Our Two Cents: 10 fantastic TV cars
Provided they are set at the right time and location, one of the joys of TV shows has always been the vehicles used as transportation for both the protagonist and minor characters. There were no 1957 Chevrolets in Little House on the Prairie for a darn good reason, and one of my favorite guilty pleasures is The Americans, a brilliantly executed vision of 1980s Cold War spying had all the right cars in the right places.
From the first brick-like, B-body Oldsmobile Delta 88 to the climax involving a jellybean Ford Taurus (i.e. times certainly changed!), I rarely found fault with the choice of cars over time. But that’s a little too “big picture” of a query for our team, so I narrowed things down to a single car from a TV show.
Which leads us to the answers given by my teammates here at Hagerty Media. If you like surprises, you won’t be disappointed in our diverse array of vehicles.
1967 Chevrolet El Camino – That ’70s Show
Let’s start this off right, with a bold recommendation from our Media Operations Manager, Myrynda Freeman. And while a certain Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser wagon normally gets all the accolades from this TV series, but Steven Hyde’s sweet ride was definitely cooler for kids of all ages.
Datsun 280 ZX – Tokyo Vice
Executive Editor Eric Weiner picked a stunner from a fantastic show, and quoted Hagerty contributor Priscilla Page to explain his choice:
“Its controversial transformation made it a heavier, bulkier, softer car that fans of the old Z felt had lost its edge—not the case when [Detective] Katagiri drives it. The detective embodies earnest cool, maintaining his calm in extraordinarily high-pressure situations. His car isn’t built for chases, but neither is Katagiri. He likes to take his time and can’t be rushed. The long game matters more than striking first. He’s no adrenaline junkie, and his evident cool belies his kindness, integrity, and incorruptibility.”
289 Cobra – Honey West
Hagerty Marketplace Editor Colin Comer, came up with a doozy from a more obscure American TV series. The 289 Cobra played a big role in Honey West, and documentation of serial number CSX2540 is crucial. (As it is with all Cobras.) Even the IMCDb page digs deep into this small-block Cobra’s heritage, as the Internet never lets us down, right?
Coyote – Hardcastle & McCormick
Matt Tierney, our Senior Art Director, recommends the Coyote kit car from the crime drama series Hardcastle & McCormick. If Mike Post’s theme song doesn’t bowl you over, the Coyote’s reproduction coachword originating from the McLaren M6GT will certainly pique your interest. While I don’t remember this series personally, the title sequence suggests the Coyote looks like half-engineered fiberglass with interior shots cribbed from a contemporary Ferrari. But still, that’s some fantastic TV magic by the legendary Stephen J. Cannell.
S30 Datsun “Devil Z” – Wangan Midnight
Even in America, the Japanese graphic novel (Manga) has more than just a cult-like following. But when it comes to a specific novel, Wangan Midnight, the dark, film noir appeal has taken several of us by storm, including Senior Editor Eddy Eckart.
As he said, “The answer to this question has changed more times than I can remember over my 42 years. Right now, I’d say the Devil Z from the anime version of the manga Wangan Midnight. It’s hard to beat a ‘cursed’ 240 Z that’s heavily modified for racing on Japan’s highways. Even better it’s all based on real street racing culture.”
GMC G-series Van – The A-Team
Ben Woodworth’s “easy answer” is the A-Team van. As our esteemed Senior Video Lead put it, “I remember getting home from school and trying to come in the back door as quietly as possible so I could turn on the TV and watch The A-Team and Knight Rider (and Fall Guy and Airwolf) before my mom knew I was home and asked the inevitable, ‘is your homework done?’ question.“
“Even if I didn’t have homework, the next words out of my mom’s mouth were ‘well then go outside and play,’ something I’m forever grateful she “made” us do as kids. If it was close enough to the end of the show, I could convince her to let me finish before moving on to homework or play. Always wanted that van. Still do.”
