Jerry Lewis’ 1960 movie The Bellboy is widely regarded by cinemaphiles as the Citizen Kane of severely inept service-industry worker movies. And I think that includes the Fat Boys’ magnum opus, Disorderlies. What most people don’t realize is that it has one of the best fake VW engines in all of cinema.
The fake VW motor was featured in this scene, essentially a movie version of what had to be a pretty tired joke even back in 1960:
Tired or not, it’s nice to see the old ‘engine-in-the-trunk’ joke fully realized like this. I especially like the detail of the grease left on the door when the titular bellboy knocks. But I have two observations: first, did they paint the generator and crankshaft pulleys half white on the real engine so you could see it was running? And, second, who made that amazing VW flat-four engine model?
I mean, look at that thing — it’s wildly accurate. Maybe it’s a little bigger than normal? I’m trying to remember how big my engine felt out of the car when I installed it, and I think it was a bit smaller. Let’s see a picture:
Well, now that I look, maybe the size is right? Either way, it’s an incredibly detailed model of a VW 36HP 1200cc engine, right down to the differing color of the fuel pump and the carb, and all the engine tin and wires and pulleys and pretty much everything looks right.
How was this made? Who made it? What’s it made of? Some light plastic, or fiberglass, maybe? An actual VW engine of that era would have weighed about 198 lbs, and Jerry Lewis clearly isn’t swinging all that into the waiting arms of that actress, so I suspect it has to be a hollow...something.
If there’s any octogenarian prop guys reading this who know what and how this thing may have been made, I’d love to hear from you!