(first posted 9/9/2011) When we recently took a look at badge-totin’ sworn-officer cars, the response was, um, gratifying. I had no idea that the humble flatfoot cruiser caused a stirring in so many readers. Nostalgia came flooding back as we fondly remembered what “the law” drove into our living rooms in pursuit of truth, justice and the unbending eradication of “ring around the collar” (at the station breaks).
Anyway, Hi-Po cop cars are just a piece of a larger law enforcement puzzle that presented itself for many decades on American network television. Not all cops work for the county and wear a badge, or drive clapped out squad cars that smell like the bodily functions of a strung out junkie.
There was actually some automotive glamor in catching the bad guys on TV. But with the changing social consciousness of the era, the only way to portray that glamor was with crime fighters that didn’t follow the rules (or made their own) . The P.I’s golden age (very) roughly spanned the years 1962- 1980, when muscle cars and stars from TV’s first golden age still appeared on the small screen. By the mid 80’s, detective shows had evolved into a more nuanced, tech heavy, politically correct genre that appealed to the older demographic that still watched them.
Murder, She Wrote may have pulled in the raw Nielson ratings, but you weren’t going to see Angela Lansbury execute a “J” turn (a la Jim Rockford) in a K-Car. And as the cars themselves changed: the shows that absolutely had to involve them became more cerebral, with less raw sex appeal. By the late 90’s an era had passed. Only time will tell if it returns.
A few caveats: Any list that included all car related Detective/P.I.- genre summaries would have to be shipped to each of you individually on DVDs. And until we start warming our cold hearths around here with crisp $100 bills, that ain’t gonna happen. There are just too many shows for any list to be complete. That’s what the comments below are for. So lets pull that bottle of bourbon out of the top drawer, have a healthy slug and get started.
77 Sunset Strip– ABC – 1958-1964 – One of the characters of this pop craze created a sensation with his hopped up model A/T hybrid in the early sixties. Edd Byrnes played Gerald Lloyd “Kookie” Kookson alongside fellow private eyes Efrem Zimblast and Roger Smith in this hip,trendy must-see show that ran on ABC.
This show was almost the Miami Vice of its day, reflecting the libertine music scene and changing social mores of the time. Like Vice, younger viewers connected with the show’s well dressed youthful star,s and the series was a marketers bonanza. Lunch boxes, model kits based on the Kookiemobile, and board games cashed in on its relatively brief run.The show was canceled halfway through its sixth season.
Honey West – ABC 1965-1966- It’s hard for me to believe that audiences would rather watch Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. than Anne Francis in this series that ran on ABC for 30 episodes in 1965. Francis made do with an AC Cobra as the company car in this well received, but poorly rated series. This program was actually a spin off of another series (Burkes Law) and the title character was, well, rather exotic.
The debonair Ms. West kept a pet ocelot and used any number of James Bond -type gadgets to get the job done. Francis actually won a Golden Globe award for her work on this series, but it was not enough to bring it back for another year.
Mannix– Joe Mannix was a cop and a mercenary before becoming a private eye in this series that ran on CBS from 1967 to 1975. Mike Connors was the lead character in what turned out to be a car watchers touchstone in those years. Mannix’s life really revolved around his cars, and this series graced the screen with some beauties. Season one saw him switching between a Comet Caliente drop top and a Comet Cyclone, but the car that most viewers remember is the customized Toronado built for the series. Mannix didn’t seem to have any particular loyalties – his cars varied between the Big Three depending on what was the most glamorous at the time.
Cannon– William Conrad was one of the golden age of radio’s better known voice talents (he was marshal Matt Dillon on CBS Radio’s Gunsmoke through 1961), but his biggest TV role found him as a private investigator driving a Lincoln Mark III and IV from 1971 through 1976.Conrad was a big guy and he needed big cars.
Conrad saw the series through 124 episodes and a TV movie revival and the series won a smattering of awards. Ford was the official auto of the show, so you’ll see a lot of blue oval cars in the reruns that still air around the country.
Barnaby Jones– Some of us, when we knelt beside our modest beds at night in the 1960’s, prayed that we would never see Buddy Ebsen in form fitting bell bottom pants and leisure suits. Well, fate is cruel and that is sometimes what we got in this CBS series that lasted for parts of eight seasons in the 1970s. This show was actually a spin off of Cannon (above) and used a lot of the same vehicle models tooling around. Eye candy Lee Meriweather (Batman’s Catwoman) was Baranaby’s daughter in law and operative.
This show actually interspersed its plot line and characters with the show that spun it off – an odd arrangement for network TV at that time. Anyway, producer Quinn Martin had an in with Ford and that meant that the shows cast drove upper crust Fords and Mercuries. A lot of the scenes involved Jones’s ’73 LTD that later changed as the years went by. The show went off the air in 1979.
The Rockford Files– James Garner was the utility infielder of TV acting in the mid 70’s. He had done westerns (Maverick), war movies (The Great Escape) and comedies ( Support Your Local Sheriff) and his folksy dry wit helped make this show a smash for NBC for 122 episodes from 1974 to 1980.
