Vintage cars and classic tunes- they go together like burgers and milkshakes or pizza and beer. Both are reflections of our youth, and a simpler, happier, and more innocent time. Many of the things that we see, hear, and witness during our formative adolescent years leave a permanent and indelible impression upon our psyche. Certain vehicles and popular songs are no exception.
As a teen who came of age during the latter half of the 80’s, I used to rush home after school and try to finish my homework in time to catch Video One, a local video show on KHJ-TV Channel 9. It was hosted by Richard Blade, who was also a popular DJ on alternative radio station KROQ 106.7 FM. There was also Video 22, a 3-4 hour long video show on KWHY Ch. 22. I wore out the channel selector on my parents’ old Zenith console TV constantly switching back and forth between Video 22 and Voltron.
As a car-crazy kid, one of my favorite pastimes was seeing what sort of cool vintage iron I could spot in the hottest music videos of the day. There were some that left a lasting impression- not only on me, but other car buffs as well.
My very first example is more of a show pony than a genuine CC, but I chose it because it is easily the most recognizable and iconic vintage automobile in popular music. It’s ZZ Top’s “Eliminator” ’34 Ford coupe. It appears prominently in the videos for the band’s biggest chart-topping hits, including “Gimme All Your Lovin'”, “Legs”, and “Sharp Dressed Man”.
The basic premise behind the video in those three songs is the same: some socially awkward and terminally unhip guy or gal is struggling to get along with his or her peers, when ZZ comes to the rescue to get them in touch with their inner cool. Along come three sexy vixens driving the ’34, whisking the subject away for a much needed transformation from nerd to stud / vamp.
Within a few short years, the Eliminator would be overshadowed by the spectacular Cadzilla, which would be the second vehicle built by the late Boyd Coddington for ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. Nevertheless, it’s the Eliminator that put ZZ Top on hot rodding’s road map.
Bruce Springsteen’s songs reflect his All American, blue-collar sensibilities, so it only makes sense that his music videos should showcase some of Dearborn’s finest, as they do in this case.
In the video for “I’m On Fire”, a song about the temptation of forbidden love, Bruce plays the owner of a grungy auto repair shop. One of his frequent customers is a wealthy, pampered desperate housewife who brings her prized vintage Thunderbird in every week for the most arbitrary and trivial of reasons, suggesting that she wants ol’ Bruce to tune up more than just her car. They never show the woman’s face- only her shapely legs clad in high heels and a flouncy skirt. When she hands him her car keys, her house key is attached.
After a sleepless night of wrestling with his conscience vs. his male urges, he finally hops into her car during the wee hours and heads out to her big mansion in the hills.
When Bruce finally arrives at her castle, he sees a single light on upstairs. Just as he’s about to ring the doorbell, he inexplicably chickens out. Instead he quietly drops her keys in the mail slot, and turns and walks away. How he gets back home is a mystery.
One of The Boss’ lesser hits is a tune called “One Step Up”, a sad, mournful number that deals with a once-loving relationship gone terribly sour. It was inspired by Springsteen’s own crumbling marriage at the time. As downcast as the song is, it does contain a nice shot of a ’57 Fairlane sitting at a railroad crossing.
Aretha Franklin’s “Freeway Of Love” is a vintage car spotter’s dream. It contains a generous amount of behind-the-scenes footage at Detroit auto assembly plants, as well as old highway footage. And of course, Aretha’s own ’57 Cadillac Series 62. It’s almost a tribute to the American automobile. I wonder if Aretha is a closet gearhead…
My favorite part is at the very end, where a train passes by loaded to the gills with brand new 71-73 SportsRoof Mustangs as the sun sets in the background.
From the Motor City, we move clear across the country to Southern California, where veteran New York rapper L.L. Cool J cruises past various Southern California landmarks in the video for his single “Going Back To Cali”. His ride is a sinister-looking blacked out ’68 / ’69 Corvette convertible.
Native residents of the L.A. area will probably recognize some of old landmarks shown in the video, including the long-gone Pan Pacific Auditorium in Hollywood, and the still-operating Chip’s Diner in the city of Hawthorne.
In the video for Mr. Mister’s single “Broken Wings”, the group’s lead singer takes a journey of self-discovery in his ’58-’60 Thunderbird convertible. There’s a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor at the very end of the video here.
The final seconds of footage show the singer taking the last swig of his canteen before throwing it on the ground. He wanders to a rail overlooking a scenic cliff, while his ride sits there with the hood up suffering from some unknown mechanical malady. Broken wings indeed.
