While the autos on the big screen often overshadow their small screen counterparts, large assortments of memorable vehicles have graced our television sets over the decades. Four-wheeled stars have shown up on TV as far back as the 1960s and 1970s, when vehicles like the beat up Oldsmobile truck from the Beverly Hillbillies and the Pontiac Firebird from the Rockford Files showed up on the tube. Memorable cars from more recent television programs include the Chevy Impala on Supernatural and the Volkswagen Bus on Lost. Some of these cars are memorable because they're flashy, and others pique our interest because they're simply unique.
Car companies are becoming increasingly interested in having TV shows feature their brand. Since these days most us are are skipping commercials, auto manufacturers are turning to product placement. The production team on Breaking Bad made Chrysler very happy when the Chrysler 300 and the Dodge Challenger were featured heavily on the show: Walter White’s switch from a run-down, milquetoast Pontiac Aztek to a supercharged Chrysler 300 SRT8 was a genius bit of marketing. But what about the cars that aren't expensive in and of themselves, but have developed value due to their TV roles? The following are ten of the most memorable - and consequently the costliest - cars from TV history.
9. Starsky and Hutch Gran Torino ($40,000)
The TV program Starsky and Hutch made the Ford Gran Torino so popular that Ford actually began producing Starsky and Hutch branded Gran Torinos which featured the same iconic white and red color scheme as the car in the show. Nicknamed the Striped Tomato, the company produced 1,300 of these models. The fact Ford made these “replicas,” and the fact that fans themselves have made replicas, means that tracking down an authentic screen-used Gran Torino is very difficult. In June, one of the authentic, original Starsky and Hutch 1976 Gran Torinos sold for $40,000.
8. Munster Koach ($49,500)
Two different vehicles were made for this spooky 1960s sitcom: the Munster Koach and the Drag-u-la. Tom Daniel, who was commissioned by legendary custom auto designer George Barris to build the frightening automobile, designed the Munster Koach. Daniel was paid a mere $200 at the time. The car was built out of three Model T bodies. Adjusting for inflation, the car would cost $130,000 to build today. One of the original Koaches was restored and sold at auction in 2007 for $49,500.
3 A-Team GMC Vandura ($50,000 for conversion)
Six GMC Vandura Vans were decked out with red striping and red and black turbine mag wheels for the classic 80s TV show The A-Team. Mr. T played B.A. Baracus, who drove the iconic van in the show. Only two of the original six vans are said to still exist, and they are both housed at the Auto Museum in Miami. Because of the rarity of the vans, fans have taken to building their own replicas. English A-Team fan Tag Majid converted a damaged 1985 Vandura Van into a replica of the A-Team cruiser, and the restoration project cost him an estimated $50,000.
6. Green Hornet's Black Beauty ($50,000)
Two 1965 Chrysler Imperials were used as the Green Hornet’s vehicle of choice in this classic action show starring Van Williams and Bruce Lee, as Kato. The car used to film driving scenes is reportedly in a private collection, but the one decked out with all the gadgets is being displayed at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles. Dean Jeffries built the “number one” Black Beauty, and it reportedly cost $50,000 to make. Jeffries was commissioned to restore the car to its original condition when car collector Dan Goodman purchased it in 1992; Goodman paid just $10,000 for the car. The movie version of the Black Beauty went up for auction earlier this year but failed to sell; the high bid was nearly $62,000, but the owner was expecting a price in the $100,000 to $120,000 range. The movie version sold in 2012 at Barrett Jackson for $50,000.
2 Magnum, P.I. Ferrari ($53,000)
This car is perhaps one of the most important non-racing Ferrari’s in history. Tom Selleck made the 308 GTS iconic in his role as private investigator Thomas Magnum. In 2004 an auction for a Magnum 308 GTS failed to meet the reserve price of $60,000. In 1988, when the series ended, every one of the Ferraris used in the TV show were auctioned off. A 1984 308 QV from the show was displayed at Universal Studios Hollywood. One of the screen used Ferraris (serial number 57685) was sold in 1996 for $53,000, and it's likely to have increased in value since.
4. Miami Vice Ferrari ($140,000)
The first Ferrari used on the TV show Miami Vice wasn't actually a Ferrari at all. In fact, two Corvettes were re-branded to look like Ferrari Daytona Spyders. These two replicas were sold to the production team at the time of filming for $49,000 each. One of these replicas was reportedly listed for sale in June this year for nearly $140,000, which is a fraction of the price of a real Ferrari Daytona Spyder (avg. sale price $500,000). Following legal action from Ferrari for using clones of its cars, the production team started using actual Ferraris after season two. From then on the white 1986 Ferrari Testarossa became the iconic car on the show.
1 K.I.T.T from Knight Rider ($152,000)
K.I.T.T, which stands for Knight Industries Two Thousand, was driven by David Hasselhoff’s character Michael Long in the TV show Knight Rider. In the fictional universe of the TV show the technologically upgraded Pontiac Trans AM cost an estimated $11.4 million dollars. In the real world K.I.T.T costs a lot less, but it’s still not cheap. Car collector Tim Russo bought one of the four original K.I.T.Ts in 1997 and spent 10 years fixing it up before listing it for sale at $150,000. A K.I.T.T that was actually from the personal collection of the Hoff was put up for auction with a starting bid of just $15,000 back in April, but it ended up selling for more than ten times that - $152,000. In 2004 a screen-used K.I.T.T sold for $47,500.
2. General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard ($230,000)
In 2007, a screen-used General Lee (1969 Dodge Charger) that was owned by Bo Duke himself, John Schneider, apparently sold for nearly $10 million. However, it turned out the buyer was a fraud and the sale never went though. The car later sold at Barrett Jackson for a much more reasonable $230,000. In 2012, the very first Charger that was used as the General Lee was sold at Barrett-Jackson auction house for $110,000
1. Batmobile ($4.2 million)
Not only is this by far the most recognizable and iconic car from any TV show, but it is arguably the most iconic Batmobile as well. Designed by legendary Hollywood car designer George Barris, the 1966 Batmobile was based on a 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car. The concept car cost $250,000 to make and never saw production on the factory floor. Barris purchased the concept car for a mere $1, and then spent $15,000 making it into the iconic car of the caped crusader. Three fiberglass copies were made from the original Batmobile. So exactly how valuable is the original #1 ’66 Batmobile? Well, it sold for $4.2 million at a Barrett-Jackson auction last year. Holy appreciating value, Batman! After fees the price ended up around $4.62 million.