1968 Chevrolet Chevelle – The Dukes of Hazzard
Cameron Neveu, our Managing Editor, added Luke Duke’s ’68 Chevelle, which appeared in Season 3, episode 14 of The Dukes of Hazzard.
“As a kid, I watched Dukes of Hazzard every evening on TV Land. While the Duke boys’ 1969 Dodge Charger—and cousin Daisy, for that matter—was the main reason for 10-year-old me to tune-in, a different starlet stole the show in a few scenes throughout the series’ seven-season run. For me, a card-carrying member of the Bowtie Brigade, Luke Duke’s 1968 Chevelle was the coolest car to ever appear on screen. Sporting a hood scoop, with (questionable) dual quads, and a #76 on the door, the car was everything that made the series great: tacky, confident, and light-hearted.”
BMW Isetta – Family Matters
And now for something entirely different, a German microcar recommendation from Branded Content Writer, Matthew Fink.
“I’m going to go with an episode of a show that stayed with me to this day because of the car. Urkel’s BMW Isetta on Family Matters! (Feel free to make fun of me!) Obviously doesn’t compare to the other cars mentioned here, but as an 11-year-old before the internet, I had no idea this existed and couldn’t believe it was a real car. I can remember yelling for my dad to come see it and him teaching what it was. Come on, a front mounted door with the steering wheel attached, how cool is that?”
1977–78 Dodge Monaco – Hunter
This question wasn’t too terribly easy for Managing Editor Stefan Lombard, but he picked another masterpiece from Stephen J. Cannell.
“Where to start? Is it Rick Simon’s 1979 Dodge Power Wagon from Simon & Simon? Is it Maxwell Smart’s 1965 Sunbeam Tiger from Get Smart? Is it Frank Poncherello’s 1971 Pontiac Firebird from CHiPs? I mean, all of these make my short list. But my all-time favorite TV car has to be LAPD detective Rick Hunter’s dark green 1977 Dodge Monaco from Hunter. It was basically Fred Dryer in car form—big, brutish, zero f*cks to give. Or as Rick himself says, ‘Works for me.'”
1973 Buick Century – Kojak
I wasn’t old enough to watch Kojak when it was a hit show, but I vividly remember my visit to Dirty Old New York City. While visiting NYC had more than its fair share of challenges back then, at least Times Square wasn’t a shiny, happy, gag-inducing tourist trap with furry creatures assaulting visitors. And that’s why I, Sajeev Mehta, recommend the 1973 Buick Century in Kojak.
The themes presented in Kojak were disturbingly serious in nature, ripped straight from the headlines, and featured a character that provided both gentle reassurance and heroic retribution in a city that so desperately needed it. I just couldn’t get enough of Telly Savalas as an actor and personality, and there was something about having a milk-chocolate toned Buick instead of a Chevrolet that fit the role quite well. This guy worked hard and treated the city right, he deserved more than a mere Impala or Malibu!
What did we miss? Starsky’s Striped Tomato? Hunt’s Audi Quattro? KNIGHT RIDER OMG why did you forget it? Crockett’s Testarossa? This list goes on and on, but we hope you enjoyed our diverse take on famous TV cars, and we look forward to you lighting your own fire in the comments below!
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I could do a much better list on show most have seen.
Chevelle Dukes of Hazard? I owned a 68 SS and that one was nothing special. There was only one car that matters but people are afraid to name the General Lee anymore.
Cameron Neveau, Daisy wasn’t Bo and Luke’s sister. She was their cousin.
Thank you for that @Danton I have edited the article accordingly. (I can’t believe I forgot that fact, too!)
Jim Rockford’s Firebird and Thomas Magnum’s Ferrari.
In that part of the country it doesn’t matter.
What an ignorant statement. Your attempt at humor says a lot about you and it’s not even funny.
Which made everything legal in that county…
And a much better ride than the general lee IMHO.
How about Delorean?
Triumph Stag. James Bond. Diamonds are forever.
That’s a movie, not TV
TV cars. Not movie cars.
Red Gran Torino from Starsky and Hutch
Fly that Union Jack!
