(first posted 10/31/2012) I love the Mary Tyler Moore show. Although the classic sitcom ended three years before I came along, I discovered it in the early ’90s thanks to Nick at Nite. Since most of the action took place either at Mary’s apartment or at WJM-TV, there weren’t a lot of opportunities for car spotting, but there were a few.
Who could forget Mary’s white ’70 Mustang hardtop? For at least the first two seasons, it appeared in the opening credits of every episode. And who could forget Mary?
I had already discovered how good she was as Laura Petrie in reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show, but it took MTM to show me just how beautiful she was. Thanks to ’90s cable TV, I had a crush on Mary at the age of 11. I still do, a little bit.
But I was a car guy (car kid?) even then, and I certainly remember the Mustang sightings. It appears that her first car in the series was a plain Mustang hardtop with whitewall tires and little else. Besides its role in the opening credits, it occasionally showed up in some establishing shots in a few episodes.
One of these ran about $2,618 with the inline six, and $2,723 with a V8. All in all, not a bad commuter car for early ’70s Minneapolis. Just make sure you’ve got a good set of snow tires.
In one memorable episode, Mary apparently decided to get rid of the white coupe. I haven’t seen the episode in years, but thanks to the Internet Movie Car Database, we have some screenshots. I do remember Mary’s surprise at how expensive the car she wanted was.
She did wind up with another Mustang, which you can see in the opening credits of later seasons. If memory serves, it was the blue ’73 seen in the opening credits by about season four. But what of the other cast members’ cars?
We saw Mary’s Mustangs, but never did get a look at what everyone else drove. Lou Grant was a no-nonsense type, but he was also a higher-up at WJM.
Perhaps the ’70s upper-middle class “doing well, but not too well” image he projected would have led him to drive a Pontiac Bonneville or Mercury Monterey Custom.
Mary’s landlord, Phyllis Lindstrom, had a Scandinavian husband, Lars, who was a dermatologist. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see her driving a Volvo 145E.
After all, in an episode in which Lars’ relatives visited from Sweden, she claimed that they cried every time they saw a Volvo commercial on TV!
And the rest? You might expect Ted Baxter to have an MB 280SL or something similarly flossy, but in several jabs at Ted during the series, it was implied that Ted had a German car whose design hadn’t changed in years.
Ted was notoriously cheap, too. So what else could it have been but a VW Beetle?
Murray was a family man, and with a wife and kids he wouldn’t have spent a lot on a fancy car. Still, a Malibu hardtop sedan might have been his choice of wheels, perhaps to complement Marie’s Malibu Concours woody wagon in their suburban Minneapolis garage.
And what of Rhoda, Mary’s best friend? Well, she may have been influenced by Mary’s style, and since she didn’t have the spending money that Mary had, perhaps a sporty little Maverick coupe would have been her choice of wheels. Even today, MTM is my favorite TV show, bar none.
We’ll never know for sure what everyone other than Mary drove, but it’s fun to guess. What do you think the MTM characters would have driven?