Don’t be surprised if you see a 23-foot motorized banana cruising around Onsted, Michigan. That’s just Steve Braithwaite and his Big Banana Car. If you haven’t seen it in person, you’ll get the chance at the 2021 Onsted Festival Classic Car Show on Friday, August 20th from 5 PM — 9PM. You’re not going to want to miss it!
The Big Banana Car garners attention everywhere it goes. Steve’s bright yellow contraption is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest, custom banana car. Mattel even created a Matchbox toy of the Big Banana Car! In 2017, America’s Got Talent used the Big Banana Car for their season premier. That means Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Mel B, and Howie Mandel have all taken a spin in the most fanciful fruit on four wheels.
Steve Braithwaite was born and raised in England but was enamored with 1950s American rock n’ roll and hotrods. “When I was 16, I saw American Graffiti and it changed my life,” Steve told me. “It wasn’t until 1986 that I immigrated to America.”
In 2008, Steve decided he wanted to do something really ridiculous. Maybe build some kind of crazy hotrod. Then he saw a banana inside a fruit basket at a gas station and it sparked an idea. It took two and a half years for Steve and a bunch of his buddies to turn a 1993 Ford F-150 pick up truck into the Big Banana Car.
I asked Steve what he had planned to do with it once it was completed.
“Nothing. I just wanted to drive it around and maybe take friends for a ride. But then, the more I took it out, I saw all the smiles and the fabulous way people reacted to it. Everyone loved the Big Banana Car! That’s when I started thinking maybe I could do something good with it.”
Sadly, Steve lost his mother to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that can turn deadly. As he travelled across country in the Big Banana Car, he encountered many generous people who would host him. That’s when he decided to give back and began using the car to raise money for DVT awareness. “It’s one of the most common killers no one has ever heard of,” Steve said.
Fundraising for DVT evolved into helping children with medical issues and illnesses who had little or no insurance. For instance, if Steve was giving rides in the Big Banana Car five days a week, he would set aside one day where all the proceeds would go toward a child in need. “Unfortunately, when Covid struck, that came to a screeching halt. I am hoping I will be to resume giving rides again soon,” Steve said.
Steve and the Big Banana Car have gone from coast to coast and north to south, visiting over 40 states in their “The World Needs More Whimsy Grand Tour.” He looks forward to taking the Big Banana Car around the world in an “Eccentricity on a Budget World Tour.”
There have been a lot of silly, wild, and funny things that have happened in Steve’s travels with the car. He has compiled some of them in his whacky children’s book called, The Weird, Wonderful and Sometimes Bizarre True Stories of Ridiculous Steve and the Big Banana Car. Kids love it! Steve held a contest to find an illustrator for his book and the public voted for Anthony Snyder from Portage, Michigan. “He did such a wonderful job,” Steve said. “His work was exactly what I was looking for.”
Be sure and look for Steve and his Big Banana Car at the 2021 Onsted Festival Classic Car Show. It’s going to be an incredible show and the Big Banana Car is the cherry on top! It makes a great photo-op for adults and kids alike!
If you’ve had an opportunity to meet Steve and check out his Big Banana Car, tell me about your experience in the comments!