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Clown Car

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Hope you don't have claustrophobia — or coulrophobia.

A Clown Car is a vehicle that (in addition to being the transport of choice for a clown) holds (or seems to hold) far more occupants than it physically can, leading observers to believe that it's Bigger on the Inside.

First used in the Cole Brothers Circus in the 1950's in a circus clown routine. When performed in Real Life, the effect is accomplished by stripping a vehicle of its seats and packing the performers inside.

Compare Clown-Car Base (for the structural version), Bag of Holding (when it's a bag or container), Clown-Car Grave (for a tomb with similar properties) and Bigger on the Inside (when the viewer can see the vehicle's interior). Contrast Misleading Package Size.


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    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield: Jon says his Uncle Clarence was a circus clown who retired last year and "thirty of his buddies came to his retirement party in one car".

    Films — Animation 
  • In the (still animated) beginning of Enchanted, Giselle gets out of her coach in her wedding dress, and Nathaniel is run over by all the animals that were apparently in the coach with her (even though her dress is so big, it's hard to tell how she fit herself).
  • The buses from Cars 2, which for some reason can actually carry cars inside them!
  • In Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, as the monkeys make a deal with the ringmaster to buy the circus, you can see a large number of clowns piling into a Clown Car, with the Ringmaster getting in as well.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In one scene of You Don't Mess with the Zohan, over a dozen Arabs get out of a regular New York taxi cab.
  • In the Mel Brooks To Be or Not to Be movie, the Jews who had been hiding in the theater emerge in front of an audience of Nazi officers, as an endless stream of clowns from an actual clown car on stage, and walk out unhindered through the front door. Though it should be noted that most of them weren't actually in the car - the car was parked so that it would block the audience's view of a trap door in the stage, which allowed them to emerge from the below stage area and walk through the car in a way that made it look like they were in the car.
  • In the Roscoe Fatty Arbuckle / Buster Keaton two-reeler Moonshine, forty-five revenuers get out of a model-T.
  • Naturally used in the B-movie Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Near the end the Klowns arrive at a closed amusement park (where their UFO circus tent is), arriving in a little clown car. The security guard bemusingly watches about 5 Klowns emerge from the vehicle, and the klowns then shower him with acid pies. Even the pies fit this trope because the Klowns were carrying an unlimited supply of pies with them while in the car.
  • During the battle with the atheists in Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter, a group of six atheists emerges from a small hatchback. After Jesus dispatches them, another group of six atheists leave the same car. Understandably, Jesus throws his hands up in disbelief before engaging them.
  • At the beginning of Nanook of the North, Nanook paddles his 12-foot canoe onshore. He climbs out of the canoe, and then both of his wives and his dog emerge from inside the tiny canoe. (This was actually footage edited to look like they were all inside. In truth, the family members separately climbed into the canoe, then were filmed getting out.)