The Rockford Files made much use of Jimmy Scott Rockford’s Firebird Esprit (with Garner claiming later to have done his own stunt driving) and there is a lot of late 60’s to mid 70’s metal moving about. The show didn’t have a formal loaner arrangement with any of the Big Three, so you’ll see a smattering of just about every make.
Banacek– This was a thinking man’s detective show. George Peppard played Polish-American Thomas Banacek for two years as a rotating feature of the NBC Mystery Movie series. No shoot ’em ups here- Banacek worked mostly insurance cases and took a cut of the recovery. The plotlines and story arc of most episodes assumed that the audience could follow the “inside baseball” terminology of daring, non-violent robbery and deception. The Neilson ratings revealed that most viewers liked the show, but didn’t identify with the character. Thus its run was brief.
The show put 17 90 minute episodes in the can (spread out through two seasons) and then went on to a second life in syndication. One episode even deals with the theft of a five million dollar experimental race car that had been stolen. A close look at the car reveals that it was a heavily customized ’69 AMX . In fact, this was one of the best car spotters shows ever with old, rare metal everywhere. The series ran 1972- 1974.
Magnum, P.I.– Glitz, glamor and fast cars. A perfect leitmotif for a “greed decade” P.I show. And so it was for 162 episodes in this CBS series that ran from 1980 to 1988 and still can be seen in syndication. Tom Selleck played the title character that provided security for his unseen benefactor (voiced by Orson Welles) on the latter’s palatial estate in Hawaii. This was one sweet gig. The fridge was always full of cold ones, the Ferrari was always gassed up and the women were hotter than the lawyers lounge in hell. Costar John Hillerman played the perfect foil for Selleck’s dry wit and in case things weren’t cozy enough, there were ex-Vietnam marine buddies to share a drink around the campfire. None of these people ever seemed to do any actual work, but that was the escapist fantasy that sold the show.
The Ferrari 308 GTS that grabbed all the attention later made the car show circuit for several years. Magnum, P.I. was a huge hit in international syndication – I once watched an episode with some teenagers in Ukraine and had to explain to them that everyday life in America is nothing like the show. The looks on their faces reminded me of when I explained to my kids the truth about Santa Claus.
One thing that I discovered when working on this piece – everybody has a different P.I. niche that they connect with. That’s why there have been so many of these kinds of shows over the years and the genre is an enduring (if constantly evolving) one. Your turn. What P.I. caught your imagination on the small screen over the years?
I was nine years old when Magnum P.I. aired in Sweden in 1983. The perfect age for that kind of show. It’s hard to imagine, but Tom Selleck actually was the coolest guy in town that summer, and everything he touched just felt so incredibly luscious and laid back. Has there ever been a show with that kind of care free existence?
Considering the politically correct and liberal Sweden of the 70’s, the public service television actually aired a fair amount of American shows. I remember Kojaks brown Buick, and Starsky & Hutch and their Torino.
But speaking of shows that caught the imagination of the perpetual ten year old, it’s a tie between the one season only “Automan” and David Hasselhoffs “Knight Rider”. If that age could only last forever, I cant’ for my mind imagine a better age to be in.
The first two seasons he drove a Ferrari 308 GTS. From the third to the final season, his car was a 308 GTSI the I means inzione which is Italian for fuel injection. He also used a 308 GTSI Quattrovalvole which is Italian for Four Valve.
I always thought Rick Hunter’s parade of junky cars was kinda funny.
A lot of the cars he drove around in were decommissioned police cars. Mostly 1970’s Mopars IE Dodge, Plymouth police cars
I saw that Itailian Polizia Lambo in a parade in Rome last spring. It looks really cool in person. It stopped right in front of us, but no amount of convincing from the crowd would get the driver to rev it up a few times. 🙁
Loving this look down memory lane. Speaking of Murder She Wrote, I enjoyed trying to keep tabs on which sherrif was driving which Sherrif’s car. I know there was a Diplomat in the series and then at least one car that was hard to identify (after Mort) became sherrif – I was never really sure if it was a big old Plymouth or a Pontiac.
I had forgotten about the Mannix Toronado. I watched the show in later seasons where Joe Mannix was a Mopar guy. I recall a particularly sweet Dart GT convertible, and remember a scene where he dropped his keys on the floor. As he leaned over to pick them up, a bullet whizzed over his head. I think about this every time I drop my keys in my car.
An oldie that I only saw in reruns was Hawaiian Eye – Robert Conrad was one of the detectives. I remember a big white ’60 Oldsmobile convertible.
A newer one was Simon and Simon. Two brothers, one was Gerald McRainey, I think, who had a Dodge Power Wagon 4X4.
Not really a detective show, I remember Monte Markham as “The New Perry Mason” around 1974 or so. When they showed Perry Mason driving a fat, bloated Cougar Brougham (okay, XR7), I was done with the show. Raymond Burr had always had Cadillac convertibles.
When I was a kid I wanted that Power Wagon so bad it wasn’t funny!
“Raymond Burr had always had Cadillac convertibles.”
