Pop Culture

10 Iconic Cars Made Popular by Hollywood

Car and movies go together almost as good as movies and popcorn – it just seems natural. Cars are often cast in supporting roles, though sometimes they end up stealing the spotlight.

While this Top 10 list of cars made famous by Hollywood could have easily been a Top 50, we picked some of the most memorable and iconic movie cars where removing or changing the car would alter the entire fabric of the movie.

In ascending order from the oldest cars to the newest, here are 10 vehicles made famous by Hollywood.

1959 Cadillac Miller – Ghostbusters

Most people don’t even know what a Cadillac Miller-Meteor is, but when you mention the Ecto-1 from the movie Ghostbusters, it will likely ring a bell. The Ectomobile is instantly recognizable, even to people who might not know anything about cars.

The Miller-Meteor was initially released in 1959 and is considered a combination car. A combination car means it’s built on a chassis that can be customized and, in this case, it was primarily used in smaller towns as hearses or ambulances. Considering it comes stock with a foot button-activated siren, it makes sense why it was chosen as a Ghostbusting vehicle.

1965 Aston Martin DB5 – Thunderball (James Bond)

James Bond is one of the most famous Hollywood franchises of all time. While the actor playing James Bond has changed throughout the years (along with his leading ladies), the spy’s love for Aston Martins has remained strong.

The Aston Martin featured in the 1965 movie Thunderball is the sleek 1965 DB5. When it was released initially, the price was $12,995, but last year, Sean Connery’s DB5 was up for auction and expected to fetch $2 million.

Although an Aston Martin DB5 was featured in the earlier James Bond film Goldfinger in 1964, it was considered the first actual Bond car in Thunderball, as audiences were introduced to its secret spy gadgets, which included built-in retractable machine guns and the infamous ejector seat. The vintage DB5 also makes return appearances throughout the movie franchise.

1967 Austin Mini Cooper S – The Italian Job

When you think of a getaway car, your first thought might not be a Mini Cooper, especially if you have an entire crew of people to move. In the 1969 movie The Italian Job, they break that myth and prove that the Mini Cooper is an excellent option. When the American remake came out in 2003 with Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, and Jason Statham, they swapped out vintage Minis for newer ones.

In the original British film, the 1967 model Austin Mini Cooper S had a 1.3-litre motor with 80 lb-ft of torque and 78 horsepower, measly numbers by today’s standards, especially for a getaway car. But due to its tiny size and excellent maneuverability, it was perfect for racing down flights of stairs and through tight Italian malls and plazas.

In the American film, they also used an electric-powered Mini Cooper, the first of its kind. Although the electric Mini came out many years later, Mini’s American branch publicized that Mini Cooper sales spiked by 20 per cent after the film.

1968 Mustang GT 390 – Bullitt

The Ford Mustang is so popular that it can likely be found in hundreds of movies and TV shows. One of the earliest and most famous appearances is in the 1968 movie Bullitt. The movie features a GT 390 equipped with a 390-cubic-inch V8 engine with 270 hp. On the movie posters, actor Steve McQueen is seen alongside the muscle car, cementing the Ford’s iconic role and importance in the movie. The film became well known for its wild chase scene in downtown San Francisco. Most people have watched this scene even if they’ve never seen the movie before.

Back in 1968, the base price of a Mustang GT was $3,000. Only two 1968 Mustang GT 390s were used in the film; one went to the salvage yard and the other was sold to a private seller in 2020 for $3.7 million.

1969 Dodge Charger – The Dukes of Hazzard

The only thing more iconic in this particular Hollywood TV show than the car used is a specific cast member’s wardrobe. The 1969 Dodge Charger became famous as General Lee on the seven-year-long running TV series. The show featured Bo Duke (John Schneider), Luke Duke (Tom Wopat), and their sister Daisy Duke (Catherine Bach), whose short shorts became legendary.

The design of their Charger is impossible to ignore, with its flashy orange paint, a Confederate flag printed on the roof, and its race-numbered sides. The beefiest Charger model available came with a four-speed manual and 425 hp. Fresh out of the factory, the selling price was about $3,839, and today a tribute replica car with all the Dukes of Hazzard styling will cost over six figures.

