1986 Ferrari Testarossa
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32 Legendary Vehicles From '70s and '80s TV Shows

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Sweet Rides

Ever hear of a car getting top billing on a TV show? Well, when it comes to the scene-stealing General Lee from “The Dukes of Hazzard,” such recognition wouldn’t have been out of order (Sorry, Tom Wopat and John Schneider). Join us for a journey across land, sea, and in the air as we salute iconic vehicles from shows that kept us glued to our TV sets during the 1970s and ’80s.

Related: 20 Crazy-Expensive Cars Destroyed By Hollywood

1969 Dodge Charger
1969 Dodge Charger by Schmendrick (CC BY-SA)

1969 Dodge Charger | 'The Dukes of Hazzard'

On air: 1979-85
The General Lee was a 1969 Dodge Charger in blazing orange that took many a leap and hairpin turn with those good ol’ boys Bo and Luke Duke. Of course, the doors didn’t open so they had to hop in, adding to the excitement of the chase. And who could forget the horn that played “Dixie?” It’s said more than 325 versions of the General were used during the show’s run with a few dozen remaining today.

1976 Ford Mustang Cobra II
1976 Ford Mustang Cobra II by Michael Rivera (CC BY-SA)

1976 Ford Mustang Cobra II | 'Charlie’s Angels' (1976-81)

On air: 1976-81
While her dazzling smile may have been the draw, there’s no denying that what Farrah Fawcett drove during her years as Jill Munroe got its share of attention, too. The private investigator tooled around town in a white and blue-striped 1976 Ford Mustang Cobra II. Internet buzz says the original car is now in the hands of a restorer.

Related: 15 Best Mustangs of All Time

982-84 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
982-84 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am by Arroww (CC BY-SA)

1982-84 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am | 'Knight Rider'

On air: 1982-86
Hmmm, who was the real star? David Hasselhoff as the crime-fighting Michael Knight or K.I.T.T. (Knight Industries Two Thousand) or the fictional computer controlling his flashy Knight 2000? Voiced by William Daniels, K.I.T.T. powered the black Pontiac Firebird Trans Am T-top and was quite the wonder — one that would go on to be displayed at Universal Studios Hollywood for a time and sought after by superfans.

1949 Triumph Trophy TR5 Scrambler Custom
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1949 Triumph Trophy TR5 Scrambler Custom | 'Happy Days'

On air: 1974-84
Henry Winkler’s Arthur Fonzarelli, aka The Fonz — the proverbial tough guy with a heart of gold — was known for his leather jacket (now part of the collection at The Smithsonian) and his ride, a 1949 Triumph Trophy TR5 Scrambler Custom motorcycle. The Fonz initially rode a Harley-Davidson Knucklehead Bobber in the first season, but because Winkler couldn't ride a motorcycle, it was swapped for a lighter Triumph that could be pulled on set. Too bad he later switched to water skis for the now-famous latter-day episode that led to the pop-culture phrase “jumping the shark.”

1974-76 Ford Gran Torino
1974-76 Ford Gran Torino by sfoskett (CC BY-SA)

1974-76 Ford Gran Torino | 'Starsky & Hutch'

On air: 1975-79
Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul played Southern California police detectives David Starsky and Ken Hutchinson with enough swagger and playful back-and-forth to build a loyal following, but they shared the stage, as it were, with Starsky’s red and white-striped Ford Gran Torino. It was called the “Striped Tomato” by Starsky in one episode and would continue to be known by that nickname. The car, unsurprisingly, was reprised in the 2004 movie version that starred Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson.

Custom 1983 A-Team van
Custom 1983 A-Team van by The Conmunity - Pop Culture Geek (CC BY)

1983 GMC Vandura | 'The A-Team'

On air: 1983-87
The action-adventure series that rocketed Mr. T to fame focused on four former members of a United States Army Special Forces unit on the run and working as soldiers of fortune from a 1983 GMC Vandura van filled with a multitude of devices. Elements such as its red stripe and its rooftop spoiler helped it become an iconic vehicle, with the original displayed at the New York International Auto Show in 2010.

