Famous Cars of the Silver Screen That Will Take You Through Nostalgia
The most famous films or TV shows at one point or another have featured a car or vehicle in the storyline, depending on the success of the story the vehicles will leave a lasting impression, ok some more than others, for instance the cars featured in the James Bond films are seen all around the world, where as the Trotters Robin Reliant van would be predominantly seen in the UK.
When people are asked to name the most famous cars in the world, most would have a different opinion, ranging from films, TV shows, books and even songs, remember the Beach Boys little deuce coupe, drive my car by the Beatles or greased lightning from the film Grease?
Aston Martin DB5
Throughout the years there have been many cars that have stuck in our memories, during the early Laurel and Hardy films the hapless duo were regularly seen driving a battered model T Ford, which in one film had probably the first in car stereo. Stan had a piece of string tied to a gramophone record player arm under the bonnet which dropped the needle onto the record and played whenever he pulled the string, priceless.
Looking back through cinema history it is quite difficult to pinpoint the first actual car that was seen in a film, I would guess that it probably appeared in the early silent films that starred people like Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton or the lovable Keystone Cops.
The vehicles in the early years were purely seen as props, something to hang out of or be crammed into, remember how many police officers that the Keystone lot used to try and squeeze into a vehicle, and the number that fell off after racing away chasing a criminal.
They wanted a visual effect, the same way that Keaton had a building collapse over him by standing at a window or that Lloyd would dangle from a clock-tower with the arms of the clock straining as he clung on.
Film Demand Increases
After World War 2 there was a massive demand to make war films showing just how the battles were won and lost through the cinema, early Pathe news reels had kept people in touch with events but didn’t feature the vehicles as such.
Because of the amount of films made, vehicles were seen more regularly on screen, ok most were military vehicles but being seen nonetheless, most people will recognise the American jeep that seemed to appear in every war film ever made, if you tried to make a list of famous Hollywood stars who have driven or climbed out of one, you would have a very long list.
Alongside the war films stood another genre of film that did feature cars more prominently, this being the good old fashioned gangster movie, the type where Al Capone or Bonnie and Clyde ran rough-shot over everybody that got in their way.
Most of the cars that featured in this type of film were seen as sedan type models with white walled tyres and running boards, the majority were immaculately kept, sometimes with a chauffeur, ok a gangster chauffeur but still a chauffeur, they were seen as a statement of wealth, mostly gained by some criminal activity or double dealing no doubt.
The All American Military Jeep
The decade that really established the car in film and TV history was probably the 1960`s with a vast selection of models appearing on every large and small screen around the world, who can forget the first Batmobile, James Bond`s silver Aston Martin DB5, the fabulous pink Thunderbirds Fab 1, The Monkees Car, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Italian job mini`s, the Munsters coach, the Mustang from the film Bullit, the love bug Herbie, even through cartoons children were being transfixed with cars, the Flintstones, Scooby Do`s Mean Machine van, Disney`s Cars films, the Pink Panther car and the wonderful Wacky Races which dedicated a whole series of zany characters and mad inventive cars racing through different venues each week, and not forgetting the mad Banana Splits who used to zip around in a beach buggy, the list goes on and on.
We mentioned the early American gangster movies, but what about the good guys? In the 70`s and 80`s there seemed to be an awful lot of police or detective shows that had a car amongst its storylines, again James Bond features heavily with various cars, even one that could transform into a submarine, this being the white Lotus Esprit, then there were Starsky and Hutch the US cop show that had a standout vehicle in the show in the shape of a red Ford Gran Torino with a wide white stripe down the sides and across the roof, every teenage boy in the decade wanted one, me included.
What about the Sweeney with their various Fords, mainly Granada`s, the Professionals again Ford`s this time with an Escort RS2000 and a Capri, the Saint with his Volvo, the Persuader`s Aston Martin DBS and the Dino 246 GT, and Morse`s Mk 2 jaguar.
Probably the only car that is known in its own right is Kitt from the Knight Rider series, nobody remembers the human characters but everybody knows Kitt, that’s how far car recognition has become.
Batmobile 1966 Lincoln Fontana
During the 80`s some of the biggest box office smashes involved a car or a vehicle at some point, some of these were comedies, futuristic tales, horror stories or good old fashion races or chases, including Burt Reynolds Smokey and the Bandit, the Dukes of Hazard, the A Team, Mel Gibson in Mad Max, Ghostbusters and the very sinister Christine written by Stephen King.
The film Death Race 2000 took the car to another level but using them as an actual weapon.
The film tells of a futuristic time where cars and their strange drivers score points by inflicting damage to pedestrians to the point of fatal consequences, the worse the injury the higher the score, albeit fictional the cars had equal billing alongside the characters.
The car that probably stands out more in recent movie history is the 1981 De Lorean DMC12 which features in the Back to the Future film series, in the film the car runs on waste fuel like banana skins and day to day waste, and has the added bonus of flying and time travel to its name.
