It would likely be impossible to list all the cars offered to contestants on The Price Is Right. The show has been in it’s current form since 1972; it is a revamped version of a show first aired in 1956. This current, and best known, version has aired thousands of episodes with all manner of cars up for grabs. For purposes of simplicity, we will focus on the earlier days of its current incarnation.
So poking around youtube, here’s a selection of clips with cars some lucky contestants played to win. I’ve included a still picture of a comparable car so you don’t have to sit at work and run the risk of being caught watching videos – unless you want to.
But first a little introduction is needed for those unfamiliar with the American version of the show.
The current version premiered in September 1972 and was hosted by Bob Barker until 2007. The original models were Janice Pennington (left) and Anitra Ford (right).
Barker was born in December 1923 in Darrington, Washington, and would later attend Drury College in Springfield, Missouri. He was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy during World War II and, prior to the 1972 version of The Price Is Right, was host of various shows such as Truth or Consequences.
Pennington was born in Seattle in 1942. Prior to her tenure on The Price Is Right she was the May 1971 Playboy Playmate of the Month. She was thirty years old when the show premiered and she departed in 2000, making her the longest serving model on the show. She handed Barker his microphone at the beginning of over 5,000 episodes.
In viewing various clips, if a car was driven onto the stage, it was almost always driven by Pennington. She drove a slew of different cars.
Ford was a model and actress, also born in 1942. She left the show, and acting, in 1976 at age 34. Prior credits include The Longest Yard with Burt Reynolds and Invasion of The Bee Girls in 1973. In that particular film Ford plays a scientist who has changed the physiology of women so they will kill men via relentless sexual intercourse. That film is now in the public domain. There is a lot of Ford to be seen in both films, as well as a third, a women’s prison film with Pam Grier.
The inclusion of Ford on the show may have provided one of the only times a Ford ever promoted a Chevrolet.
Incidentally, there was a nighttime version of the show during the 1970s. It was hosted by Dennis James and I’ve included a clip from a 1977 episode.
Just prior to the new TPIR being pitched to CBS, James had been a substitute host for Monty Hall on Let’s Make a Deal and had been hosting various shows for years. James was the first choice of TPIR producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman to host the new 1972 version. Instead, CBS insisted on Bob Barker being the host. As a consolation of sorts James hosted the weekly syndicated version of the show through 1977.
So let’s look at some cars.
In the first episode of new version, aired on September 4, 1972, Connie was the first contestant called on stage after winning a fur coat.
She then played for, and won, a baby blue Vega Kammback wagon starting at 3:20. This makes the Vega the official first car of The Price Is Right. Later on in the Showcase Connie told Bob she didn’t trust him.
During the Showcase at the end of the show, Paul was given an opportunity to bid on a Mazda 808 sedan and some roller skates (starting at 24:15). He won the Mazda, his bid coming within $4 of the actual retail price.
Please note while there are methods of starting video clips at specific points, I have realized no success in doing so. That’s why I’m providing starting points and representative pictures.
Skipping around youtube gives us this episode from 1973. Olivia did not win this Chevrolet Stingray (starting at 2:35) – another Chevrolet modeled by Anitra Ford.
Olivia later bid for a blue AMC Gremlin X in the Showcase, along with a trip to Las Vegas (starting at 23:32). She won.
In another episode from 1973, the Showcase featured a Volkswagen Thing (starting at 23:03). The car to be seen here is a yellow Vega.
Lynda gave Dee the opportunity to bid; Dee won herself a VW.
Earlier I mentioned Dennis James hosting the nighttime version. Here’s a clip of a James episode. This one is notable, primarily due to three cars being offered in a thirty minute show.
At 2:45, Peggy plays for a new 1977 Monte Carlo. She does not win. However, note Pennington drove the Monte onto the stage.
In the Showcase, Larry is pretty pumped to be offered a Chevelle wagon at 16:15. He wins the wagon plus a Road Ranger travel trailer it could pull, along with thirty-three quarts of oil and golf equipment.
