Cars have a personality and presence all of their own. For car enthusiasts, they are metal babies, to be lovingly restored, polished, taken out and paraded, collected and discussed endlessly.
Cars as stars
Television took its lead from the silver screen, and has long encouraged our love affair with the automobile, so much so that our four-tyred friends are often more famous on television shows that the human stars.
Let’s take a quick trip around the race-track in our memory at some of the greatest cars on tv.
Fred Flintstone's car from the television show The Flintstones was made of stone, wood and animal skin. It was powered by the feet of Fred and his long-suffering mate Barney Rubble and skittled along at a reasonably fair clip. It wasn't always guaranteed of staying upright when carrying a Brontosaurus rib on the roof, but the vehicle was a good, reliable, get around for the A to B's of Bedrock.
In the 60s show The Munsters, we were introduced to The Koach. A Hot Rod based on a lengthened 1923 Model T chassis with custom body and a massive Ford Cobra engine with Jahns high dome pistons and an Isky Cam, (fuelled through ten carburettors with drainpipe sized gold plated intake pipes). For a family of ghouls and vampires, it was an impressive set of wheels.
The 70’s gave us some wonderful television; and one of the truly iconic shows of the 70’s was The Dukes of Hazard, starring the General Lee, a 1969 Dodge Charger, Daisy Duke’s denim shorts, and some human cast members. The show ran from 1979-85 and by 1981, the General Lee had received 35,000 fan letters, far outstripping its co-stars. Due to the on-screen antics around Hazard, 229 General Lee cars were used and crashed during production.
The most iconic tv car
Probably the best known car on tv in recent memory is KITT, a talking Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am with a red flashing bonnet scanner. KITT helped launch the career of David Hasselhoff in his role as Michael Knight. Together they roamed empty highways at sundown. With the narrator's gravelly voice croaking "Knight Rider: a shadowy flight into the world of a dangerous man who does not exist. Michael Knight, a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless, in a world of criminals who operate above the law”.
While KITT personified the futuristic technologies that many 80s television shows tried to capture, Magnum's PI’s red Ferrari 308 GTS personified cool. It left black tyre marks, spat gravel, and was the perfect complement to the moustache, the stubbies, the shirts and Tom Selleck. Magnum PI and his racy Ferrari helped make cars on tv interesting to watch for the ladies as well.
Mr. Bean's apple green Mini with the black bonnet was an example of a car with character, but not a huge amount of speed or beauty. But it certainly was no slouch when it came to running a strange, yet recurring, unidentified three wheeled car off the road.
One of the earliest shows, synonymous with vintage automobile style was the 60s series The Avengers. Based around the dashing and mysterious John Steed, viewers saw danger, beautiful girls, and a bunch of classic cars.
Cars in reality
Today, reality television shows such as MTV’s Pimp My Ride and the BBC’s Top Gear, more of a magazine style car show, keep the latest developments in cars top of mind.
Which is your favourite?