The great thing about famous cars on TV is that while most of us will never get to drive James Bond’s movie Aston Martin or Ferris Bueller’s Ferrari 250, we might aspire to Del Boy’s Reliant Regal, or even The Mentalist‘s Citroen DS. So while the movie classics are out of the running, we decided to have some fun choosing cars from TV old and new, and imagine the times we’d have taking them to do the shopping at Aldi. Which classic would you add to the top ten celebrity TV cars list?
10. KITT – Knight Rider
Based on a 1982 Pontiac Trans Am, KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand) was the talking companion of hi-tech crime fighter Michael Knight, played by David Hasselhoff. The black muscle car was fitted with armour, turbo-boost and a spooky scanner bar, it had a sense of smell, and one suspected it was smarter than Michael Knight. It certainly got him out of plenty of scrapes in the series that lasted from 1982 to 1986.
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09. Dodge Charger – Dukes of Hazzard
Known as the General Lee, this was the ideal vehicle for the Duke brothers to perform their high-octane chases and stunts. Recognisable by its signature horn, orange paintwork and welded-shut doors, the General Lee was in fact several different stunt cars. Unfortunately its Confederate flag decoration has seen it go out of favour in recent years, and it doesn’t turn up at conventions and car shows as much as it used to.
08. Citroen DS Pallas – The Mentalist
Crime drama The Mentalist ran from 2008 to 2015, starring Simon Baker as fake ‘mentalist’ Patrick Jane, who helps the police after the murder of his family. His choice of car, the Citroen DS Pallas, is as quirky as Jane’s approach to solving crime. “It’s a 1971 Citroën DS,” says exec producer Chris Long. “Simon wanted a car that reflected his quirky character. He’s a longtime fan of Peter Falk, who drove a beat-up 1959 Peugeot in his detective series Columbo, so we went looking for a Columbo car.” Long says the downside of using a vintage auto is that “it stalls all the time, plus the taillights went out and had to be painted on.”
Warner Bros., producer of “The Mentalist” for CBS, had the car in its inventory – it was used in the 2008 movie Speed Racer. For The Mentalist, the car was shipped from Germany and painted eggshell blue (it was originally red). The Pallas model features notable faired-in headlamps. Fact -you can’t put a wheelclamp on a Citroen DS as the rear wheels are shrouded.
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07. Audi Quattro – Ashes to Ashes
It helps if your TV car has its own catchphrase, and DCI Gene Hunt’s cry of “Fire up the Quattro!” in Ashes to Ashes did enough to cement the ’80s car in the audience’s affections. Best known as a rally car, the Quattro used in the show, set in 1981, is actually a red 1983 model, partly as the Quattro was only available in LHD in 1981. The TV car gets smashed up in the series finale, but the real thing is still safe and well in the BBC compound.
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06. Packard Station Sedan – Lovecraft Country
If you caught 1950s-set HBO horror series Lovecraft Country you’ll know that the star of the show is Woody, a 1948 Packard Station Sedan. Based on an all-steel sedan, the Station only used actual wood structure for its wonderfully clunky tailgate; the wood on the sides of the doors and the pillars were applied purely for aesthetics, a trend that caught on with other manufacturers’ station wagons. While Woody is portrayed as sturdy, roomy and reliable in Lovecraft Country, its massive nearly five-litre engine also made about 130 horsepower, which could power this massive boat of a car up to 85 mph, pretty respectable for the time.
05. Ferrari Testarossa – Miami Vice
If you think that linen suits, pastel T-shirts and loafers worn without socks are the height of fashion, and you could cruise all day to the sound of Jan Hammer, the Ferrari Testarossa used by undercover cop Sonny Crockett in Miami Vice, which ran from 1984-1990, would be only car for you.
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Apparently Enzo Ferrari didn’t like the fact that the show was using replicas of his Daytona, so in the third season he donated two black Testarossas for the show to use instead. They were later repainted white, and one came up for sale in 2014 at £1.4m.
04. Reliant Regal Van – Only Fools and Horses
A 1967 Reliant Regal Supervan III, market trader Del Boy’s transportation (and often his office) was the butt of many jokes in the long-running sitcom, and quite right too. Often mistakenly referred to as a Reliant Robin, the Regal was a small three-wheeled car manufactured from 1953 to 1973 by the Reliant Motor Company in Tamworth, England, replacing the earlier Reliant Regent three-wheeled cyclecar van. The light-commercial version with a side-hinged rear door was marketed as the Reliant Supervan.
Maybe it wouldn’t be anyone’s choice for their own transport, but Del Boy’s lemon is the only one of these ten celebrity TV cars that can claim to have such a place in the public’s hearts that it appeared in the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.
03. Jaguar Mk 2 – Inspector Morse
The car driven around Oxford by Inspector Morse in the original books was a Lancia, but it’s down to actor John Thaw’s intervention that the car in the long-running TV series was a rather more elegant Jaguar Mark 2. Released in 1959 and manufactured until 1967, it was a powerful car, with a top speed of 119.9 mph and acceleration of 0-62 mph in 11.9 seconds.
Inevitably, when prequel series Endeavour was written, we saw the young Morse behind the wheel of a Jag – but this time it was a black Mk 1 rather than the familiar red Mk 2.
02. Ford Capri – The Professionals
Running from 1977 to 1983, The Professionals was an action series with plenty of car chases, and while many cars were used from Escorts to Ghias, the Capri was the one that seemed to catch the public’s imagination (and that of Dinky Toys). The Capri MkIII 3.0 S was often used by CI5 agents Bodie and Doyle, and if you ever get the urge to shout “Go! Go! Go!” while sliding across the bonnet of a car, this is the one you’ll want. A TV-used example in silver with hideous Fishnet Rocaro upholstery sold in 2016 for £55,000.
01. Lincoln Futura Batmobile – Batman
Though there have been many movie incarnations of the Batmobile, the one that lodges in most people’s memories as the best TV car ever is the open-top version from the original 1960s TV series. The black body and red trim have a classic simplicity, while the plethora of gadgets such as a cable cutter and rocket projector don’t detract from its elegant lines. Based on a one-off concept car, the Lincoln Futura, the original vehicle of the caped crusader Batman was created in three weeks by customiser George Barris. He retained the original car until it was sold in 2013 for $4.6m.
So which of our Top Ten celebrity TV cars do you fancy for your weekly drive to the shops? Most of us will never get to drive James Bond’s movie Aston Martin, but we might aspire to Inspector Morse’s Jag or The Professionals’ Capri. Which classic would you add to the top ten celebrity TV cars list?