The background music during Larry’s Showcase is called “The Big Banana”. It has some pretty fat sounding horns and this tune, unimpeded by announcer Johnny Olsen, can also be found on youtube.
In the other Showcase, Peggy returns and bids on a new Corvette at 20:16. Again, it’s driven onto the stage by Pennington. Peggy strikes out a second time.
Let’s go back to Barker in 1973.
If nothing else these videos are a time capsule. Look at this still shot from the video. Janet has an amazingly colored dress and Patricia’s hair is phenomenal.
Mary is offered a snazzy brown Mercury Comet at 3:00. She does not guess the correct price; this Comet is the only car offered in this episode. The show was still in a half-hour format at this point. It would go to a one hour format in 1975.
As an aside, Barker would put a restriction on non-American brands in 1988, which was when he also instituted the banning of animal based prizes, such as fur coats. These restrictions coincided with his becoming executive producer.
Jumping forward to 1978, we see Florence playing for a W123 Mercedes (starting at 2:45), as seen in this image capture. Sadly, she does not win.
At 23:20 Edward gets the chance of a lifetime to win a new Chevrolet Monza hatchback – in a horrific yellow with whitewall tires. He strikes out, literally.
As an aside, Holly Hallstrom is shown with the Mercedes in the last video clip. Hallstrom was born in San Antonio, Texas, in 1952, and joined TPIR in 1977. She currently resides in the town of her birth after being dismissed from TPIR in 1995.
She later had some legal wranglings with Barker, calling him “an evil bastard”.
Airing exactly two months later, this episode from March 1978 shows Rea playing for a new Chevrolet Nova starting at 11:00. It is the same horrible shade of yellow as the Monza we just saw.
What appears to be the yellow Monza (yes, two yellow cars in one episode – it was the 1970s, after all) returns at 35:00; yellow must have been of a desired photogenic quality at that time. However, this time it is a Buick Skyhawk, a badge-engineered Monza. Please know my finding videos of people losing was a fluke.
Of note is model Dian Parkinson being shown with the Nova. She came to the show in 1975, briefly overlapping Ford’s tenure; Parkinson is the model who would later disclose the affair she had had with Barker. Parkinson, born in Jacksonville, North Carolina, in 1944, would compete in the Miss USA contest in 1965 as Diana Batts representing The District of Columbia. She was first runner up in the following Miss World contest. Parkinson also toured with Bob Hope, entertaining troops in Vietnam during the mid-1960s.
While the clips showing old episodes of the show are plentiful, one must draw the line somewhere, as we are doing here. So let’s go with something that shows not all the cars offered on The Price Is Right are strippers – or yellow.
Pamela was a lucky contestant. Or not.
Starting at 3:20 you can see her playing for a 1975 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight convertible. She keeps up the trend of people not winning.
Let’s change this up. At 20:00 Colleen plays for a nifty new Chevrolet Nova. She wins quite handily. Note Parkinson is wearing a black wig in this segment.
Marjorie is in the Showcase (at 41:43) and has a trip down Main Street. While she’s playing for a gazebo and a new Zenith home entertainment center, a new red Vega GT comes onto the stage. The Vega, just like the Olds earlier in the episode, is driven onto the stage by Pennington.
The Vega went back to the Chevrolet dealer, unwon.
Except for the first episode, all these videos were pulled at random from youtube. There is a heavy weighting toward GM, with a single representative from each of Ford, AMC, Mazda, Volkswagen, and Mercedes. Chrysler is not to be seen.
This is simply a snap-shot of what has been offered on a show that has now ran for forty-seven seasons.
I have to wonder if the contestants who do win keep the cars or do they take a cash offer for less than the car after?
Since they have to pay tax on their winnings, I can imagine many of them doing just that.
You have to take the prizes and pay the taxes or forfeit them altogether.
I remember Drew Carely saying he feels bad for the players who win hot tubs because the delivery truck dumps it in your yard and you have to find and pay for someone to install it.
