We should have called Orion Bennett. It can’t be coincidence that the guy’s first name is the same as a major motion picture company. Without the benefit of hindsight, however, we charged ahead and asked our Facebook audience, “What is the greatest movie car?”
Bennett monitored the situation for a bit, and then enlightened us about what soon became obvious: There are a lot of worthy movie cars out there—a whole lot more than we thought.
“There are 132 DVDs in my movie collection (in which) the car is the star,” Bennett wrote. “Every one of the movies mentioned (in the comments) is in my collection, along with some obscure ones too. It’s almost impossible to determine a favorite.”
Thankfully, you all gave it the old college try. From well-known vehicles like the 1976 AMC Pacer in Wayne’s World and the 1959 Cadillac ambulance/hearse (known as Ecto-1) in the original Ghostbusters, to lesser-known rides like Spicoli’s Volkswagen bus in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and the 1986 Yugo GV+ in Drowning Mona, nominations poured in. And not just from movies.
Many of you exited the theatre and began suggesting TV cars, like the original Batmobile, Route 66’s Corvettes (yes, plural, since Tod and Buz got a new one every year), Don Johnson’s Ferrari Testarossa in Miami Vice, and Jed Clampett's dilapidated 1921 Oldsmobile touring car/custom truck in The Beverly Hillbillies. Of course, there was plenty of support for the 1969 Dodge Charger in The Dukes of Hazzard, but those votes were disqualified by our judges. Before you cry foul and point out that the General Lee actually appeared in The Dukes of Hazzard movie, let’s face it: the boob tube made the Rebel an icon, not the big screen. Period.
As for the 1941 Willys gasser in Hot Rod and the custom 1934 Ford in California Kid, yes, they indeed starred in movies—made-for-TV movies. Also disqualified. If we let everybody in, we’d be here all day. Moving on…
Many of you went for low-hanging fruit by nominating cars that not only starred in a movie but were in the film’s title. Take British-built Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, for instance, and the modified 1973 Chevrolet Corvette in Corvette Summer, the dozens of 1948 Tuckers in Tucker: The Man and His Dream, and the 1972 Ford Gran Torino Sport in Gran Torino. All are special rides, but none cracked the top 15.
Surprisingly, not one car from the Fast and Furious series made it. Not so surprisingly, the 1986 Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country from Trains, Planes & Automobiles missed the cut too. With apologies to worthy nominations like Austin Powers’ Shaguar, Dustin Hoffman’s 1966 Alfa Romeo Spider 1600 Duetto in The Graduate, and the sweet ’68 Chevy Camaro Z/28 in Aloha Bobby and Rose—which all missed—here are your Top 15 Movie Cars:
1968 Ford Mustang fastback (Bullitt) — This film had it all: superstar actor Steve McQueen, a chase scene that many consider the greatest of all time, and not one but two cars that people are still talking about nearly 50 years later—McQueen’s (Frank Bullitt’s) 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT 2+2 Fastback and the bad dudes’ 1968 Dodge Charger 440 Magnum.
“No question (it’s) Frank Bullitt’s Mustang,” Dale Huffman wrote. “I still want one.”
1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Magnum (Vanishing Point) — This one came as a bit of a surprise, not because the Mopar muscle machine isn’t a worthy car, but because so many of you nominated it. The Challenger is definitely the star in this movie, since the script is hardly the stuff of M. Night Shyamalan.
1958 Plymouth Sport Fury (Christine) — Scary movie, heavenly car … when it isn’t killing people anyway.
Wagon Queen Family Truckster (National Lampoon’s Vacation) — An angry Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) ordered an “Antarctic Blue Super Sportswagon with the CB and optional Rally Fun Pack.” What he got was the now-legendary Wagon Queen Family Truckster. Car salesman Eugene Levy tried smoothing things over by declaring, “You think you hate it now, but wait ‘til you drive it.”
On Facebook, the hideous Metallic Pea-painted Truckster was an easy choice for David Tiedt. “Coming from a family that actually owned three station wagons at one time, the Family Truckster holds a special place in my heart.”
