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How Do Clown Cars Work? The Big Secret Behind the Tiny Car

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Everyone has been the circus at some point, or at least watched a production on television that referenced the infamous clown car gag. You know, the one where a laughable amount of people exit from a laughably small car. Another…after another…after another…

You may dismiss this trick as another form of big-top witchcraft, but there’s actually a piratical secret to this devil magic. Today, we blow the top off this clownish trick.


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The Secret Formula for Clown Car Humor

If you’ve ever seen the routine when an endless line of clowns exit a tiny car, your first assumption is likely that there is a hidden trap door underneath the car when it rolls out on stage. However, that’s not the secret; most travelling circuses perform in arenas that are simply dirt spread across a concrete floor, or on the outdoor ground itself.

Another guess is that it’s a custom car specifically created to look smaller than it is. But, this is no special custom car. Most clown cars are just decorated production cars like Volkswagen Beetles, MINI Coopers, and FIATs.Simpsons Clown car joke

According to Car and Driver‘s interview with Greg DeSanto, executive director of  the International Clown Hall of  Fame and Research Center, here is the secret: stripping.

Not the clowns stripping, mind you; that’s a whole different joke.

The workers preparing the car for the circus performance strip the vehicle of all its seats, liners, panels, storage, and barrier to the trunk. The windows are painted and the driver sits on a milk crate. The springs are bolstered so the car doesn’t drag, and everyone is squeezed into the car–between 15-20 clowns, typically. They curl up and gather close to maximize the space. The vehicle itself takes quite a beating, which is why delicate kit cars aren’t used. Within a couple years of use, clown cars have are typically down for the count.

While we’re at it, let’s answer another oft-wondered question: why is the sad clown crying? The answer–because he was stuck in the clown car when one of them farted.


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Sources: Car and Driver, Between the Numbers