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The Two Biggest Automotive Anachronisms In Tarantino's Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood Hint At An Undiscovered Subplot

Illustration for article titled The Two Biggest Automotive Anachronisms In Tarantinos iOnce Upon A Time…In Hollywood /iHint At An Undiscovered Subplot

Okay, look, I absolutely realize that any rational window to talk about the cars of Tarantino’s alternate timeline Manson Family movie Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood is long, long past. I get that. I wanted to do some kind of “cars of” post at the time, but I was unable to get my hands on a screener to get suitable screen grabs from, so I moved on to other things. But, when I watched it, I absolutely noticed the cars, and, more significantly, the (really very few) automotive anachronisms. I finally had a chance to grab an image or two from the movie, so I decided what the hell, let’s talk about this.

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I still don’t have a screener of the film, but I was on an airplane recently that had the movie available, so I was able to take a crappy photo of the paused screen, which I’ll take as a victory.

The thing I wanted a picture of was what I consider to be the most glaring automotive anachronism of the movie. Remember, the movie takes place in 1969, and, generally, the automotive casting is absolutely stellar: there’s an amazing variety of cars, all the sorts of things you’d expect to see in LA at that time—big American barges, Mustangs, Karmann Ghias and MG TDs and the occasional Jag or Ferrari—and they’re nearly all period correct.

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The glaring exception is this Beetle, prominently featured in a parking lot scene about 15 minutes into the film:

Illustration for article titled The Two Biggest Automotive Anachronisms In Tarantinos iOnce Upon A Time…In Hollywood /iHint At An Undiscovered Subplot

See that blue Beetle? The movie is positively filled with old Volkswagens, and all are period correct, except, somehow, for this one. It’s 1969, but this is a 1973 Super Beetle.

Now, here’s the strange thing: of all the Beetles of the wrong year you could have accidentally placed in a scene, this one is arguably one of the worst, because the differences are the most glaring.

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It’s a Super Beetle, which didn’t appear until 1971 (the same year those little parenthesis-shaped vents appeared behind the rear side windows) and this one, the 1973, was the first year of the big, wrap-around windshield. I mention this because a standard Beetle from 1970 and up could have passed, mostly, for a ‘68 or ‘69 Beetle. But a Super Beetle is clearly and obviously different.

Illustration for article titled The Two Biggest Automotive Anachronisms In Tarantinos iOnce Upon A Time…In Hollywood /iHint At An Undiscovered Subplot
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Sure, the taillights are from an older Beetle, but everything else about this is obviously newer than 1969. What’s weird is that the production used so many other Beetles in passing shots that would have worked just fine—why did they pick this one, that is so obviously (well, for VW geeks) wrong for this long, highly visible shot?

I thought maybe it was just a unlikely mistake, until our own night editor Bradley Brownell pointed out something else: the Porsche 911 that Sharon Tate drives is also an anachronism, and from the same anachronistic year: 1973.

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Illustration for article titled The Two Biggest Automotive Anachronisms In Tarantinos iOnce Upon A Time…In Hollywood /iHint At An Undiscovered Subplot

Two rear-engined, air-cooled cars from 1973 in a movie set in 1969? In a movie with otherwise impeccable car-casting, from a director who is known for his attention to detail? Something’s up.

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So here’s my theory: the movie itself presents an alternate 1969, one where Sharon Tate is not murdered by members of the Manson family. That means the timeline is not the same as ours, it has branched into a new and different direction that we can only guess at.

Perhaps these two 1973 vehicles, so obviously placed and visible, are there as hints that, at some point in 1973, a spacetime wormhole opened up, perhaps allowing people to travel back to 1969, perhaps with the goal of preventing the deaths of Sharon Tate, her unborn child, and the other victims.

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Maybe there’s a technical reason why a water-cooled car cannot traverse a wormhole? Or maybe the understeering tendencies of a front-engined design make wormhole navigation difficult?

I’m not really sure. All I know is that in the 1969 shown in that movie, there are at least two automotive temporal refugees. And I think they’re there for a reason.

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My attempts to contact Quentin Tarantino (by going out into my backyard and yelling his name) have so far yielded no results, but if he gets in touch with me to confirm my two-cars-through-a-wormhole theory, I’ll let you know.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

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DISCUSSION

Brad Pitt wears a Citizen Ref. 67-9020 Bullhead Chronograph, Automatic Cal. 8110A released in AFAIK 1972.