14 June 2013

Five Famous TV Dad Cars

TV dads have, for the most part, had pretty conservative taste in cars. While it would have been fun to imagine Ward Cleaver in a fuel-injected ’57 Corvette, it just didn’t project the image of a stable, practical family-friendly 1950s dad. Here are some of our favorites from some classic and some more recent TV shows:

  1. Ward Cleaver (“Leave it to Beaver”), 1959, 1960 and 1963 Plymouth Fury: Ward Cleaver (played by Hugh Beaumont) was the classic 1950s TV dad — a law-abiding, middle-class, white-collar guy with a briefcase, suit and a hat. For the majority of its run, “Leave it to Beaver” was a Chrysler-sponsored show and Ward generally drove a Plymouth Fury four-door sedan. 
  2. Mike Brady (“The Brady Bunch”), 1971 Plymouth Barracuda convertible: Mike Brady (played by Robert Reid) was a slightly cooler, hipper version of Ward Cleaver (witness the hair, sideburns and watch bands), and we had more of a clue as to his occupation (architect). Like “Leave it to Beaver,”  “The Brady Bunch” was sponsored by the Chrysler Corporation for most of the series. As a result, Mike drove some sort of Dodge or Plymouth until the last season, and our hands-down favorite was the ’71 Barracuda convertible. It was the closest any TV dad got to something a little bit edgy.
  3. Tony Soprano (“The Sopranos”),Cadillac Escalade: You could say that Tony Soprano (played by James Gandolfini) is exactly what Ward Cleaver would have been if he had hung out at Mayfield’s local gentleman’s club plotting with his crew to whack Fred Rutherford. Perhaps not.  Although Tony originally drove a humble Chevy Suburban, he eventually upgraded to driving far flashier Cadillac Escalades of varying years.
  4. Howard Cunningham (“Happy Days”), 1948 DeSoto Deluxe Suburban: Howard Cunningham (played by Tom Bosley) was another classic dad from the Ward Cleaver, Ozzie Nelson school of TV dads.  The ’48 DeSoto with a roof rack was an unusual choice, since it would have been nearly 10 years old for the show’s setting, but it seemed to fit Howard’s personality perfectly.
  5. Robert Crawley (“Downton Abbey”), 1911 Renault Type CB Landaulette: The Earl of Grantham, Robert Crawley (played by Hugh Bonneville), didn’t actually have a driver’s license. That is, after all, what the help is for.  The 1911 Renault got the majority of its screen time in the first two seasons of the popular English period drama being driven by several chauffeurs (including the one who ran off with his youngest daughter).  A similar 1912 car went down with the Titanic and a non-sunken version is actually seen being loaded onto the ship in the 1997 movie of the same name.

