For 28 long years, our nation has lived under a dank, heavy cloak of ignorance. Very recently, this cloak has been lifted, and the light of true knowledge shines upon us, burning our sallow, indoors-only skin. This knowledge is that we finally have official confirmation as to what kind of car Homer Simpson drives.
For whatever reason, this has been extraordinarily difficult to determine. The car itself, a fairly nondescript pink sedan with some body damage to the left front fender, has design elements that don’t really suggest any one particular car.
Now, in the most recent episode, titled Pork and Burns, the year, make, and model of Homer’s car is finally revealed: it’s a 1986 Plymouth Junkerolla.
When the line is delivered, Homer doesn’t seem to dispute it, even though past references to the car have suggested very different origins. It’s been suggested that the car was built in Croatia, from old Soviet tanks, which would be unlikely for a Mopar product.
The size and styling of the car do suggest an American car of a 1970s or 1980s vintage, at least, and while some sources have pegged it as an early ‘70s Plymouth Valiant, I don’t think it really resembles one, save for some of the taillight shape and the round sealed-beam headlights.
But, now we know, it’s a 1986 Plymouth Junkerolla. This means the car was made three years before The Simpsons actually went on the air, which seems plausible enough. If we accept that the Junkerolla (possibly Junkerola?) was a heretofore unknown Plymouth model, and look at what else Plymouth was making at the time, I think we can get a better sense of what sort of car Homer drives.
I think the Junkerolla was a badge-engineered variant of the Plymouth Reliant, one of the Chrysler’s K-Cars that helped keep them going throughout the 1980s. I remember these cars well, as one of my best friends in high school had a hand-me-down one, and I can confidently say they’re one of the saddest, most miserable boxes of crap you’d ever have the misfortune of driving, slowly and painfully.
That means it’s the perfect platform for Homer’s car.
My speculation is that the Junkerolla was a limited-volume, ultra-low-cost version of the four-door K-car sedan. The front panel was replaced with a cheaper-to-produce one that used round sealed-beam lights and a less-exepensive plastic grille assembly with three horizontal bars.
The Junkerolla also was designed to be a way for Chrysler to get rid of warehouses of old legacy parts, which is why the Junkerolla has chrome bumpers from a Valiant (rear bumpers are used both front and rear, without the bumper guards), and the taillights are leftover and quality-control rejects from the 1971 Valiant models.
Mechanically, the Junkerolla is using the same 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine that Chrysler used in almost everything, but not the newer turbo’d or fuel-injected ones. The Junkerolla was again used as a way to sell off unwanted parts surplus, in this case the carbureted intake manifolds for the 2.2 engine.
So, with the carbureted 2.2-liter engine, we can safely say that the 1986 Plymouth Junkerolla made 84 horsepower, at least when new.
I think where the car was built is worth considering as well. While I don’t think the Croatian guess is accurate, I do think it has an unusual birthplace, at least for a Plymouth: China.
See, in 1987, the Chinese carmaker First Auto Works (FAW) built some modified Dodge 600 cars and called them the Hongqi CA750F. My theory is that the Junkerolla models were built the year before, in 1986, as a sort of practice run for the factory and its workers to get up to speed. That would also explain the unusual styling features and the use of surplus parts.
These few Chinese-made training cars were then shipped back to America for evaluation, and at least one of these was eventually sold to the public, specifically a portly, jaundiced-looking man named Homer J. Simpson.
It feels good to finally know.