Daniel DiManna
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King Kong Drives a VW in this Amazing Vintage Commercial

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King Kong atop a Ripley's Museum
King Kong: you just never know where he’ll turn up
Photo: Joe DeSousa via CC

When it comes to Hollywood icons, few are as big — pun intended — as King Kong. Since his debut in the groundbreaking 1933 original film that started it all, the oversized ape has enjoyed continued pop-cultural relevance and has done everything from performing on Broadway to fighting Godzilla — twice! But did you know that, among Kong’s many accomplishments, he’s also a proud VW driver?


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King Kong: VW spokesperson extraordinaire

In 1972, Volkswagen was looking for a unique way to advertise its latest family vehicle: the four-door VW 411 sedan. Eventually, the marketing team hit on a unique idea that involved using King Kong — a giant monster — to sell the similarly large-sized vehicle. It was a simple yet brilliant idea, but bringing this vision to life wouldn’t be an easy task.

To help get the commercial off the ground, Volkswagen turned to one of the era’s most talent visual-effects masters: Dave Allen. The stop-motion animator was fresh off an Oscar nomination for his work on Hammer Films’ 1970 epic When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. He was also a massive fan on the original 1933 King Kong, and gladly accepted the task of recreating the iconic creature for the small screen.

Under Allen’s direction, what started as a simple Volkswagen commercial evolved into an elaborate homage to Kong’s debut film. Allen and his team painstakingly recreated a stop-motion Kong puppet that matched the original very closely. They then brought the puppet to life through the same stop-motion methods that the 1933 film had pioneered nearly 40 years earlier.

This was the end result:


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Upon its airing in 1972, Volkswagen’s King Kong commercial quickly became a hit. Kong fans enjoyed seeing the original film so beautiful recreated, and general viewers got a good laugh from watching a giant gorilla cruise the streets of New York City in a massive VW. Unfortunately, while viewers loved the commercial, VW was less enthusiastic. Feeling that Kong’s presence overshadowed the vehicle they were attempting to sell, VW ended up pulling the commercial from the airwaves. Thankfully, recorded copies still exist today, allowing the commercial to survive as a beloved curiosity for both car enthusiasts and monster-movie lovers.