Movie and TV cars are typically aspirational. Be it the various incarnations of the Batmobile or Magnum P.I.’s Ferrari, celluloid rides tend to be equal parts cool, iconic, and exotic.
But not always. Check out the recent Breaking Bad prop auction which featured a 1991 Jeep Grand Wagoneer, a 1986 Toyota Tercel, and a 2003 Pontiac Aztek. Breaking bad, indeed.
All of which shows that some TV and movie vehicles are more clunker than creampuff. Without further ado, we salute the more noteworthy beaters – those downmarket chariots that induce cringing rather than craving.
Circa 1990 Chrysler LeBaron from Freddy Got Fingered
Freddy is a flick guaranteed to polarize thanks to its perverse nature. But at least one scene will make gearheads bust a gut. Gord’s jealous brother, Freddy, isn’t pleased papa has given Gord a second-hand Chrysler LeBaron (a reward for Gord securing employment at a cheese sandwich factory).
Maniacal Gord (Tom Green) doesn’t hesitate to gloat about his vehicular bounty, saying, “I only see one LeBaron, Freddy. I don’t see two LeBarons. Where’s your LeBaron, Freddy? Where’s your LeBaron? How many LeBarons? Are there two LeBarons?”
Given the dubious pedigree of the LeBaron, this triumphal rant is so sad it’s actually laugh-out-loud brilliant.
1973 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray in Corvette Summer
Have you ever glanced at a 1970s-era wedding photo in which the groom is wearing a powder blue tuxedo and you pondered aloud: “Did we actually think that was classy?”
The same can be said of the Frankenvette featured in Corvette Summer – a Stingray augmented to sport a jarring Ferrari Enzo-like snout and many grotesque add-ons. While the aesthetic enhancements were considered cutting-edge cool back when disco ruled the dance floor, this Corvette, like that aforementioned powder-blue tux, now looks about as cutting-edge as an eight-track player.
1959 Peugeot 403 from Columbo
Dishevelled and disorganized, Lt. Frank Columbo wasn’t your typical TV detective. Driving an old, made-in-France ragtop in L.A. was a strange choice given that the other more debonair TV detectives were zipping around town in swank late-model luxury coupes or sports cars. Then again, the oddball Peugeot was the perfect ride for such an unassuming fish-out-of-water detective. And it did match Columbo’s forever-rumpled raincoat.
1976 AMC Pacer from Wayne’s World
No Pacer is schwing-worthy. But this particular Pacer raises the bad taste ante due to its non-matching wheels, a nauseating baby-blue paint job and a hot-rod flame motif gracing the front quarter panels. At least its nickname – “The Mirthmobile” – is way cool. Not!
1974 AMC Hornet X from The Man with the Golden Gun
What were the gatekeepers of the 007 franchise thinking when Bond was put behind the wheel of a Hornet? While Bond has vanquished numerous villains over the years, by 1974, he came face to face with an enemy he couldn’t defeat: product placement. Talk about laying it on thick: the bad guy Bond chases in The Man with the Golden Gun drives a Matador – another AMC dud.
1974 Dodge Monaco from The Blues Brothers
A mid-1970s Monaco is one of the Detroit poster boys, which helps explain why imports would go on to eat the domestic industry’s lunch in the years ahead. Even so, Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd) tries to convince his brother Jake (John Belushi) that, because this Monaco has a law enforcement pedigree, it deserves to be the new “Bluesmobile”. Notes Elwood: “It’s got a cop motor, a 440-cubic-inch plant, it’s got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters, so it’ll run good on regular gas. What do you say?”
Jake gives the dilapidated Dodge his blessing – provided the broken cigarette lighter is repaired.
Jed’s “truck” from The Beverly Hillbillies
It’s maddening: while Uncle Jed upgraded his zip code thanks to discovering black gold, the same couldn’t be said for his daily driver. Thus, Clampetts and kinfolk alike still got around Tinseltown in a heavily-modified albeit heavily-dilapidated 1921 Oldsmobile Model 46 Roadster – a ride that would surely fail California emissions even if the engine wasn’t running.
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