Today, we bring you a break from Christmas carols and fashionably ugly sweaters for a decidedly non-holiday-related bit of absurdity: A short movie about aliens abducting the new-for-1987 Chevrolet Corsica and the hapless family within. Go on, run through this two-and-a-half minutes of total weirdness, and if by the end you don’t hate us for making you sit through it, we’ll explain, or at least expound.
This oddball film was, apparently, an introduction for Chevrolet dealers to their new front-wheel-drive family sedan, the Corsica. If you can’t bear to watch, it shows a family driving down a dark road when their Corsica quits—something that wouldn’t strike the owner of any GM product from the mid-1980s as terribly unusual. But no, this wasn’t a failure due to “decontented” engineering or a pissed-off line worker who discarded his foil chewing gum wrapper by hiding it under the distributor cap. No, this new Corsica is being abducted by aliens!
Why aliens? Early-’80s America was a bit UFO-obsessed, thanks to a string of movies starting with 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and peaking with Spielberg’s ’82 blockbuster E.T. the Extra Terrestrial. Far be it from the automotive industry to be up-to-date on pop culture, however; By the time this promo film was made in 1987, the alien movie genre’s water skis had already jumped the shark and was just inches from touch-down on the other side. The genre had gone silly (Spaceballs), cutesy (Batteries Not Included), and downright scary (Alien and Predator).
Judging from the look of these space-beings, the Corsica has been abducted by that third kind (see what we did there?), and it’s hard not to cringe for little Susie and Jimmy, especially as their parents are too busy freaking the eff out to provide any useful comfort. (Would Chevrolet had made the film had they known Ford was just a year away from releasing a car called the Probe?)
But then—oh, thank goodness!—it turns out the aliens are just Chevy fans. After the (apparent) leader’s spouse, a pink alien bedecked in Chevrolet-themed jewelry, declares her approval of the Corsica, the aliens clone it and adds it to a rather formidable collection of bubble-bound Chevys. The film includes a rather nifty cameo appearance by Dinah Shore, who spent the better part of the 1950s exhorting Americans to see the U.S.A. in their Chevrolet:
And what of the Chevrolet Corsica? This compact-ish sedan was a rather strange mash-up of the J-Body (Chevrolet Cavalier, Buick Skyhawk, Pontiac J2000/Sunbird, Oldsmobile Firenza and, of course, the brand-killing Cadillac Cimarron) and the N-Body (Pontiac Grand Am, Buick Somerset/Skylark, Oldsmobile Calais). The Corsica was unusual in that it was exclusive to the Chevrolet brand (except in Canada, where it was cloned as the Pontiac Tempest) at a time when GM was obsessed with brand engineering.
We reviewed one in our July 1987 issue, generously acknowledging its appeal to the tragically un-hip: “Target customers—young, style and value conscious, and, in many cases, first-time purchasers—tend to be far less impressed with trendy high-tech touches than with pure and simple basic value. The Corsica certainly has plenty going for it in that department.” We were much more interested in the two-door variant, the Beretta, which went on to spawn some rather appealing hot-rod models.
We might have missed the point a little, because the Corsica was designed primarily as a fleet car; The average American could rent one before they could buy one. (Had the aliens known this, they could have spared that family a lot of trauma.) Note the simple grille assembly and lack of body adornment—the Corsica appears to have been designed not for style, but for easy collision repair. The plucky little Chevrolet remained the darling of the rental car industry until looming safety standards killed it off in 1996.
One post-script to this rather bizarre flick: The PlayStation 1 version of Colin McRae Rally had an Easter Egg in which driving off track would see your car abducted by aliens and turned to jelly. One of the locales where you could do this was… Corsica!