Staff Picks: Tune In, Turn On, and Burn Out – The Most Iconic Cars in Television

If you’re like me, you spend your weekends locked away in your room. Preferably in a dank basement with the curtains pulled shut, alternating between an internal debate on how often one actually needs to shower and binging on an unlimited supply of new television. Whether it’s on Netflix or, if you’re, like, super old, on a syndicated network, it has become absolutely clear that we are a society that revolves around entertainment. Having seen such a wide plethora of television series’, I feel confident in asserting that I am a local authority in entertainment trivia; Or, as well-adjusted adults like to refer to it, a ‘sad person’.

When you become a devoted television enthusiast, there comes a point in your binging where you start to discover trends within the industry. It becomes clear that most successful shows share certain elements that consistently draw viewers in: Relatable plot lines, impossibly cool cars, and an executive producer’s credit for Dick Wolf. Can you guess which one of these aspects we’re going to cover today? It’s not relatable plot lines, as I have a hard enough time relating to people in the real world as it is. It’s not Dick Wolf, as I assume he will ultimately end up with his own series called The Nutty Producer in which he plays all of the roles (that’s a freebie, Mr. Wolf). No, this is a car blog, and we will be talking about cars. Specifically the most iconic cars in television history (according to me). There are enough of these generic lists out there that I feel like I need to change it up a bit. With that in mind, let’s explore (in no particular order) some of the more underappreciated vehicles in television history.

Steve Urkel’s BMW Isetta (Family Matters) 

Sure, it didn’t pop up in Family Matters until episode 76, but the Urkel Isetta played an important part in Steve’s transformation to the suave, sophisticated Stefan Urquelle. There was nothing magic or notably special about the vehicle. Yet, within the context of the show, it just worked. It was the perfect ride for the most perfect dork. Originally gifted to Urkel by his uncle as a bribe to stay away, the Isetta pops up in multiple episodes until ultimately meeting its demise in episode 129, falling off of a cliff during a lovers quarrel at the local make-out point (Spoiler alert, Urkel survives).

BMW Isetta

Walter White’s Pontiac Aztek (Breaking Bad) 

Breaking Bad was a high point in television drama, and cemented a spot in the hearts of people (that weren’t balding high school chemistry teachers) across the world. If you’ve seen the show, you know the car. Walter owned a 2004 Pontiac Aztek. The show used a faded version of the factory paint job for the Aztek and chose to remove the factory alloy wheel on the driver’s rear corner, opting to use a less visually appealing steel replacement wheel in an effort to make the vehicle look as ‘unhip’ as possible. This vehicle needs to be mentioned, if for no other reason, because of the sheer amount of damage it takes throughout the series without giving in. In several instances, the vehicle’s windshield is shattered, is used to take down rival drug dealers who have held Walter’s partner hostage, and purposefully crashed by Walter to avoid incriminating conversations. As the show progresses and Heisenberg is born, the Aztek is phased out, with Walter selling the vehicle to his mechanic for $50 in favor of a Chrysler 300.

Pontiac Aztek

The Bluth Company’s Stair Car (Arrested Development) 

Having lost everything due to corporate tomfoolery, the Bluth family is reduced to so little that they have to use their company’s stair car for transportation. Originally intended for entering and exiting the company jet that had since been taken from them. As the series progressed, the stair car became a character in itself, from destroying low hanging banners and assisting in a prison break, to becoming a soap box for Lucille Austero’s political campaign, the vehicle served to move several important plot lines forward.

Bluth Stair Truck

Eric Foreman’s 1969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser (That 70’s Show) 

The Vista Cruiser from That 70’s Show is the setting for countless scenarios in the show, appearing from the very onset of the series in the pilot episode. The show’s intro takes place entirely inside of the vehicle and represents the one true source of independence for the gang. An entire episode is even centered around getting the vehicle back, after Red Foreman sells it by accident at a garage sale while under the influence of ‘special brownies’. Ultimately, at the end of the series, Fez ends up purchasing the vehicle for $500, ensuring for fans that it was still shuffling the gang around long after the cameras had turned off. For my generation, the Vista Cruiser will always hold its place among the most iconic vehicles in television history.

1969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser

ifc.com

The Bus (The Magic School Bus) 

How can we talk about iconic vehicles in television without paying respect to what should really be considered, not only the greatest vehicle of all time, but the most profound technology of all time? Setting aside how wildly careless and borderline psychotic Ms. Frizzle is, the central character of the show is undoubtedly “The Bus”. While it’s magic is never fully explained, there are several factors discussed in the show that points to the origins of the vehicle’s mystical power source. The most reoccurring magical devices built into the bus are the shrinkerscope and the mesmerglober. The shrinkscope, unsurprisingly, works to shrink and resize the bus and the students inside, seemingly at the unchecked whimsy of the living god that is Ms. Frizzle. The mesmerglober’s purpose is focused on changing the overall shape of the bus, whether that means converting into a spaceship, a submarine, or a bus-igator (Yes, it’s a hybrid bus alligator, just go with it).

Magic School Bus

Notable Mentions: 

The Party Wagon (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), The Mystery Machine (Scooby Doo), The “Baby” Chevy Impala (Supernatural), 1921 Oldsmobile (The Beverly Hillbillies), All of the vehicles (Pimp My Ride).

1921 Oldsmobile Model 43-A

Readers are sure to have their own opinion on which television cars deserve a spot among the pantheon of iconic rides, and I doubt it that it perfectly lines up with my own. Think I’m wrong? Prove it. I’ll just stubbornly refuse to agree with you anyways, it’s a family tradition. Which vehicles make your list?

This is another article in our ‘Staff Picks’ lineup, an opportunity for our Staff Writers to offer personal insights regarding the automotive industry and beyond!

About the Author:
Flint is a web designer at Carsforsale.com, his free time is spent with a concerted focus on not only being so fresh, but also so clean. Currently, Flint can be found staring into the abyss and wondering if it’s his personality that is causing the abyss to not stare back.