Not so! In ’58 and ’59 at least, he sometimes drove Skyliners. Also, that list is incomplete but I swear I recall seeing him drive a ’58 or ’59 Lincoln convertible, as well as a ’61 4-door convertible.
Found one! A ’57 Premier — arguably the most tasteful styling example of the era of befinned behemoths.
Early Perry Mason episodes did have him driving some Fairlane ragtops, some Caddies, but as the 50s wore into the 60s, the car I remember the good counsel driving was a Continental.
Btrig has a nice shot of a ’57 Premier ragtop. If you recall, Elvis’ character “Vince Edwards” in Jailhouse Rock selected a Premiere ragtop too!
“Lincoln – unmistakeably the fine car in the fine car field”.
Paul Drake drove a Thunderbird convertible.
You’re right, he only drove Cadillacs in the first season, then Skyliners through ’59, then Sunliners through ’62 or so, switching to Lincoln Continental convertibles through ’65. His Private Eye, Paul Drake, usually drove a Thunderbird.
I watch Perry Mason (with Raymond Burr) regularly (have for years, I love it) and the most common car I see Perry in later in the series is the 60s suic…I mean coach door Continental convertible. Earlier, he drove anything from a seemingly basic Ford two door to Cadillac convertibles you remember. It depended on who sponsored the show that week. Paul Drake can be seen in a Corvette earlier, a Thunderbird later as Ford took main sponsorship (including “AUTOMOBILES PROVIDED BY FORD MOTOR COMPANY” in the closing credits, just like The Andy Griffith Show, although supporting characters in Perry Mason drove Buicks a lot, I’ve noticed).
Those Perry Mason episodes on MeTV are well-restored and a CC feast.
The first couple of seasons (’57) Perry alternated between Cadillac 62 convertibles and Ford Skyliner retractable hardtops, but from ’59 on he was a Ford guy. The cops drove Buick and sometimes Olds sedans in the early years, but later went Ford as well. From ’63 or ’64 on, Perry’s ride was a Continental convertible as you note.
Yet another great CC article…so many memories, dont know where to start…
In the Banacek picture above, you can see that he is standing in a junkyard where they were using those car stands made from two steel wheels welded together (a number of people have been asking about those stands over on TTAC as they are often seen in Murilee Martin’s junkyard pics). I only saw that show as a youngin’ a few times, but it was one of my favorite shows of the era.
Banacek drove a 1938 Packard 180 convertible and he also chauffered in various Cadillac Fleetwood Limousine, Lincoln Continental Town Car, Mercedes-Benz 600. Enclosed there is a 1972 Cadillac Fleetwood Limousine
Awesome topic and one we all saw coming when you ended the police vehicle entry with a ‘ah, this gives me an idea’…… 🙂
I’d add Roger Moore’s ‘The Saint’ — loved that Volvo 1800
Hardcastle and McCormick’s Coyote –
The Green Hornet’s land barge?
Get Smart’s awesome Sumbeam tiger
i’m sure more will come to be thru the course of the day!
Missed it by… that much.
‘I asked you NOT to tell me that’
And who could forget the shoe phone!
If we continue we will need the cone of silence. My favorite: “Not Craw. Craw!”
Say, I hope your not too upset about that remark I made about…
The concept of a gussied-up AMX as a “five-million-dollar experimental race car” (in 1970s dollars, no less!) is hilarious given that AMC’s development budget for the whole AMX project was probably less than that. (But that’s par for ’70s TV, I guess.)
Waiting for the feature on the cars of “The Dukes of Hazzard” and the trashing of dozens of decent Chargers–I outgrew that series pretty quickly but my little brother was the perfect age for it, you couldn’t tear him away. 😉
“The concept of a gussied-up AMX as a “five-million-dollar experimental race car”
That is a bit of a larf! I’m betting the actual AMX budget was closer to $500 and a case of Milwaukee’s Best..
To be honest, that ‘ $5M experimental race car’ looks as it’s designers had more than a few cases of Milwaukee’s best.
At second glance, it looks a little like a Javelin with a bar of soap in its mouth.
Remember Boss Hogg? His character played by the late Sorrell Booke drive either a 1969 or a 1970 Cadillac de Ville convertible in white with white leather interior.
Remington Steele had that beaut of an Auburn Speedster.
Don’t forget the Remington Steele agency also had a ’75-’76 Cadillac Series 75 – But I was too busy watching Stephanie Zimbalist, Just Sayin….
I was too busy watching Pierce Brosnan haha!
You too, huh?
I got her autograph when they filmed a first season episode @USC….
I have never been much of a TV-watcher – I preferred music (still do) – the shows were all too boring for me, but for a few, like COMBAT!, McHale’s Navy, Petticoat Junction (I really liked the train!), not to mention certain Saturday morning shows when I was a kid. Bugs Bunny is my hero!
Burke’s Law was one of those shows that got me, though – a P.I. being chauffered around in a Rolls-Royce! How absolutely cool was that? For the rest and the mocked-up cars, I didn’t watch them.
Yes, even 50 years later, Bugs Bunny rules.
