The Most Iconic Hollywood Cars in Pop Culture: Part Two
The Most Iconic Hollywood Cars in Pop Culture: Part Two
By Philip Bates - Jan 15th, 2021
Philip Bates, Editor at https://thedoctorwhocompanion.com
Hollywood has given us an abundance of fantastic vehicles – but which designs seen in films, comics, and on TV are the best cars of all time?
We've highlighted the likes of K.I.T.T., the Mystery Machine, and Greased Lightning, but which others have made significant cultural impacts?
In his time, James Bond, aka 007, has been behind the wheel of everything from the invisible Aston Martin V12 Vanquish to the Wallis WA-116 Agile microlight nicknamed Little Nellie.
But few vehicles are as iconic as his Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger and the Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me – both famous for their extensive modifications. While his Aston Martin is known for its astonishing weaponry arsenal, the Esprit is legendary for one specific feature: its ability to go underwater.
Roger Moore's Bond fights off scuba-diving baddies in this mini-submarine then emerges from the water, as if nothing had happened: the very definition of cool.
The Mean Machine
What's your favorite car from the original 1968- 69 animation, Wacky Races? The show boasted a lot of kooky ideas like the Ant Hill Mob's Bulletproof Bomb; Professor Pat Pending's shape-changing Convert-a-Car; and the Compact Pussycat, driven by Penelope Pitstop (swoon!).
The Mean Machine, however, is surely the stand-out motor here. That's partly because it was such an eye-catching design, and partly because it was driven by Dick Dastardly and Muttley.
It's also the fastest car in the races – yet Dastardly's penchant for cheating often holds them back from actually winning.
"Calling Zebra Three. Come in, Zebra Three."
That was the callsign of Starsky and Hutch, who drove around in this stunning red Ford Gran Torino. It's distinguishable from similar models by its striking white stripes, a paint job specially made for TV; it became so popular, however, that Ford produced 1000 two-door coupé replicas for the US market.
Starsky and Hutch poked fun at its rival show, The Dukes of Hazzard, by including the latter's "General Lee" 1969 Dodge Charger in a race with the Torino. Starsky and Hutch's won (although the Gran Torino is heavier, so is likely to have lost that pursuit in real life).
Spider-Mobile, Spider-Mobile, does (almost) whatever a spider can.
This was an example of genius marketing by Marvel Comics' head honcho, Stan Lee, and Gerry Conway and Ross Andru, the creative team behind The Amazing Spider-Man #130 (1974). This buggy was made with tongue firmly in cheek – as evident from Spider-Man's initial reaction, "Now that's what I call a fiasco."
A company had approached Lee to give one of Marvel's top superheroes a car so they could publicize a toy version. In the comic, the cash-strapped Spidey is sponsored by Corona Motors to drive this wall-scaling vehicle.
Based on a 1967 Mustang Fastback, Eleanor had extensive alterations to get it as unique, fast, and iconic as a thriller like Gone in 60 Seconds dictated.
The Pepper Gray customized Shelby Mustang GT500 from the 2000 remake looks very distinct from the bright yellow original from 1974. Both versions had to withstand considerable stresses: the high-octane stunts Eleanor carries out meant that, of the 11 made for the remake, only three survive!
Eleanor rightly got star credit in Gone in 60 Seconds, the only car to ever get such an accolade, its name appearing alongside Nicholas Cage's, Angelina Jolie's, and Christopher Eccleston's.
The Jeeps touring Isla Nublar in Jurassic Park were all 1992 Ford Explorer XLTs, giving explorers the illusion of safety while being surrounded by dangerous dinosaurs.
They were, of course, heavily modified. Most obvious is the Jurassic Park branding, but they also boasted self-navigation and entertainment systems (in case Velociraptors, Gallimimus, and Compsognathus weren't fun enough for visitors). These are modified by George Barris, designer of the 1960s Batmobile from the Batman TV series starring Adam West.
The Ford Explorers might be held in reverence, but the Tyrannosaurus rex didn't demonstrate respect when he smashed them up.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
A favorite around the holidays, this musical starts with a montage of Grand Prix car winning races in the early 1900s. But when it crashes and is sent for scrap, it's rescued by eccentric inventor, Caractacus Pott, who transforms it into a magical flying vehicle.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was based on the book by Ian Fleming, who had named the car thus after being inspired by Louis Zborowski. A racing driver and engineer, Zborowski drove his own Chitty-Bang-Bangs 1, 2, 3, and 4. Sadly, that final model was left unfinished at the time of his death, at the age of just 29.
Nonetheless, the colloquial name of his creations lives on thanks to Fleming's book and the much-loved film.
The Italian Job is probably best known for two things: Michael Caine's "you were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off"; and the red, white, and blue Mini Coopers used as getaway cars.
The 1967 Mk1 Mini Cooper S were given G-reg plates, so they'd appear up-to-date when the movie was released in 1969. Sadly, all those used during filming were destroyed or damaged beyond repair after carrying out numerous impressive stunts (ostensibly in the sewer tunnels).
There are rumors that additional Mini Coopers, not used in the film but kept in storage during the shoot as back-ups, were never recovered by the production studios. Maybe somewhere out there, they're still trundling along…
Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis drove this classic 1966 Ford Thunderbird throughout the classic 1991 film, Thelma & Louise.
The movie starts out as a simple road trip, but events spiral out of the titular characters' control, leading to a surprising conclusion at the Grand Canyon. It even inspired The Simpsons episode, Marge on the Lam, broadcast just two years after Thelma & Louise's release – demonstrating how quickly the story cemented itself in the nation's consciousness.
The Simpsons have its own iconic car too, and no, it's not the pink sedan Homer drives.
It's the Canyonero: 12 yards long, 2 lanes wide, 65 tons of American pride. The tank-like SUV debuted in 1998's The Last Temptation of Krust ("It's the country-fried truck endorsed by a clown!") then the Simpson family got theirs in 1999's Marge Simpson in: "Screaming Yellow Honkers". Its theme, sung by Hank Williams Jr., is infuriatingly catchy.
If you've still got copies of the early 2000s video games, The Simpsons Road Rage and The Simpsons: Hit and Run, you can hit the town in this squirrel-squashin', deer smackin' drivin' machine.
What are your favorite vehicles used in film and TV? Do you have any childhood memories of a specific one?
And is there a car you've always wanted to own a replica of? Check out the Die-Cast Club's full range, so you can build your own models of iconic cars like the ECTO-1 from Ghostbusters; Willy's MB Jeep, used during D-Day; and Back to the Future's DeLorean DMC-12.