On some TV shows the cars can end up becoming as famous as the human characters themselves, sometimes the car really is the star. Our list below features nine classic vehicles seen in classic TV shows across the years.
The Munster Koach from The Munsters
Like the Munsters themselves, their car is a real character: An 18-foot-long monstrosity called the Koach. It is a mad combination of a hearse and a hot rod. This unique car star is born when Lily goes shopping for a new car and, torn between the two cars she likes most, has them combined into one vehicle. Although memorable, the car appears in only one episode, when Herman loses the Koach in a drag race, and Grandpa has to win it back by building a dragster of his own.
K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider
“The undisputed star of the 1980’s TV series Knight Rider is a car with personality — literally. K.I.T.T., which is short for Knight Industries Two Thousand, is a computer with artificial intelligence fitted into a Pontiac Trans Am that’s so heavily modified it is like the Superman of cars.”
The Saint’s Volvo P1800
Simon Templar’s Volvo P1800. The car is seen often throughout the series, sometimes in lengthy and dizzying chase sequences. Templar initially drives a 1962 model with several updated versions of the white sports coupe appearing in later years. Fans complained that this sometimes created continuity errors with the older cars still being used in some of the scenes.
The Batmobile from Batman
Batman’s distinctive car — black with bright red trim — has bubble windshields and bat-like design details, such as the extra-large rear tailfins or “wings.” It comes loaded with special features befitting of a superhero — everything from an anti-theft device to a portable one-person helicopter (called the Whirlybat) in the trunk. In addition to its powerful V-8 engine, this car has rocket boosters for extra speed. The car was made by revamping a 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car. The front and rear were overhauled to make the shape more evocative of a bat, with the altered version of the Futura’s menacing grille serving as the mouth. The Futura kept its basic proportions, remaining long (205 inches), wide (84 inches), and low (48 inches). Although in modified form, two of its most distinctive features also remained — twin Plexiglas domes for driver and passenger and large tailfins canted outward.
The General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard
The General Lee was a ratings success right from the first episode of The Dukes of Hazzard in January 1979. The souped-up 1969 Dodge Charger, frequently gets to play the role of the hero, showing off its speed in wild car chases with the bumbling sheriff, Rosco P. Coltrane (James Best). Capable of jumping over rivers and smashing through roadblocks, the durable General Lee never appeared to suffer any damage from Bo’s ferocious driving. In reality, however, the show went through approximately 300 cars from various model years with only about 20 left in drivable condition.
The A-Team’s GMC G-Series Van
The A-Team needs a vehicle roomy enough to accommodate all their gear. So B.A. (short for “Bad Attitude”) drives his souped-up van, a GMC G-Series. The van is big, burly and black, exuding as much machismo as the men in it. The van takes a lot of punishment throughout the series, everything from gunfire to getting plunged into a river. But B.A., an ace mechanic, always manages to do a miraculous repair job.
Magnum P.I.’s Ferrari 308 GTS
Framed against gorgeous scenery, the equally gorgeous Ferrari 308 GTS gets plenty of screen time, taking Magnum (Tom Selleck) on adventures all over the island of Oahu. The top is always down, to accommodate Selleck’s height. The series reportedly used three versions of the flashy red sports car during its lengthy run: a 1979 308 GTS, a 1981 308 GTSi, and a 1984 308 GTSqv.
The Miami Vice Ferraris
Detective Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) drives a black Ferrari Daytona Spyder that gets to show off the muscle of its V-12 engine in nearly every episode. However, the show didn’t use an actual Daytona Spyder, which was an extremely rare car. Instead, the producers settled for using a stunt car that had been created from a Corvette chassis, using body panels and hardware to mimic the Ferrari. After two seasons, Ferrari decided to capitalize on the publicity from Miami Vice and supplied the show with the real thing, delivering two Testarossas, a model that the automakers designed specifically to target the U.S. market. Stunt cars still had to be built for filming some of the more aggressive chase scenes, and Robert Motor Co. created a model car that more closely resembled the Testarossas than the stunt cars used to mimic the Daytona. The Testarossa had a sticker price of $87,000 when it was introduced in 1985. It boasted a 5.0-liter flat-12 boxer which could propel the car from 0 mph to 62 mph in 5.8 seconds. The switch from Daytona to Testarossa is incorporated into the storyline of the show. When the 1986 season started, Crockett watches his beloved Daytona get blown up by a gunrunner, who happens to drive a black Testarossa. In the next episode, he receives the confiscated Testarossa, now painted white. Ferrari sent the cars in black, but they were repainted white to be more visible in nighttime scenes.
The Black Beauty From The Green Hornet
Black Beauty, the car referred to as Green Hornet’s rolling arsenal, has enough gadgets to rival the Batmobile. This comic book crime fighter — newspaper owner Britt Reid by day, Green Hornet by night — takes the passenger side, with sidekick Kato in the driver’s seat. When the car is not in use, it is kept under Reid’s garage floor, suspended upside down from steel clamps. With the push of a button, the floor flips, and the car is right-side-up and ready for action. Black Beauty was created by Hollywood customizer Dean Jeffries from a 1966 Chrysler Imperial.
Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess
What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.
Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.
Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.
Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.
Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?
Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.
Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife
Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.
Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.
Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.
Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.
What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.
Famous guest stars?
The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.
Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.
Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.
Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.
The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.
Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.
Classic TV Revisited: The Royal
The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.
The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.
Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.
Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.
Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”
A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.
First broadcast: 2003
Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden
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