In season 2 of The Simpsons, Homer’s estranged brother, who happens to own an automobile company, asks him to design a car for the everyman consumer. The result is The Homer, a vehicle born from unbridled suburban id, a bubble dome station wagon sporting a toilet-bowl-like rear spoiler. Homer’s $82,000 vision would destroy the company overnight.
In 1972, Toyota debuted what can be best described as The Homer of its day. It was a concept car called the Toyota RV-2. The two-door wagon’s body was a stone’s throw from an El Camino, but instead of a rear bed for cargo, it featured clamshell doors that could unfurl, making two glass walls for what turned into a tent. With two front seats that could fully recline, and two people sleeping perpendicularly in the tented area, the RV-2 could sleep four on a whim. (If that gives you a swingers vibe, well, know that the car was featured in a 1973 spread of Penthouse magazine.)
Indeed, the RV-2 was one of those designs that was only as clever as it was absurd, and for good reason: it was more or less Toyota’s swan song for the entire station wagon platform. The concept was introduced at the Tokyo Auto Show on the precipice of the wagon market’s crash. Following two decades of dominance, surging oil prices would make America think differently about these elongated gas guzzlers. And by 1984, Chevrolet introduced the first minivan, and make us forget about station wagons forever. (Technically classified as a truck, the minivan was able to get by with less efficient fuel standards than the station wagon, which was classified as a car. So manufacturers had every incentive to champion the minivan over the wagon.)
But through the lens of 2015, the RV-2 invokes a lost era of four-wheeled wanderlust. With a boxy front end reminiscent of a DeLorean (which wouldn’t be produced until 1981!), and a get-off-the-grid mentality we see in today’s tiny houses, I may be crazy, but it almost feels hip. Maybe the RV-2 would still struggle to find a sizable audience today, but there was something almost prescient about its mentality, of mixing of creature comforts and escapism. The RV-2 seems to be urging us to unplug, explore the wilderness, and, sure, maybe throw a spontaneous orgy if everyone’s down for it.