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.