Classic TV Cars That Could Have Been Yours



2017-01-25 16:56:50

Forget actors - sometimes the car is the star of the show. From The General Lee to the Batmobile, here are eight iconic TV rides sold at auction that could have been yours...

The Mod Squad Dodge Challenger Convertible

The Mod Squad starred Michael Cole, Peggy Lipton and Clarence Williams III as a trio of rebellious youths recruited as cops to go undercover in 1960s counterculture.

Premiering in 1967, and running for five seasons, the show was one of the first on mainstream TV to recognize the social changes of the period, featuring issues such as abortion, student protest, the anti-war movement, soldiers returning from Vietnam, racism and the drug trade.

Not only did this 1971 Dodge Challenger Convertible star in a hit TV show, driven by but it remains perhaps the most highly optioned '71 Challenger convertible in existence - kitted out with bucket seats, a Rally dash with tachometer, power windows and power convertible top, an automatic transmission, power disc brakes, power steering, chrome exhaust tips and sport stripes.

(Image: Barrett-Jackson)

(Image: Barrett-Jackson)

It was one of dozens of cars that Chrysler loaned to Hollywood TV productions throughout the 60s and 70s, as a way of promoting their new models.

But when Chrysler discontinued the Dodge Challenger Convertible in 1971, it was still featured in several shows, and they had to decide whether to leave an old model in the spotlight, or update it for the coming year.

They chose to update the car to a 1972 specification – despite the fact that there wasn't really one – in effect promoting a car that didn't exist, and creating highly collectible, factory-authorized hybrid in the process.

Decades later, having been fully restored to how it appeared in The Mod Squad, the car sold at Barrett-Jackson in 2010 for $49,500.

The Dukes of Hazzard General Lee

Few other shows in TV history have cost the lives of so many innocent Dodge Chargers.

The Dukes of Hazzard ran for seven seasons and 147 episodes, and front and centre of every one was the General Lee, one of TV history's most iconic vehicles.

Sure, the show also starred John Schneider, Tom Wopat and Catherine Bach as the Duke clan, battling the corrupt Boss Hogg through the back roads of Georgia. But to millions of fans, the car was the real star.

It's estimated that during its run, The Dukes of Hazzard used between 250 and 325 General Lees, almost all of which were completely wrecked at a rate of at least one per episode.
At one point, CBS hired pilots to perform aerial searches for suitable vintage Dodge Chargers across nearby states, to keep up with the demand.

(Image: Barrett-Jackson)

(Image: Barrett-Jackson)

The very first Charger used by the show was a 383 V8-powered 1969 Charger with a full roll cage. Known simply as 'Lee 1', the car appeared in the pilot episode 'One-Armed Bandits' driven by John Schneider, and in the show's opening credit sequence, in which it makes the famous jump over a Hazzard County police cruiser.

Sadly, that famous jump also spelled the end of the car's TV career, as the subsequent landing caused severe frame damage.

It was stripped for some of its parts, and left to rust quietly in an Atlanta  junkyard, where it was discovered decades later, its trunk still filled with the original cement ballast used during production.

Having been rescued and lovingly restored by the president of the North American General Lee fan club, the car was offered for sale at Barrett-Jackson in 2012 – where it sold for $121,000 to the two-time Masters golf champion Bubba Watson.

Miami Vice Ferrari Testarossa

With fast cars, a pumping New Wave soundtrack and a wardrobe packed with pastel suit jackets, Miami Vice was one of the most influential TV shows of the 1980s.

The show starred Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas as Crockett and Tubbs, two undercover detectives chasing Miami drug barons, armed with automatic weapons and flashy sports cars.

According to legend, the show was based on a two-word pitch which simply read "MTV cops", and it was described as "the first show to look really new and different since color TV was invented".

In the earliest episodes, budget constraints meant Crockett was forced to drive a replica Ferrari, which angered one of the show's biggest fans – Enzo Ferrari himself.