I love the animation that Warner Bros with Chuck Jones directing was releasing back in the 50’s and early 60’s. Not only were they funny, and still are today, they were well crafted. Each movement seemed natural, no jerkiness ever.
Hard to imagine that they did this with union artists and no ‘tweening’ software!
I’ve always thought I could judge a person partially by whether he/she was a Bugs Bunny fan or a Mickey Mouse fan. Bugs was always smart, funny and a little subversive, while Mickey always came off as sort of a brown-noser.
I hereby publicly state (well, at least on “CC”!), I am not, and never have been a Mickey Mouse (Stinky Louse) fan. Disney animation may have been a bit better crafted, but when Warner Brothers, which is my favorite movie company, did a cartoon, if something needed a swift kick in the butt, Loony Tunes/Merrie Melodies pulled no punches! Chuck Jones, love ya, man!
Looney Tunes cartoons were the best. And don’t forget the Tex Avery cartoons, those were great too! I watched Looney Tunes Saturday morning through the mid 1990s, but they seem to have disappeared from TV these days. I would still watch them today!
Okay Looney Tunes fans, here’s 18 episodes, no lines no waiting! 🙂
Don’t forget Bob Clampett, who, next to Tex Avery, was the wackiest of the classic animators. Anyone out there remember Avery’s MGM Cartoon, “Car Of Tomorrow”?
It’s gotta be Bugs all the way!
I’m watching an episode of COMBAT! right now. It’s the “Infants of Prague”. The confusing part is the nuns speaking a mix of Spanish and French.
I haven’t seen COMBAT! since the late 60s-early 70s. Used to watch it on my Grandfather’s knee back in Argentina when it ran in syndication.
COMBAT! is one of the very few old shows I can still watch, as it dealt with the soldiers and their stories and not just ‘shoot ’em up’ action. Although as a kid, I liked all the shooting – at least until I became draft age and Vietnam was still hot and heavy! Then I changed!
As this is a classic car site, I truly like the Jeeps and Kubelwagens!
Twilight Zone has different smatterings of FoMoco and GM (usually Chevies) in their epdisodes. I love the one 1959 epsiode with Howard Duff as the movie star who is ‘delusional’ and thinks his character is the ‘real him’ in life.
’59 T-Bird, ’59 Imperial LeBaron featured up close and personal and candid shots of Jaguar XK140s and Corvettes lining the soundstage curbsides and period Chevies and Fords which were daily Culver City SoCal drivers all over that MGM lot where most TZ episodes were shot!
The hitchiker episode (“going my way?”) from 1959 features a Mercury Monterey four-door hardtop with the wing window removed (for a cleaner angle shot) and “correct” 1959 New York State plates. For “country” locations or small town shots, Rod Serling’s Cayuga Productions usually leased Universal City or the Columbia Burbank ranch to make those scenes, or just went to old Hollywood famous “B” movie location grande, the Bronson Canyon.
Oh, can’t forget the 1964 Twilight Zone episode of “You Drive” – with the ’56 Fairlane Town Sedan that’s “possessed” after it’s driver is involved with a hit and run accident killing a paperboy on a bicycle . . .
IMHO, They killed Burke’s Law by “cashing” in on the “spy craze”, better when he “worked” “regular” crime. Speaking of “crime”, not continuing “Honey West” was a felony!
It’s fun to see some of these old PI rides. My hands-down favorite is the Firebird from the Rockford Files. For the first couple of seasons (back when I was in middle school), that was the highlight of my Friday nights. It wasn’t too much longer that I figured out why I liked girls so much and didn’t watch much TV on Friday nights anymore.
I remember the Banacek episode with the ‘experimental’ AMX, I think my dad may have even told me it was on and let me watch it. My dad was also a big fan of the Mannix TV show, but I don’t remember the customized Toro.
I think that was a big fad back then, it seems to me every TV show had it’s own ‘customized’ car for the main characters. The Munsters, the Monkees, (OK, not great examples), you get the idea. George Barris must have been doing pretty good back then.
I rarely watch series TV anymore, I don’t have the time. I DVR almost everything I want to watch, and then fall asleep to it once I DO start to watch it…
No one in my family was really into cars.
Television stuff like the Futura Batmobile, Ecto-1, Rockford Esprit, and KITT pretty much made me into an enthusiast.
Riptide: ’59 Corvette. And an antique Sikorsky helicopter. I seem to remember a Robert Conrad P.I. show that was on opposite Rockford, where he drove a Camaro, but I can’t remember the name of it. IMDB here I come.
Called “The Duke”. One season, 1979.
Oh!!!!! i definitely remember the ancient Sikorsky on ‘Riptide’….
It was really a series called “A Man Called Sloane” and It ran on NBC (CTV in Canada) for one season 1978-1979. I digged Cannon’s Mk IV, and It was the onus for me buying one (A green ’73) several months later. The Beachcombers on CBC was a repository for Canadian Mopars, as well as a few AMC’s. and I loved the Avengers (John Steed’s 1931 Bentley, and Emma Peel’s Lotus Elan.) On ABC there was The Champions, and I fell in love with the Alfa Romeo William Gaunt’s character, Richard Barrett drove… When it came to cool cars on TV, the Mid 60’s to Late 70’s couldn’t be beat, no matter what ANYONE says!