I remember in the late 80s/early 90s watching the show when I was home because of a break in school (or maybe I was home sick) but they gave away a Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham (D-body) from the “square” days.
The contestant did win and I remember Bob saying that it was “the most expensive car they had ever offered as a prize.”
I’m a little surprised at the presence of non-entry-level cars, particularly cars like the Mercedes, Corvette, and Olds 88 convertible. OTOH, I would be willing to bet that when these upper-tier cars made their appearance, the contests were harder to win, too.
My memory of Johnny Olson shouting, “A new car!” as the curtains opened is that they were invariably some bottom-feeder econobox like a Vega (or later Vega-based models).
“Comes standard with rack and pinion steering, an economical two-point-three liter engine, and California emission!”
I can also hear Johnny Olson’s voice in my head exactly how it used to sound.
The show wants the most glamorous products available…if the price (from the manufacturer) is right. I happened to see a recent Drew Carey ep with a new Jag convertible. Jay Leno was the “model” with the car.
My brother and I used to watch the show religiously during the school and summer breaks in the late 1970s.
One thing that kept repeating a lot of times when presenting the cars and trucks is “…California emission.”
Awhile back, while on late-night feeding duty with our baby girl, I was catching old episodes of “Let’s Make A Deal.” You could see the changing economics: if the show was from the early to mid ’70s, they were giving away Cadillacs; if it was from the early ’80s, it was Chevettes.
At one point Cadillac Division must’ve cut off the supply of prize cars and from then on if producers wanted to give away a Caddy they’d have to BUY one from a dealer which got a plug. Usually “…from Casa de Cadillac of Sherman Oaks.”
I could watch old PIR episodes ALL DAY LONG. What is wrong with me? I remember it being the best part of staying home sick from school. And now, the 70’s episodes especially are such a trip: the clothes, the hair, the cars, the gold or avocado appliances, the wacky upholstered bar sets. Wow. Just wow.
I never liked the night version or the current version. I’m a Bob man. Don’t forget to have your pets spayed or neutered!
A little over a year ago I “hosted” a Price Is Right game at work to show everyone how much things cost. We even “gave away” a new Dodge pickup. So I had to research the show. The concept of this piece has been around for a while.
You are correct about the current version. Drew Carey looks bored and the models need to be coached on enthusiasm by Janice. Every time I’ve watched the new version, I’m commenting how Janice still needs to be there. I don’t care if she’s now 78, she needs to be on the show!
Drew is just not that good. I too, remember watching TPIR with either parents or grandparents if I was home for some reason. This was ’85-onward. After the original host left, I could never get used to Drew. It’s just one of those things that I sadly don’t watch anymore and I’m almost 40.
Well, somebody has been spending a lot of time on YouTube. 🙂
It is true that there were no Chrysler products on the show during the 1970s. Those were reserved for Let’s Make A Deal for the guy who chose a dud behind Door No. 2. “And your prize is – — – I’m so sorry, it’s a new Dodge Aspen” (Waaa, Waaaa, Waaaaaaaa of the trombone, followed by a collective “Ohhhhhhhhh” from the studio audience). “Well at least you will get plenty of free coffee in the service department waiting room. We’ll be right back after this word from Proctor & Gamble.”
It’s all in the name of research. I even found “Invasion of the Bee Girls” on a free channel on Roku. And enough of it on youtube to know the actresses were an uninhibited bunch.
Another tidbit – the star of Invasion of the Bee Girls was none other than Victoria Vectri, aka Angela Dorian, who was the 1968 Playboy Playmate of the Year.
She was awarded a brand-new pink 1968 AMC AMX, which she kept for many years as a daily driver.
Unfortunately, her career went nowhere, and, in 2010, she shot her husband during a heated argument. She pled “no contest” to a charge of attempted voluntary manslaughter, was sentenced to nine years, and was then paroled in April 2018.