(Image: Barrett-Jackson)

(Image: Barrett-Jackson)

He claimed that the fake Ferrari did a disservice to his company, and began legal proceedings against Universal Studios, before a settlement was reached: Ferrari would provide two genuine cars for use in the show, as long as the replica was destroyed on-screen in a spectacular explosion.

One huge fireball later, and a pair of 1986 Ferrari Testarossas were sent to the set. The two cars were originally finished in metallic black, but director Michael Mann quickly realized that they wouldn't show up well on camera during night shoots, and had them repainted white instead.

After being used extensively on-screen during the third, fourth and fifth seasons, this car was then placed in storage in 1989 when the show ended its run. It then spent 25 years hidden beneath a dust sheet, before being rediscovered and authenticated by both Ferrari North America and Ferrari Classiche.

After several appearances on the auction block, the famous TV Testarossa finally found a new home in January 2017, when it sold in Barrett-Jackson's Scottsdale sale for $151,800.

The Magnum P.I Ferrari GTS

Palm trees, Aloha shirts, Ferraris and one hell of a moustache – you could only be watching Magnum P.I.

The Emmy-award-winning show ran for eight years, from 1980 until 1988, and turned Tom Selleck into an international star. It also cost him the role of Indiana Jones, but you can't have everything.

Selleck played the roguish private detective Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV, a Vietnam vet solving cases in Hawaii and living the life of luxury at the beachfront estate of mystery writer Robin Masters.

One of the perks of Magnum's job was use of his employer's car, a bright red Ferrari, which he used to chase down bad guys and impress women in equal measure.

(Image: Bonhams)

(Image: Bonhams)

Magnum drove three different model Ferraris during the show's eight-season run: a 1978 308 GTS during the first season, then a 1980 308 GTSi, and finally a 1984 308 GTS QV, which was used from the fourth season to the eighth, which ended in 1988.

The cars were all supplied by Ferrari North America, and used as either 'stunt vehicles' for action sequences, or 'light action' vehicles for close-ups and background shots.

When filming finished after each season, the 'light action' cars were all returned to Ferrari North America, where they were serviced, repainted, and sold on to private owners.

One of the screen-used cars from the show's fourth season was offered for auction at Bonhams in January 2017, having been lovingly maintained by a single owner for almost 30 years.

Described as "one of the most famous and iconic Ferraris of all time", it was snapped up for a cool $181,500.

The Beverly Hillbillies jalopy truck

Running for nine seasons and 274 episodes, The Beverly Hillbillies remains one of the most popular U.S sitcoms of all time. The show told the story of the Clampetts – a poor, backwoods family from the Ozarks who move to California after striking oil and becoming instant multi-millionaires.

The show's opening sequence saw the family arriving in Beverly Hills with all their possessions strapped to a battered truck, which was designed by George Barris - creator of vehicles for classic TV shows such as Batman, The Munsters and The Banana Splits.

(Image: Barrett-Jackson)

(Image: Barrett-Jackson)

Barris based the truck on a 1921 Oldsmobile Model 43-A touring car he discovered behind a feed store in Fontana, California.

The back of the car had already been removed by a previous owner to convert it into a flatbed truck, and it came complete with the perfect patina – so all Barris had to do was add a rear platform for Granny to sit on and it was good to go.

Throughout the show's nine year run, Barris built several more versions of the Clampett's truck. After production had ended in 1971, the truck offered at Barrett-Jackson in 2015 had been used as a parade vehicle, and exhibited at a number of car exhibitions across the U.S.

It eventually found its way to the auction block in Scottsdale, Arizona, where it sold in 2015 (complete with the slightly creepy-looking mannequins) for $275,000.

The Monkeemobile

They were only supposed to be a fictional rock 'n' roll band, starring in a half-hour sitcom – but The Monkees became one of the biggest-selling groups of all time.

Created by filmmakers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, the TV show featured Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and Davy Jones as a struggling band, and combined absurdist humour with avant-garde film techniques.  

The hit show ran for just two seasons, from 1966 until 1968, but the band became a cultural phenomenon – scoring international hits and selling more than 75 million records worldwide.

