Barbie’s 9 greatest cars
Barbie, the leggy doll that Mattel brought to life in 1959, recently celebrated her 60th birthday, and although she can be a bit controversial (hey, she didn’t choose her measurements), she’s much more than just a pretty face. Nobody accumulates Barbie’s car collection without being smart, successful, and handy with a wrench (albeit a plastic one).
For comparison, you can count boyfriend Ken’s cars on one hand. Let’s face it, the guy is just along for the ride. More about that later.
According to a series of 1960s novels published by Random House, Barbara Millicent Roberts—yes, that’s Barbie’s full name—grew up in the fictional town of Willows, Wisconsin. She likely didn’t venture far from home in her early years, maybe because she couldn’t. Forced for decades to walk on her tippy toes, Barbie was in desperate need of some wheels. She finally got her first car in 1962.
And what did the fashionable 11.5-inch-tall doll drive in ’62? A Corvette, you say? Nah, Babs didn’t own America’s Sports Car until America celebrated its 200th birthday in 1976. An iconic Volkswagen Beetle? Nope, that came later too. Mattel decided the perfect car for a teenage girl living in cold-weather Wisconsin was … wait for it … an Austin-Healey 3000 MKII. Maybe it had snow tires? One thing it didn’t have was a top.
Some 57 years later, Barbie has a seemingly endless array of transportation options: cars, dune buggies, campers, rescue vehicles, motorcycles, ATVs, bicycles, tractors, horses, boats, kayaks—even airplanes and helicopters. And new for 2019, Barbie can now transport fresh produce to the market with her very own Sweet Orchard Farm Vehicle. In case the name doesn’t make it obvious, it’s a pickup truck.
So what about Ken Carson? (Yes, he has a last name too.) The muscle-bound doll—sorry dude, we can’t really call you an action figure—is two years younger and a half-inch taller than Barbie, but he looks up to her in the automotive department. In fact, we could find only two just-for-Ken automobiles: the 1984 Ken Dream ’Vette and the 2012–13 Ken Mini Cooper. (Not to rub it in, but Barbie’s little sister, Skipper, owns two Mercedes-Benzes.)
But hey, this is Barbie’s party. So here’s our list of Barbie’s nine greatest vehicles, listed in the order they were produced. There are more comprehensive lists out there, but we’ve included only vehicles that were created by Mattel or were fashioned on Mattel’s behalf.
1962 Austin-Healey 3000 MkII
There’s nothing like being No. 1. Whether or not a little roadster is the most logical choice for a teenager who drives on snow-covered roads half the year, the Austin-Healey 3000 MKII led an automotive parade that hasn’t stopped. Toy catalogs of the era applauded the car’s “exquisite precision design … all-poly body with chrome-like accessories and fittings … clear plastic windshield … and free-rolling exact-replica wheels with steel axles.” The Healey could be had in six color combinations: yellow with blue interior, orange with blue, pink with white, pink with blue, green with cream, and red with white.
While an actual 1962 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk II in #3 (Good) condition has an average value of $42,800, the 18-inch 300 MkII in Barbie’s collection will set you back about $250 in excellent condition. Back in the day, you could score one in the Montgomery Ward catalog for less than five bucks, which is about $42 today. The catalog description included this trend-setting line: “With room for Ken.” Your call, Barbie, but if you invite him along he may insist on driving. That’s no fun.
1962 Mercedes-Benz 190SL
The colors aren’t as exquisite as the classic silver-and-tan combo in a real 190SL, but the second car in Barbie’s garage was a step up in terms of luxury (although it also lacked any kind of roof). The primary colors for the German roadster were turquoise and orange, but a few variations exist, including powder blue and orange, turquoise and white, and powder blue and white.
The average value of an actual 1962 Mercedes-Benz 190SL in #3 condition is $92,500, but a Barbie 190SL can be found for $25–$200. Skipper’s Mercedes-Benz models came along later.
1970 Country Camper
Barbie had a lot of these home-away-from-home vehicles through the years—including a monstrous 3-foot Traveler Camper in the mid-1970s—but the Country Camper was the boss. It even had its own theme song (set to country music, naturally):
Singer: “Take Malibu Barbie and her suntan friends with their glasses and their towels … Where the road never ends in Barbie’s new Country Camper.”
