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Do you remember those “Trunk Monkey” ads that used to air on TV in the early 2000s? The ads are long gone, but the term pops up every now and then in message forums or the occasional subreddit. But why? Did the Trunk Monkey have that much of an effect on car culture today?

What does the Trunk Monkey do?

The trunk monkey pops out of a trunk
The trunk monkey | via YouTube

The Trunk Monkey was a monkey that would hide in a car’s trunk, ready to perform helpful tasks. In one commercial, the trunk monkey assists with parallel parking a car; in another, it helps with bribing a police officer to get out of a parking ticket. The most recognized Trunk Monkey task, though, is when it protects a car from being stolen.

A thief breaks into a car only to be ambushed by the Trunk Monkey, which knocks him out with a bat and then throws him off a bridge. It is perhaps the funniest way to protect your car – albeit a little macabre.

How did the Trunk Monkey start?

The Trunk Monkey commercials originally aired as a series from the Suburban Auto Group in 2003 and 2004. Contrary to popular belief, the Trunk Monkey concept wasn’t the auto group’s original idea. According to The Drive, the idea originated on the New England Subaru Impreza Club forum.

“Sean Sosik-Hamor posted a joke on the forum that the new WRX would include “a trained monkey that lives in the trunk that’ll automate weight transfer,” and another that said, “the monkey can even be trained to repaint your badge a different color every night!”

After that, the Trunk Monkey meme spread like wildfire, only to be picked up by the Suburban Auto Group, which created a commercial about it and aired it during the Super Bowl. Hamor never received any recognition for the idea, but it’s fair to say he originated it.

What effect did the Trunk Monkey have on popular culture?


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Although the Trunk Monkey concept is 20 years old, it can still be seen in various places on the Internet. For example, there are “Protected by Trunk Monkey” decals and other merchandise for sale on Amazon.

According to the advertising agency, R/West, “The campaign grew to include radio spots, print ads, merchandise, and collateral, and is now licensed to over 45 dealerships around the country.”

There was also a parts company called “Trunk Monkey Parts,” which sold discounted GM parts and accessories online. Apparently, the store was a popular place to get parts until it closed sometime in 2018.

Otherwise, the legendary Trunk Monkey commercials still get brought up on various car forums occasionally as members reminisce about the hilarity of the idea. However, not everyone was laughing.

PETA was not too pleased with the Trunk Monkey concept

While various corners of the Internet enjoyed the Trunk Monkey commercials over the years, the folks at PETA did not. An article released by the organization stated that the chimpanzees used in the commercials “were taken away from their mothing shortly after birth, causing psychological harm to both mothers and infants and physical abuse during training has been well documented.”

We can’t comment as to whether that statement is true or false, but it’s worth noting, considering there are two sides to every coin.

Will the Trunk Monkey withstand the test of time?

It’s been 20 years since those commercials aired on TV, and they now live forever on the Internet. Will the Trunk Monkey concept continue for another 20 years? Probably. After all, certain trends and memes seem to re-emerge from time to time.