31 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Channing Greene Chicago June 19, 2013 at 16:30
    Don't forget Darren Stevens from Bewitched. He usually drove a full-sized Chevy convertible (SSs, I believe)! Samantha had the muscle cars; Camaro and Chevelle SSs!!!
  • 2
    Drew Williams Wisconsin June 19, 2013 at 16:42
    Always liked Steve Douglas' Pontiac Catalina wagons.
  • 3
    Art S. New England June 19, 2013 at 16:47
    How about "Rocky" Rockford's GMC pickups in the Rockford Files? When that show was new in the 1970s I remember thinking it was way cooler than Jim's Firebirds!
  • 4
    Cory Montana June 19, 2013 at 17:54
    I can appreciate your outside the box non main stream thinking but I would have mentioned Munsters coach and Herman and of uncles count then uncle Jesse and black tilly of the dukes of hazzard
  • 5
    Bob Marsh The villages Florida June 19, 2013 at 18:34
    Frank Sinatra was given a1955 T Bird as a gift from Capitol Records. I have this car but would like to get the original papers to document the authenticity . Is there anyway someone could direct me in my quest.
  • 6
    Ike Fresno, CA June 19, 2013 at 19:49
    You forgot Herman Munster! Now that was a car!
  • 7
    Patrick Prendergast MA June 19, 2013 at 19:53
    How could you forget the all time coolest Dad's car, the Munsters Koach??
  • 8
    stan Charleston, sc June 19, 2013 at 21:37
    Great article, but you left out Daryl (bewitched) the show was sponsered by Chevy. He drove a camaro convertible for the run of the show
  • 9
    Henry Knoblick Sloatsburg, NY June 19, 2013 at 22:01
    One of the coolest was driven by Lumpy Rutherford in Leave it to Beaver....Check it out.....
  • 10
    VinnyV Staten Island, NY June 19, 2013 at 22:32
    I cannot believe that the 1st generation Corvettes did not make the top of the list from the famous show "Route 66" They kept getting a new car every season in the early 60's. Any "Car Guy" knows Americas Highway - Route 66.
  • 11
    Erit hialeah June 19, 2013 at 23:05
    I think the coolest tv dad car was brought to us by the munsters.
  • 12
    Len Boschma Beloit,WI June 19, 2013 at 23:24
    Ummm.. I hate to disagree with the Brady Bunch version in this story, but Mr. Brady actually drove Chevrolet's in 1972 (Blue Impala) and 1974 (Deep Red Caprice) convertibles. He did drive a Barracuda converitble in the first season or two though. Mrs Brady Drove a 69 (I think it was) Plymouth Satellite Wagon and later a 72 or 73 Satellite Wagon both were gold or tan colored.
  • 13
    Matthew Odette Clio, MI. June 20, 2013 at 14:50
    I would like to add the coolest TV dad cars were drove by Dick Sergent Or Dick York It was a mid 60's Chevy Chevelle SS I'm not sure the exact year on the TV show BeWitched. Another great TV show with really cool cars was the Major Nelson on I Dream Of Jeannie.
  • 14
    Keith Craft Orlando, FL June 20, 2013 at 06:15
    You forgot one of the most iconic of all. Darren Stevens from Bewitched. Always a cool Chevy in the drive. From Camaros and Corvairs to Impalla SS. Even a Corvette or two. Always loved seeing what Darren would be driving. Even as a little kid it was a fascination.
  • 15
    Tim Vorel Homer Glen, Il. June 20, 2013 at 08:26
    How about darren Stevens in "Bewitched"? The show was sponsoredby Chevy and on the reruns,there are some prettyh ip mid-60's Chevy convertible Impalasa nd Malbus.
  • 16
    David Alexandria, Virginia June 20, 2013 at 08:39
    How about Darren Steven's 1965 Impala SS or '67 Camaro RS convertible? How about Sherrif Andy Taylor's '62 Ford Custom? GM and Ford both sponsored shows as well. I remember well as a child the anticipation each fall as the new models would debut on the various shows that the companies sponsored. Chevrolets would be revealed on Bonanza and Bewitched and Fords would be revealed on The FBI and The Andy Griffith Show. Chrysler products would be shown on The Beverly Hillbillies.
  • 17
    Wayne G Wisconsin, USA June 20, 2013 at 09:17
    You missed all the great 60's & early 70's GM cars that were driven by Darrin Stevens (Dick York, Dick Sargent) on Bewitched. I always had my eyes peeled for the occasional glimpse of the Malibu, Camaro, etc. that would be shown coming in the driveway. Way too cool!
