Wildest TV Cars You’ve Never Seen
Move Over Batmobile, You’re too Mainstream for this List of TV Cars
Updated October 27, 2017
Batmobile, everyone’s seen that. Munster Koach, sure. Monkee Mobile, who hasn’t. The 1960s were the era of the custom car and pretty much every TV show in that era needed to have its own. Here’s we’re going to skip over the obvious ones like the three already mentioned and instead uncover some long lost four-wheel artifacts from an era where it didn’t seem weird to have a wild George Barris or Dean Jeffries designed special roll onto the screen. This is our list of some of the wildest TV cars you may or may not remember from the golden days of television.
I Dream of Jeannie Pontiac Firebird
The Man from U.N.C.L.E Piranha
Besides the NASA Astronauts, the other heroes of the 1960s (at least to young boys) were the Secret Agents. While James Bond lives on, there were countless imitators in those days who’ve faded into oblivion. One TV spy show was called “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and the two lead characters used the unusual sports car above to fight the bad guys. It’s an AMT (yes, the model company) Piranha Corvair-powered kit car specially assembled for the show with the usual array of crime-fighting munitions. Several Piranha still exists and there’s a strong following for the car.
Banacek AMC AMX 400
If you’ve seen either version of “The Thomas Crown Affair” you pretty much get what “Banacek” is about. The show starred George Peppard, who went on to play John “Hannibal” Smith in the “A-Team” television series. This America Motors AMX was customized by George Barris and used in the second season of the show. There was no third season of the show as Peppard quit in order to reduce his income prior to divorcing his then-wife. Ouch.
Everyone recognizes the Munster Koach, of course. Well, Herman Munster lost the pink slip in a drag race so Grandpa built a dragster of his own to win it back. At least that’s how the script went. Actually, the Drag-u-la was designed and built by Tom Daniels at George Barris’s shop. The center section is an actual fiberglass coffin, covering a 289 Ford V-8 with dual four-barrel carburetors on a Mickey Thompson manifold and organ pipe exhausts. Spindly front tires and Firestone slicks complete the period drag racer look. The car can be seen at the Volo Auto Museum near Chicago. Oh, and Grandpa did win the Koach back.
Lost in Space Chariot
Of all the TV cars on this list, this one is probably the most absurd looking. Set in 1997, “Lost in Space” was a NASA inspired version of the Swiss Family Robinson, but rather than marooned on an island, this family is doomed to jump from planet to planet. Aboard their ship is an all-terrain vehicle the crew used to explore a new planet. The Chariot was actually built on a Snowcat Spryte tracked vehicle, like the type used at ski resorts. Most of the Chariot’s body panels were clear, including the roof, and inside there was seating for six. It presently resides with a LiS fan who is planning its restoration.
As great as these custom cars are, nothing can really top Gene Winfield’s The Reactor. It’s an aluminum show-car built for an Eastern hot rod and custom car show promoter. Winfield built the car with the self-leveling suspension from a Citroen DS and an engine from a Corvair, driving the front wheels. So unlike the others above, it was really never intended to be on television. Instead, it may well be the most filmed custom car built. In 1967 it was central to an episode of “Bewitched” as well as an episode of “Star Trek”. Then in 1968, it was used on “Mission: Impossible” to trick a bank robber into think 14 years had passed. Almost embarrassingly, The Reactor appeared in two episodes of “Batman” in 1967 as Catwoman’s car, with fur ears and a tail attached. Thankfully, the Reactor is back in the hands of its builder who’s restored the car and shows it frequently.
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