From James Bond to The Italian Job : the films famous for their cars
Few things define a person more than the car that they drive, and nothing better defined a 60s, 70s or 80s movie or TV series than the car its lead character drove. Throughout this era, cars played a fundamental part in entertainment media, to the point that audiences would see a vehicle and immediately associate it with a particular character. Sometimes these cars were intended to show the societal class of the person driving them, as in Miami Vice. Sometimes, the vehicle overshadowed the lead actor, as is the case with Herbie in Love Bug. Still other times, the motor was a mirror of the ‘hipness’ or ‘swagger’ of the character driving it, like the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am in Smokey and the Bandit. Regardless of their use as a prop or plot device, these vehicles had one thing in common: they became iconic. Here are a few of the most memorable…
The Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger (1963)
The Bond films were a massive cultural phenomenon in the early 60s. Sean Connery played the iconic British spy who drove around in an Aston Martin DB5. Goldfinger was the apex of Connery’s time as Bond, with a famous villain (Gert Frobe), Bond girl (Honor Blackman), theme song and set pieces, the most famous of which was his silver Aston Martin, featuring an oil slick, smoke screen, ejector seat, radar tracking system, machine guns, and revolving licence plates.
The Ford Mustang GT in Bullitt (1968)
Bullitt is as famous today for its extended car chase – frequently cited as one of the best in cinematic history – as for anything else. The famous chase scene has Bullitt, a San Francisco cop played by Steve McQueen, chase two hit-men driving a ‘Tuxedo Black’ 1968 Dodge Charger R/T 440 Magnum in his dark ‘Highland Green’ 1968 Ford Mustang GT 390 CID Fastback.
The Volkswagen Beetle in The Love Bug (1968)
This 1968 Disney film featured a Volkswagen Beetle named Herbie, his driver (Dean Jones) and love interest (Michele Lee). The Beetle starred in four sequels (Herbie Rides Again, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, Herbie Goes Bananas and Herbie: Fully Loaded). The little Volkswagen vehicle had already become a post-war success story, and its popularity was boosted even further by the Herbie franchise.
The Mark II Mini in The Italian Job (1969)
The Italian Job featured an exquisite selection of memorable cars, from the Jaguar E-Type to an Aston Martin DB4, but it is synonymous with the Mini, three of which featured in the film’s climatic getaway. The trio of Mark II Minis were driven down staircases, storm drains, over the FIAT factory and – most memorably – into the back of a moving bus as the strains of Quincy Jones’ soundtrack played in the background.
The Dodge Challenger R/T in Vanishing Point (1971)
This story of a Vietnam vet named Kowalski (Barry Newman) who drives from Denver to San Francisco, refusing to stop for the police – who soon start to chase him – featured an iconic white Dodge Challenger. Although it wasn’t a major hit at the time of its release, it has since built up a cult following, and the car it featured inspired later works such as Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof.
The Pontiac LeMans in The French Connection (1971)
This gritty tale of two New York narcotics detectives on the hunt for a heroin source contained one of the most remarkable car chases ever put on screen. In the film Doyle (Gene Hackman) chases an elevated train. The scene was made all the more remarkable because it was shot for ‘real’ in Brooklyn, New York. Terrified observers watched as Doyle’s stunt car, driven by stunt driver Bill Hickman, gave chase.
The Lotus Esprit in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
The Lotus Esprit was the second iconic Bond car, driven by Roger Moore’s incarnation of the character. The highlight for many car enthusiasts was watching the vehicle which doubled as a submarine complete with rocket launcher and mines. At the time the movie was shot, only two of these models were available. The film helped to boost the car’s image when it performed a ground-breaking stunt sequence.
The Ford Falcon XB GT in Mad Max (1979)
This story about a traffic cop who hunts down the crazed motorcycle thugs who killed his family features car chases galore. The scenes abound with memorable vehicles, but none more so than the modified Ford Falcon which titular character Max eventually drives. The actual model used in the film now resides in The Cars of the Stars Motor Museum in Keswick, Cumbria.
The Dodge Monaco in The Blues Brothers (1980)
This 1980 film featured an extended chase scene, where the characters are pursued by the police and Neo-Nazis. The props department commandeered 13 different cars to depict the ‘Bluesmobile’, all of which were former California Highway Patrol cars mocked up to look like Illinois patrol cars.
The Ferrari 250 GT Sypder California in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
A key subplot of this ‘80s film about the growing pains of teenagers was that they drove around in a vintage 1961 Ferrari. The exquisite vehicle formed part of a key scene towards the end of the film.
The Oldsmobile Delta 88 in the Films of Sam Raimi
In every film he has collaborated on, director Sam Raimi has included a 1973 yellow Oldsmobile Delta 8 (nicknamed ‘The Classic’), even his period Western The Quick and the Dead. The vehicle has been driven in the Evil Dead films, the Spiderman trilogy and, most recently, Drag Me to Hell, where it was driven by the elderly gypsy woman who couldn’t get a mortgage.
Licensed To Thrill: Bonds Greatest Classic Cars