THE MOST ICONIC HOLLYWOOD CARS IN POP CULTURE: PART ONE
THE MOST ICONIC HOLLYWOOD CARS IN POP CULTURE: PART ONE
By Philip Bates
Philip Bates, Editor at The Doctor Who Companion
What are the best movie cars of all time? Hollywood has a grand history of incredible car chases, awesome stunts, and sleek liveries.
Appropriately, many franchises have vehicles as their chief driving force – so which ones have made a significant cultural impact?
Fire up the Flux Capacitor. Accelerate to 88mph. Leave the present behind.
The DMC-12 already looked curiously futuristic yet antiquated with its stainless-steel body and unusual doors which opened upwards. Then, in Back to the Future (1985), Doc Brown souped it up further with Time-Travel Coils, a Nuclear Reactor in the trunk, and huge steam vents to cope with the stresses of bending the fourth dimension.
The real car was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, but Ron Cobb and Steven Spielberg's SFX team reworked it to account for the Doc's tweaks. Check out the iconic '80s Time Machine in 1:8 Scale here!
There have been loads of Batmobiles across different mediums. The first debuted in Detective Comics #27 (1939), but the term "Batmobile" wasn't coined until two years later. This bright red speedster was far removed from the designs now synonymous with the brand – Adam West's, with fins and plastic pods; the elongated cars of The Animated Series; and the ribbed Batman Forever (1995) mobile.
The most iconic of recent years is the "Tumbler" Batmobile established in Batman Begins (2005). This angular design was a tank, 9ft wide and 15ft long, weighing in at 2.5 tons. Designed by Christopher Nolan and Nathan Crowley, and built by Chris Corbould and Andy Smith, this ditched bat motifs in favor of an intimidating shell, covering its occupant in armored wings.
If there's something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call? If you're lucky, the ECTO-1 will wheel its way to your block and tackle any spooky goings-on.
Based on a 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor, it's meant to look a bit make-do-and-mend; as a fusion of hearse and ambulance, it nonetheless advertises the Ghostbusters' business perfectly. Though initial plans for the ECTO-1 had strobe lighting and more garish color combinations, the number of night shoots required for the film necessitated a slightly more scaled-back approach.
During promotional tours of New York for the 1984 movie, it nevertheless caused car accidents!
Of course, the Ghostbusters aren't the only ones who drive around in a legendary vehicle to fight all sorts of supernatural beings. In Mystery Inc's case, however, out-of-this-world enigmas typically turn out to be the butler, the janitor, or Mr. Wickles.
There are several different versions of the Mystery Machine, depending on which iteration of the franchise you watch. But they're all based on the same concept, as established in Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (1969- 70): a blue, green, and orange van, inspired by 1960s hippy aesthetics.
Few can agree exactly what model the Mystery Machine is. A 1978 Volkswagen LT 40 Van? A VW LT 40? A Dodge A100? All are possibilities, depending on the series. One thing we can all agree on though is how cool Shaggy, Scooby, Daphne, Velma, and Fred's ride is!
Knight Rider starring David Hasselhoff was a huge international success, yet it had a suitably eccentric premise: Hasselhoff played Michael Knight, a crimefighter with a sentient 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, K.I.T.T., an artificial intelligence which was almost indestructible. It had numerous special features including a flame thrower, explosive detector, money dispenser, lasers, and ski mode.
Front and center was the scanner bar resembling that of the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica, both shows having been created by Glen A. Larson.
Naturally, car chases were a staple of the Knight Rider's various iterations, notably its original 1982-86 run and 2008-09 revival.
Aston Martin DB5
Though it's a sleek, legendary design in itself, it was the added gadgets that mark the DB5 from Goldfinger (1964) as the go-to car for James Bond enthusiasts.
The Aston Martin was initially only equipped with a smokescreen, but several crew members suggested additions. Goldfinger director, Guy Hamilton, for instance, was inspired to include rotating number plates after getting too many parking tickets.
The DB5 was further decked out with a bulletproof screen, concealed machine guns, contra-rotating tire slashers, retractable overrides, concealed weapons drawer, and an ejector seat. These were all fitted into a genuine model over a six-week period by production designer, Ken Adam, and engineer, John Stears. It began 007's long association with genius inventions.
The original Mad Max (1979) and Mad Max: The Road Warrior (1981) gave its protagonist a Ford Falcon XB GT Coupe 1973 Interceptor with a supercharger in the hood to give it extra oomph. While this also appeared in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), it was overshadowed by the Gigahorse.
This wild invention is comprised of Double 1959 Cadillacs on a truck chassis, balanced on huge tractor tires on the back, with a harsh plow-like grill at the front. It's a foreboding beast, made more memorable for its use at the film's conclusion.
It's automatic. It's systematic. It's hydromatic. Why, it's Greased Lightning!
Few cars are propped up by a catchy number – although it wasn't such a hit as you might believe. Despite being very quotable, many radio stations refused to play the song, hailing from the stage musical and movie of Grease, due to its sexual innuendos.
Otherwise, the tune follows Kenickie and the T-Birds' hopes of turning a battered white 1948 Ford De Luxe Convertible into an exciting hot-rod capable of beating the Scorpions at the Thunder Road race.
General Lee was an inseparable part of The Dukes of Hazzard, so is understandably etched in the memories of a generation. This 1969 Dodge Charger regularly "fought the power" and performed incredible stunts. To reiterate that this was a car designed for dangerous sport, its bright orange doors were welded shut, meaning the Dukes would have to climb through the windows instead.
However, this is a controversial car. Emblazoned on the roof was a Confederate flag, and its name comes from American Civil War general, Robert E. Lee. At least the 2005 film acknowledged the awful connotations the flag has.
Cars, Transformers, Bob the Builder: all feature vehicles with minds of their own. But arguably the most cherished is Herbie, the sentient Volkswagen Beetle introduced in The Love Bug (1968) that appeared in a number of sequels and remakes. While it abandoned the VW signage in its debut, the car manufacturers got on board from Herbie Rides Again (1974) onwards.
Its origins are a mystery. The Love Bug was based on 1961's Car, Boy, Girl by Gordon Buford, which may have been a novel or a short story. But there's no trace of it. It could be buried somewhere in the Disney archive. Importantly, this was the last live-action film greenlit by Walt Disney himself, although he passed away before its release.
Didn't spot your favorite vehicle from films or TV? We've got 10 more iconic automobiles ready for the starting line, so keep your eyes peeled on the Die-Cast Club blog…