Ferrari 308 GTS
Ferrari 308 GTS by Robotriot (CC BY-SA)

Ferrari 308 GTS | 'Magnum, P.I.'

On air: 1980-88
Sorry, but the only “Magnum” is Tom Selleck, no reboots recognized. The mustachioed private eye Tom Magnum who worked both the shorty shorts and the Hawaiian crime scene could often be found in quite the ride — a Ferrari 308 GTS owned by Robin Masters, the elusive novelist on whose estate Magnum lived (and worked as security chief).

1986 Ferrari Testarossa
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1986 Ferrari Testarossa | 'Miami Vice'

On air: 1984-90
The cavalcade of sleek suits, sleek music, and sleek characters led by Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) and Ricardo Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) combined to become a cultural phenomenon. The undercover police detectives were all about being showy and while several cars were featured over the years, its aesthetic was perhaps epitomized by Crockett’s white (and white-hot) 1986 Ferrari Testarossa. The hero car used for filming recently went up for auction

Kawasaki KZP Motorcycles
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Kawasaki KZP Motorcycles | 'CHiPs'

On air: 1977-83
The California Highway Patrol officers portrayed by Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox were not confined to a squad car. Rather, these macho men kept the Golden State safe from the back of their Kawasaki KZP motorcycles (as did their real-life counterparts). Often doing their own riding, the stars were said to have incurred a few injuries along the way.

Bell 222 Stealth Helicopter
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Bell 222 Stealth Helicopter | ‘Airwolf’

On air: 1984-87

Airwolf was the code name of the high-tech military helicopter around which this series was built. Its crew — including Jan-Michael Vincent, Ernest Borgnine, and Alex Cord — was all about completing exotic missions, dealing with espionage and Cold War themes along the way. The supersonic helicopter — fittingly featuring stealth capabilities and an impressive arsenal — kept the storylines propelling ever forward (and earning this chopper its own Wikipedia page).

“The Rockford Files” (1974-80)
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1974-78 Pontiac Firebird | 'The Rockford Files' (1974-80)

On air: 1974-80
The suave James Garner played Jim Rockford, a scamp of a private investigator, in this popular series that was equal parts drama and charm. Rockford was often behind the wheel of his gold Pontiac Firebird — initially an Espirit and later Formula 400s made to look like Esprits — and even had a signature move: the “Jim Rockford J-turn,” helpful in chasing (or running from) the bad guys. One of the last Firebirds used on the show recently sold at auction.

1967 Grumman Widgeon
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1967 Grumman Widgeon | ‘Fantasy Island’

On air: 1977-84

“The plane, the plane” — (or “Da plane, da plane”) — you’ve heard it, you’ve maybe even said it. Those memorable words uttered by Hervé Villechaize as Tattoo to his “Boss,” Mr. Rourke (Ricardo Montalbán) signaled the arrival of wealthy guests to the tropical island where their dreams sometimes came true, sometimes went horribly wrong. The plane, a 1967 Grumman Widgeon, went up for auction in 2016 in Branson, Missouri, proving its status as a cultural icon. And, let's not forget Tattoo’s custom-made Plymouth Volare golf cart, complete with its signature striped awning, as yet another show regular.

1965 Corvette Stingray
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1965 Corvette Stingray | 'Stingray' (1985-87)

On air: 1985-87
Nick Mancuso — who went by the single name of Ray — was often seen driving around Southern California in his black 1965 Corvette Stingray. The car was pivotal in that the mysterious do-gooder with a sketchy past only helped those who knew to answer his car-themed advertisement.

1972 Dodge D-300
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1972 Dodge D-300 | 'Emergency!'

On air: 1972-77
The fast-paced series devoted to a medical rescue team in Los Angeles featured stars Randy Mantooth and Kevin Tighe. It put an early spotlight on paramedics and their role as first responders, often credited in helping popularize the profession. Squad 51, a 1972 Dodge D-300 truck, saw much action during the show’s tenure. A testament to its legacy, the vehicles of Station 51 — featured on the show as the base — are part of the collection of the Los Angeles County Fire Museum.

