TOP 4: Classic Cars from Television

Cars and Television go hand in hand. The site of a low slung Italian sports car or big block American muscle car blasting along in glorious celluloid gives us more than enough reason to want one someday.

Starsky and Hutch – Ford Gran Torino

As far as detective work goes, it pays to be subtle and not stick out like a sore thumb. However, it seems no one thought to tell detectives David Starsky and Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson as they rumbled around Bay City apprehending criminals in their 1974 Ford Gran Torino. Starsky and Hutch made household names of stars Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul, not to mention a cult following of that totally unsubtle and yet very cool Gran Torino.

Its bright red paint scheme and signature white stripe earnt it the nickname “The Striped Tomato.” Under the bonnet sat a 351 Cleveland V8 with a three-speed auto trans, but in later seasons this was replaced with a tyre shredding 400ci big block.

The site of Starsky sliding the Gran Torino around back alleys into the obligatory carboard boxes with tyres squealing and smoke billowing from under the Torino’s skirt made for must see TV during the show’s run from 1975 to 1979. It even led to many people doing the same red and white striped modifications to their car, even if the car in question was a Reliant Robin.

Magnum PI – Ferrari 308 GTS

Only Tom Selleck could make the combination of Hawaiian Shirts and a thick Moustache cool. Throw in a luxurious Hawaiian mansion, a stuffy ex-army sergeant-major running the place with a pair of Dobermans, a Ferrari 308 GTS, and you have Magnum PI. Magnum PI ran for nine seasons from 1980 to 1988 and catapulted Selleck to superstardom. He even graced the cover of New Zealand’s first ever edition of TV Guide.

The show saw the plight of ex Naval Officer turned Private Investigator Thomas Magnum as he, and his friends TC and Rick, got involved in all manner of action-packed cases throughout the Hawaiian Islands. His vehicle of choice was his employer Robin Master’s 1979 Ferrari 308 GTS, hence the number plate Robin 1.

Magnum was originally offered a Porsche 928, but this was rejected by producer Glen A Larson who opted for the glamour of the Ferrari instead. However, when production started, they found Selleck’s 6ft 4 frame simply wouldn’t fit inside it. The solution? Rip out all the seat padding, leaving Tommy basically sitting on the floor. Also, the roof was always off when he drove it.

The 308 would be upgraded throughout the show to the fuel injected GTSi and to the latter Quattrovalvole variants. While there was plenty of fast Ferrari action throughout the shows run, there were more instances when the baddies in big wafting Cadillacs would manage to elude him during a chase. That aside, many of us wanted to be Magnum just to have a Ferrari to play whenever we wanted.


Knight Rider – 1982 Pontiac Trans Am

You can’t leave this one out of the Top 4. Another Glen A Larson production, Knight Rider summed up the eighties obsession with futuristic technologies and acted as a spring board in the acting career of one David Hasselhoff.

Before he was a life guard running in slow motion all the time and a huge pop star in Germany, the “Hoff” played Michael Knight, a one-man crusader against injustice. His greatest weapon, a highly intelligent Pontiac Trans Am called the Knight Industries Two Thousand, or KITT.

KITT could drive himself, eject baddies from his cockpit, and even maintain intelligent conversation with Knight while out on one of their weekly missions. These usually involved Michael saving a woman with a Bonnie Tyler hair do and KITT Turbo Boosting himself over a riverbed or road block of baddies.

KITT would be housed in the back of a Knight Industries 18-wheeler. This acted as a rolling laboratory for Michael’s boss Devon Miles and assistants to ensure KITT had the latest crimefighting software and upgrades.

The show ran from 1982 to 1986, after which many fans went out to bag themselves a period Trans Am and turn it into a Knight Rider replica, complete with red light bar and correct interior. A few KITTs call New Zealand home so you might just see one.

The Dukes of Hazzard – 1969 Dodge Charger General Lee

Anyone who had a TV during the eighties would have recognised an orange Dodge Charger flying through the air with dixie blasting on the air horns and a pair of denim short shorts worn by the leggy Catherine Bach. The Dukes of Hazzard was pure old-fashioned fun.

Every week, cousins Bo and Luke Duke, along with Daisy and Uncle Jesse, would always end up on the wrong side of the law. In this case, represented by Boss Hogg,
Deputy Enos and Sherriff Roscoe P Coltrane.

Set in the fictional Hazzard County in Georgia, Bo and Luke would be jumping in through the window of the General Lee, a 1969 Dodge Charger complete with bull bars, confederate flag, a hefty 7.2L 440ci Magnum V8 producing around 375hp, and the now legendary ‘01’ adorning each door. It was no secret both Bo and Luke dreamed of racing in NASCAR.

The General Lee spent most of its time either sideways on a dirt road or flying over a riverbed or Hazzard County Police cars, all narrated by Country Music legend Waylon Jennings. However, the General would be utterly totalled after landing each one of these spectacular jumps.

Of course, in the next shot, it would be totally fine. Legend has it that some fans
of the show thought they could jump
their Dodge Charger and drive off afterwards, with many finding out they couldn’t the hard way.

Warner Bros destroyed so many 1968 to 1970 Chargers during production, they had a workshop with mechanics and panel beaters working around the clock to fix and repair wrecked General Lees. It got so bad that notes would be left on the windscreens of peoples Chargers from WB executives wanting to buy their cars.

Words: Ben Selby