A while back, I found an online list of the top 25 iconic vehicles from television and movies. I was not surprised to see vehicles like the “Ectomobile” from Ghost Busters, “General Lee” from Dukes of Hazzard, Star Trek’s “USS Enterprise,” and “The Black Pearl” from Pirates of the Caribbean.
I was also not surprised to see the “Batmobile,” Goldfinger’s Aston Martin, “The Mystery Machine” from Scooby Doo, the Pontiac Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit as well as the Firebird “KITT” from Knight Rider, the “Millennium Falcon” from Star Wars, the DeLorean from Back to the Future, the RMS Titanic, the 1958 Plymouth Fury from Christine, the Ferrari 308 GTS from Magnum, PI and even the Griswold family station wagon from National Lampoon’s Vacation.
Then there were ones that would not have been on my radar: the A-Team van, Pee Wee’s bike (ugh), The “Mirthmobile” from Wayne’s World, Aladdin’s magic carpet, the Explorers from Jurassic Park (average much?), the “Mutts Cutts” van from Dumb and Dumber, the bus from Speed (seriously?), the 1932 Ford Coupe from American Graffiti (eh, okay), and the “Bluth Family Stair Car” (never heard of it) from Arrested Development.
Conspicuously absent were the red Torino from Starsky and Hutch and the Firebird from The Rockford Files. I would also easily trade out some of the last group with choices offered by some of my Facebook friends: “Herbie” from The Love Bug, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” the “Bluesmobile” (Dodge Monaco), or the 1968 Mustang GT from Bullitt.
Contenders for a more lengthy list would include “Speed Buggy,” the Partridge Family bus, Bozo Mobile, the Munster Koach (and/or their coffin car), the Addams Family car (1930s Packard) and the “Arkansas Chuggabug” from Wacky Races cartoons.
I’d advanced through all 25 slides on the website without seeing a vehicle that’s truly iconic to me: the late 60s Ford pickup from Mr. Majestyk. This 1974 movie starring Charles Bronson was already more than a decade old when one scene became imprinted in my memory. While the film was no award-winner, I enjoyed watching that truck get beat to hell in that chase scene, and it never left the mob-fleeing watermelon farmer afoot.
Incidentally, I was, and still am, partial to trucks and owned a ’74 Ford as my first vehicle. The yellow-over-brown two-tone with a three-speed on the column served me well. I liked it despite the fact that I had to remove the air filter cover and close the butterfly choke in order to start the engine in cold weather. I learned how to pop the clutch and start it as it rolled downhill when necessary. Such pressure! You only get so many tries at that, and failure means you’re stranded at the bottom of a hill in a dead truck. Life skills.
Speaking of trucks, another that didn’t make the list was Fred Sanford’s salvage truck – also a Ford, but not one that I admired overly much. Nor is the Beverly Hillbillies’ Oldsmobile Roadster on the list. How is that one not in the top 25?
Co-worker Ed Coates reminded me of a truck that haunts me: the evil tanker from Duel, a 1971 flick (which I also saw the next decade while in my teens) starring Dennis Weaver. His character drives a Plymouth Valiant and is stalked by the driver of the spooky semi as he attempts a routine business trip. The entirety of the weathered rig is a dull olive drab and there is nothing appealing about it. You never see the driver, so the truck is as much a character as anyone, and is definitely the “bad guy.”
Our office conversation prompted me to spend some time at home searching YouTube and I was able to find it in segments. The suspense was just as riveting as I remembered and my heart raced. The engine’s roar, the sound of shifting gears, the mighty whoosh as the rig passes the much smaller red car – all straight to my eardrums via ear buds – was awesome.
That intimidating front grill set between single headlamps that mimic beady eyes in a dirty face is the reason I shudder just a bit when a semi-truck pulls up behind me at a traffic light and all I can see is the grill in the rearview mirror.
After researching the movie, I now know why the suspense factor is so successful: director Steven Spielberg.
In reading about Mr. Majestyk, I learned that the screenplay was written by Elmore Leonard, the novelist who penned the story that prompted the television show Justified, which I recently watched.
It’s all connected.
Bonus points if you know which show THAT line is from.
Lori Freeze is news editor of the Stone County Leader. Write to her at email@example.com.
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