The General Lee was best known on the show for kicking up dirt and making some spectacular jumps. It’s not surprising that about three cars were used per episode, around 300 in total. Once it was jumped, they didn’t reuse it for obvious structural reasons. Only 17 General Lees remained when the show ended.

1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am – Knight Rider

This show’s entire premise centred around a talking car. The show’s creator, Glen Larson, wanted to create the series as a “car version of Lone Ranger.”

In the 1982 TV series Knight Rider, the leading character was played by a 1982 Pontiac Trans Am named KITT, which stood for Knight Industries Two Thousand. KITT may have looked like an stock black Firebird Trans Am, but he could talk and was technologically savvy. Although unconventional, KITT and his driver, Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff), are as iconic a duo as Batman and Robin.

The 1982 Firebird Trans Am had a 5.0L V8 engine. Off the production line, it sold for $9,658. What about an original from the show? The car’s costar auctioned off KITT, which sold for $300,000 at auction.

1986 Ferrari Testarossa – Miami Vice

There’s nothing more epic than driving into the sunset in the world’s sexiest sports car. This TV series helped make the Ferrari Testarossa famous. At the hands of Hollywood hunk James “Sonny” Crockett (Don Johnson), the TV series Miami Vice ran for five seasons. Because of this show, the Testarossa has become synonymous with 1980’s Miami.

The Testarossa featured a 4.9-litre flat-12 that produced 380 hp. It wasn’t a cheap car to buy back in the day either, starting at $85,000 and, within five years, jumping to $150,000.

According to some behind-the-scenes gossip, Ferrari wasn’t too happy with the show early on. It’s said that the show’s first two seasons used a replica of the Testarossa, which was built on the chassis of a Chevrolet Corvette.

2002 Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R – Fast & Furious

Although the 2001 Fast & Furious movie is not the first to feature the Nissan Skyline, it’s undoubtedly the one that made it famous to the broadest audience. The GT-R is now synonymous with late actor Paul Walker, who played Brian O’Conner. In the movie, he drove the dreamy Bayside Blue Skyline as part of his first race and eventually destroyed it by accident after a mission gone wrong and a faulty NOS tank.

The 2002 Nissan GT-R has a twin-turbo six-cylinder with 280 hp. When it was first released, the price started at $45,606 but today the value has skyrocketed into six-digit territory.

1985 DMC Delorean – Back to the Future

Chances are, if you ask someone what they know about the DeLorean Motor Company, they might not know what you’re talking about. If you ask them about the car from Back to the Future, however, they’ll know instantly.

In the 1985 movie Back to the Future, the Delorean plays a huge role as a time machine. To initiate time travel, it is kitted out with a flux capacitor, massive displays, and the ability to float. The driver and inventor, Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd), is just as famous as the car’s gullwing doors.

The DMC Delorean has a 2.85L V6 engine capable of 130 hp. When rolling off the production line, you could get one for $25,000.

Since Back to the Future, the kitted-out Delorean has been featured in many movies and TV shows, including Ready Player One, The Simpsons, Robot Chicken, Family Guy, and a few Lego movies.

2010 Chevrolet Camaro – Transformers

Like its American muscle brethren, the Mustang, the Chevrolet Camaro has been featured in numerous movies and TV shows, including Halloween in 1989 and the Summer of Sam in 1999. Yet, none put it in the spotlight brighter than its role as Bumblebee in the 2007 movie Transformers. The film originally featured a 1977 Camaro, which later got converted to the newer 2010 fifth-generation model.

The 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS came with a 6.2-litre V8 with 426 hp. When it first launched, the 2010 Camaro sold for $30,995, and there was also a Transformers Edition model that had an appearance package to make it look more like Bumblebee. Four of the cars from the movie sold at auction for $500,000.

One strange fact is that the car wasn’t available for purchase when the movie came out. It is believed that Chevrolet partnered up with the film producers so it could use the movie as a way to introduce customers to its newly designed model and promote the new muscle car. When the car finally came out, the Transformers series of movies pushed the new Camaro to be a top-selling car in its category for four years straight.