If you’re a fan of sleek, sexy, and muscular cars today, then there’s a good chance you grew up fantasizing about a hot ride on TV. Let’s face it, when it comes to television’s coolest undercover agents and superheroes, a fast and fantastic set of wheels is an absolute necessity. Since I’m personally a huge fan of both cars and nostalgia, it might be worth taking a trip down memory lane…at 120 miles per hour.
Number 5: Optimus Prime
Okay, maybe we’re a bit influenced by the very cool CGI effects now blazing across movie screens, but there’s little doubt that Optimus Prime represents one of the coolest vehicles ever to hit TV. Leader of the heroic “Autobots” and tasked with defending Earth from the despicable “Decepticons”, there was simply no way Optimus Prime could shift from a massive robot into a speedy-but-weak Ferrari or Trans Am. Instead, Prime’s mutation wasn’t complete until the last of his sixteen wheels had locked into place. This semi truck, whether in vehicle or robot form, boasted enormous strength and even a laser rifle. And, you thought Chevy was “built like a rock”.
Number 4: KITT
In recent months (and for that matter, years), David Hasselhoff hasn’t exactly projected a cool or sexy image. With his laughable role as a judge on “America’s Got Talent”, there’s little left to make Hasselhoff an A-list star. And yet, at one time he was very cool. The star of the 1980s series “Knight Rider”, Hasselhoff shot to fame with his role as Michael Knight on the show. Sporting full, curly locks and intensely romanticizing good looks, Hasselhoff appeared to be on his way up in Hollywood even as the series ended in 1986.
But, was Hasselhoff really the star? Not even close. That title was reserved for KITT, or Knight Industries Two Thousand. Voiced elegantly by William Daniels (who refused to take credit for the role, shockingly), KITT could not only talk, but also blast to extreme speeds with turbo boosters, launch tear gas grenades, and even blow away bad guys with a frightful flame thrower. Most of all, KITT was sleek, sexy, and everything Hasselhoff no longer represents. The black Pontiac Trans Am T-Top remains one of the coolest rides in TV history, even twenty years later.
Number 3: Miami Vice’s Ferrari Daytona Spyder
We probably shouldn’t criticize television rationality. And yet, it’s hard to imagine a couple Florida detectives having the funds to purchase a used Ford Mustang, let alone a Ferrari. Somehow, James “Sonny” Crockett and Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs made it work. Maybe they inherited millions from dead oil tycoon relatives or won it big in the state lottery. Regardless, the show’s Ferrari Daytona Spyder was a hot ride and a nice fit for the weekly action sequences.
Here’s something you might not know, however: Stars Don Johnson and (the long forgotten) Philip Michael Thomas never actually drove a Ferrari Daytona Spyder on the show. Instead, they piloted a highly modified Chevrolet Corvette, still considered America’s finest mainstream roadster.
The show returned to Ferrari later on, however. When the plot called for the Spyder (or Corvette) to be destroyed, it was replaced by the highly recognizable Ferrari Testarossa.
Number 2: The A-Team Van
Since I figured van and truck fans might not be satisfied with the fictional Optimus Prime callout, here’s my attempt to make up for it: Mr. T’s kick-ass A-Team GMC Van. Now, don’t get me wrong, the A-Team Van isn’t here just to appease lovers of the “plus size” vehicle. It’s clearly one of the most striking automotives to grace the TV screen, with its classic red stripe zipping across an intimidating black and grey frame.
Granted, the driving of such a trademark vehicle is a bit ridiculous for a troupe of vigilantes pursued by both state authorities and bloodthirsty criminals…but who really cares. No, everyone loves the A-Team Van for the simple reason that it looks fantastic. The modified 1983 G-Series GMC, which sat on four 15” red wheels, captivated action fans from 1983 to 1986. It can still be seen in a few exhibits, including a rather faded version at Universal Studios and a much more dapper edition at the Cars of the Stars Motor Museum in Keswick, England.
Number 1: The General Lee
Few of us escaped the 80s without wearing spandex, brightly colored t-shirts, or a ridiculous hair-do. However, no matter how stupid we may have looked back then, we’d still have been “the man” or “the woman” when driving The Dukes of Hazzard’s General Lee. Splashed in bright orange paint and a proud “01” along the side panel, the General Lee was both very cool and very resilient. Each week characters Bo and Luke Hazzard drifted it off ramps, slammed it into hay fields, and generally wreaked vehicular havoc while evading the overweight and generally disgruntled Boss Hogg. Although it was known only as the General Lee (named after confederate leader Robert E. Lee), the car was actually a late ‘60s (sometimes ‘68, sometimes ‘69) Dodge Charger. Its year changed frequently, since the show’s young drivers routinely put it through “write-off” working conditions. Now, that car needed a union! With the recent movie remake of the Dukes of Hazzard into a feature length movie, a whole new generation of fans got to see the General Lee in action.
For those who haven’t been completely satisfied, honorable mentions go out to the 1960s edition of the Batmobile and a ride almost as sexy as its drivers the Ford Mustang Cobra from Charlie’s Angels.