Don’t forget Kojak’s Buick Century! A friend of mine had basically the identical car in the late 90’s; we always called it the Kojak Car.
I still have a thing for Gerald McRaney’s Power Wagon from Simon and Simon.
I remember the 635CSi from Moonlighting, and the Dodge Daytonas Hunter’s partner drove. Another one I remember watching a lot was The Equalizer, he drove a mid-80’s Jaguar XJ6. I actually got my picture taken with KITT when I was 5 or so. The picture got baked when it was left on top of the toaster oven a short time later. I think it’s still in a box somewhere though!
I currently own a 74 Firebird Esprit identical to the one Rockford drove…its tons of fun, and fun to see the people remember where they saw the car on TV.
I was always partial to the 87 or 88 Mustang GT that Spenser For Hire drove…I guess is was the local Boston scenes that also helped the cause…
Loved Spencer for Hire…. especially ‘Hawk’s’ cheesey (in hindsight) 635. Those Boston scenes were awesome indeed— fueled my desire and eventual relocation. BTW: didn’t Spencer drive a 67 Mustang???
He did drive a 67 Mustang, but there was an episode that it was blown up and he drove a 87 or 88 Mustang GT after that, blue and gray. That may have been very close to the end of the series though…
Spenser droves a ’66 Mustang Fastback, in dark green, many times seems to be Black, but in fact, was dark green.
Nice Car, nice Massachusetts surrounds, awesome Robert Urich.?
Like this one
Spenser’s Mustang was a scraped, dented car with different coloured panels (& plenty bullet holes)
I thought Spencer drove a ‘67 black corvette stingray
That was the show “Stingray”.
Randal & Hopkirk[deceased] they ran a VX490 Vauxhall Victor
Known as ‘My Partner the Ghost’ in the USA. White Victor 2000 with a red interior, RXD 996F, a bit like this:
Don’t forget Columbo!
I Spy, with Bill Cosby and Robert Culp, was a favorite of mine. Not least for all the strange European cars in all those strange European places.
Hands down winner is Rockford’s Firebird. That car was an essential character in and of itself. An episode of The Rockford Files without a car chase just doesn’t seem right. As a bonus, it’s fun watching stunt drivers wrestle those gigantic 70s Imperials, Lincolns and Cadillacs either running from or running after that nimble Firebird.
Nimble Firebird? LOL
Someone’s already mentioned Maddie Hayes’ 635CSi, which has to be my fondest remembered first-time-round show.
I’m surprised that Emma Peel’s Lotus Elan hasn’t come up yet… perhaps The Avengers is a bit of a stretch to include under P.I. shows? (next feature perhaps Jeff? Secret Agent cars?) Still, the image of the incomparable Diana Rigg dashing around 60s England in her suitably gorgeous roadster (not to mention cat suit) thwarting the baddies is etched in my mind from watching re-runs as a kid.
Diana Rigg is hands down the most beautiful woman in the world– to this day. And that’s BEFORE she pours herself into that leather jumpsuit.
(genuflects). Sweet Jeezus.
Mrs. Peel…… 🙂 indeed!
In the summer of 1970, I saw Diana Rigg star in a London West End theatre production of “Heloise and Abelard”. Truly in the nude scene performed, Ms Rigg was more than beautiful and incomparable. She was stunningly beautiful. She had been already been one of my favorites due to the “The Avengers”, but this performance made her one of my lifetime favorites. Additionally that summer I saw actress Maggie Smith perform the lead in Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabbler”, and though she has currently played the elderly dowager Violet in Downton Abbey, Ms Smith was also quite the beauty in 1970.
There’s a song about that …
One lesser known example is Ian Ogilvy’s Jaguar XJS in the short-lived TV series “The New Adventures Of The Saint” with Ogilvy playing Simon Templar. His Jag was unique because it was one of a rare handful sporting a 5-speed manual transmission.
The car still exists and occasionally makes the local show circuit.
Here is a photo of Ian Ogilvy with the white Jaguar XJ-S coupe in Rome, Italy 🇮🇹. Interesting fact was he was slated to be the next James Bond.
Hawaii 5-O McGarrett, Big Merc. Book ’em, Dano. http://50undercover.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/lincoln.jpg
The Avengers John Steed. 1927 Bentley 4.5L http://www.wickedlady.com/blog2010/bentley27.jpg
Ah, yes…Magnum’s Ferrari.
Some years ago it was written that Magnum’s ride was supposed to be a Porsche 928, but the sunroof was too small to allow good visibility of the star, Tom Selleck, in location shots. The story goes that there was some talk of installing a 924/944 sunroof (which was larger, and removable) into a 928 body, but someone (perhaps Porsche) nixed the idea.
Thus, the Ferrari 308 GTS (with its generously-sized Targa top) became the show’s co-star…
No one has mentioned the white Corvette (license plate: Spirit) that Bill Bixby drove in The Magician. I was influenced enough to get into magic as a teen as well as own a ‘Vette in later years!