1957 Ford Thunderbird
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1973-4 Kenworth W-925
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1973-4 Kenworth W-925 | ‘Movin’ On’

On air: 1974-76

Though it lasted just two seasons, this show starred Claude Akins as an old-school truck driver with co-pilot Frank Converse, an educated fella providing yet another television study in opposites. The truck is said to be a dark green 1973 Kenworth W-925 in the pilot (“In Tandem”) that was subbed out for a 1974 model for the show itself — and, as reported by GoByTruckNews, was recently renovated to its original glory. The big-rig drama featured a theme song sung by Merle Haggard, so you can’t argue its all-American edgy authenticity.

1955 Chevrolet 6800
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1955 Chevrolet 6800 | 'The Partridge Family'

On air: 1970-74
C’mon, get happy! There’s no separating the titular Partridge family from its converted old school bus, a 1955 Chevrolet 6800 with a Superior Coach body they painted in a Mondrian-like fashion. It not only served as their transportation near home but also on the concert trail. It even served as a plot point several times, like when a skunk wandered onto the bus and left the songbirds in a stinky state before a gig.

“The Brady Bunch” (1969-74)
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1970-71 Plymouth Satellite | 'The Brady Bunch'

On air: 1969-74
This blended family needed more than a sedan so, of course, there was the beloved 1970, and later, 1971 Plymouth Satellite station wagon that was often seen as mom Carol and housekeeper Alice returned from grocery shopping. It was a fittingly nondescript vehicle many families of the time could relate to, but this one went on to be commemorated as a Hot Wheels model car.

Related: 29 Classic Station Wagons We Miss From Childhood

“The Waltons” (1972-1981)
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1929 Ford Model A Pickup | “The Waltons” (1972-1981)

On air: 1972-81
The drama focusing on the life of future writer John Walton Jr., aka John Boy, and his extended family in 1930s/40s rural Virginia often featured the family’s run-down mode of transportation, a 1929 Ford Model A pickup that patriarch John Walton (Ralph Waite) often drove.

Pacific Princess Cruise Ship
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Pacific Princess Cruise Ship | 'The Love Boat' (1977-86)

On air: 1977-86
Undoubtedly our biggest “star” on this list, “The Love Boat” set “a course for adventure” every week under the helm of Captain Merrill Stubing (Gavin MacLeod), who even had a few dalliances himself over the course of the campy romance series. In a time when cruising still carried an air of exclusivity, the passenger cruise ship Pacific Princess introduced countless viewers to luxury amenities and exotic ports of call. Sadly, the original vessel ended up being sold for scrap, too costly to repair after decades of service.

“Riptide” (1984-86)
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1938 Elco Yacht | 'Riptide'

On air: 1984-86
This series — heavy on the comedic elements — starred Perry King, Joe Penny, and Thom Bray as private investigators in Los Angeles. This show was an air-and-sea bonanza, with the detectives running their agency out of a boat, the titular Riptide, while also sometimes working from The Screaming Mimi, a Sikorsky helicopter, and a speedboat, the Ebb Tide. The Riptide, a 1938 Elco Yacht, lived quite a life even before making it to the small screen as it was first owned by restauranteur Howard Johnson, and later gangster Morris "Mo" Dalitz.

“Kojak” (1973-78)
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1974 Buick Century 455 | 'Kojak'

On air: 1973-78
Who loves ya, baby? Telly Savalas, as New York City police detective lieutenant Theo Kojak, was famed for his catchphrase, his lollipop, his bald head, and his 1974 Buick Century 455.

1978 Checker Taxi Cab
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1978 Checker Taxi Cab | 'Taxi'

On air: 1978-82
A traditional Checker cab is seen driving over the Queensboro Bridge at the opening of each episode in this series about the employees of the Sunshine Cab Company. A 2014 YouTube video traces the actual vehicle’s history and restoration.