I’ll end this first installment with the rides of another great American rock n’ roll band, Van Halen. First up is Diamond Dave’s radical custom ’51 Merc ragtop- the same one featured in the video for VH’s single “Panama”:
And who can forget the outrageous stretched T-bucket in the video for “Hot For Teacher”?
Well, that’s it for now. I don’t want to make this post too long, so I’ll end it here. I’m stuck at home recuperating from a fractured ankle, so I have plenty of time to work on Part 2. Stay tuned…
This was one of the cars that had a huge impression on me as a kid. It was in “Rebel Without a Cause” without the flames, and in “Grease” with the flames. Also, Stallone drove a chopped coupe version in “Cobra”. That movie was much later though.
There was also a chopped coupe in Nightbreed,a seriously under rated horror film from Clive Barker.Overshadowed by his Hellraiser franchise
My introduction to the Citroën Traction Avant was in the video for “The Politics of Dancing” by Re-Flex.
+ 1 Good choice of music.
Another that had a huge impact on me was the yellow hotrod Ford in “American Graffiti”.
Oh man, Goin’ Back to Cali. Designed to blow the mind of a rust belt suburban dork in 1988. I totally wanted LL’s Vette. And his vibe. And his models.
Bikini – small, heels – tall, she said she liked…the ocean.
And here’s another…the black Dodge in the movie “Bullet”.
Ah, good ol’ Bruce. I haven’t seen that video in a while. Pretty poignant stuff. Cars figure pretty prominently in a lot of his songs. I saw him for the first time in at the Seattle Center Arena in December 1978… the dude played three encores. We thought he was never going to stop! I catch his show whenever he comes to town.
One more, this time a truck. The Dodge power wagon from the TV show “Simon and Simon”.
Very nice Chris !
The Eliminator (car and album) made me buy all of ZZ Top’s previous albums back then…and these were much better than Eliminator. Certainly their first three albums.
By the way, I like the correct spelling of Van Halen. Unlike Vandenberg. Anyway…I saw Adje van den Berg
(or Mr. Van den Berg, if you wish) on a TV show here a while ago. Still the Guitar Man he has always been, alive and kicking and looking good. With a decent quantity of (long) hair.
I agree, the first three ZZ Top albums were probably the best.
The Eliminator Ford looked great, but the Cadzilla was much more awesome.
As a matter a fact, those first ZZ Top albums made me travel back in time. Right to the folk, blues and cajun of the twenties and thirties. Then you get to the Fire Starters; guys like Robert Johnson and
At the time I quite liked the Eliminator (built by Don Thelan not Coddington) but as hot rods moved more in that direction or monochrome smoothed lines & graphics I don’t think it’s aged well.
Chris I think we lived parallel lives in SoCal, I did exactly the same things at the same time…
How about The Human League’s “Don’t you want me” with the Rover 3500 and Saab 900 Turbo?
That is actually a 99 Turbo due to the the incline of the quarter panel from the rear wheels to the rear bumper and the front fascia which is most visible at 2:54. It has always perplexed me why the Rover 3500 has so many dents on its passenger side, but maybe it is an illusion.
You know, I was thinking 99 the whole time but typed 900, you are absolutely correct…. I was looking at the wheels which were available on both, love that wheel style.
I sure do remember those!
I think it’s ironic that while The Human League is still around, Saab and Rover aren’t.
This is a good bunch of videos and I want to look up the meaning of LL Cool J’s Going Back to Cali. Have to confess that I have never warmed up much to Van Halen but that is probably because their music is overplayed on the radio and most of their songs I hear are aimed toward high schoolers.
I finally made it to SoCal in my early 20s and being exposed to the car culture first hand sure was an enlightening experience. Those lowriders like the ones in Still D.R.E and other music videos are cool in their own sort of way.
In 1976 Van Halen was starting to be played on the LA radio stations. A friend got tickets to see them at the Pasadena Auditorium for five bucks! We were in the front right below the stage and I remember saying I didn’t really care for them, but I bet they will make it big time. In January 1977 we went to either the Whiskey or the Starwood to see them again. I remember two things about that. I was a few days short of my 21st birthday and the waitress got pissed when I tried to get her to serve me a drink because my birthday was so close. The other thing is watching this old woman all dressed up dancing away with all the young people. A couple of people asked me if I knew who she was. I had no idea. Turns out she was Mae West!
A Heavily modified pink FJ40 in DLR’s A Lil’ Ain’t Enough plus a few others.
Guns N’ Roses’ Don’t Cry where Slash drives a GT350 off of a cliff.