I forgot about The Magician’s ‘Vette. Always a cool ride.
He also had that customized Boeing 720. Too cool. He could drive the 74 Vette right up into it if memory serves. Of course, I was only 14 at the time, but as a kid that liked airplanes and cool cars, I watched this show faithfully for its short run.
The pilot episode of ‘Magician’ had a ’73 Vette, since it was filmed in spring ’73. But then the ’74 for the series running 1973-74, one season wonder.
My favorite P.I. is Sam Spade, But for C.C.s nothing there: He was to cheap/broke to have a car! So I’ll go with Peter Gunn’s 1959 Plymouth Fury!
Beat up old Plymouths were a staple of the hard luck TV detective. Check out Darrin McGavin’s ride from the late 60s detective series The Outsider.
Don’t forget that Banacek owned a Packard Darrin. The classiest PI ride?
Didn’t Banacek drive a late thirties, early forties Packard convertible. maybe a Darrin when he wasn’t being chauffeured around in a Cadillac Fleetwood 75
Reposted without mention of Mike Ehrmantraut’s Fifth Avenue? (Alligator skin might be a bit much)
Tubbs ’63 Caddy ‘vert, and Crocketts Ferarri. Liked the Cad better myself 🙂
I’m glad I’m not the only one who’d rather have that Cadillac!
Same here. If you want an old Cadillac, something from that era is the one to own.
I watched most of these shows. Cannon was huge but so cool and his Continental Marks were just right, he even had a mobile phone in his car if I recall correctly. Barnaby Jones was ok, a totally different role for Buddy after the Hillbillys. Banacek was too cerebral. Magnum P.I. was definitely my favourite show of the ’80s.
Cannon did have a car phone, But Peter Gunn beat him to it!
Although Peter Gunn drove a 1959 Plymouth Sport Fury convertible, his awesome theme song puts me in mind of a 1958-60 Continental. Black with 4 doors. Menacing but in a cool sort of way with its canted headlights and V-8 powered heft. What the Soviet Union should have used as the template for its early ’60s ZILs instead of keeping the mid-50s Packard theme.
Always a fan of The Equalizer with his XJ6.
Yeah, That was a perfect match for The Equalizer! (the real one, not the crappy recent movie)
Just to put it out there, since your a fan of the original Equalizer I have a rare item from the show. I have an original crew jacket. I know it’s rare because the producer friend of mine that I got it from said they were only given to the higherups Directors,Producers and assistant directors. It’s in really good shape it’s a medium size has black leather sleeves. Does say Tim on it in red thread. Thanks, Tim Kelly
Here is a photo of the 1985 Jaguar XJ-6 series III saloon that Mr. McCall drove. He was a retired CIA intelligence officer who became a private
Here is a photo of a 1985 Jaguar XJ-6 series III saloon which looks like the car used on the series..
This was from a sales catalogue
No mention of all those beautiful mopars in the Mod Squad……
The Professionals (ok, not P.I.s, but govt agents) fast Fords are definitely my faves. This pic sums it all up for me. Lairy driving into strategically placed cardboard boxes. What’s better than that, whether you’re 15 or 51?!
Rockford’s Firebird was the best. I am told Firebirds used on the show were not actually Esprits, but gold painted Formula 400’s with their hoods and spoilers removed. The idea was the Formula model’s increased performance better facilitated stunt driving. And Garner did indeed do most of the driving in the series.
Great article – I missed it the first time around. I could only add maybe three; all great UK shows,
– The Baron’s Jensen CV-8
– Inspector Morse’s Jaguar Mk II
– The Prisoner’s Lotus 7 (and Mini Moke)
I never get tired of the long opening sequence of the Prisoner, especially the shot down the long bonnet of the Seven as he drives into the parking garage.
I’d never seen a Jensen CV-8 until recently when watching the BBC series London Spy. I had to look it up on imcdb.com to determine the model. Great car.
Jason King’s Bentley was a favourite of mine. I had a crush on actor Peter Wyngarde who played him. I’m sure he also had a Jensen Interceptor.
Inspector Lynley’s Bristol is my favourite TV detective’s car
And, if you are going to bring up Ms. Peel’s Lotus, what about Steed’s Bentley?
My favorite was always Jim Rockford’s Firebird. Great cars.
Probably the most “real” of the bunch was Kojak’s Buick. A PI’s car has to be,above all else, inconspicuous. What better in the mid-70s than a brown Colonnade?
If I were car-casting a PI today, I’d go with a dark blue or gray Prius, preferably a few years old. Nobody’d give it a second glance, even if it passes by the wrong place at the wrong time…just an Uber driver who took a wrong turn…Plus, there’d be plenty of opportunities for the main character to lampshade the lack of a cool car!
I have no idea what P.I.s actually drive (probably something inconspicuous, but that’s not good for TV) OTOH, Kojak wasn’t a Private Investigator, but rather an NYPD police detective, so he’d have to drive something from the city motor pool. IDK if they actually had Buicks or not, But an “A” body GM sedan is reasonable.