  • In Harry Potter, Mr. Weasley's Ford Anglia and some cars used by the Ministry of Magic are enchanted so as to comfortably seat over twice as many people as could be squeezed in normally.
  • The Discworld Fools' Guild Diary includes strict rules on the minimum number of clowns allowed to travel in a single coach or sedan chair.
  • In Les Misérables (of all possible novels), Victor Hugo invokes this in his description of the Parisian Mardi Gras revels (coinciding with the wedding of Marius and Cosette). He states that a carriage, usually able to contain about six persons, seemed to be able to contain at least twenty, when they were dressed up as clowns or whatever other disguises. Clearly an Unbuilt Trope, because the novel was written thirty years before the first actual cars, and was set thirty years before that. This particular part of the novel is set in spring 1833.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Batman (1966). In the episode "The Penguin Declines", the Batmobile turns out to have some serious Clown Car carrying capacity. In an attempt to infiltrate the Batcave, The Joker, the Penguin, and six of their henchmen can all fit in the Batmobile's trunk.
  • Burke's Law episode "Who Killed the Thirteenth Clown" has one of the clowns wind up dead.
  • The Goodies episode about the Rolf Harris plague has a take-off of the Pied Piper of Hamilton, which includes the Rolf Harris "attacking the babies in their cradles". Later when the Goodies draw them out of the city by playing "Waltzing Matilda" on didgeridoos, an endless stream of Rolfs are seen clambering out of the one baby carriage.
  • In an episode of M*A*S*H, after seeing a picture in Life magazine of 15 college kids stuffing themselves in a Volkswagen, Hawkeye decided to try and top it by stuffing 16 people into a Jeep.
  • Modern Family has Cam riding in one of these.
  • Pushing Daisies: A number of clowns were driving away from the circus when they were forced off the road and into the lake. When their car is dragged up from it and they start pulling the bodies out, it starts out with only one clown...and then another one is pulled out and another one and another one, including a clown wearing stilts, and it keeps going until it's hilarious.
  • Wellington Paranormal: Minogue and O'Leary pull over a Fiat 500 containing sixteen clowns in the "A Normal Night" episode, partially because the clowns creeped them out, partially because the clowns were dancing in the road and jaywalking.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Sesame Street uses a clown car at least three times.
    • For a counting lesson, a mini hatchback (with a police siren) came in driving around in circles, then came to a stop to let out 10 clowns (each counting 1 to 10 as they came out) before they all went back into it (counting backwards this time), after which the hatchback took off.
    • For an adjective lesson, a woman shops for a car. The dealer and his assistant bring out her requested "small car," and they also comply when she requests a "smaller car," ending with their "smallest car" — which the assistant moves by standing outside its window and pushing it. The woman deems this last car perfect and calls "Everybody in the car!" She and a number of clowns climb into the car easily and drive away.
    • When Ernie took over a game of Journey to Ernie and made it a game of Journey to Big Bird, he finds Big Bird hiding in a clown car, even doubting that he could possibly be in there.

  • In Crazy For You, the choreography for "I Can't Be Bothered Now" has more Chorus Girls emerging from a smallish car than could possibly fit in it.

