American muscle cars are as endearing as apple pie and the Stars and Stripes in this country. They make statements throughout the decades, touting our technical and engineering prowess throughout the world. And the cars that appeared on film and television have become vestiges of the era, vehicles with just as much personality and just as many fans as the characters who drove them. These are my personal favorites, certainly not all of them. Got any favorite additions? Let me know in the comments section.
This may be the third film to feature James Bond, but it was the first to debut 007’s greatest car, the Aston Martin DB5. This sexy luxury car has special agent written all over it. Of course, Bond would go on to have many four-wheeled toys, but this will always be the best.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? (1969)
Scooby, Shaggy, and the rest of the gang had only one ride when they were tooling to their next mystery: The Mystery Machine. Per the cartoon, their psychedelic van was a 1963 Ford Econoline Custom Van. Henceforth, no teenagers have been able to call themselves detectives without an epic van. Oh, and a love-able dog doesn’t hurt either.
Starsky and Hutch (1975)
There have been countless buddy-cops shows and movies, but the sweet car in this show edged them a place on the list. David Michael Starsky and Kenneth “Hutch” Hutchinson tore through the fictional “Bay City, California” in a 1975 Ford Gran Tarino lovingly nicknamed “The Striped Tomato,” fighting corruption and collaring bad guys.
Dukes of Hazzard (1979)
If wheeling through rural Georgia doesn’t sound like fun, you’ve clearly never seen this classic show. And you’ve also never driven the General Lee: a 1969 Dodger Charger with a Confederate flag painted on the roof. With its distinctive horn (the first twelve notes of the song “Dixie”) and it’s welded-shut doors, this muscle car is more iconic than the show itself.
Knight Rider (1982)
Forget this show’s ridiculous premise or the organization David Hasselhoff works for (FLAG?!), all that matters is KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand). KITT is a 1982 Pontiac Trans Am that apparently has so many customizations, it cost $100,000 to build.
The spook-fighting New York City citizens of this geeky cadre simply can’t travel around in some ordinary sports scars. The film’s creators chose particularly stylish wagon for their heros: a 1959 Cadillac-Miller Meteor Hearse. This vehicle simply couldn’t be more appropriate. With its retro fins and chrome ’50s bumper (not to mention the now-instantly recognizable insignia), the foursome fought ghouls and looked good doing it.
Back to the Future (1985)
In all of popular fiction, no other time machine can compare to Doc Brown’s car. When Marty McFly goes to the past to save his very existence, he does it in style. The car is obviously the 1982 DeLorean DMC-12 which, as all fans know, is powered by plutonium in order to travel through time. It may be the only car produced by the manufacturer, but it has permanently left its mark on pop culture.
Wayne’s World (1992)
The duo who host the most popular cable-access show in Aurora, Illinois wouldn’t be traveling around in some suped-up muscle car, it just wouldn’t make sense. Instead, Wayne and Garth ride a 1976 AMC Pacer (with flames, duh) which suits their lovable underdog status in the music and television world. This is also the car in which they carry out the incredible “Bohemian Rhapsody” scene.
Dumb and Dumber (1994)
If you’re road-tripping from Providence, Rhode Island to Aspen, Colorado, there is only one vehicle that feels appropriate. I’m of course referring to the 1984 Customized Ford Econoline decked out to look like a dog. The “Mutt Cutts” van plays an integral role in the film, so hopefully it will make an appearance in the sequel.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
When Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo screech across the desert in pursuit of the American Dream, only one car will do. Hunter S. Thompson’s “Red Shark” is a 1971 bright-red Chevy Impala Convertible. Apparently the car used in the classic Terry Gilliam film is Thompson’s actual car.