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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