A closer look at the horror-fantasy show's period piece cars.
The Netflix classic Stranger Things arrived in popular culture at precisely the right time to capitalize on the shift in generational nostalgia from the 1970s to the 1980s.
It captures the zeitgeist of the 1980s by leaning into everything from Stephen King and John Carpenter-style horror and tension-building to Cold War conspiracy to Steven Spielberg-style filmmaking.
The Duffer Brothers' world-building will be taught in film schools for decades. However, the whole show is glued together by its meticulously crafted period setting, including the cars cast to help flesh out the characters. These are the cars in Stranger Things that play a vital role in creating a near-perfect fictional milieu.
Police Chief Jim Hopper's K5 Chevrolet Blazer is the first in a series of perfectly cast Stranger Things cars. It's precisely the kind of no-frills utilitarian vehicle a police chief would have been driving around a small midwestern town.
The show never gives an exact year for its timelines, so the fact Hopper's Blazer is a 1980 model fits, as does its beige color to go with his uniform.
When Hopper rolls up, the Blazer tells you precisely the kind of person that's going to climb out of it. Well, the first couple of layers, anyway. Slowly we learn Hopper is as tough as old boots, but underneath he's a deeply empathetic man.
Stranger Things is centered around the kids, but the adult characters also play a significant role, especially in the later seasons.
Joyce Byers is the financially struggling single mother of Jonathan and Will Byers. Appropriately, she drives an old Ford Pinto. It was a sub-compact car built from 1971 to 1980 and famed for its ability to burst into flames due to a heavy impact to the rear.
It was cheap and reasonably reliable, assuming nobody rear-ended it. Winona Ryder's depiction of the struggling mom with deep wells of strength tracks with a 1976 Ford Pinto, although she deserved better. A Volkswagen Beetle would also fit, but the Pinto adds a thin layer of sadness to the character.
In season 1 of Stranger Things, Steve Harrington was a stereotypical over-confident and unlikeable jock, so the perfect car for him to drive was his father's BMW.
Steve Harrington evolved as a character into a fan favorite, but the BMW still featured heavily as one of the Stranger Things season 4 cars. The 733i was the peak of 1980s BMW and was born into the decade of yuppies and upper-middle-class wealth.
The 3 Series suited the yuppies, but BMW launched the 7 Series for those that valued size and comfort over sportiness.
Nancy Wheeler's character arc starts off showing her as a bland 1980s high school girl troubled by not much more than boy problems.
By the end of season 4, she's a stone-cold badass. Like Steve Harrington, she drives the family car. However, it's a much different piece of peak 1980s automobilia. It's a Mercury Grand Marquis, complete with woody station wagon bodywork and a third row to pile all the kids into.
Nancy's is a first-generation model introduced in 1979 as Mercury's premium range-topper. Unlike the BMW 7 Series, it was marketed to older buyers and gave a clear picture of the kind of household the character grew up in.
If you've wondered exactly what the Stranger Things Camaro is, Billy Hargrove drove a battered 1979 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.
It's loud, arrogant, and brutish and perfectly fits the archetype of a thuggish, vicious bully. Take a second look at Billy's Camaro; you'll notice it's clearly not a Z/28. The fenders are Z/28, but there's no badging, and the hood and chrome trim is from a Sports Coupe Camaro.
Eagle-eyed enthusiasts have also spotted that there are two Camaros used in the show. For example, in one scene, the windows are wound down manually and then electronically in another. Continuity aside, the car is perfect for Billy, and he drives it like he stole it, and who's to say he didn't? Or bought two crapped-out vehicles and put them together to make one drivable car?
Big old American sedans were classic broke teenager cars in the 1980s, and this 1970 Ford LTD has seen better days.
We're talking beater spec with its faded paint and battered bodywork. All late 1970s Ford LTDs were V8-powered, but gas averaged between 80 cents and $1.20 per gallon across the decade in the US.
It's one of the few cars that can be questioned, as it would be 10 to 12 years old at the start of Stranger Things. That's a lot of deterioration. Perhaps Byers skipped the ad for a used LTD sold by a friendly old lady that only drove it to the shops and went straight for the cheaper example driven by the resident meth dealer.
Argyle is one of the newer characters in Stranger Things, and his Volkswagen Vanagon quickly became one of the best character cars in the show.
It's the perfect California stoner surfer dude vehicle, and the fact it's outfitted to deliver pizza is the cheese on the tomato sauce. It is a little bit odd, though, as it looks like an early 1980s model which should have an air-cooled engine. But the grille is mounted lower, like on a later water-cooled model.
Whether it's an older model that has been engine swapped or a post-1984 model that has been made to look older is for Vanagon experts to figure out. Either way, it's likely the engine was made quieter for when dialogue was shot while the car wasn't on a trailer, or so it would have more power while keeping the show's timeline in sync.
Eddie Munson is a metalhead and a Dungeons & Dragons enthusiast, so of course, he drives an early 1970s van.
Munson, played by British actor Joseph Quinn, stole season 4 of Stranger Things. He has a brutal story arc, and that's all we have to say about that. Season 4 hasn't been out that long, and snitches get stitches.
His story is encapsulated by the already iconic scene where he shreds Metallica's Master of Puppets on guitar in the Upside Down to lure the demobats away from Steve, Nancy, and Robin, as they approach the Creel House.
Because it's pitch-perfect TV, we include the scene below. It has nothing to do with the article, but always worth watching.
You'll be hard-pushed to find a mistake in the roster of Stranger Things cars, but there is a glaring one if RAD-era cars are your thing.
The first season starts on November 6, 1983, and features a sympathetic John Hughes-esque character called Barbara "Barb" Holland. The producers wanted her to drive a Volkswagen Rabbit convertible to suit her upper-middle-class upbringing.
The Rabbit was a hugely popular car for that demographic in the 1980s, but somebody made a mistake in obtaining one. Instead, Barb drives a 1988 Volkswagen Cabriolet. In 1985, Volkswagen renamed the Rabbit convertible as the Cabriolet in 1985, and 1988 was the model year it first featured plastic-covered bumpers and smaller inner headlights.