DeLorean DMC-12 (Back to the Future) — The DeLorean’s popularity was, shall we say, limited prior to its pivotal role as Michael J. Fox’s time machine. These days, with its trademark metallic finish and gullwing doors, the DMC-12 may be the most-recognized movie car of all-time. Especially those custom jobs that are equipped with a “Flux Capacitor.”
Ford Mustangs (Gone in 60 Seconds, original and remake) — There’s only one Eleanor. OK, so there are two. We combined their votes. The Holy Grail car in the original movie was a 1971 Ford Mustang Sportsroof, modified to look like a ’73. A 1967 Ford Mustang fastback, customized to play the role of a Shelby GT500, claimed the spotlight in the remake. Moviegoers and car lovers drool over both.
1963 Volkswagen Beetle (The Love Bug) — Immediately recognized and adored by kids of all ages, Herbie would have a tough time eluding the paparazzi. Five decades after The Love Bug became a surprise hit and triggered five sequels, VW owners are still turning their little Bugs into Herbie replicas. David Dziurzynski owns one, along with two other well-known movie cars, a Jurassic Park Jeep and DeLorean. “I still get more ‘thumbs up’ and pictures taken when I’m in this,” he posted, along with a photo of the familiar No. 53.
1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am (Smokey and the Bandit) — You don’t have to know much about cars to recognize this one. In the same vein as Christine, movie fans who might be clueless about the year, make, and model certainly know the Bandit car.
1974 Dodge Monaco sedan (The Blues Brothers) — What do you do for wheels when you trade your 1968 Cadillac Sixty Special for a microphone? You buy a decommissioned Mount Prospect police car, of course. Elwood Blues’ new ride, a seemingly indestructible 1974 Dodge Monaco sedan known as the Bluesmobile, has plenty of plusses. “It’s got a cop motor, a 440-cubic-inch plant,” Elwood tells brother Jake. “It’s got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters, so it’ll run good on regular gas.” What it doesn’t have, as Robert McIntire so astutely pointed out on Facebook, is a working cigarette lighter.
1932 Ford custom coupe (American Graffiti) — Sweet cars are on every corner in American Graffiti. Forced to choose just one, most of us would pick John Milner’s yellow 1932 Ford 5-window custom coupe. With that said, some of you mentioned the black 1955 Chevy 150 that Milner (Paul Le Mat) dueled in the movie. The car, driven by a young Harrison Ford, also starred in Two-Lane Blacktop.
Custom 1950 Mercury Monterey (Cobra) — The 1986 action flick wasn’t exactly a hit, but its star car was. Driven by Los Angeles cop Marion Cobretti (Sylvester Stallone), the custom 1950 Merc was an unstoppable—and unforgettable—tank.
V8 Interceptor/1973 Ford Falcon XB GT coupe (Mad Max) — Known as the Pursuit Special, the Australian-built V8 Interceptor is almost as bad as Max was mad. And to be clear, by bad we mean freaking awesome.
Dodge M4S Turbo concept (The Wraith) — In a case of perfect timing, Dodge had just built the M4S Turbo concept to serve as a pace car for the Indianapolis 500 when movie producers began searching for a futuristic automobile to use in The Wraith. The rest is history. Trivia: M4S stands for Mid-engined 4-cylinder Sports car.
1963 Aston Martin DB5 (Goldfinger) — James Bond’s sleek DB5 is stunningly gorgeous and wildly popular, with or without all the bells and whistles that helped keep 007 safe. But, hey, who doesn’t appreciate bulletproof windows, hidden weapons, or those cool revolving license plates?
1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) — Bueller’s best friend Cameron claimed his dad’s car was one of “less than 100” built. True, and also false. Close-up shots were of an actual Cal Spider, but considering an original version is worth millions (and millions), the Ferrari we saw flying over Chicago’s streets (and ultimately disappearing into a wooded abyss) was a replica.