It’s pretty definitively summer now, and if the coming of summer doesn’t fill you at least with some residual, school’s-out-tinged joy, then I suppose all I have to offer you is pity. Summer should also mean something else to anyone with a pulse: the 1989 B-52 song “Love Shack.” That song famously references a gigantic Chrysler, and I think it’s time we accurately determined which Chrysler the B-52s are singing about.
If, somehow, your coma since 1988 just ended, then you may not be familiar with the song, so, here, crank it:
By the way, my wife once suggested that “Love Shack” would make a better national anthem for America than the clunky old “Star Spangled Banner,” and the more I think about that, the better I like it. Especially the idea of hearing an instrumental version played at the Olympics.
Back to the Chrysler. In the song, the car is referenced several times, mostly noting the vehicle’s colossal size and prodigious seating capacity:
I got me a Chrysler, it seats about twenty...
Hop in my Chrysler, it’s as big as a whale
And it’s about to set sail
I got me a car, it seats about twenty, so come on
And bring your jukebox money
So, we know three things about the car that Fred wants to drive you down to the Love Shack in: it’s a Chrysler, it’s as big as a whale, and seats “about 20.”
Now, in the video, the Chrysler is cast as a 1964 or 1965 Chrysler 300 L convertible:
Now, it’s certainly a big-ass car. You could absolutely describe it as being “big as a whale.” It’s an old-school land yacht. However, much of its bulk is taken up by its vast hood and trunk; the actual passenger volume, while generous, isn’t all that unusually large:
It’s really a five-seater car, despite its bulk. Sure, I bet you could cram four across that bench, and probably stick a couple people on laps, but in the passenger area, I think about eight is the most we can say it seats.
And the lyrics say “seats about 20,” not “crams up to a dozen in the trunk,” so as fantastic as that 300L looks on camera, if we’re going by what the song tells us, I don’t think this can be the actual Chrysler in question.
“About 20" doesn’t have to be exactly 20, but in no way is 8 “about 20,” even with some exaggeration. I mean, the rest of the song is pretty free of dramatic exaggeration: when we’re told that the whole shack shimmies and is hot as an oven and is a funky old shack you can goddamn well believe I’m taking the man at his word, and I see no reason to not do so here.
So what does that leave us in the Chrysler lineup?
I mean, there were plenty of passenger vans built by Dodge, a division of Chrysler, that absolutely could have carried 20 sweating, shimmying, grooving people to the Love Shack, but I just can’t really see some church van being employed for this. It just doesn’t really fit, and you’d call that a Dodge, not a Chrysler.
Now, the song clearly states “car” but a van is still maybe a possibility, especially if we consider what is arguably the most important Chrysler of the 1980s: the Town and Country minivan. (I have to thank our EIC Rory for reminding me about this, I’m ashamed to say)
A Chrysler Town and Country minivan could seat seven or eight no problem, and I think with some reasonable cramming of Love Shack-seekers, you could do, let’s see, two up front, three, maybe four in the middle row, and another four on the rear bench, for a total of oh, ten seated.
That’s pretty good, but still half of the stated 20, and while I think we can fudge a bit, doubling is more than fudging. Even if we stick people on laps, I don’t think we can get more than 12 to 14.
Plus, there’s something about the tone and character of a Town and Country minivan that I just don’t feel really fits with the ethos of the Love Shack. Maybe for the inevitable eventual consequences of loveshackery, but just not the situation itself.
So, what else would be huge, called a Chrysler, and be able to seat “about 20?”
Really, I think there’s only one actually probable option: a 1954 Chrysler Crown Imperial.
The 1954 Chrysler Crown Imperial is known for being the widest production car built at almost 83 inches wide—that’s just about seven feet wide. The current widest production car, a Bugatti Chiron, is three inches narrower.
This thing was a factory-built limousine, basically, at 19 feet, eight inches long in long-wheelbase form, and was sold as an eight-passenger car.
It’s as big as a whale, no problem. And, as far as seating goes, the number eight just refers to people you can seat in Chrysler Imperial-level comfort—for horny, sweaty, shimmying Love Shackers, I think we can get that number up. Way up.
These Chryslers had wide, wide, bench seats front and rear, and in between those were two pop-up jump seats that were pretty wide themselves. So, with this in mind, I think this is a reasonable guess as to how many Loveshackians a Crown Imperial could seat:
Remember, this is the widest production car ever made. I think you could get four across the front, still leaving the driver enough room to, you know, drive, you could get two on each of those non-narrow jump seats and one strattling between them, and six on that couch-like rear seat, for a total of 15, which I think is the minimum number you need to hit to say “seats about 20.”
In fact, if you’re more generous with the concept of “seats” and let people cram on laps and the floor, I’m certain you could hit 20, no problem.
Plus, this thing is absolutely a Chrysler, and has the sort of decadent opulence that, in perhaps a more shabby, faded glory/hippy-maintained sort of form, would fit pretty well with the Love Shack aesthetics and ethos.
So, I think this is solved. The big-as-a-whale Chrysler referred to in “Love Shack” is most likely a 1954 Chrysler Crown Imperial. There weren’t many of these made at all, but I think one could have been sourced for Love Shack shuttle purposes, seeing how important that role is.
Now hurry up and bring your jukebox money.
(thanks for asking, Mark!)