In TV shows and movies like Cars, Herbie: Fully Loaded, My Mother The Car, Wheelie And The Chopper Bunch, and many more, some vehicles become so famous that they can be thought of as movie and TV stars in their own right. The Internet Movie Car Database even indexes pop culture vehicles the same way that the IMDB indexes human actors. And why not? To some viewers, not to mention some directors, the cars are the stars.
But if certain vehicles acquire quasi-human status, that means that they are also subject to the vicissitudes of fame. They, too, must change in order to keep up with the times. What worked in one film, after all, may not work in a sequel or reboot released decades later. While human actors receive plastic surgery to remain youthful and vital in appearance, their automobiles tend to undergo overhauls and redesigns. The auto news site Gearheads recently created a series of six mesmeric, looping animations that show how certain rides, including James Bond’s Aston-Martin, the Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters, and the ever-popular Batmobile have changed over the years. It’s a crash course (pardon the expression) in advancing technology and evolving standards in automotive beauty.
As these animations show, there is no vehicle so revered that it is immune to change. Take KITT, the super-advanced talking car from the Knight Rider franchise. In the original 1982-86 series, i.e., the one with David Hasselhoff, KITT was a 1982 Pontiac Trans Am. By the time of the series reboot, the car was “played” by a 2008 Ford Shelby Mustang. The second KITT, though a high-performance machine, is stubbier and boxier looking than the sleek Reagan-era original.
The Ecto-1 was never aerodynamic, but it started as a heavily modified 1959 Cadillac ambulance before being reborn as a 1983 Cadillac hearse. Weep for the loss of those sweet tailfins.
The Batmobile animation may be the wildest and most fun of the group. This vehicle exists in the realm of comic book fantasy, so film and television adaptations of Batman have had free rein in creating distinctive vehicles for the Caped Crusader over the decades. Christopher Nolan’s tank-like version may be the toughest and most practical, but it’s hardly the prettiest. Most iterations try to incorporate some kind of bat-wing motif into the design. It’s all about branding.