In the show, the band drove around in their distinctive Monkeemobile, designed and built by car customizer Dean Jeffries. Jeffries created the car whilst working for the Model Products Corporation, which produced plastic scale model kits of vehicles, and the company later sold an estimated seven million Monkeemobile models across the U.S.

(Image: Barrett-Jackson)

(Image: Barrett-Jackson)

The vehicle itself was a modified Pontiac GTO, and featured a tilted forward split two-piece windshield, a T-bucket-type convertible top, exaggerated tail lamps, bucket seats and a parachute.

Two examples were built for the show, for the purposes of filming and promotion. The first followed The Monkees on tour to Australia in 1968, and was left there – before being rediscovered decades later in Puerto Rico, where it was being used as a hotel courtesy car.

The second Monkeemobile was purchased by car customizer George Barris, and spent years in his renowned collection of TV and movie vehicles, before selling at Barrett-Jackson in January 2008 for $360,000.

The Persuaders Aston Martin

In 1971, Roger Moore teamed up with Tony Curtis to play a pair of crime-solving, globe-trotting millionaire playboys known simply as 'The Persuaders'.

The Persuaders was one of the most expensive shows ever produced and proved a huge hit around the globe. Although it ran for just a single season, it remains a cult favourite and is remembered for two things: one of the greatest opening credit sequences in TV history, and the pair of iconic cars driven by its stars.

Whereas Curtis' brash Bronx millionaire Danny Wilde drove a Ferrari Dino 246 GT, there was only ever one choice of car for Moore's dashing English aristocrat Lord Brett Sinclair: an Aston Martin.

(Image: Bonhams)

(Image: Bonhams)

Producers chose a striking Aston Martin DBS finished in Bahama Yellow, complete with the personalised number plate BS1, and the car appeared in all 24 episodes before being returned to Aston Martin in 1971.

It later passed through the hands of four private owners, remaining in highly original condition, before making its public debut at the Aston Martin Owners' Club's Spring Concours in May 2011.

It then became one of only five Aston Martins invited to participate at the exclusive Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este at Lake Como, Italy, before hitting the auction block for the first time at Bonhams in 2014.

Described as "one of the most famous and desirable cars ever to carry the Aston Martin badge", the car sold for $897,000 – making it the most valuable DBS ever auctioned.

The Batmobile

The most valuable car on the list is also by far the most famous TV car of all-time: the original Batmobile, as driven by Adam West in the classic 1960s show.

The job of building the Batmobile was originally given to customiser Dean Jeffries, who planned to base it on a 1959 Cadillac – but when 20th Century Fox gave him just three weeks to complete the project, he turned it down, and in stepped George Barris.

The Batmobile was originally a unique 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car, designed by Ford Motor Company lead stylists Bill Schmidt, Doug Poole Sr., and John Najjar, and hand by the Ghia Body Works in Turin, Italy.

The Futura made its debut at the 1955 Chicago Auto Show, and the entire project cost approximately $250,000 (the equivalent of around $2 million today) – but by 1965 the car had been sold to Barris for the sum of a single dollar, and had sat untouched in his shop ever since.

(Image: Barrett-Jackson)

(Image: Barrett-Jackson)

With just three weeks to complete the Batmobile, Barris decided to convert the Futura with help from Herb Grasse, Bill Cushenbery and 20th Century Fox production artist Eddie Graves.

He spent $30,000 creating the Batmobile, and then agreed to lease it to the studio, but retained full ownership – a decision that would prove wise decades later.

When production on the show ended after three seasons in 1968, the car returned to Barris. It spent decades at his auto shop in North Hollywood, occasionally making cameo appearances in films and TV shows, and appearing at public events around the country.

Then in 2013 Barris finally decided to part with the iconic vehicle. It was offered at auction by Barrett-Jackson with a reserve price of $3 million, and soared to a final price of $4.2 million – setting a new world record price for a movie/TV car.

The winning bidder was Rick Champagne, a logistics company owner who reportedly planned to install the original Batmobile in his living room. Two years later Champagne placed it up for sale with a price tag of $5 million, and in 2016 it was acquired privately by a mystery buyer for an undisclosed amount.

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