At some point, she sold the AMX, which was later rescued by a car collector. He has restored to the car to its former glory.
This car was featured on Jay Leno’s Garage YouTube channel, fully restored.
I actually like the look of that yellow Chevrolet Monza in yellow with colour key hub caps and white interior. I’d pass on the white wall tires though.
That Mazda 808 would be a fairly rare sight in the US at the time.
Thanks for the memories, Jason! I too remember watching this show when I would stay with my grandparents over summer vacation in the ’70s.
I don’t recall seeing cars like these either – it was usually a Vega (or later) a Monza, invariable a base model.
Even then I used to chuckle as they read off the (short) list of option: “AM Radio, Whitewall tires, and California Emissions”
Jason, this CCTV piece is awesome on so many levels.
To echo what others have said, TPIR was requisite watching when I was home sick from school. It didn’t matter if I was hacking up a lung. At 11:00 AM Eastern Time, I would be on the couch with an afghan, some hot soup and Saltine crackers, and a glass of 7-Up or Vernor’s ginger ale (basically the only times I was allowed to have pop).
Buzzr TV retro game show channel has started re-airing the ’80s episodes of “Let’s Make A Deal” (which I also watched and loved for the cars), and I had a thought the other day… I wonder if a contestant won a new car on the show (Woooo!!) and then later cursed the day the won it because it ended up being so terrible and/or trouble prone.
There was a yellow, ’86 (or so) Chevy Camaro that contestants on LMAD had won (separately), and I wondered: a.) if it had a 2.8L V6 (or even worse – an IRON DUKE) under the hood; and b.) how long it ran before it needed to go back to the dealership.
Regardless, I was raised never to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I probably would have gladly driven my Vega Kammback prize until the wheels (literally) fell off.
(Oh! And on a recent rerun of “Match Game”, Anitra Ford was one of the panelists!)
After getting sick during the CC Detroit meet-up, when I got back home the only thing that kept me going was watching Match Game clips on youtube. I found the Anitra Ford episodes and, just as good, a week with Janice Pennington. Her hair was amazing.
Does anyone remember a game show (early ’70s) where the winning contestant of the day had a one in five chance to win the grand prize of a new car (mostly Chevys or Pontiacs).
The cars were parked on a stand in a semi circle. If the contestant won for the day in question, he would pick one of the 5 cars and attempt to start the car. If it started, it was his. If not, he would return the next day and attempt to be the winner of that day. If he succeeded, then the one car would be eliminated and now he had a 1 in 4 chance of winning.
I do remember one gentleman who came back 5 times in order to win a Corvette!!
Yes, I remember that one. Was it Tom Kennedy or Wink Martindale who hosted? I remember when Pontiacs were on hand he always said Graww Veeele.
Don’t forget that back in 1985-86, there was a nighttime syndicated version of “The Price Is Right” that was hosted by Tom Kennedy. Also, The 1985-86 season was the one when TPIR announcer Johnny Olsen died. After Johnny Died, there was a “revolving door” of announcers including Gene Wood and Rod Roddy. It turned out that the production staff loved Rod and he became the announcer for “The Price Is Right” for many years.
Split Second with Tom Kennedy was a young car lover’s dream game show. The prizes were mainly cars or cash. It doesn’t get much better than that!
The premise was you had to win a quiz round to get to a level where you could walk to a stage and select from one of several cars where you would sit in the car and attempt to start it. If it turned over, the car was yours. If the car did not turnover, you came back the next day, and if you won the quiz, you could try another car. If you won five day’s quiz rounds without a winning a car, you could simply pick the car you wanted.
The cars were (almost?) always Chevrolet or Pontiac, and a given week’s selection was single brand, and could include anything from the car line – a virtual showroom.
It was interesting to watch contestants pick cars, people would bypass Corvettes, Grand Prixs and sometimes pick the Nova or a LeMans wagon. I was always rooting for people to go for the Caprice or Grand Ville convertibles.
