It was after a trip to visit a prospect’s business that I wondered aloud, “What’s the coolest pop culture vehicle of all-time?”
You see, unfortunately, I’m not actually a full-time scribe for PopBlerd! I’m actually an insurance agent for Nationwide Insurance.
And you see the dude remodeled classic vehicles. Like people paid him tons, upon tons of money and he souped-up their already souped-up classic autos. It was quite the sight, seeing three to four classic cars sitting in his garage with paint jobs more than my annual salary.
I didn’t write the business, but I did ponder the question of the coolest pop culture vehicle. Where would I ever get an answer to that question? Oh right, at my one-stop shop for pop culture information, right here on this very site!
I asked the crew to rank their top 10-20 pop culture vehicles. We narrowed the list of 86 (yes, there were that many) down to 20 and here we are presenting them to you.
Where did we draw the line on vehicles?
Though that didn’t stop people from voting for the P-Funk Mothership, Bill & Ted’s most excellent time-traveling phone booth, an AT-AT (they do have four legs), Luke’s landspeeder, bicycles from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and E.T. and Michael Jackson when he turned into a spaceship (thanks Zack).
Which means I have to apologize. My clueless Doctor Who-self okayed the TARDIS to be voted on. And a couple of our Doctor Who lovers voted for it. The TARDIS did not make the cut – barely. It actually tied with the Jetsons for No. 21.
Since these two barely made the cut, we thought we’d let those that voted for them, write about them:
TARDIS from Doctor Who
Was there ever so awesome a vehicle in so unassuming a shape? The TARDIS — short for Time And Relative Dimension In Space, whatever that means exactly — is a time-hopping, dimensionally transcendent vehicle disguised a shabby relic of 1950s London. Piloted by the Time Lord renegade known only as The Doctor (never “Doctor Who”), the TARDIS is one of the most brilliant science-fiction conceits thought up by anyone, anywhere: a ship the size of the universe that takes up as much room as the average wardrobe cupboard, capable of visiting any point in time and space but often as erratic and mercurial as the 900-year-old alien adventurer who pilots it. More than any other spaceship or sci-fi vehicle — more than the Enterprise, more than the Batmobile, more even than your precious Millennium Falcon — the TARDIS is a character in its own right, with its own moods and its own agenda, and The Doctor’s relationship to it is one of affectionate, if occasionally grudging, collaboration. “The TARDIS is more than a machine,” he explains. “It’s like a person. It needs coaxing, persuading, encouraging.” We’ve learned a great deal about TARDISes over the last fifty years of Doctor Who: they’re grown rather than built, they’re powered by something called the Eye of Harmony (actually a collapsed star) and they are imbued with some manner of consciousness. In one heartbreaking episode (aptly titled “The Doctor’s Wife”), the TARDIS even takes on human form, and is finally able to tell him something it had longed to say for centuries: “Hello.” But for all these revelations, the TARDIS remains deeply mysterious, its baffling tangle of corridors and passageways a literal representation of the enigma surrounding The Doctor himself. Mysterious, but also, in the most unlikely way, lovable. (Dan)
The Jetsons aerocar
One of pop culture’s greatest failures is the future that it promised to us, and has thus far failed to deliver. The Jetsons’ transportation device is but one example. The spacious cabin has plenty of leg room. It is equipped with individual escape pods so that you don’t even have to stop the damn thing when you’re dropping folks off. It appears to be environmentally conscious. (The exhaust looks to be the burn off of clean energy, and if we’re living in space anyway, I can’t imagine we’d still be relying upon fossil fuels. Hell, we probably burned up all of those well before 2062, the year in which the show takes place.) Most impressively, that spacious slice of machinery easily collapses into a compact briefcase. Ponder that development. Think about the amount of real estate saved when parking becomes obsolete. Consider for a moment the increased personal security, knowing that your vehicle is under your desk all day, minimizing the occurrence of vehicular theft and vandalism. And don’t even get me started on how it would free up traffic patterns. And yet here we are: 2013, and not an inkling of such a vehicle coming to fruition for consumer use. How is it possible that Hanna-Barbara dreamed this up in 1962, but we have nothing to show for the materialization of their dream over a half century later? Maybe they patented the idea and are keeping it locked until the right licensing agreement comes through. (Gonzo)
No. 20 tied – “Eleanor” a 1971 Ford Mustang from Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
Named on two ballots. Highest rank: No. 3.