I’ll take the late C1 and early C2 ‘vettes driven by Buz and Tod in the “Route 66” series that lasted nearly 4 years.
Speaking of Corvettes, what about the flamed one in Riptide?
Orange Cars Matter!
I agree the General Lee was the BEST!
Ok, I’m old, but that’s your list? How could you not include the Batmobile, the Green hornets car, Monkeymobile, 77 Sunset strips T bucket, The man from Uncle car, Mannix modified Toronado, the Munsters Coach, should I go on…. We won’t even include McQueens Bullitt Mustang or the Charger and 007s DB5, Smokey and the Bandits TA, because they were movies and not TV.
Okay Peeps: What about Grandpa’s Drag-u-la from the Munsters, or Larry Tate’s 69 427 Vette convertible in Bewitched and let’s not forget Tony Nelson’s 67 GTO ragtop on I Dream of Jeanie. As a kid, I remember watching those shows hoping to get a glimpse of the cars, after, of couse getting my fix of Pat Prest, Barbara Eden, and Elizabeth Montgomery. Oh the agonies of my mis-spent youth.
How about the Tiger,Get Smart.
Daisy had a cool Road Runner in the early seasons. I can imagine that some people liked her Golden Eagle CJ7 too.
1965 Sunbeam Tiger (Aquacar)
– Get Smart,
Isn’t that a fact!!! There can be only one General!
Forget about the Cobra… Anne Francis was the item I drooled over. She had an ocelot too!
Remember her in “Forbidden Planet”? SHE was the Best Visual Effects.
Ah yes, Stephen Canell – he could definitely pump out hokey primetime fare, that’s for sure! And as much as I don’t want to embarrass out friend Sajeev, I feel that I must point out that Mr. Canell would know that you can “peak” one’s interest, but it’s hard to “peek” at it.
I’m with hyperV6 in feeling that a Chevelle from the Dukes show ss about as important as a garbage truck on Designing Women (as in – not at all). I respect the Hagerty Staff’s opinions, but as we’ve seen many times, their lists don’t always resonate fully with your readership and commenters. As for myself, the 1951 Ford F-1 salvage truck from Sanford and Son is about as fantastic as any of these. 😋
I have no problem with embarrassment when I made a mistake. But this is the first time in my experience that both reader and writer are wrong, as it’s neither “peek” or “peak” but rather “pique.”
So it is! I’m happy to stand-corrected next to you, Mr. Mehta! 😛
I’d like to think we are in good company, correcting each other in such a mature fashion.
Glad I scrolled down so as not embarrass myself over”pique”.
@Jere, this is a journey of enlightenment for all of us. Just glad you’re here for the ride.
My favorite is the Maita occasionally on episodes of Murder She Wrote. The episodes were about an insurance investigator who was played by a tall actor and he had to side-saddle to get into the car. I had to do the same with my first gen Maita
Sad, what about Columbo’s Peugeot? I believe it was a 203.
Columbo’s Peugeot 403 convertible was my favorite
Oh no, Mr. Mehta. The rule is ‘neither–NOR.’
@Robert oh no! Now I really stepped in it!!!
Yup. Precisely. Gotta love it when grammar guardians screw up.
Route 66 with their Corvette, Rockford files with Firebird and Magnum PI Ferrari.
You hit them all. I would add the Volvo P1800 in “The Saint”.
Ah, sir, you nailed the three I was thinking of! Well done!
I can’t believe it took so long for someone to mention Magnum’s 308 GTS ???????
A few years ago, someone from your print magazine considered an article on my family heirloom 1955 Studebaker President. She said that my post in the comments section had “peaked” her curiosity. At some point in our correspondence I pointed out her error. I never heard back after that. The spelling police have the right to remain silent.
Not peek, or peak, but pique.
You mean “pique”, not “peak”. If you are going to correct someone’s use of a word at least be correct in your usage. LOL.
Where’s Emma Peel’s Lotus Elan?
Great car – but so was the 4½ Litre Blower Bentley!