Announcer: “Look what you get: a picnic setup, a pop-out tent, sleeping bags, a camper kitchen …
Singer: “In Barbie’s new Country Camper. Barbie’s Country Camper home!”
You can find one in great condition for $25–$50.
1976 Star Vette
The first of many in Barbie’s Corvette fleet was this purple/pink convertible with white interior. The red European version is much cooler, but purple is what we got in the U.S. We can do without all the ugly stickers, but this Vette rolls on G70-14 Super Slicks, which makes it tolerable.
An actual 1976 Chevrolet Corvette has an average value of $7800 in #3 condition ($22,200 in #1 Concours condition), but there’s a huge difference of opinion about what a plastic Star Vette is worth. Prices for Barbie cars in similar condition range from $15 to an astounding $565 on eBay.
1987 Ferrari 328 GTS
During the 11 years after Barbie scored her first ’Vette, she also received a purple 1978 Donny & Marie Osmond van, a remote-control Corvette, a Volkswagen Golf, an unbranded off-road vehicle, a Jeep 4×4, and more ’Vettes in more colors than we care to count. Then came a bright spot: a 1987 Ferrari 328 GTS.
The “red-hot Barbie Ferrari”—yes, TV commercials used those exact words—was the best, although a white version arrived later. In a commercial that featured a red Prancing Horse, Barbie literally turns Ken’s head when she drives past. Oh sure, she ultimately stops and gives him a lift, but she isn’t about to turn over the keys. Ken rides fucile da caccia (shotgun).
A 1987 Ferrari 328 GTS in #3 condition has an average value of $51,900. The plastic version can be had for $25–$50.
1988–89 ’57 Chevy Bel Air
Barbie finally scored a classic car in 1988, when Mattel afforded her a ’57 Chevy—in convertible form, of course. Available in pink or turquoise, the Chevy features impressive wheel and chrome detail, as well as seat belts. Seat belts? Certainly not in a ’57 Chevy. It’s all about the kids, right?
One in excellent condition will cost you $80–$125, which is pretty stiff for a 30-year-old piece of plastic but much cheaper than what it’ll cost you for the real thing: $47,100 for a ’57 Chevy convertible in #3 condition. Of all the Barbie cars, this might be the best one to display on a shelf.
1991 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet
Four years after getting her first Ferrari, Barbie welcomed her first Porsche. Available in white with hot pink interior or, well, white with hot pink interior, the German sports car has working headlights, so Barbie can see clearly on late-night runs to Taco Bell. (A Boxster came later.)
A real 1991 Porsche 911 Carrera 2—also with working headlights—will cost you about $31,000 in #3 condition. You can get the corresponding Barbie car for $25–$75.
2004 Cali Girl Chevrolet SSR
After 13 years of Mustangs, a Jaguar XJS (with sparkles! Just how you love your Jag, right?), Ferrari 355 GTS, VW Microbus, Ford Thunderbird (the later version), Ford Escape, and a “Happy Family” Volvo V70 wagon, Barbie jumped behind the wheel of a “Cali Girl” Chevrolet SSR pickup.
Available in yellow or blue, the SSR comes with its own CD player. Since the CD player is actual size, you might want to remove it to use it. Otherwise, it looks like Barbie is transporting a giant monster truck tire in back.
You can find Barbie’s SSR for $50–$100. A real 2004 Chevrolet SSR has an average #3 value of $22,100.
2004 Ferrari F1 car
This is a bit of a cheat, since it’s a limited-edition car available only at the 2004 International Barbie Doll Collections Convention in Chicago—and yes, we just broke our own rules since it wasn’t made by or for Mattel—but it’s the coolest and fastest car that ol’ Babs has ever laid her little plastic hands on. It’s custom built from a 1/6-scale remote control car, and the electronics have been removed. A true 1 of 1, the Ferrari F1 race car is about as ridiculous as giving Barbie an Austin-Healey to drive in the snow, but this is Barbie, folks. She can pretty much accomplish anything she sets her mind to. Ken, on the other hand…