant. He refuses to do so when he sees the official's kids get in the target car.
- One of Darkman's allies is killed this way in Darkman II: The Return of Durant.
- Wise Guys has testing a car for this as Danny DeVito's chore, as the low man in the Family. Wincing, he turns the engine over, and doesn't blow up. He makes it back to the other happy laughing mobsters, including his boss, and they chat. THEN it blows up.
- The Transporter. In the second movie the villains have attached a remote-controlled bomb to the bottom of Frank's car, which he sees reflected in a puddle of water. As the villains are pointing guns at him he has to get in anyway, and detaches it by launching the car into the air so the magnetically-attached bomb is knocked off by a crane hook. It would have been a lot simpler for the villains to have just shot him, or for Frank to have parked the car and ran away as soon as he was out of sight, but well...
- It isn't the first time someone's tried to use a car bomb on him — the first movie has The Dragon attempting to get rid of him with a bomb in a suitcase, resulting in his car going kaboom.
- In the original version of The Mechanic, McKenna gets into his car at the end of the film, realising too late it was rigged to explode by Bishop, who knew that McKenna would eventually kill him.
- Michael Collins features one of the assassinations of British agents as being accomplished via this. The use of such a method in the time period (as well as the Northern Irish agents featured) is entirely fictitious, and an obvious reference to The Troubles.
- Alex Murphy becomes the eponymous character in RoboCop (2014) when this is done to him.
- Law Abiding Citizen. The Well-Intentioned Extremist put remote-controlled bombs inside the gas tanks, where a prior search didn't find them. The protagonist is Forced to Watch as the woman he mentored struggles to escape from a vehicle with sabotaged locks as the other cars explode one by one, before her car also blows up.
- In Ordinary Decent Criminal, a judge is intimidated by planting a bomb in his daughter's car, triggered by the remote unlocker. The fact that it blew up right in front of the judge, and only injured his son-in-law instead of killing his daughter or himself, makes it a bit of a Xanatos Roulette as far as intimidation tactics go.
Live Action TV
- Dick Tracy had this as the way they killed off the Creator's Pet, Moon Maid. The twist is that instead of being under the hood, the bomber, Little Lettel, preferred to place his bombs under the dashboard in the interior of the car.
- Grand Theft Auto III: An early mission has you booby-trapping a guy's car.
- And later you can end up on the receiving end of this trick if you're not careful.
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City has a garage which outfits any car you drive in with a remote-detonated car bomb.
- Same for most of the games.
- In Hitman one of the missions in Hong Kong requires Agent 47 to use this method. Same goes for one mission in St. Petersburg in Silent Assassin.
- During the make-your-ownTeen Girl Squad segment of the first episode of Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, using the car on Whats-Her-Face at the right time will reveal that her dad bought her a car "at a government auction" that turns out to be rigged with one of these. "A SPLODE!"
- If you return their brains, Maloof (who is implied to be from a mafia family) and Mikhail of Psychonauts can be found rigging Coach Oleander's to explode. Since he's last seen leaving the camp in a jet, we don't know if it ever worked.
- Déjà Vu has a booby-trapped car that will explode if you start the ignition or pop the hood.
- Deus Ex has the infamous aerial version. Say it with me: a bomb!
- In Family Guy, when Lois is wanted by the mob, the valet retrieves their car shortly after a hit is called off. It ends rather poorly for the boy.
- When Homer Simpson was the Mayor's bodyguard, and the mob had threatened to kill him, he tries to get Bart to "start daddy's car for him". When Marge protests, he decides to get a cab.
- One of Bill Plympthon's early shorts had a vignette titled "The Mafia, the Early Years", which showed a cowboy's horse blowing up after he spurred it.
- An episode of American Dad! has Roger plant bombs in the cars of three teachers at Steve's school after they gang up on him. Only the first two bombs actually go off; the third teacher suddenly becomes Made of Explodium and his torso explodes, leaving behind his legs.
- Commonly used by terrorists and guerrillas in real life. Although popularly associated with Middle Eastern hot spots, the basic structure of the car bomb was invented in the 1920s.
- The Mike Davis essay, 'The Poor Man's Air Force', explores the psychology behind car bombs. In his view, the car bomb is difficult to trace and deadly effective at destroying their targets and spreading fear and panic, but also points out that it is an "inherently fascist weapon" that is just as effective at making the car bombers morally bankrupt extremists.
- Organized crime often uses this method to eliminate the inconvenient. Car bombs were used so frequently by Ohio racketeers they were nicknamed 'Youngstown tune-ups.'
- Frank 'Lefty' Rosenthal, who was the basis for the character in Casino was targeted by a car bomb as shown in the movie.
- He survived because a Good Bad Bug in the car's balancing system necessitated a heavy steel plate be installed under the driver's seat to compensate.
- The Irish Gang War of Boston in the early 60s escalated when one gang tried to wire a bomb in the car of the wife of the Winter Hill Gang leader.
- The Winter Hill gang would later bomb the car of the lawyer of Joe "The Animal" Barboza, who, at that time was a government witness. The man who helped arrange the bombing Frank Salemme, would later become a notorious informant for the FBI.