    Video Games 
  • Planetside 2 has an established strategy called "clown carring", where an entire platoon of 48 players simultaneously spawn at the same mobile spawn vehicle immediately after it's deployed.
  • Dead Rising 2: Off the Record has a clown car which, despite its small size and only having one visible passenger seat, can hold up to eight survivors.
  • Psychonauts: During the Milkman Conspiracy level, several large black government-type sedans pull up and disgorge a tidal wave of Censors to fight the Rainbow Squirts.
  • Age of Empires provides an egregious example in Transport Ships. You can pile up to 10 elephants in a Transport Ship, and it looks like it would have difficulty carrying one.
  • Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds has a similar issue. A transport ship with a storage compartment the size of a rental truck can hold multiple AT-AT walkers.
  • Zigzagged in StarCraft, due largely to Units Not to Scale: the sprite for a Terran siege tank is roughly the same size as a dropship, but the dropship can fit two.
  • Ditto transport ships in Cossacks: European Wars. They can transport 80 units (and up to 280 in the expansions) artillery included, on rivers or seas, but their size makes them look like they can transport 10 units at best.
  • Golden Sun. How do they fit into those tiny little wagons?
  • Super Robot Wars invokes the trope often, depending on the capital ship and robots you have.
    • A typical situation would be the Ra Calium from Gundam with a standard load of twelve roughly eighteen meter Mobile Suits plus another dozen super robots in the 30+ meter range. Probably at it when the 100m Daitarn 3 is on board. Occasionally possibly averted whenever Macross ships are available.
    • Daitarn gets especially funny in Alpha Gaiden, where it is explicitely pointed out in story to be roughly as large (it's slightly larger, even) as the Iron Gear, a battleship with a giant robot form, which comes in handy when the Iron Gear gets hijacked and Daitarn has to wrestle it down. But since the Iron Gear is a battleship, as soon as you get it back you can go and stuff Daitarn inside it with zero trouble... along with your entire army if you want to.
    • This gets REALLY bad in Super Robot Wars Destiny, where you get permanent control of Shin Dragon, which is roughly the size of an entire CITY, fitting in one of the battleships. This is averted somewhat in its next appearance, Super Robot Wars Z2: Saisei-Hen when it is designated as a battleship on its own.
  • Ace Combat games have from time to time carriers that can keep spawning enemies until destroyed.
  • In Halo Wars, there is no way an infantry transport vehicle the size of three dump trucks can carry 240 Marines, and look empty from your view over the battlefield.
  • The Koopa Clown Car (actually some kind of reverse helicopter) from Super Mario World is able to carry Bowser, an infinite amount of Mechakoopas, Princess Peach, two Super Mushrooms, and an infinite amount of enormous cannonballs inside itself without running out of room, and the cannonballs are at least as big as the car itself. Bowser Jr. also has one that can carry an infinite amount of Bob-ombs.
  • Done in the Dawn of War series, the first one and its expansions featured vehicles which were much smaller than the ones you would find on the tabletop, yet still able to fit about 30 troops, on average.
    • Due to counting squads rather than units, the Imperial Guard Chimera comfortably seating around up to 48 soldiers and the ork Wartrukk can fit more than 30 orks including the car-sized Warboss, while the tabletop version could fit a single squad of about 10 or so.
    • Inverted with the Space Marine's Land Raider: as the only vehicle capable of transporting Terminators, it can only fit one squad inside of any size.
    • The second Dawn of War had vehicles that still followed this trope, though the unit proportions are about equal to the tabletop models.
  • In No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, at one point Travis walks into a parking lot with two vans in it. He has to fight the thugs coming out of those vans, who seem to keep pouring out for a good 20 minutes. Several more vans (about eight more) pull up later, albeit those vans seem to have come from Hammerspace.
  • Mini Robot Wars has the Transporter and its Aquatic Mook equivalent the Killer Whale, both of which are Mook Maker units that can spawn a huge amount of enemies for something its size.
  • In the NES version of Double Dragon II: The Revenge, Mission 3 is set entirely inside the confides of a chopper. The player fights against a total of seven or eight enemies in this stage (two right hand-men, three or four Williams and two Bolos), all coming out from the helicopter's cockpit. The PC Engine averts this changing the helicopter into the large transport heli big enough to house smaller copters.
  • True to the name of the trope, during the credits of Transformers: War for Cybertron, Bumblebee drives on screen in his scout car mode and screeches to a halt...before unloading half a dozen Autobots from his passenger compartment before transforming and running offscreen himself. Since the lineup of people who were riding him includes Sideswipe, Ironhide, Ratchet, Scattershot, and Optimus Prime, all of whom are demonstrably larger than Bumblebee in both modes, this makes Bumblebee a car full of cars through the magic of clown car technology and Rule of Funny.
  • Star Ruler 1 has this as a game mechanic. As you progress through the Lensman Arms Race, hangar bays and "quantum compressor" subsystems become more and more effective, allowing you to cram more and more crap into the fighter bays of ships, to the point where you can essentially fit a ship inside itself. At the highest level, a fighter can puke up a couple corvettes which then spew out battleships which then spew out Mile Long Ships which vomit up hundreds upon hundreds of Planet Spaceships recursively forever or until you either get bored of clicking or fill up the visible universe with starships larger than galaxies.
  • One shows up in the Big Top level of CarnEvil. Though it seems to look a lot like an ambulance, as seen in the above photo.
  • In Fallout 2 you can get a pre-war luxury car. It can fit six human-sized people (there's possibly a ghoul in there, but his size is that of a human) and a Super Mutant (twice as big as a human) in the passenger space, and a huge assortment of junk in the trunk (dozens of rifles, ten Gatling guns, thousands of rounds, a hundred rockets, two rocket launchers, four flamethrower, five dozen flamethrower gas tanks, and various kind of small miscellaneous items). How everything can fit in there is anyone's guess.
  • In the prologue of Max Blaster and Doris de Lightning Against the Parrot Creatures of Venus, one of the attendees at a Mad Scientist meeting announces that they've arranged for a VW bug to be placed onsite so that their army of sad clown robots can emerge from it and seize the area.
  • Scribblenauts has this type of car as one of the objects you can summon. Tapping it after summoning spawns three clowns.
  • The Infinitymobile from LISA: The Pointless can hold the seven members of the Infinity Franchise clowns without any problem. They appear one by one each turn. If you destroy the car before the seventh clown appears, the whole crew will join the battle at the same time and things will definitely get ugly.
  • Referenced in City of Heroes: one of the stray things you can encounter while traveling around the city is a small two-seat car that's been pulled over by the police, with an officer arresting a half-dozen street thugs.
    You realize that's a small car, right? How did you even FIT in there?
  • In Fortnite's Battle Royale mode, combatants drop from the Battle Bus, an improvised dropship made out of an American school bus and a hot air balloon, with the passengers all in the bus portion. A standard U.S. school bus can seat up to about 60 adults, yet every battle has 100 (or close to it) participants. Even accounting for the possibility of people standing on the bus or sitting on the floor, the Battle Bus is practically a pocket dimension. Averted in 50v50 and Final Fight, where each team has its own Battle Bus and each team consists of a more bus-accomodatable 50 players in the former mode and 20 players in the latter.
  • In Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, there's a trailer in Pikachu Valley. If you attempt to get in the trailer, you'll be interrupted by a Pikachu, or sometimes three of them, walking out and heading offscreen. If you attempt it again, another Pikachu will walk out, and another, and another. Lampshaded by a Trial Guide man standing near the trailer, who will tell you how many of them he's counted having left the trailer, though he'll eventually lose count.
    Trial Guide: Just how many can fit in there, do you think?