Music videos were just ahead of my time being born in the late 80s, by the time we had MTV it had already turned into a shitty reality/prank show channel and the most I ever saw of music videos were late at night featuring terrible terrible boy band type pop so popular in the late 90s(insync, backstreet boys and all the other femme horsemen of the musical apocolypse). The Van Halens and ZZ tops as well as Motley Crue, Ratt and W.A.S.P.(the only L.A. hair bands worth a damn),to lesser extent, were the most enjoyable to me and I could only find them occasionally on VH1 at the time. Best car based video has to go to Sammy Hagar though, even if he did later ruin Van Halen…
From MTV’s earliest days, the 1960 Buick in The Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed”……
Nailhead power, both in and out of the cockpit!
You beat me to it. Just love Belinda Carlisle and that ’60 Buick.
While they look very similar, ZZ Top’s Eliminator is a 1933 Ford, not a 34.
Love is bigger than a Honda. And it’s bigger than a Subaru. Hey man there’s only one thing and one car that will do: Natalie Cole Pink Cadillac: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhHLifMnUxw
Grace Jones opens her mouth and a Citroën CX GTI comes out.
Giant Robotic Grace Jones opens her mouth and a Citroen CX GTi comes out!
Robert Plant’s 55 Chevy in the Big Log video is still a favourite song and car.
My recent favorite:
I’m kinda suprised to see you as a rap fan, specifically a Macklemore fan. Learn something new everyday.
Car casting in this video is perfect for current CC.
Russ Ballard’s “Voices”….A two ton Chevy truck, a Rolls and a Bell JetRanger. A truly epic and expensive video for a somewhat obscure song….
Here’s one that’s anything but obscure – Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer”. Lots of CCs in this one, including an offset cab Mack (do they allow any other kind of truck in NYC?) U-model….
It looks like in Bananarama’s Cruel Summer two Macks were used since one has what looks like a standard width cab and one does not.
And then there’s the school bus from Wendy O Williams and the Plasmatics’ “The Damned”,…..
Well, this site is just about the LAST place I thought I would ever see Wendy O. Williams referenced, amazing! Nice find.
A Peugeot 505 belonging to the father and a Citroen 2CV Charleston driven by the estranged mother in this poignant video by Asia.
That’s some powerful and moving stuff. That poor little girl chose to end her life by jumping off a bridge rather than stay with her mom. Sad.
Why limit ourselves to English? This one isn’t from the “classic” music video era, but here’s Tic Tac Toe (Germany’s answer to the Spice Girls), with their big ’90s hit “Ich find dich scheiße”….
a 66 Chrysler gets torched in Burnin’ For You
Look closely. The car they actually torch is a 65 Newport sedan, not the 66 4-door hardtop used in the rest of the video.
Oh, I can’t believe I’m the first one to post this one, from Whitesnake featuring Tawny Kitaen in honor of Keith Thelen and his search for XJ6 parts…
Oh Yeah! Forgot about this one.
Heh. I was going to post this. As a pre-pubescent youth, I remember being very interested in the Jag and not so much in Tawny.
Lacquer – Behind (You and Your Smile)
The song is a bit mellow for my tastes, but the video is cool.
not the greatest of their songs (they were better in the 70s) but a sexy babe in a cool 68 442 and a 65-ish Ford pickup in Chicago’s “Stay the Night”
Not to mention the police KZ1000 bikes. Three of my favorite vehicles ever. Certainly on my top 15 list of my 3 three favorite vehicles ever. You guys know what I mean 🙂
Took the Dodge Dart, a ’74……
Tom Robinson and his band sung a song about a ‘Grey Cortina’ way back in ’71. That’ll be the Mk II I presume! No flash cars for this British singer, but a genuine working man’s motor. Car is not featured in this video, so just imagine a nice two door 1600 GT.
Aerosmith Crazy (the Marty Callner years). Fox Body Mustang with Liv Tyler and Alicia Silverstone
Here the original version of “Life is an highway” performed by Tom Cochrane where we see a 1965 Impala in the landscape of Southern Alberta.
Seems then the 1964-66 Chevrolet Impala was popular in some music videos. A bit earlier was the song “Sur la route”(“On the road”) performed by French-Canadian singer-songwriter Pierre Flynn filmed around Mont Saint-Hilaire.
Nice pale yellow Impala convertible in Within Temptation’s Angels video.
There’s a 1968-70 AMC Javelin in the music video of “Beyond Belief” made by the Christian rock band Petra in 1990.
