Which is the best TV car?
Article by Brendan McAleer, photos by studios, etc.
While the way we now watch television has changed, the connections we make haven’t. Once, we used to plonk down every week at the same time to see what our favourite characters were going to get up to – now we binge-watch a full season on Netflix. It’s still the same thing, a larger, serialized story that contains more nuances and side plots than you could ever cram into a movie.
Of course, that means more room for a better back story for beloved four-wheeled characters. Here’s a look at the ten best cars that ever broke through the small screen to find a parking spot in our hearts.
The General Lee
Of course we have to start it off like this – perhaps no other car is as much of a small-screen icon as the bright orange Dodge Charger with the welded-shut doors and the confederate flag on the roof. In fact, you can paint pretty much any car orange and stick a confederate flag on its roof, and everybody will immediately know what you’re paying homage to. I’d like to see the treatment applied to a LeCar. Les Dukes d’Hazzairdé.
Sometimes a star car can result in a fanbase that preserves cars more than would ordinarily be expected, but you could make the argument that Bo and Luke Duke actually increased the rarity of the Charger by a significant degree. Anywhere from 250-300 of the cars were used in filming, and any that made those huge jumps – “them Duke boys better grow wings, or start flappin’ their arms!” – were immediately knocked out of commission with bent frames. Still, hit the horn that plays Dixie and start looking for signs saying Bridge Out.
Did I say the General Lee was the most iconic TV car? I take it back.
The Batmobile that starred in the ’60s biff-pow-whammo live television version of Batman was nowhere near as serious as the later models that would show up on the big screen. It had a certain cartoonish charm, just like the two pyjama-wearing characters who fought the Joker, the Penguin, and all the other nefarious, cackling baddies.
Built by George Barris out of a one-off Ford (Lincoln) Futura concept car, the Batmobile has a host of features that are enviable even today: bat phone, bat smokescreen, mobile batcomputer. Basically, take anything you can think of, put the word “bat” in front of it, and the Batmobile has it.
The original car used in filming recently sold at auction for the princely sum of 4.2 million dollars. Holy lasers, Batman!
General Lee, Dodge Charger, Dukes of Hazzard; 1983 GMC Vandura, The A-Team. Click image to enlarge. Top image: 1960s Batmobile
A-Team GMC Vandura
I pity the fool who doesn’t know about this thing. If you ain’t gettin’ on no plane, you might as well drive a van instead.
Acting as a sort of mobile command for the nomadic A-Team, this 1983 GMC Vandura makes you wonder why the US Army had such a difficult time apprehending the do-gooding commandos. I mean, it’s got a bright red stripe, custom two-tone grey-and-black paint, a huge spoiler, and turbine mags. It’s not like you couldn’t pick it out in the mall parking lot.
1975 Ford Gran Torino, Starsky & Hutch; KITT, 1982 Pontiac Trans Am, Knight Rider. Click image to enlarge
1975 Ford Gran Torino
Not to put a damper on the thrilling chases of Starsky and Hutch, but their Ford Torino had less horsepower than a V6 Honda Accord, and weighed about as much as a Dodge Caravan. Even so, it looked the business sliding around the streets of the fictional Bay City, California.
The show was so successful that Ford actually built a Starsky and Hutch version of the Gran Torino in 1976. It had all the same options as the TV car, including a 351ci (5.75L) Cleveland V8. Just the thing you need if you have a bunch of chicken coops that need smashing up.
Knight Industries Two Thousand
You probably know this one better as KITT, the wisecracking 1982 Pontiac Trans Am from Knight Rider.
Aside from David Hasselhoff’s hair, the next most impressive thing about Knight Rider were the stated performance figures for the self-driving KITT. Zero to sixty came in just two seconds, with the quarter mile elapsing in 4.285 seconds, and a top speed of 300mph.
At the time, all of this stuff might have seemed like science fiction, but consider the effects of the so-called Super Pursuit mode. This semi-autonomous driving mode lets Michael Knight drive, but has KITT’s superior reflexes handling the really tricky stuff – could something like the Nissan GT-R be a modern day KITT you can actually buy? Well, maybe. If only it had a button marked Turbo Boost that let you jump into third story apartment buildings.