Here is a copy of the 1974 Buick Century 4-door sedan
Cars of “X Files”! Quite a humble lot there, with some tried and true CC favorites.
it seems to stick in my then ten year old memory that Barnaby jones drive an imperial?
I always had a thing for them and that stuck in my mind as the only time I saw a “regular” tv character drive one.
He drove a 73 LTD 2-door hardtop. Easy for me to remember as one of these was my very first car.
Who is Efrem Zimblast?
Oh, you mean Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., who went on to star in “The FBI”! Also, Stephanie’s dad.
John Steed in The Avenger’s always had an interesting ride. I believe he drove a series of different 1920’s Bentleys for his motoring pleasure.
I knew that, and Stephanie is a swell looking doll, even if her old man worked with the Feds, See??
As with some of the others here, I like Jim Rockford’s Firebird the best. I love watching all those stunts. Many of them are on Youtube. I even built a model of the car from a Trans Am kit a few years ago. I also have a scratch built model of his trailer. It and the Firebird look good together on the shelf. Yep, I am a big fan of the show.
In the first season of Riptide, another favorite of mine, Cody (Perry King) drove a ’47 or ’48 Ford woody until he wrecked it. Ouch! After that he drove a Jimmy.
In Simon and Simon, A.J. drove a ’57 Chevy convertible until he got a red Camaro.
I thought the Toronado in Mannix was way over the top. As mentioned above, you need something inconspicuous for PI work. I remember in the Rockford pilot film, he couldn’t believe that he was being tailed by a guy in a red Cadillac convertible with the top down.
I thought that the Dart and Barracuda that Mannix later drove were a better choice.
I always liked Jim Rockford’s Firebird, but I always liked that red and silver GMC truck (a Jimmy maybe?) that his Dad drove on the show.
Here’s another cool car: the ‘cuda ragtop from a show that Don Johnson starred in long after Miami Vice. It was yellow I think and the show was set in Frisco.
That’s right… Couldn’t recall the name until after I posted… I think Cheech was his partner on the show.
I had forgotten about that Cuda, but, then I only watched that show a few times.
I always liked Rocky’s GMC trucks, too. I was in California in the ’90’s and drove down to the Sandcastle where Rockford and a lot of other TV shows were filmed. They were shooting one of the Rockford TV movies, so we couldn’t go all the way down to where the set was, but I was happy just to get to see the Firebird parked by the newer trailer that Jim lived in at that time.
I have noticed from watching Rockford episodes that in nearly every one a silver Vega appears somewhere in the foreground or background. Victor Jorey even drove it in one episode.
I am surprised that no one has mentioned Dan Tanna’s (?) ’57 TBird from VEGA$.
Supposedly the red ’57 T-bird generated as much fan mail as the easy-on-the-eyes but wooden actor who drove it.
Anybody remember Nero Wolfe being chauffeured in a bullet nose Studebaker? I vaguely recall Philip Marlowe driving a depression era Plymouth.
Nero Wolf….did he need a car…… A beer.!…And close the damned window!……..
As a kid I lived for Friday nights when 77 Sunset Strip aired. Kookie’s car was okay but it was the glamorous Thunderbird convertibles used by Stu (and later by Jeff) that did it for me. Ford also supplied lots of Sunliners and Lincoln convertibles for other characters. The early episodes (by far the best) exuded film noir (helped by Warner Brothers poorly lit sets) and what better symbol for late 50’s/early 60’s LA than a T-Bird with the top down? Although the locale is long gone, I still think of the show when driving down the Strip.
You can still see the view over LA from where Dino’s would have been, I think it is where the theatre is now??
KJ in Oz
Personally I really like Capt. Hasting’s 1931 Lagonda 2-litre from the Poirot TV series.
One correction; Mannix alternated the Cyclones with the Barris car in the first season, when he worked for a PI firm. From the second season on, when he worked on his own, he drove a Dart GT convertible, then a ‘Cuda convertible (updated in 72, even though Plymouth no longer offered one), then a Challenger with a sunroof, and finally a Camaro.
His assistant. Peggy. went from a Simca 1000 (!) to a Plymouth Cricket (!!) and finally a Vega (!!!). Well, you generally saw them parked in a carport, so little chance for maladies.
Lots of great cars and trucks on that show, mostly but not all Mopars, including both the ’67-’68 and ’69-’71 versions of the Armbruster-Stageway Imperial limousine.
Richard Diamond drove a DeSoto convertible with a mobile phone (which was pre-cell phone technology). I believe the series started in 1957 and lasted for three or four seasons. When he spoke to his office on that phone, his secretary was a woman who was referred to as “Sam.” I don’t know why they did it, but you only saw Sam’s legs. Sam was played by Mary Tyler Moore.
Oh, that means Richard Diamond beat Peter Gunn to the use of the a car phone by a P.I.! The phones would be point to point analog (naturally) radio systems, and was limited to a few hundred (max) in a city and forget about just calling, sometimes the user could wait for an hour to get a “line” This expense service lasted from the late 1940s until the 1980s, then Analog cellular and finally Digital pcs took over. PS I love the Richard Diamond Radio show,unfortunately I haven’t seen the TV version.