And let’s not forget the AMC Pacer in Wayne’s World rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
Lou Graham Midnight Blue
Dr. Dre Let me Ride (Dirty)
Suicide door Continental, Charger Daytona, and Covair Rampside pick up in the Spice Girls ‘Say You’ll Be There” 🙂
Tragically Hip – Locked in the Trunk of a Car
The car is a 1966 Chrysler 300 4-door sedan (not hardtop), made in Canada.
and a ’65 300 in “Love Shack”
It may seat about 20, but the factory springs aren’t going to be happy.
Oh, come on! It’ll be fine.
It’s as big as a whale!
Ah yes, Love Shack. How could I have overlooked that one. 🙂
At The Hundreth Meridian – The Tragically Hip
The suspended car is a Morris Major Elite not made in Canada as far as I know. For lucky Australians only.
The things you remember…
And since Gem W seems distracted I’ll note The Pretenders “Brass In Pocket” where both Chrissy Hynde and the ’59 Cadillac look wildy out of place.
Big Star Big Star – “Thirteen” [Alternate Mix] too many to list: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnEzkeaopmA
Lee Fields – You’re The Kind Of Girl (OFFICIAL VIDEO):
1970 Cadillac CdV looking very cool indeed
I looked it up and the video for Hundredth Meridian was filmed while the Hip was on tour in Australia.
The first and last 60 seconds of the video for the Pet Shop Boys’ single “Suburbia” is a GM fanboy’s wet dream, with a late 60’s Mercury Colony Park and an early 80’s Toyota Corolla thrown in for good measure.
Since I`m probably older than most of you, and stopped listening to rock in `81 when MTV started,I`m really not too familiar with most of these artists or videos. For me? Gimme `50s,`60s and `70s rock.The Doors, the Dead, Creedence Clearwater, The Who,Zappa, Jethro Tull, Chicago,etc. Also I really love the Motown Sound, that great soul that kinda died when disco took over. Also, I`m heavily into classic music-Mozart,Beethoven, Vivaldi, Wagner, Schubert, Brahams, Haydn,Prokofiev, Bach, and great conductors. Nothing like listening to Wagners “Prelude to act lll of Lohengrin” or Prokofiev`s”Battle on the Ice” from Alexander Nevski while cruising on the highway on long distance trips.
You’ve given this Who fanboy an excuse to share this shot. Also enjoy their awesome Jaguar jingle from “The Who Sell Out”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkibmgLoRa0
Hands down I think the classic Ford T-Bird seems to one of the cars that appear in a lot of 1980’s videos.
A T-Bird is featured in Bruce Springsteen’s I’m on fire video, It also appears in the Mr.Mister Broken Wings video, R&B group the System’s video for Don’t disturb this groove and also the album cover for Don’t disturb this groove album.
It also appears in the video for the Australian band Australian Crawl’s song Reckless making the car truly international.
Yet another one centered around cruising in a convertible, Randy Newman’s “I Love LA”….
Convertible-cruising the California desert in an Austin-Healey in Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” —
Another notable pair of CCs featured in newer videos:
The 1990-94 Lincoln Town Car crashed into a wall at the end of Aerosmith’s “Living on the Edge”:
The 1971-74 Eldorado convertible driven recklessly down a desert highway in The Cardigans’ “My Favorite Game”:
Randy Newman’s 1983 homage to L.A. car culture does it for me, replete with a ’55 Buick convertible and accompanying redhead…..
When Mister Mister drove away from the oil derrick, he probably had to firewall that boat anchor 352 or 430 just to get what little gravel wheelspin he got.
Stone Sour’s say you’l haunt me has Corey Taylor taken from the boot (trunk) of a mean looking black E body ‘Cuda.
’72 or later Cuda. Neat video. I’ve never seen that one before.
Madness, Driving in My Car, of course.
Nice old Morris Minor convertible, but certainly not built “in a factory by the Tyne”!
And then there is the Sheik’s Eldorado convertible in The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah”
I have noticed a distinct lack of el Caminos here. This video will rectify that.
The Offspring mentions cruising around in a Pinto 😀
Girlschool’s Hit & Run cover has nice artwork of a boat tailed Riviera.They did a lot of photo shots in a RHD boat tail around the time of the tour and album release.Around the same time I had a massive crush on guitarist Kim McAuliffe’s boyfriend Mike Monroe the Hanoi Rocks frontman
Don’t forget Johnny Cash’s “One piece at a time”.
Forgot the photo!
Don’t forget the 64 Galaxie in Damn Yankees’ High Enough
Tex and the Horseheads, a vinyl record from my vast collection. Kinda lame of the boys looking tough but sipping buds. Anyone identity the car?
What happened to Part 2?