Vehicles in general and cars in particular have come in to their own as co-stars of TV shows with many becoming synonymous with the television shows in which they have appeared.
The motor vehicle’s role is primarily to transport the characters from one destination to another – their fame has come from how the characters and the car interact and the memorable scenes that the vehicle has appeared in.
Therefore the list is celebrating the ordinary motor vehicle, one without gadgets and which any driver could theoretically buy in a garage.
Arriving in tenth place is the quintessential British car, the Mini. Although beloved by Mr Bean, the car’s main claim to fame is the scene in Fawlty Towers when Basil Fawlty attacks the unassuming red car with a branch in a pique of rage following the car’s breakdown in suburban Torquay.
The Mini was originally built in Longbridge to answer the call of the British public who were looking for cheaper cars to buy when private road transportation was becoming accessible for the first time. An array of engine sizes can be fitted to it ranging from 0.9 litres through to 1.3 litres and can come in four speed manual, five speed manual or four speed automatic.
In ninth is the TV series which launched Volvo to a mainstream British audience, The Saint. One of the earliest TV shows in the UK which leant credence to fantasy and mystery story-lines, The Saint featured Roger Moore as Simon Templar, a British detective solving crimes throughout the world.
The Volvo was used in the series as the car of Simon Templar and has a top speed of 137 miles per hour and is able to accelerate from 0-60 miles per hour in 8.7 seconds. The car is aided by 158 brake horse power and can boast one of the best safety records in the business.
The Saint’s main rival for its crown as the top sixties espionage/science-fiction show was The Avengers, originally starring Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg. The cars were chosen to suit their characters with the vintage Bentley being driven the quintessential English gentleman John Steed and the Lotus Elan being driven by Emma Peel.
Steed’s Bentley was chosen because of the car’s image as a vehicle associated with English heritage, something which linked well with Steed’s character-trait. Peel being the younger, more athletic and good looking partner drove a car which the producers of the show wanted to use in order to match her character.
Father Ted was not known as a show which heavily featured cars, however the cars that were used on set often gave the audience the biggest laughs. The sitcom which aired on Channel Four in the 1990s featured three mismatched Irish priests and their adventures on Craggy Island.
In one episode Father Ted destroys the exterior body of a Rover 213 which he had been given as a prize and loses a replica Rover model which he borrowed from another parish priest. A further episode sees the intrepid priest drive alongside Father Dougal when trying to coax him out of a milkfloat which is armed with a bomb.
While not a car, one of the most famous vehicles from the world of television is The A-Team van, the GMC Vandura. Painted black and grey with a red spoiler stripe across the side, the van became as recognisable as the characters themselves.
The van came from General Motors and was rolled off the production line between 1964 and 1995. The A-Team’s model was from the 1978-82 period and offered a variety of choices from a 4.1 litre petrol engine through to a 7.4 litre petrol engine. The van was also available as a 6.2 litre or 6.5 litre diesel engine.
From a series where the vehicle was chosen for its functional qualities to a series where a Ferrari was chosen for its aesthetically pleasing nature. Sonny Crockett’s white Ferrari in Miami Vice is one of the iconic images of 1980s TV, with two Ferrari models used in the show. The first was the Ferrari Daytona whilst the second model was the Ferrari Testarossa.
Ferrari donated two brand new Testarossas as a replacement for the original Ferrari – which was a fake Ferrari constructed by McBurnie. The Testarossa was a 4.9 litre 12 cylinder two door sports car which could race to speeds of more than 160 miles per hour and took four seconds to reach 60 miles per hour.
British TV could also respond with iconic 80s cop cars, the difference being that Ashes to Ashes was filmed in the late 2000s as a time travelling programme. Not an episode went by without Gene Hunt firing up his Audi Quattro to chase criminals around the Fenchurch patch in London.
Manufactured in the early 1980s at Audi’s Ingolstadt base, the Quattro was a four wheeled coupé drive which has a six speed manual gearbox and could reach speeds of more than 220 miles per hour. The car could race to 60 miles per hour from a standing start in seven seconds.
The top three in this list sees an appearance for KITT, driven by David Hasselhoff’s character Michael Knight in the Knightrider series. Standing for Knight Industries Two Thousand, the talking car was a revelation in helping Michael Knight and Knight Industries to right the wrongs of the world. KITT was instructed never to kill during the series which ran for four series between 1982 and 1985.
KITT itself was a customised 1982 Pontiac Trans Am, a third generation Firebird. The body style was either a two door coupé or a two door convertible and came with a four speed automatic, or a four or five speed manual. By the end of the 1980s the car was classed as the fastest car available at any price.
Thunderbirds’ Rolls-Royce FAB1 is one of the most iconic vehicles ever to grace British television, the irony being that Lady Penelope’s Rolls-Royce model was just that, a model for the puppets who used it. The Rolls-Royce was always driven by Lady Penolope’s chauffeur Parker, also an International Rescue agent.
Parker sits in the centre of the Bedford Double Vega coach chassis which makes up the body of the Rolls-Royce. In the series the car has a bullet-proof canopy, guns located behind the radiator grille at the car’s front and also was able to emit smokescreen and oil if trying to escape from a dangerous situation.
The top car to feature on television is the Reliant Regal (commonly called the Reliant Robin) from Only Fools and Horses. The yellow three-wheeler gained cult status through constant running gags about the state of the vehicle, however it has also had its own starring parts in the sit-com. A memorable scene involved Rodney being chased in the van by punks when taking out Neris from the Nag’s Head in the episode ‘Dates’.
Del and Rodney actually drove a Regal supervan featuring a four speed transmission which powered the van to 29.5 brake horse power. The three-wheeler was fairly lightweight meaning that the Trotters could drive it using a motorcycle licence. The common impression was that neither brother took much interest in government directives as the van was frequently shown with ‘Tax disc in the post’ stuck in the front window.