In the world of the 1970’s, my elementary school had an hour lunch. I lived a half block from school, and if the weather was nice, I’d walk home for lunch, and munch on a peanut butter or cold cut sandwich. On the best days, I’d be polishing off some Hostess Raspberry Zingers and watching someone turning the key to win a big GM convertible.
This family man momentarily motioned toward the Grand Prix and then went for the LeMans di-noc woody! The Grand Ville convertible on the far right was a missed opportunity. 🙂
I was *sure* there’d be some mention of the Dale here, the fake car made by the Twentieth Century Motor Car Company, a 1974 startup that was likely a scam from day one intended to defraud investors and potential customers (and a truly bizarre story). Advertised as an upcoming 70mpg, $2,000 three-wheeled car, the Dale seemed just the thing for the post-OPEC embargo era, or would have had it really existed. Only three very crude prototypes were built, but several accounts claim one was offered as a prize on The Price is Right, including Car and Driver, Hemmings, Jalopnik, and right here on CC (https://www.curbsideclassic.com/automotive-histories/automotive-history-1974-dale-the-drag-coefficient-chimera/). But some other accounts on the interwebs state that it was actually another 3-wheeled thingie, a real one called the Rupp Centaur, that was offered as a prize and somehow the two got confused (whatever it was, the lucky contestant lost). I can’t find a TPIR clip of either online. Anyone know for sure?
I remember watching this show, along with the original Let’s Make a Deal, when I was home sick, or whenever I spent the day visiting my grandmother.
The car prizes were always the most exciting, although it sticks in my mind that more 1970s Cadillacs were offered as prizes on Let’s Make a Deal – courtesy of Casa de Cadillac in Sherman Oaks, of course.
Great research, and a fun topic Jason. Price is Right was a must watch for a lot of kids home from school. For many Canadian game show viewers of the 70s and 80s, it was a running joke, how much better budgets and prizes on American game shows were.
Before he became an international star hosting Jeopardy, Canadian Alex Trebek hosted a myriad number of game shows here and in the US. Many were weak.
One reason many Canadians were justifiably embarrassed by our game shows, is the prizes were generally thoroughly lame. Certainly, when compared to US shows. You’d be extremely lucky to take home a food processor, or a set of knives, or $500 bucks as a daily winner. Or a gift certificate to a restaurant, If you were a consolation prize winner. The top car prize, on the best shows, would typically be a base model Pontiac Acadian (Chevette-based version). 🙂
In the 80s and 90s the golden road would have a high priced import and the shocases would have something respectsble but for most of the prize games it was cheap almost always american cars…escorts cavaliers grand ams etc. Cars as a kid I thought it would be awesome to win but as an adult I wanted nothing with a car of that style even by todays equivalent examples. I now umderstand why Plinko was the most the most popular game.
Poland has its own notable example of cars in game shows – the Polish version of Wheel of Fortune has a car as a main prize.
The most recognizable are the 90s episodes with either a Daihatsu Charade or FSO Polonez Caro to be won, but the late 00s and current reboots also had cars as prizes – Toyota Aygos, to be exact.
I remember an inordinate number of Pontiac Astres on game shows back then.
If you can’t sell them, give them away.
I still watch TPIR @ least of couple of days a week & I’m amazed how the contestants still get excited about the prospect of winning a car that they usually would disdain, like a basic entry level import sedan. They do an “Exotic Car Week” where they give away high end cars & a few years ago they even offered restored vintage cars as prizes.
Watched the show plenty when I was a kid. Always was hoping that the grand prize was a boat so that the models would be dressed in some sexy bikinis!!!
I recall one episode where Dian was riding on top of some vehicle, and she very saucily, and deliberately, slipped the strap of her slinky dress off her shoulder for a moment, giving the viewers a sultry stare in the process. To 10 year old me, it was the most erotic thing I’d ever seen!
I’m still in love with Holly.