Unfortunately, the film car was more successful than the actual company.
The car itself has become such a stalwart of film and television history that some writers and directors have decided to create films just about the vehicles, the actors seem to be a second thought.
Films such as Death Race 2000, the Cannonball Run and Gone in 60 Seconds, and the enormous Fast and Furious set of films prove that the main pivotal concept are the vehicles, without the cars the films don’t make sense, ok the people who drive them are all oddballs, but it’s the cars that you remember.
Thunderbirds Fab 1 Rolls Royce
When you consider that 2 of the worlds biggest films and TV series have cars in their DNA, show how important it is to have a vehicle in the story, firstly one of the world biggest financially grossing franchise’s
The Harry Potter film series which features a flying Ford Anglia 105E bringing it to the children of today.
Secondly there is the now famous canary yellow Robin Reliant 3 wheeled van owned by the Trotters in the most popular comedy series in history, that being Only Fools and Horses.
How many times has Del Boy, Rodney and Uncle Albert featured in storylines with the van? Who can forget Rodney`s car chase when he was trying to impress a local barmaid, superb.
We tend to think of cars as friends in the same way that we wish that robots could be companions conjuring up adventures and schemes that we can experience together.
When the TV show Knight Rider first came to the small screen, the character played by David Hassellhoff could talk to the car and give it instructions, that has now become a reality with voice recognition being introduced to the cars of today, some of the newer electric models have become driverless and drive themselves via satellite to its destination, how long will it be before humans no longer need to pass a driving test, just let the car do it by itself.
One of the things that all the cars have in common is that that all require belts and bearings etc to make the motors run, companies like Bearingtech can help with this process by stocking and supplying a selection of these products at competitive prices.
Because of the influx of cars and vehicles that have been featured in the cinemas and tv screens we thought that a rundown of some of the most popular models and shows would make interesting reading, hopefully the little tips and quirky pointers will make you smile and reminisce.
Famous Cars And Vehicles Of The Silver Screen
James Bond: Aston Martin DB5 + Future models
Batman: Batmobile - 1954 Lincoln Fontana, Tumbler
Flintstones: Boulder Mobile
Thunderbirds: Fab 1 Rolls Royce
Knight Rider: Kitt – Pontiac Firebird
The Love Bug Series: 1963 VW Beetle
Scooby Do Cartoon: 1963 Ford Econline
Starsky and Hutch Series: 1976 Ford Gran Torino
Smokey and The Bandit 1977 Pontiac Trans Am
Christine: 1958 Plymouth Fury
Dukes of Hazard: 1969 Dodge Charger
The A Team: 1983 GMC G 15 Van
Back to the Future Films: 1981 De Lorean DMC12
Ghostbusters: 1959 Cadillac Miller Meteor
The Monkee`s TV show: 1966 Pontiac GTO
Only Fools and Horses: 1983 Robin Reliant Rialto
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Customised Paragon Panther
Blues Brothers: 1974 Dodge Monaco
Harry Potter Films: Ford Anglia 105E
The Italian Job: 1968 Mini Cooper S
Mad Max Films: V8 Interceptor
Grease: 1948 Ford De Luxe
Transformers Bumblebee: VW Beetle
Laurel and Hardy films: T Ford
Pink Panther Cartoon: Oldsmobile Tornado
The Munster`s: T Bucket Hot Rod
Morse: 1960 Jaguar Mk 2
The Banana Splits: 1960`s Beach Buggy
Centre of Attention In Their Own Right
All of the above vehicles have enjoyed single screen- time by being the centre of attention in their own right, but there are many who have had to share the limelight with their companions, films like Gone in 60 seconds have a large catalogue of various cars in all shapes and makes, Death Race 2000 has more than one car in its storyline, the Cannonball Run is another with various models, not forgetting the good old American military Jeep that has appeared in more films than any of the above and last but not least the wonderful Wacky Races which featured the most strange, funny and utterly mad set of vehicles that you will ever likely to see.
Just imagine if somebody actually designed some of them, what joy that would bring.
When people think of cars and vehicles today they immediately think of everyday cars that they either drive of dream of owning, whether its petrol, diesel electric or hybrids they all conjure up images of freedom fun and adventure, its only when you stop to think about the role that cars have played in entertainment that you realise just how many their have been.
What does the future hold for on screen cars? Will the next car be bigger and more popular than any of the list above, will future generations hold them in their memories with the same affection as past generations have?
Time will certainly tell, one thing is for sure, the film car will be around for years to come in whatever shape and design writers and film directors decide to invent.
Who knows maybe a future vehicle will have the screen presence 100% of the time, talk to the audience and rescue the victim all by itself. Who needs people anyway !
Down The Memory Lane:
Originally posted 2019-09-26 09:08:08.