Eleanor, a beautiful 71 Mustang, played younger as a 73 Mustang, like so many Hollywood beauties do, in the original Gone in 60 Seconds.
She’s a bit larger than what you’re probably used to seeing in a sports model, but if her looks don’t grab you, the growl of her 351 Cleveland surely will. She roars down the highway, leaving many a whiny Dodge Fury patrol car in her wake, interrupted only by the squeal of Goodyear Rally GT tires as she fishtails through a sharp turn.
More than just plastic and paint like modern models, her steel frame takes a bit of a beating evading California’s finest, even surviving gunshots to her windshield when they think they have her cornered. In the movie’s thrilling climax, she soars 30 feet in the air, clearing 128 feet. (Farther than the Wright Brothers first flight, and she doesn’t even have wings!) (Tim Swift)
No. 20 tied – the Batmobile from Batman (1989)
Named on two ballots. Highest rank: No. 1
No. 19 – Ferrari 308 GTSi from Magnum, P.I.
Named on four ballots. Highest rank: No. 5
If there is ever a dude I wanted to look like, it was Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I. He’s a man’s man. Tall with a killer mustache (just ask our writers, we chose him as the best mustache in our April 2013 bLISTerd), and a sweet red Ferrari 308 GTSi. The sports car of sports cars. It was sleek, had that cool design by the door handles, and was a convertible. If you were going to pick up chicks in the ’80s you’d want to be driving that car and be sporting that ‘stache.
No. 18 – 1978 Ford F-350 Bluth Airport Stair Car from Arrested Development
Named on five ballots. Highest rank: No. 2.
One of the most kookiest vehicles on the list, the stair car was one of the last things leftover from the Bluth’s financial problems. The stair car led to many notorious scenes, like helping some Mexicans jump the Mexican-US border and helping inmates escape prison. (KJ)
No. 17 – The Munster Koach from The Munsters
Named on three ballots. Highest rank: No. 5.
The “Munster Koach” was a hot rod built from three Model T cars and was 18-feet long. It also has a website dedicated to it. Check out www.monsterkoach.com for more information.
No. 16 – Little Red Corvette by Prince
Named on three ballots. Highest rank: No. 4
Errr…uh…how do I frame this?
The little red Corvette in question isn’t actually a car. It’s a lady. A lady who apparently leaves used condoms all over her place and is way too fast for her own good, but not for Prince’s.
The Purple Midget’s breakout hit rocked the rock ‘n roll cliché of a car metaphor all the way to the bank-and the top ten. Thirty years later, he still performs the song live (even though the hyper-sexual lyrics would appear to be against his Jehovah’s Witness religion.) and it’s rightfully regarded as a classic.
But used condoms all over your place…gross. And unsanitary. (Big Money)
No. 15 – Mach Five from Speed Racer
Named on three ballots. Highest rank: No. 2.
If you asked just about any boy of, say, eight years old or so to design the coolest, baddest car in the world, it would be a lot like the Mach Five. It would be long, and pointy, like a wingless jet. It would have an open cockpit, because that’s totally cool. It would be raging fast of course, and it would also do totally cool things with the press of a button, like deploy blades that could chop through foliage or turn into a goddamn submarine. And it would have a cool emblem, just to make sure everyone knew what badass piece of hardware you were driving.
Speed Racer, viewed strictly as a television series, is so slight a thing it’s almost impossible to talk about. It has no story to speak of, and it has characters only in the sense that the various people moving in and out of the frame are not, strictly speaking, identical. The purpose of Speed Racer is just what it says on the tin: speed. It’s about going as fast as you can, in as extreme circumstances as possible, and doing it in the coolest car on the planet, a car that James Bond only wished he had. And so did a lot of us, come to think of it. (Dan)
No. 14 – Lightning McQueen from Cars
Named on four ballots. Highest rank: No. 2
Cars may not be the artistic trophy on Pixar’s mantle, but it was an agreeably entertaining “stop and smell the roses” morality play with an unexpectedly affecting nostalgia streak. More to the point, it made automotive fans out of a whole new generation of kids, thanks to the (creepy, but that’s another story) re-imagined Planet Earth populated exclusively by cars of all makes, models, and
ethnic stereotypes paint jobs, exemplified by up-and-coming champion sports car Lightning McQueen. As played by Owen Wilson, he’s a cocky selfish daredevil whose heart is in the right place but needs some guidance towards maturity, for which he gains a charming support group (love interest Bonnie Hunt, mis-matched BFF Larry the Cable Guy, vintage grizzled pro Paul Newman). He’s not based on any exact type of car, but his plucky, compact design and rosy aesthetic automatically bring to mind a Porsche. Accordingly, as we imagine all Porsche drivers need, McQueen gets a long, hard dose of humility, learning to play better with others and even sacrifice his own glory for the sake of good sportsmanship. By the end he’s the kind of car we all wish we could be (or own in the future, when cars some sentient) – stylish and expensive-looking yet altruistic and down-to-earth, and personified by Wilson’s relaxed, friendly Southern drawl. (Mike B)
No. 13 – Wagon Queen Family Truckster from National Lampoon’s Vacation
Named on four ballots. Highest rank: No. 3 – twice.