Just a minor quibble, but “Barnaby Jones” lasted until 1980, and his final season car was a ’79 Panther platform LTD. So, he managed to be on the air into the ‘downsized big car’ era.
Setting the “way-back” time machine to somewhere around the mid-50s brings back memories of Broderick Crawford in episodes of California Highway Patrol piloting those big Buicks in chase scenes. The use of the word ” piloting” is in reference to the boat-like antics exhibited by those softly sprung old barges. Great show for the time.
I can’t believe that in 113 posts, NO ONE mentioned Hawaii 5-0’s Steve McGarrett and his Mercurys!! (c:
EDIT: D’OH! I just realized, this was about “Private Investigator” cars….Oh, well!! LOL!! (c:
Don’t worry, Kojack’s Buick was mentioned, And the cars from “Highway Patrol” So not everyone stuck to the “private” detective “rule”!
To add some more FoMoCo steel to the 5-0 Mercs, I’ll throw in the ’76 “Tomato” from Starskey & Hutch!
I can’t believe Dan Tanna’s ’57 T-bird was only mentioned once!
But what about Colt Seavers’ 1980 GMC 4×4? That truck (and Heather Thomas) was the whole reason I watched that show. OK, he’s a bounty hunter, but he still did a lot of investigating.
Not a car , but remember PI Robert Ironsides Ford V8 van? Shown here as the rare Corgi Juniors model.
…and from the BBC television series “Bergerac” in the 1980s: Bergerac’s 1949 Triumph 2000 Roadster
Loved the cars from the Rockford Files, and Mannix. But I’m a Ford guy and I loved watching Cannon and his big Lincoln Marks (especially the stunning Mark III) and Charlie’s Angels, where Sabrina drove her loaded up Pinto and Jill/Kris & Kelly drove their Mustang IIs. I’ve had 5 IIs, including my current 78 T-top King Cobra, and people say it reminds them of “the car from Charlie’s Angels”. Nothing from the 70s was a powerhouse, but the V8 Mustangs still moved smartly, could still do burnouts and could still make chase scenes fun to watch. The big Lincolns on Cannon could still burn some rubber with their 460 cubic inch V8s but it was fun watching their excessive weight torture the front tires.
In later seasons of “CA”, sometimes Jaclyn Smith’s character was seen driving a Fox body Mustang. But, would still use stock footage of the orange Pinto and 2 Stang II’s parked in front of main office.
Dan Tanna’s 1957 Thunderbird was the best car of all!
Since commenters are naming cars driven by non-PI television characters (usually some sort of undercover cop), I’d add the 1967 Volvo P1800 Simon Templar drove. I’m not exactly sure what his profession was but it seemed closer to PI than cop.
CC effect: I know this is about television PIs, but I just watched the old Frank Sinatra movie Tony Rome and he drives a 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner convertible (the movie was released in 1967).
I only bring it up because the car appears to be missing its front vent windows. Because the movie is set in Miami, the top is down most of the time and, as one might expect with that kind of modification, it’s never shown with the windows rolled up.
Don’t forget the Classic Mercedes & Kubelwagens on Hogans Heroes…
Here’s a turtle doing a perfect impression of that stolen customized 69 AMX from Banacek.
“Barnaby Jones” where everything is in 70s earth-toned color…including his ride.
And Sherriff Andy Taylor’s Squad Cars – Fords from about 1959 through 1967. z
A 1962 shown here.
Anyway, “Andy” lasted until 1968, and had ’68 Fords that spring. “Mayberry RFD” took its place, until 1971 “Rural Purge”, but seemed to not feature car scenes.
In one episode of Magnum PI they were in England and Higgins (the boss’s butler) drives a Reliant Rialto 3-wheeler. I thought it was the better known Reliant Robin, but when I looked it up before writing this post, l discovered my error. In any case it was fun to see one in a mainstream TV series.
Looking for 70s blue Cadillac El dorado,,,convertible,,,it was a TV detective I think early or mid 80s. Thanks,,,love to here if you know anything about it.
I remember when drug pushers were villains in many of these shows, for example “Miami Vice”. Now they’re the sponsors (“Ask your doctor about…”).
Also, re Edd Byrnes (“Kookie”) – As “77 Sunset Strip” was nearing the end of its run, Byrnes stared in a particularly scary episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” called “Final Escape”. Byrnes played a prisoner sentenced for life. He made a deal with the prison doctor who was in charge of all the burials. The next time a prisoner died (announced by a bell ringing in the prison yard), Byrnes would climb into the coffin, be buried, and then Doc would dig him up. What could POSSIBLY go wrong?!
tv series SHANNON that ran for 1 season 61-62 and starring george nader. anyone know what happened to the buick special used in show? also wondering what color the car was. the series wasn’t bad but to a kid at that time all the car gadgets were cool.
Here is a car that should be mentioned. 1969 Cadillac de Ville convertible in white with white leather interior. The photo is a carbon copy of the car Boss Hogg would be driving around in.
Vegas pi show.Dan Tanna’s Tbird!
How about the Vegas Tv show!