1938 Grumman Goose
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1938 Grumman Goose | ‘Tales of the Golden Monkey’

On air: 1982-83
The adventure drama focused on star Stephen Collins, a former Flying Tiger pilot, operating an air-cargo business in the late-1930s South Pacific. The co-star? A red-and-white Grumman Goose. Capitalizing on the popularity of the 1981 “Raiders of the Lost Ark” movie, this show was all about the romance of early aviation, intrigue and exotic locales.

1870 Covered Wagon
Little House on the Prairie/facebook.com

1870s Covered Wagon | 'Little House on the Prairie' (1974-83)

On air: 1974-83
The show based on the Laura Ingalls Wilder books traced family life — in all its simple joys and harrowing challenges — in late-19th century Minnesota. Viewers would travel back in time aided by the show’s opening, which featured Ma and Pa Ingalls (Karen Grassle and Michael Landon) perched on the bench of a covered wagon as their daughters run toward them down a flower-strewn hill.

Related: From Covered Wagon to Winnebago: The Evolution of the RV

Kenworth K100 Aerodyne
B.J. and the Bear/facebook.com

Kenworth K100 Aerodyne | ‘B.J. and the Bear’

On air: 1979-81

Greg Evigan not only starred as the titular B.J. — joined by his pet chimp, Bear — in this comedy series capitalizing on the CB radio mania but also sang the theme song. In the show, freelance trucker and Vietnam vet B.J. hits the country’s roads in his Kenworth K100 Aerodyne truck, getting caught up with local crimes along the way. Side note, Claude Akins, who starred in the trucker series “Movin’ On,” was a frequent guest as Sheriff Lobo.

“Murder, She Wrote” (1984-96)
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“Murder, She Wrote” (1984-96)

You wouldn’t want to be around mystery writer and amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher, memorably played by Angela Lansbury, as someone always — always! — got murdered. But that didn’t let Miss Fletcher lose her cheery disposition or her penchant for getting around Cabot Cove, Maine on her trusty basket-fronted bicycle.

“Silver Spoons” (1982-86)
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Scale-Model Freight Train | 'Silver Spoons'

On air: 1982-86
The sitcom starred Ricky Schroder as Ricky Stratton and Joel Higgins as Edward Stratton II, the father he’s just getting to know. The young man soon learns that Edward is not only the head of a toy company but also someone who refuses to grow up, hence the scale-model freight train that Edward was often seen riding through the mansion’s living room.

The Banana Splits Adventure Hour
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Amphicat ATVs | The Banana Splits Adventure Hour” (1968-70)

On air: 1968-70
The wacky output of Sid and Marty Krofft included this children’s series in which costumed characters — remember Fleegle and Bingo? — were members of a rock band. The madcap adventures would often begin and end with them riding their “Banana Buggies,” customized Amphicat six-wheel drive ATVs iconic enough to be turned into scale-model kits at the time.

The Invisible Plane
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The Invisible Plane | 'Wonder Woman'

On air: 1975-79
Ok, we’ve given you plenty of concrete examples of iconic vehicles. Now, we trust you’ll use your imagination as we conclude this tour with a few animated classics, beginning with “Wonder Woman.” The comic-book superhero turned TV — and feminist — icon was played by Lynda Carter and was known for her singular vehicle: the invisible plane.

“Scooby-Doo” (1969-76)
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The Mystery Machine | 'Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!'

On air: 1969-76
The original TV incarnation of the popular animated series introduced one happening vehicle for its mystery-solving occupants and their titular dog. The Mystery Machine — a cartoon at first so no specific model noted, though there are plenty of theories — was a traditional panel van of the era painted in a psychedelic manner that few will forget.

Speed Buggy
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Dune Buggy | 'Speed Buggy'

On air: 1973
This short-lived animated series from Hanna-Barbera starred a talking orange dune buggy that solved mysteries with its teen sidekicks while taking part in racing competitions around the world. Mel Blanc, perhaps best known as the voice of Bugs Bunny, would bring the title car to life.