Iconic Cars from TV and Film

So many movies and TV shows had unique and distinctive cars placed prominently on the screen. It gets to the point where the cars themselves are to utterly connected with the show they were in, that the two become indistinguishable. There are lots of "top-10" lists of these cars and shows out on the Internet. This page is not intended to pick the best cars, or the best shows, or to rank them in any way. It's just my laundry list. I have, however, split them up into categories based on how I feel they fit into our pop culture.

I should also say that listing a car or a program here does not necessarily mean that I enjoyed the movie or TV show in question, or that I sanction it as a good piece of work. This is just the list of all the cars I could think of.

 

The Car As The Title Character

The highest point a car can attain is to not only be a character in the show, but to actually be the title subject. The show is not only about the car, it's actually named for the car itself. There have been a few such examples.

Herbie the Love Bug

Who could forget the Disney classic about the little VW Bug that was alive and had magical powers. I guessed I enjoyed this movie about as much as any of the other saccharine romp that Disney cranked out. What I enjoyed most about it, actually, was seeing a lot of the other sports cars that Herbie was racing against. It was very much an extensive catalog of the cars that were on the racing circuit during that era.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Many people think that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is also a Disney film. Despite the fact that it's often intolerably cutsie-ootsie, and people break out into song at the drop of a hat, it was actually produced by United Artists. And few people know that the movie was based on a novel, and fewer still know that the novel was written by James Bond author Ian Flemming. In truth, however, the movie has very little to do with the book, which was quite modest and limited in scope by comparison.

With this film we start to see a pattern that any car that is the title character of a movie has magical powers and a personality of its own. In this case, the car was a surrogate mother for the family, protecting them, caring for them, and holding them firmly in her bosom.

It should also be noted that when you look past the overly sweet, family-oriented, somewhat hackneyed story, you'll find one hell of an automobile. It was a huge car, a grand, majestic coach with patent leather fenders, a shiny alloy hood and cowl, and a gorgeous teak wood body. There's never been anything else like it, and there never will.

Christine

Continuing on with the theme of title character cars with magical powers and their own personalities, I should mention Christine. Here Steven King changes the personality from benevolent buddy to menacing villain. The car, a 1958 Plymouth Fury, is possessed by evil spirits. It runs amok in the town, killing people and wreaking havoc, only to magically rebuild itself every night.

I've never been a huge Steven King fan in general, and I always thought this movie was pretty stupid. But I couldn't have a list of title character cars and not mention this one.

My Mother The Car

Here we have a ridiculous mid-60's sit-com staring Jerry Van Dyke (coincidentally the brother of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang star Dick Van Dyke). The preposterous setup of the show was that Jerry Van Dyke's mother was reincarnated as a dilapidated old timer (specifically a 1928 Porter). He buys the car, and his mother speaks to him through the car radio. It is widely considered to be one of the worst TV shows of all time.

 

The Car As The Central Focal Point

In many shows, there was a car that, while not the central or title character, plays such a vital role in the story that the two are inexorably linked. When you think of one, you think of the other, and vice versa.

Smokey & The Bandid TransAm

In truth I've never seen this movie, so I can't comment on how good or bad it was. But there is perhaps no other film in which the car is more tightly integrated or closely associated. It brought together the twilight of the muscle car era with the CB Radio fad, all wrapped up in late 70's frivolity. The movie kicked off quite the TransAm craze. The black & gold TransAm with it's distinctive t-top and hood mural became a highly sought-after contemporary classic, and anyone who drove one was the envy of all who saw him.

The Bluesmobile

The Blues Brothers was an unlikely and somewhat ponderous story, but therein lay it's charm. And from the very opening sequences, the run-down old cop car they drove played a pivotal role. It was everywhere throughout the movie, and it wouldn't have been the same without it.

The car was a visual statement of the characters themselves. They were outlaws, and they took the most powerful tool of law enforcement only to use it against them and in spite of them. And the worn-out, faded, unkempt condition of the car was overtly symbolic of the Blues Brothers attitude towards the clean and shiny, buttoned up façade of formal law enforcement, and of the plastic society it serves.

For the record, the car was a 1974 Dodge Monaco.

The Road Warrior "Last of the V8 Interceptors"

"The Road Warrior" has been one of my favorite movies since I saw it in the theaters when it first came out. The cars weren't that iconic to us yanks, considering they were mostly custom or otherwise foreign models that never made it to the states. But the action was unparalleled. So often a chase scene is just stuck into a movie to make a lot of noise and get the audience all worked up. But in "The Road Warrior" it was an integral part of the story itself. It was the reality of the word in which these characters lived, and it was a matter of life and death. And the car that Max drove was bad as hell!