Or Tara King’s Lotus Europa? Or Jane Hathaway’s 1965 Dodge Coronet?
I was a big fan of the Hillbillies when they were new and I was a kid. Now, I enjoy watching the reruns on ME-TV in the mornings. I see that Miss Hathaway always had B Body ‘verts until the last season. Lots of scenes where she is shown coming into a scene in a 62 Sport Fury, but then it is a 63 Polara when it arrives. I have seen a couple episodes where she has a 64 Dodge. There are many of the color episodes where she drives a red 65 Coronet 500, and then a red 68 Coronet 500 later. The latest ones had her in a red 71 Challenger. It took a while before I realized something looked wrong. Then it hit…the high back seats were not there. After watching several episodes, I finally got a good look at the Challenger, and the bucket seats appear to be the 64 Sport Fury style. I guess they didn’t want the high back to obscure filming back seat passengers. And of course the show had lots of cool B body cop cars and taxis. The big C bodies were cool too, especially Drysdale’s Imperials!
That would have made my list !
That is a toss-up as to which is sexier within their respective “species”.
Beautiful black ’59 Chrysler from Crime Story and ofcourse The Munster Coach. The one on the Munsters was the second one built. First one caught fire on a drag strip when they wanted to see what it would run. Burnt up.
That would be my choice but I want Diana Rigg to go along with it.
Good one! Loved that show, and Emma was a kick-ass crime fighter!
My personal favorite was Michael Steadman’s 1968 Volvo 1800S in slate blue metallic on the show ThirtySomething. Not only was I driving the exact same car and color in Philadelphia around this time but, like Michael, I was also in the advertising business.
Don’t forget “The Saint” with his white 1962 P-1800 driven by Roger Moore. I eventually bought a brand new 1964 P-1800 (actually 1800-S). I now still have a ’63 P-1800 convertible conversion and a ’65 1800-S. My current daily driver is a 2012 Volvo C-30 R T5 with Polestar cpu. I must be hooked or otherwise addicted to Volvo sports cars.
TV spies generally had memorable cars. Patrick McGoohan’s Lotus 7 in The Prisoner and Don Adam’s Sunbeam Tiger in Get Smart
You missed the obvious one…..Rockford’s 1974 Pontiac Firebird Esprit
Yep! That move he did with that car was always referred to locally as a “Rockford”
Any of Jim Rockford’s Firebirds 74 -78.
Rockford should have been #1
Rockfords Pontiac Firebird esprit actually had a 400 c.i. formula engine in place of the 350 c.i.
None of the above. I’ll take any of the Corvettes off the original Route 66 series. Especially the ’62 Fuel Injected car. (Several ’62’s appeared in the series.)
My Mother the Car, Car 54 Where are You.
Kookie’s T-bucket from 77 Sunset Strip!
1928 Porter (My Mother the Car)
Jim Rockford’s Gold Pontiac Firebird, or his Dads short-box 4×4 GMC!
Heard an interview with James Garner’s daughter a while ago. During that interview she said that she used to drive the gold Firebird to school once in a while when she was in high school.
Both great choices
You failed to mention the chariot on Lost in Space. It was based on a “Snowcat”, snow removal tractor…
The Mark 5!!!!
Not sure how you could leave out the Ferrari 308GTS on Magnum P.I. over 8 seasons. That one was as important to the TV show as it was to Ferrari’s recognition in the U.S. market.
Agree. Car was the show. Along with miami vice. Daytona, I know was not a real one. But…
Cannon…..71 Lincoln Continental
Miami Vice….2 cars ..Ferrari Tesserossa and Daytona Spyder
Wait a minute, what about Vice’s ’63 Thunderbird convertible, now that’s the way to cruise down Miami way.
TRUE….Miami Vice both cars were COOL!
The 1968 El Camino that Sam Fox drove in Better Things.
The Pontiac Aztec in Breaking Bad! Iconic!
Maxwell Smart’s Sunbeam Tiger
and his VW Kamen Gia
And his Opel GT