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Dexter's Laboratory: In "The Laughing" a single, comically tall clown comes out of a comically undersized clown car at Dee Dee's birthday party.
  • In Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "Eds or Tails", while pulling off a scam offering clowns for rent to kids Eddy crams Ed and Edd disguised as clowns inside a very tiny toy car albeit their heads sticking out of the car.
  • At the beginning of one episode of The Flintstones, a medium-sized taxi came up to the airport, with it revealed to be carrying not just Fred, Wilma, and Pebbles, but also the Rubbles, both families luggage and even their pets. Betty lampshades it by wondering how they were all able to fit in there.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Brother's Little Helper" features a drug-addled tank-driving Bart about to crush a clown car, thus prompting Krusty to hasten out several other clowns.
      Krusty: What the?
      [He sees the tank coming.]
      Krusty: Quick, everyone out! Noodles! Seesaw! Oopsie! Flopsweat! Hoohaw! Jitters! Sir Widebottom!
      Sir Widebottom: Oh! I'm stuck!
      [The other clowns try, and fail, to pull his buttocks out in time. The tank crushes the car and pops his buttocks.]
      Sir Widebottom: ...I'm sure I'm alive but, why?
    • The Show Within a Show "Trans-Clown-O-Morphs": One trans-clown-o-morph morphs into a helicopter and then into a car. An army of them then steps out of that car.
    • This was also referenced when Krusty and several other clowns emerge from a large executive car. Krusty tells the others to get back in, as it's only funny when the car is small.
    • Downplayed in "Short Films About Springfield": an extraordinarily tall man is seen driving a car so small that when seated, his knees are roughly level with his ears. Nelson points and laughs, only for the tall man to get out and give chase, eventually fishing Nelson out of a sewer. The tall man then explains that this was the largest automobile he could afford before giving Nelson his comeuppance.
  • In Ben 10, Zombozo and his freaks have one — which they use to stash any stolen loot.
  • Muzzy in Gondoland: The king, the queen, and Corvax chase after Bob and Silvia in a helicopter. When they land an impossibly large number of soldiers also come out the helicopter, all just to arrest Bob.
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot episode "Samurai Vac" used this as a running gag by attempting to cram over 40 teens in one small car. It is visually overstuffed, and it bursts after adding a final, really small person.
  • In Robot Chicken, there is a segment where a clown car is driving in a street and passes in front of a little boy, making him happy. Unfortunately, the car ends up crashing and everything goes downhill from here.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Gone", SpongeBob spends many weeks in Bikini Bottom all by himself before one bus arrives and unloads a crowd of people bigger than the bus itself, with Mr. Krabs explaining they left the city for "National No SpongeBob Day".
  • Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: In "Trolley Troubles", Oswald's trolley seems to be fairly small, but it can hold hundreds of riders!
  • A late second-season episode of Transformers: Prime had the Autobots intercept a newly-fallen ship containing more Decepticon troops than they believed could possibly fit inside. Ratchet says that humans refer to the phenomenon as a "clown car". Although it turns out that the Decepticon troops weren't what came out of the ship, they showed up after it landed.
  • At one point in the Jimmy Two-Shoes episode "Powersquid and Spaghetti Beezy", the Rodeo Clowns are seen stepping out of one.
    Head Clown: I don't see why we always have to take the small car.
  • Used for a quick visual gag in Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel, when a hulked-out Baljeet lifts a car during his rampage, and about fifteen clowns exits from it and flee.
  • In The Crumpets episode "Li'l One All Alone", nearly all members of the Crumpet family (143 of them) and their dog T-Bone fit in their yellow van before departing to their forest trip. The missing members, Li'l One and Granny, stayed at home. Ironically, the show's characters resemble clowns.
  • The Venture Brothers episode "Bot Seeks Bot" opens up with a funeral for the late "Clue Clown", who suffered a heart attack while driving his car. While his cause of death was the heart attack itself, it is implied he would have survived it, if not for the fact that his car was packed so full of hench-clowns that it took twenty minutes for responders to get enough out that they could reach Clue Clown himself, who by that point had already died.