  • 18
    Jonathan W Atkinson NH June 20, 2013 at 09:33
    Tim Taylor ("Home Improvement"), 33 Ford Roadster Hot Rod, 55 chevy Nomad, Austin Healey 3000 roadster, 66 Ferrari 330 GTC, ... There was no one that played a cool car dad that Tim Allen.
  • 19
    Mike E V San Diego June 20, 2013 at 10:00
    Darren from Bewitched always drove a cool Chevy of some kind. Each season was different. Larry, his boss, always drove Corvettes. Check it out. Darren has some pretty potent convertibles in his corral.
  • 20
    Pete Almgren Mukilteo, WA June 20, 2013 at 10:03
    The Renault seen being loaded on the Titanic is actually a left hand steering wheel car . The movie folks had to reverse the image so the car would appear as a right hand steerer. We saw the car at the car museum in Reno.
  • 21
    Dennis Coughlin Ft. Sask., AB, Canada June 20, 2013 at 10:55
    My girlfriend's father had a Plymouth Furry and he used to let me take her out in it. My car was 1 51 Hillman minx oil burner so his car was a real treat. I think this car had a flat top steering wheel ??? Those were the days.Dennis
  • 22
    Bob Tremonte Monroe, Washington June 20, 2013 at 00:05
    Of all the TV dads that come to mind, the one with the coolest car had to be Herman Munster. I mean...come on, Grandpa made it out of a coffin. How cool is that!!!
  • 23
    Jay Milstead West Virginia June 22, 2013 at 07:54
    The best dad of all was McMurry [Ed?] in my three sons. Always drove Pontiac's and the son[s] had GTO's. I so wanted him to adopt me. LOL
  • 24
    C. Lewis Los Gatos CA June 23, 2013 at 05:09
    I'm guessing 'Married With Children' wasn't a sitcom sponsored by Chrysler, as I remember Al's car negatively being referred to simply as "The Dodge".
  • 25
    Bobby Del New York June 24, 2013 at 17:26
    How can you leave out Wilbur from Mr. Ed ? He drove a Studebaker Golden Hawk. Ok so he was only a dad to Ed the horse, but it was still a great car
  • 26
    Gary Merchant Kansas June 25, 2013 at 18:46
    In episode 98 of the DICK VAN DYKE show, we got a peek into Rob's garage to find him working on what appears to be a 1965 Mustang. Don Defore of the early '60's sitcom HAZEL always featured new Fords, all spiffed up and optioned to the max... 1963 Galaxie XL convertible, 1962 Country Sedan, Falcons and others. ALL the Quinn Martin 1 hour shows showed Efrom Zimbalist Jr. driving mid '60s Fords, T-Birds and Lincolns in THE FBI and then THE INVADERS had Roy Thinnis driving all sorts of '66 to '67 Galaxies, LTD's, Mustangs, Fairlanes and the aliens driving Continentals, T-Birds and still more LTD's. I assume the alien dads had kids, right? All the American car companies were represented on television back in the day, but it seemed that for whatever reason, FoMoCo got the lions share of product placements.
  • 27
    Mike Mullay Maple Valley, Washington June 26, 2013 at 18:19
    Howard Cunningham's 1948 Desoto Deluxe Suburban, is now in the Harold Lemay collection of cars in Tacoma, Washington. I have seen it several times over the years. He has several other star cars, including Peter Lawford's dual Ghia which was powered by Chrsyler but designed by Ghia of Italy
  • 28
    Frank Maryland June 28, 2013 at 10:08
    I guess Opie's Dad Andy's Ford Galaxie police cars don't count!
  • 29
    Todd Bonney Lake, WA June 29, 2013 at 10:56
    Howard Cunninghams '48 DeSoto is part of the Harold Lemay collection. I last saw thew car at the Marymount Event Center in Spanaway, WA last year. This years Marymount show is August 31st. DEFINITELY recommended. Still hoping that Hagerty will run a story on it...
  • 30
    Chuck New Jersey July 1, 2013 at 13:24
    Another famous dad and famous car. Red Foreman and his Olds Vista Cruiser from "That 70's Show" Lots of room for Eric and Donna to have fun in the back, and it could handle the whole gang for road trips. Red also had a Vette.
  • 31
    Dave Flushing Mi July 7, 2013 at 12:35
    He wasn't a Dad but Mannix had a really cool car also

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