“The Price Is Right.” Ah, what red-blooded American hasn’t watched enough episodes to know the schitck? Crass commercialism at it’s crassest. Probably everyone’s favorite game show, hence 40 plus years running with no end in sight.
Here at the car lot, 90% of the trade-ins are appraised by one man, the used car manager. Sometimes, a few of us will lay a small bet on whatever his ACV (actual cash value) will be. We use TPIR rules, closest without going over, wins. Fun way to lose few bucks, or win the pot.
Through out my many years of watching. 40 total. I still want to be on that show. And I’d guess the price on show cases to prices of cars. I’d own about 2 car lots full by now. The vegs gt I did drive in the 80s was my 2nd car. It was used it was all green with 1 black door inside. But it was my baby. I’ve also drove a Vega wagon too. My mom had one early 80s. I was 9 then. I still watch it most days when I can. Drew hosts now. He’s great.
I’ve heard of this show, but this red-blooded American has never seen a single second of it, and would never have thought there would be any CC-related content. I love the Vega pictures … that green was the best color. Just like mine.
Love this show for the beginning of show time love everything about it. Car and trucks are great but love the older vehicle there the best
The consolation prize, of course, was two Chevrolet Vegas.
(Thanks heaps, Jason; now I’ll have the TPIR theme song stuck in my head all day long!)
What about the” Zonk prize “cars they feature?
I’ve seen a Corvair, model T Ford and truck, old Buick and two Hondas made into one car.
You are thinking of “Let’s Make A Deal”.
“Ford plays a scientist who has changed the physiology of women so they will kill men via relentless sexual intercourse”
What a fun piece! I too was one of the many schoolchildren whose highlight of a sick day was the 10am viewing of TPIR and the cars were always the top highlight, no matter which one.
I was an enthusiastic viewer of this show from when before I even started school; I was always fascinated when they gave away cars, especially higher-end models like Corvettes and Monte Carlos. Once I started school my only chances to catch TPIR would be if we had a teacher in-service day or I was home sick.
Holly Hallstrom was my favorite TPIR model–I had a huge crush on her–she was so pretty with her red hair–different from the parade of blondes that seemed the norm.
I am not in the least surprised Holly had legal issues with Barker and I believe that he was as she described, “an evil bastard.” A lot of TV personalities from back in the day who seemed to have squeaky-clean images were in fact very bad, rotten people. They just had excellent PR men and publicists to cover up their dirty laundry. Bob Barker was a lecherous man who routinely spewed vile sexual epithets at those models and I’m sure he slept with a lot more than just Dian Parkinson.
Here are a few others I’d like to share to shatter their images forever–
Andy Griffith–star of the fabled, down home family show of the same name, was an ill-tempered beast of a man who off-screen could not contain his contempt or hatred of his co-star, Don Knotts.
Dick Van Dyke–another quick tempered fellow who fought with his co-stars and could not contain his unbridled lust for co-star Mary Tyler Moore. His less successful brother Jerry was a much nicer man and it could be argued that he was funnier and deserved the success that Dick seemed to have handed to him on a platter.
Both Ernest Borgnine of “McHale’s Navy” and Brian Keith of “Family Affair” were notorious drunkards and wife-beaters.
Bob Crane of “Hogan’s Heroes” was an abject pervert who self-produced dozens of pornographic home movies. The true story of his shame is chronicled in the movie entitled “Auto Focus.”
Bill Cosby–do I even have to elaborate?
Elvis Presley–In real life, he was a low-life scum bag who slept with hundreds of women, many of whom were underage, including bride Priscilla, drank and drugged heavily, and cursed and swore like a trucker, and told filthy stories about the women he violated that would make a longshoreman blush. His incredible greed was also boundless. His charity acts, like buying Cadillacs for random people and his Gospel music were all a big sham–a smokescreen to divert public attention away from the vile creep he really was. His agents and PR men worked overtime to shield the public from the reality of his rotten persona.
Disgustingly enough, people still continue to worship this man as if he is God.
I’m just saying–you all needed the truth.