If you’re familiar with our last bLISTerd then you’ll be familiar with the Wagon Queen Family Truckster. The uber-station wagon that the Griswold’s unwillingly purchase so that they can accomplish their cross-country trek to Walley World.
For anyone that owned a station wagon during the ’80s you can relate to the Truckster, what with the loud, ugly “metallic pea” green color and the wood paneling. What made the Truckster a “damn fine automobile” was that it was boxy. It had an extra set of headlights (eight total), a tilted steering wheel making it easy for your wife to lay her had on your legs, a bumper you can tie a dog to, a roof rack you could sit your dead aunt on, a trash bag as an airbag, and leaping ability of about 50 yards (take that General Lee). Fifty yards. If you’re going to cross the country in anything, it better be the Wagon Queen Family Truckster. (KJ)
No. 12 – 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit
Named on five ballots. Highest rank: No. 1.
The Chevy Corvette has more or less reigned supreme as the preeminent expression of Americans’ love for speed, style and the freedom of the open road — except for a brief period in the late 1970s, when a wiseacre in a cowboy hat drove a black Pontiac Trans Am from Texarkana to Georgia and instantly made it the coolest thing on the American highway. An action-comedy that sought to cash in on the trucker/CB craze, Smokey and the Bandit tells the simple story of truck driver Cledus “Snowman” Snow and his sidekick the Bandit, whose job is to tie up the smokeys (that’s the highway patrol to you) while the Snowman runs a truckload of illicit Coors beer across the state line. (Yes, there was a time when Coors was so exotic people would risk a bootlegging rap to smuggle it east.) It ain’t the cleverest movie on two legs, even by the standards of ‘70s drive-in fare — keep in mind we’re talking the same director who went on to make The Cannonball Run — but the Bandit’s black beauty, with its gold Firebird decal and T-top roof, was impossible to ignore. Pontiac sold boatloads of them; kids (including me) built scale models of them. Soon the ‘70s were over and we all more or less came to our senses; Trans Ams got sleeker and shinier and some even had swooping red lights and soothing, avuncular voices (more on that tomorrow). But for those of us of a certain age, Bandit’s Trans Am remains the first car we ever went crazy for — the first car to offer a glimpse of what it felt like to drive the road as if you owned it. (Dan)
No. 11 – 1983 GMC Vandura from The A-Team
Named on five ballots. Highest rank: No. 1
There’s something not quite … serious about a van. We’ve all seen vans with cheesy murals painted on them, or vans tricked out into rolling party wagons or stabbin’ cabins. But when the van in question is a black and gray, racing-striped GMC Vandura, driven by Sgt. Bosco “B.A.” Baracus of the A-Team, then a van becomes very badass indeed.
B.A.’s van was The A-Team’s most recognizable icon (apart from B.A. himself, of course). In an era when every TV action hero seemingly had to have a sweet ride, the van stood out from the muscle cars and status symbols on other shows. It was practical, for one thing, capable of stowing both the team and their considerable cache of weapons. It looked suitably cool without being flashy; even with its cherry-red stripe, rims and rooftop spoiler, the vehicle was the least ostentatious thing about B.A. Baracus. But the most appealing thing about the van was how much B.A. adored it. He fretted over it, babied it, tricked it out with armor plate or gunports only to lovingly restore it back to its pristine state and threatened his teammates with holy hell if they so much as smudged it. Put it this way: A-Team member Templeton “Faceman” Peck drove a bitchin’ white Chevy Corvette, one of the coolest cars on the road at the time — and you hardly remember even seeing it, do you? (Dan)
Drive by tomorrow when we finish up with our top 10 pop culture vehicles of all-time. Submit your top 10 in the comments below!