What is the most iconic vehicle to come out of Hollywood? Arguably, the most common answer would be the Batmobile, and with good reason. There are variations of it on TV, in movies, and in animated features. It’s dark, sleek, menacing, and fast. It is as much part of the Batman mythos as Robin, or the Joker. Yet throughout entertainment history, there have been many rides that have captured the public imagination. The Ecto-1 in Ghostbusters. K.I.T.T. (William Daniels) in Knight Rider. The Griswold’s Family Truckster from Vacation. Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) from Back to the Future would need more than plutonium to run 88 mph with a flux capacitor on his back, something much more suited to the Delorean.
Some vehicles are integral to the story. Some forever linked with the main character. Some that are the main character. All of them, unique. To list them all would be exhaustive (pun possibly intended). Here’s just a few that rise above the rest.
DeLorean DMC 12 in Back To The Future (1985)
If the Batmobile is the most iconic, then the DeLorean from Back To The Future is a very close second. With its futuristic exterior and scads of displays, buttons, and knobs on the dashboard (and the ever-present flux capacitor), the DeLorean brings style and flair to the time-travel trope, leaving portals and phone booths in its 88 mph dust.
Ecto-1 in Ghostbusters (1984)
Literally nothing else like it. Almost a ghost itself, the rusty, decrepit 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Sentinel ambulance/hearse crawled into the firehouse and emerged a bright, pristine emergency vehicle. Fully equipped with storage for the tools of the ghost-busting trade, Ecto-1 was practical, unique, and announced to the world that the Ghostbusters were ready to take your call.
K.I.T.T. in Knight Rider (1982-86)
A 1982 Firebird Trans-Am with the Cylonesque sweeping light at the front that talks to you? Yes, please! K.I.T.T. (Knight Industries Two Thousand) was more than just Michael Knight’s (David Hasselhoff) mode of transportation: this car with a wellspring of knowledge and dry wit was his partner in the pursuit of justice.
The General Lee in The Dukes Of Hazzard (1979-85)
The highly derided (rightfully so) flag on the roof aside, the General Lee was another one of the classic vehicles from the 1980s that car-loving folk throughout the country wanted for their own. The orange 1969 Dodge Charger was known throughout Hazzard County as property of ‘them Duke boys’ (John Schneider/Tom Wopat), and once you heard “Dixie” you knew they had leapt through the windows of the welded doors and were going to push the Lee’s wheel suspension to a point past credibility. Now if they would just CGI a far, far better choice for a flag on the roof…
1976 Ford Gran Torino in Starsky and Hutch (1975-79)
The go-to choice for the team was Starsky’s (Paul Michael Glaser) Gran Torino, a 2-door beauty painted bright red with a large, white vector stripe on the sides, as Hutch’s (David Soul) ’73 Ford Galaxie 500 lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. The car itself was fairly plain Jane, but the paint job on the exterior was instantly memorable, prompting a number of real-world customized copies to roam the streets.
Airwolf in Airwolf (1984-87)
Heading off the streets and into the sky for this selection. The modified Bell 222 stealth copter was armed with advanced weaponry, used on missions by Stringfellow Hawke (Jan-Michael Vincent) and friends to neutralize threats to national security. Really, though, it just looked damn cool.
Herbie in The Love Bug (1968)
A sentient, plucky 1963 white Volkswagon Beetle with red and blue racing stripes (although “Volkswagon” is not uttered once in the film, and the classic VW logo was removed), Herbie was instantly a hit, with The Love Bug becoming the top-grossing film of 1969. Herbie didn’t speak, but communicated just fine with horns, opening and closing his doors, and more. Fun fact – the number 53, prominently displayed on his doors and hood, is a tribute to the Dodgers’ star player Don Drysdale.
Wagon Queen Family Truckster in National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
If you are taking your family on a cross-country road trip to Wally World, you want to drive in comfort and style, seeing the US in a fuel-efficient wagon of the gods, the envy of every other auto on the road.
Or you can take the Wagon Queen Family Truckster, a ghastly pea-green, wood-paneled behemoth based on a Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon. When the gas guzzler, with eight headlights and a strategically hidden gas cap, pulled into the Griswold driveway, you knew you were in for something special. National Lampoons’ Vacation is a comedy classic, with the Truckster being the first of many setbacks for Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and his family. Bonus – lots of room for Aunt Edna (Imogene Coca) on the roof!
The Mirthmobile in Wayne’s World (1992)
The light blue 1976 AMC Pacer, with painted flames adorning the sides, is property of Garth Algar (Dana Carvey), a long-haired slacker who pairs with Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) on the public access TV show Wayne’s World. With ample room for five, a strict No Hurl policy and a red licorice dispenser on the driver side, the Mirthmobile would be the setting for the immortal Bohemian Rhapsody scene, prompting millions to start banging their heads to the rock classic, wishing they had their own AMC Pacer. Not.
Lotus Esprit S1 in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
“Bond. James Bond.” One of the most revered lines in the history of film, coming in at # 22 on AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movie Quotes. Those three words bring to mind a flood of images. The Bond girls. Villains intent on destroying the world. Supposedly inescapable death traps our hero invariably escapes from. Gadgets ranging from useful to deadly, and all points in between. And the cars. So many, many cars. The Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II from A View To A Kill. The Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger. The most interesting, however, has to be the Lotus Esprit S1 from The Spy Who Loved Me. It wasn’t the fastest, but what it lacked in speed it made up for in gadgets: cement sprayer, mines, torpedoes, missiles. It also morphed into a submarine, the only vehicle in the history of Bond that could be used on land and sea. Sure hope they sprang for the rustproofing.
The Best Movie Batmobiles, Ranked
It’s the car, right?
About The Author
Lloyd Farley (2 Articles Published)
I am Lloyd Farley: irresistibly handsome, intellectually superior, charming and most of all, humble. I am a Canadian and have written a number of short-stories on my Vocal account, many puns and op-eds on my Facebook. I also have published a book, “Pun And Grimeish Mint”, a full collection of wholly original puns told in “mini-stories”.