Much like the big Hollywood stars, we all know the glamorous movie and television star cars.
But for every General Lee, DeLorean, Aston Martin DB5 and effeminate Pontiac Trans Am that finds global fame, there are dozens, if not hundreds of unsung hero cars who do all the heavy lifting.
Whether it be hanging around in the background as a reminder of what year the movie is set in, or being unceremoniously destroyed so that the hero can take out the bad guy and make some sort of quip about buckling up his seatbelt, there are many low-profile heroes that we think need a bit of long-overdue recognition.
So here are some today!
Ford Crown Victoria
The dear old Crown Vic is the obvious one, but also probably the most deserving or recognition.
According to the Internet Movie Car Database (IMCDB) the Crown Vic has appeared in 4,877 movies and TV shows, which is the highest number of appearances by ANY CAR, EVER!
It overshadows the second placed car – the Ford Mustang – by more than 2,000 appearances and, yet, virtually none of those have been starring roles.
When you are virtually the default choice for police cars and taxis throughout the 80s, 90s and 2000s then you are gonna have a LOT of background roles in American movies.
It was produced from 1978 to 1991 as the Ford LTD Crown Victoria (which adds a further 1,054 appearances to its tally!) and then from 1992 to 2011 as just the Ford Crown Victoria (and also as the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor from 1998 to 2011).
Because of this it was far too young to take the starring role in arguably the greatest cinematic appearance of a police car – The Blues Brothers. The role of the Bluesmobile went to “the hottest police car of the time”, the Dodge Monaco, with the Crown Vic scoring the role in the utterly awful 1998 sequel Blues Brothers 2000.
The iconic American taxi, the Checker was produced by the Checker Motors Corporation that was established to build taxis for Checker Taxi. Getting an idea where the name came from?
While it had built a number of cars for the taxi trade, the real icon appeared in 1956, after New York changed its taxi regulations in 1954, effectively requiring the company to build an entirely new cab.
By 1958 quad headlights were made legal in the USA and the Checker’s iconic look was set until 1982 when it ended production.
Rows of Checkers jostling for position on crowded New Yorks streets is a default image for movies set there during the Checker’s dominant reign, with it gradually being edged off the silver screen by the Crown Vic.
Unlike the Ford, the Checker did have a number of starring roles in movies and TV shows, with the “civilian” version (the Checker Marathon) standing in for local cars in many US shows supposedly set in Eastern Europe, starring roles in the 1983 comedy movie “D.C. Cab” and in the Martin Scorsese masterpiece “Taxi Driver”, as well as being the centrepiece of the long-running sitcom “Taxi”
Yes, that one. The one built by the Aussies that was basically the local equivalent of the Checker and Crown Vic. The default Taxi. The background furniture of the local motoring scene.
The Falcon has had quite a quietly successful career in Holly wood movies since it first leapt to fame as a hero car in the “Mad Max” series of films. But it is not the very cool early coupes and V8s we are talking about here; the basic taxi-spec inline six form the XD through to the BA has had quiet an understatedly successful career in movies and television too!
Of course, both in Australia and New Zealand productions it is the default police car or taxi, so notches up quite a few appearances in local and local-set movies and TV shows, but it has had glimpses of international fame as well, most notably thanks to Tom Cruise.
Large parts of Cruise’s film “Mission: Impossible II” was set in Sydney and much of the filming took place locally, meaning that the Falcon gets a surprising amount of screen time (along with a few other notable locals, for that matter).
This one isn’t so notable for its many background appearances (although it has had many of those), but more for a handful of supremely good but largely unsung leading roles.
The 406 is the star of the first 3 of Luc Besson’s extremely successful “Taxi” franchise of action/comedy movies. The 406 is always shown on the movie posters in the air, and that is about what it does during the movies as well.
Kitted out with a remarkable array of hidden features (like race tyres, spoilers, splitters and rotating number plates) the 406 is definitely the star of the first three movies (it was replaced by a 407 in the latest instalment), but they are largely unknown outside of France, so that leaves the 406’s biggest role internationally to be its appearance in the brilliant 1998 John Frankenheimer thriller “Ronin”.
Here the little French car is thrown in with an Audi A8, three Peugeot 605s, a Citroen XM, a BMW 535i and a mighty Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 in one of the greatest car chases ever filmed and one that takes up most of the last half of the movie (with a few breaks for plot twists and the like), all filmed live and with not a single special effect in sight.
Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9
The biggest, baddest Mercedes of its time has to make this list not only for its fantastic appearance in Ronin, as mentioned above (where Robert DeNiro’s character fires a rocket launcher out of the sunroof while Jean Reno’s characters drifts along a tight cliff-top road at full speed!), but also for possibly the most unsung movie appearance of all time – its starring role win the classic French film “C’était un rendez-vous” (“It Was a Date”) by Claude Lelouch.
Essentially 8 minutes of the most outlandish hoonery committed to film at the time of its release in 1976, it ostensibly features director Lelouch thrashing his Ferrari 275 GTB at full speed through the streets of Paris early one morning.
Except, despite the engine soundtrack being that of the Ferrari, and the car featuring on the film’s poster, this wasn’t exactly the case.
Nope, the actual car Lelouch mounted his massive camera on the nose of was his thoroughly massive Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9, the full-size luxury sedan that Mercedes had taken the wonderful step of jamming a 213kW/549Nm 6.9-litre into. And this was in 1975, remember!