5 Times Silicon Valley Perfectly Parodied Techie Car Culture
And, one time they missed the mark.
The key to successful satire is nailing the nuances of the source material you’re ripping on. Just look at HBO's Silicon Valley, a spirited spoof of the inane world of tech startups, for proof. In particular, the show's producers have polished one sardonic facet to a mirror finish: the cars. The pairing are perfect: bombastic coupes with eccentric billionaires, compact SUVs with want-to-be tech titans, and everything in between. Each time a character hops behind the wheel, our appreciation of Mike Judge and the rest of the Silicon Valley team grows. (Well, except for the last one.)
The aloof Peter Gregory, a quirky angel investor and private island builder, whips away in one of these ultra-narrow electric cars towards the end of the pilot episode. Watching the 39-inch wide T600 slip between two closely parked cars, one onlooker remarks, “Fucking billionaires.” Too true: the show’s inclusion of the $108,000 vehicle may be due to Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page each owning one. While production was scheduled at a rate of 100 cars per year back in 2005 when the T600 began its run, about 20 have been produced by the Spokane, WA, outfit Commuter Cars. Though it looks like it’s ready to flop over given a stiff breeze, a curb weight of 3,300-plus pounds, thanks to batteries and twin Advanced DC Motors (one per rear wheel) mounted low in the frame, means it’d be hard to flip. Fun bonus fact: George Clooney took delivery of the first T600 back in 2005.
Marijuana enthusiast and arrogant incubator founder Erlich Bachman’s daily driver is a humble Escape. The 3.0-liter V6 mini-SUV is not what Bachman would prefer to drive, but it’s what he’s got and it’s more than ample for getting him out to the desert for a vision quest, aided by psilocybin 'shrooms. The Blue Oval has been turned into a rolling advert for airfare site Aviato, his first big success. That company, named for “something primal. Something you can scream out during intercourse,” set Bachman up to fund the Pied Piper crew. The minute some real scratch comes in from that investment, we presume Bachman would buy something as loud and obnoxious as he is, only to crash it in a stoned stupor minutes after pulling off the lot.
McLaren 650S Spider
We meet wildcard billionaire Russ Hanneman in the second season when he screams up in a Volcanic Orange drop top 650S, blasting Limp Bizkit’s “Nookie.” Hanneman, the man who “put radio on the internet,” spits a bunch of douchey yet on-point quips at Richard Hendricks during his attempt to buy into Pied Piper, including, “Guys in this town don’t have the balls to drive cars like this. They drive fucking Priuses. Why? They’re all lemmings.” Hopping into the 3.8-liter turbocharged V8, Hanneman struggles to get the 640-horsepower engine (the same from the 12C and P1) into drive, screaming obscenities. Of course, a fellow as egotistical as Hanneman would blame such a wonderful machine for his own ignorance.
Later in the second season, after Hanneman loses one comma and falls out of the billionaire strata, he’s forced to downsize his McLaren, which pains him almost as much as losing a chunk of his fortune. He accurately sums up the difference between his erstwhile British coupe and this 3.8-liter V8, 523-horsepower Italian steed by opening and slamming the Quattroporte’s door several times, screaming how it isn’t dihedral or gull wing. “These are not the doors of a billionaire. Fuck you.” The slight to Maserati here is clear and astute. Who would be happy about ditching a supercar for a luxury sedan?
When Hendricks and Bachman drop by Homicide Energy Drinks headquarters to talk about streaming their forthcoming stunt, a building jump, the underpinnings of the motorized Homicide can-car are that of Sandrail. The lightweight and powerful vehicle is a prime choice for smarmy stunt driver Blaine to pilot for the feat, given the solid suspension. The genesis of these vehicles came just after World War II, when GIs returning from overseas found themselves with off-road driving skills and a surplus of sheet metal and disposable income. They fashioned old Jeeps and street cars into custom framed beasts, powered by an air-cooled VW Beetle engine, rear-mounted so as not to blow dirt and debris in the driver’s face.
Self-Driving Toyota Prius
Donald “Jared” Dunn, Pied Piper’s frequently abused and disrespected CFO, drops by Gregory’s office for a meeting and is issued an autonomous Prius as a taxi home. Initially enthused by the ride, his joy quickly turns to terror when the car re-routes itself to Gregory’s private island, some 4,000 miles away. Here, the show breaks from hyper-reality in the name of comedy, which we appreciate, but we’d be remiss to overlook the number of misses. First, the car executes a U-turn at an intersection; no computer would perform such an unsafe maneuver. Second, there’s no kill switch, standard in any such car. Third, as it drives itself into a shipping container, Dunn tries to alert the dock workers to his plight by hitting the horn only to find it disconnected. No way, Jose.