The Thelma & Louise T-Bird

Thelma & Louise was the prototypical chick-flick road movie, and whenever you have a road movie the car in which they're driving obviously plays a major role. Never mind how a poor waitress could afford this valuable classic. It's a gorgeous car, and it enhanced an already good movie.

The Vanishing Point Challenger

Okay, so this Dodge Challenger wasn't the "title" character, but I put it in this category because without the car there would have been no movie. Many people aren't even aware of this film. I saw it many, many years ago. As I recall it didn't strike me as a cinematic masterpiece.

The Corvette Summer Corvette

This movie is so forgettable that most people don't know it ever even existed. It was Mark Hammil's much anticipated follow-up to the first "Star Wars" movie. Alas, as so often seems to be the case, the quality of the product is inversely proportional to the degree of hype. It was a silly flop, and the Corvette looked like a pinball machine on wheels. But even still, the car was indeed the central focus of the story, and so it is listed here.

 

Cars As Supporting Characters

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The Mach V

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The Graduate Alfa Romeo

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The Bullitt Mustang

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The Gone in 60 Seconds Shelby Mustang

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KITT

Here's one of those examples where citing a car here isn't meant to be an endorsement of the program in which it appeared. I was never a fan of Knight Rider. Actually I only ever watched one episode all the way through, and that was years after the the show originally aired, and only because nothing else was on. But in this instance, the car was literally a character in the program. It spoke, it had its own personality, and was even in control of its own free will.

That 70's Show's Vista Cruiser

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The General Lee

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The A-Team Van

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James Bond Cars

There's a long list of cars that could go in this category. Pretty much every Bond movie made had a car associated with it. I chose the two most memorable.

The Goldfinger Aston Martin DB5

This was the car that started it all. It wasn't the first car that 007 drove, but it was the first one chosen specifically for him. And what a car to choose! Aston Martin was the quintessential playboy car of the day. It was stylish, sophisticated, a hot performer, and very very British. This was also the first Bond car that served to do more than just get him from point-a to point-b. It was the first time his car was tricked out with all the spy gadgets, which elevated the car from an incidental mode of trasnportation to playing an integral role in the plot structure and story development. It started a trend in Bond films that continues to this day.

The Lotus Esprit Submarine

This is one of the most implausible Bond car transformations in the history of the franchise. It's not possible for the wheels and suspension to tuck away like that, there's nowhere for the wheel covers and fins to come from, and the window louvers and propellers appeared out of nowhere. But having said that, the Lotus Esprit S1 is a drop-dead gorgeous car, it does make a good looking submarine, and it is one of the most iconic and talked-about Bond car gadget scenes ever.

 

Incidental but Iconic

These cars didn't necessarily play an integral part in the show, but they were a constant presence and are instantly identifiable and forever linked with the show they were in. Based on the cars that fall into this category, the theme would seem to be private investigators, secret agents, and cops.

The Magnum Ferrari

Jim Rockford's Firebird

The Moonlighting BMW

The Saint's Volvo P1800

John Steed's Bentley

Emma Peel's Lotus Elan

The Persuaders' Aston Marting DBS and Ferrari Dino

Okay, this one is a pretty obscure reference. Few people are even aware of the Roger Moore, Tony Curtis vehicle. They played international playboys, Tony Curtis a wealthy oilman and Roger Moore a British Lord. They drove around the continent falling into trouble and solving crimes. It was a pretty ridiculous show, but it had two fabulous cars in it that were frequently and prominently displayed.

It should also be noted that this entry gives Roger Moore three citings here, the other two being The Spy Who Loved Me Lotus, and The Saint Volvo.

The Starsky & Hutch Gran Torino

The Miami Vice Ferrari Daytona & Testerosa

Charlie's Angels' Fords

In actuality these cards never played much of a role in the show (I'm making an assumption here, I never really watched it). They certainly didn't attain the level of being iconic. But they so scream mid-70's Ford products that I had to put up a picture.

Each car in its own way corresponded cleanly to the personality of the individual angel who drove it. Without actually knowing who drove what, I was able to guess and be correct across the board. You have Farrah Fawcett's flashy and fast Mustang II Cobra, Jaclyn Smith's sensible Mustang II coupe, and Kate Jackson's nerdy and awkward Pinto.

Get Smart Cars

So none of these cars played much of a part in the episodes, but each one was prominently displayed in the opening credits. What's interesting is that they changed cars during various periods of the show. There was the Sumbeam Tiger, Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, and Opel GT.

The Wayne's World AMC Pacer

The Ghost Busters Ambulance

The God Bless America Camaro

 

TV Theme Cars

Some TV shows had cars specifically built for them

The Batmobile

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The Munsters Car

The Monkeymobile

The Green Hornet Car

The Partridge Family Bus

The Flintstones Car

Paul Revere and the Raiders Coach

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