Star Wars Was Barely A Year Old When Someone Used It To Sell Cars

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

star wars

Fans of Star Wars have gotten used to this franchise being used to sell just about anything, which is only fitting for a pop culture empire George Lucas once built on a bunch of toys. However, internet personality and writer of the excellent LAN Party: Inside the Multiplayer Revolution, Merrit K, recently discovered that the car company Subaru used Star Wars to try to sell their cars only one year after the first film hit theaters. These ads were cheekily titled Car Wars and featured a dorky and hilarious version of the famous opening crawl.

Star Cars

So, what were the “Star Cars” ads all about? Little info remains on this original ad campaign, though it wouldn’t be the last time a company used a galaxy far, far away to try to sell automobiles (more on this later). Unlike the famous Star Wars opening crawl describing a battle between different forces, this Subaru crawl was primarily designed to emphasize how futuristic and sophisticated these vehicle designs really were.

From The Constellation Subaru

For the average Star Wars fan, perhaps the most interesting thing about these Star Cars ads was that they created their own completely separate lore for a kind of adjacent franchise. For example, the  crawl describes how the idea for this new kind of automobile came from somewhere near “The Constellation Subaru,” which is located in “a dark and distant corner of the universe.” In a fun riff on Star Wars taking place “a long time ago,” this Star Cars crawl begins by saying that the events it describes took place “several million years ago.”

Of course, for being a riff on Star Wars, you could argue that the Subaru Star Cars ads took a few storytelling cues from Star Trek. Despite “the Concept” of this space-age car being developed millions of years ago, this idea (which was notably “Expanding, glowing, pulsating with pure force”), is eventually “hurled at light speed to intercept all life forms” in the future.  

The Subaru Star Fleet

Somehow transcending both time and space, this “Concept” arrived at our own planet. And as the Star Cars crawl proudly announces, the final result is that “the Subaru Star Fleet has arrived!” Considering that it came out so soon after the first Star Wars film, this ad campaign is a very early example of a brand using the popularity of the sci-fi franchise to generate its own profits.

An Official Campaign

As nearly as I can tell (and likely shocking nobody), the Star Cars campaign had no official authorization from George Lucas or 20th Century Fox. However, in 1996, Mitsubishi ran a much more official advertising campaign in Japan that featured C-3PO and R2-D2 helping to sell automobiles. In retrospect, it was pretty weird to use these characters to sell these automobiles, as this was three years before the prequels would bring them back to mainstream glory.

Seriously, Car Wars Is Right There

That’s not the only thing that was really strange about this campaign. Despite these later ads coming out nearly two decades after the Subaru ad, Mitsubishi went with the same strange branding name of “Star Cars.” Now, almost 30 years after the Mitsubishi Star Wars campaign and nearly 50 years after the Subaru one, I have one important question for these companies: why in Vader’s name didn’t you use the term “Car Wars,” which is infinitely catchier than “Star Cars?” 

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