The cars that nobody can forget.
Cars are woven into our lives not by just our need for them as essential transport, but through pop culture as well. Cars are characters in TV shows and movies and referenced throughout musical history. One of the earliest and most well-known songs about a car was "In My Merry Oldsmobile" by Gus Edwards in 1905. The rock and roll scene embraced the car in the early 1950s and peaked in The Beach Boys era with around 1,500 songs about cars being recorded. The first movie about cars was called "The First Auto" and was about the automobile replacing the horse, but the first real car that starred in a movie was probably "The Love Bug," featuring a Volkswagen Beetle named Herbie. However, Volkswagen Beetles don't feature in this list. We're looking at car models that are repeatedly used or referenced in popular culture, and these are the coolest.
The Chevrolet Corvette is once of the most referenced cars in music. Most of us know "Little Red Corvette" by Prince, and going back further in time, its mentioned by The Beach Boys in "In My Car." However, it pops up across the board in all popular music genres. Pearl Jam gave us the hilarious lyric, "Sorry is the man who trades his soul for a Corvette, thinks he'll get the girl he'll only get the mechanic." The Corvette also pops up in songs by Aerosmith, Kid Rock, Marilyn Manson, Bad Company, and Bob Seger. It's not just old white guys that namecheck the Corvette; it's mentioned in Sir Mix-A-Lot's earworm "Baby Got Back," as well as LL Cool J's classic "Going Back To Cali."
In fact, rap music has embraced the Corvette. 50 Cent raps "Vipe or 'Vette, I tear up the highway," but our favorite line comes from Curren$y, saying, "Nothing yet, jet threat, fools, you hear me / Talking top Corvette, ZR1 top speed."
It's probably the most recognized car because it is the most featured car in movies and TV shows. As of 2010, someone counted a staggering 2,358 appearances on the small and big screen by Ford's workhorse sedan. It's not just appearances as police cars and taxies, though. The Crown Vic has been so plentiful and cheap on the used market from being a fleet car and is strong and easy to modify. That means it gets a lot of support roles in movies and shows and is probably also the most deliberately crashed vehicle in popular culture.
Ford's second entry on this list rarely sits in the background on the silver screen. In many movies, it's been the hero car, from the cult classic and Hollywood remake of Gone In 60 Seconds to the landmark cop movie Bullitt. The green 1968 Ford Mustang GT, driven by Steve McQueen is a legitimate cultural icon and auctioned for $3.74 million last year. The original Gone In 60 Seconds chase movie hero car, Eleanor was a 1971 Mustang with a 1973 Mustang grille painted with school-bus-yellow paint. In the Nicholas Cage blockbuster, Elenor was a Dupont Pepper Grey 1967 Ford Mustang fastback dressed as a Shelby GT500 with a customized body kit. Other movies that have featured the Mustang include Goldfinger, I Am Legend, Death Race, and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and the John Wick series.
Another long term staple of Hollywood TV and movies is the Dodge Charger. The most recognizable is the bright orange 1969 General Lee car from The Dukes Of Hazzard TV show and movie, and Domenic Toretto's 1970 drag car in the Fast And Furious franchise. The car battling with Steve McQueen's Mustang featured in the Bullitt chase sequence through San Fransisco was a black 1968 Dodge Charger R/T. More recently, Wesly Snipe's vampire Blade drove a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T. Going back in time, Peter Fonda's hopeful NASCAR character drove a 1969 Dodge Charger R/T 440.
The Range Rover crosses a lot of paths in popular culture. It's one of the most mentioned car models in rap music, and it's the goto vehicle for bad guys in action movies. This is particularly true of James Bond movies. Bond himself has driven a few, but so did Max Zorin, played by Christopher Walken, in A View to a Kill. In Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond is chased on his BMW motorcycle by Range Rovers, while in Casino Royale, Skyfall, and Spectre the henchmen drive Range Rovers as well as Land Rover Defenders. Even Goldfinger drove one in the 1968 movie of the same name.
You can't talk about cars in popular culture without talking about the original Mini. The Mini wasn't just an incredibly well designed little car,it also became a fashion icon in the 1960s. It has been so influential that the mini skirt was named after it by London-based designer Mary Quant in the 1960s. The Mini also appeared in numerous TV shows and movies, most notably the jingoistic but fun British crime caper "The Italian Job" starring Micheal Caine.
Mercedes is the most referenced brand in music in general, according to a deep dive on data from Lyrics.com. Mercedes even used Janis Joplin singing "Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz / My friends all drive Porsches/ I must make amends" in an advertising campaign. The most mentioned specific Mercedes model referenced is the S-Class. Checking through the IMCDB (Internet Movie Car Database), it's also the third most featured car in TV shows and movies with well over 3,500 appearances to its credit.