    Real Life 
  • It became a common circus act after its first use in the 1950's. The act is performed by stripping a car of its interior and removing the seats to maximize the space inside, then loading the clowns inside.
  • Gabriel Iglesias' friends used to joke about this when he drove a VW Beetle.
    Gabriel: If you're a fat guy, and you drive a little car, and all your friends are comedians... ooh, they will make you cry.
  • There is a joke that Mexican people have the superpower of making any van they enter into a Clown Car. If you live near the US/Mexican border, you could see they can fit 40-50 people in an 8-person van. It is kinda freaky. Made fun of specifically here. Here it is in real life
    • An amusement park in México City used to have a promotion called "auto sardina" (sardine car) where you pay the entry fee based in the size of the car, not the number of people in it, so you usually have two families jammed in a really small car.
    • In Spain this joke is made with the Chinese instead.
    • In India and Indonesia this is done by fitting 3-5 people in motorcycles, justified in the latter case as people riding this way are schoolchildren and young girls known as "cabe-cabean".
  • Operation Solomon, an airlift operation by the Israeli Government to rescue thousands of Ethiopian Jews from a collapsing Ethiopian government in 1991, set a record by airlifting 1122 passengers in a single Boeing 747 (of which the highest official capacity, for the 747-400 in single-class configuration, is 624 passengers; even the personnel involved in the operation expected not to be able to fit more than 760 people in the aircraft). They landed with 1123 passengers, as a baby was born during the flight.
  • Filipino jeepneys are notorious for trying to fit in as much passengers as possible. If the city's rules don't allow them to get away with putting people on the roof, they will stuff the internal benches (even if it means people are "sitting" on an area that's a few square inches large) and the floor.
  • In The '60s, fitting as many people as possible into a Volkswagen Beetle was a big fad. Although it was rarely done with the intention to move the car with everyone inside it.
  • Common in Afghanistan where you often see people crammed into buses and cars oftentimes with people or another vehicle on the roof which in turn is full of people.
  • Really, you could say this about many kinds of public transportation across the developing world, from people cramming into every square inch of every train in India (including the roof!) to the overstuffed microbuses of Egypt and the jam-packed bus lines that abound in East Africa.
  • This video, fittingly titled Army.RAR, is about the Russian military and shows about 150 Russian soldiers emerging from a single truck.
    • Meanwhile, this video shows nine American soldiers climbing out of an armored car designed to seat a crew of four, with photos at the end showing they could have fit more if they were willing to stack. The reason in this case was because that model of vehicle happened to have a really great air conditioning system.
    • And there are numerous videos of bored soldiers trying to see how many people can fit into a single portapotty. Twelve, in this case.
  • This spoof PSA from the Massachusetts Police, who are fighting the deadly menace of Monster Clowns with their Clown Patrol.
  • Trains in Japan are infamous for being crammed full of passengers during the morning and evening rush hours. At one point, Tokyo's Shinjuku station (the busiest rail station in the world) actually hired "pushers" who would physically push as many passengers onto a train as possible, filling them to upwards of 220% of their designed carrying capacity. Though the practice has become less common, in part due to the advent of larger trains, incentives to travel off peak and improved station capacities, plus changing work patterns with the turn of the millennium, people hired as 'passenger arrangement staff' (the official term) continue to help those last-minute boarders fit in at peak times on some of Tokyo's busiest lines.


Video Example(s):


The Simpsons

A drug-addled Bart almost runs over Krusty and his friends' vehicle when piloting a tank through Springfield.

How well does it match the trope?

4.92 (24 votes)

Example of:

Main / ClownCar

Media sources: