Five of the film world’s most famous cars
As the weather cools down and the fireplace cranks up, there’s never been a better time to get cozy at home with good company and a solid list of your favorite flicks. And because the road is always beckoning (no matter the season), make it a film lineup you won’t soon forget when it comes to the cars featured, ensuring ample inspiration for your own around-town cruises. From a British-born spy ride and an iconic hot rod to a futuristic flying machine and a father’s prized possession, here are five of the film world’s most famous cars.
1. 1964 Aston Martin DB5 (Goldfinger, 1964; Thunderball, 1965)
Though there have been several cars featured in the James Bond films over the years, it’s perhaps the Aston Martin DB5 that has become the most iconic, making its debut drive in Goldfinger. The British-made, luxury grand tourer has been turning heads ever since, thanks to some seriously sleek features, including wool pile carpets, chrome wire wheels, and a magnesium body built to Italian Superleggera standards (not to mention its own fire extinguisher). Soon after the DB5 release came a high-performance Vantage edition, showcasing updated carburetors for a whopping 325 horsepower (of which just 65 were made through 1965).1 Today, there are only three surviving Bond-modified DB5s. One, a 1964 model used in the filming of Goldfinger and Thunderball sold in 2010 for a cool $4.6 million, while a 1965 model built to promote the latter film went for an even higher amount—$6.4 million—in 2019.2
2. 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 (Back to the Future, 1985)
When the team first began writing the Back to the Future script, they considered a refrigerator as the time-traveling object of choice.3 In the years that followed, though, they realized that a car would be a much more appealing option—especially when they encountered the era-spanning potential of the DeLorean. The make had been manufactured for only a handful of years at that point, once John DeLorean had left his role at General Motors to create his own company and car of his dreams (which several considered to be the “Tesla of its time”).3 To enhance its futuristic feel, the film team worked on adding features like flashing lights and aircraft details—plus, a Porsche engine and new speedometer to help it reach its official “time-traveling” speed of 88 mph—a once impossibility with its original speedometer cap of 85 mph.3
3. 1932 Ford Coupe (American Graffiti, 1973)
Though this submarine-yellow coupe was initially built as a prop for this 1973 coming-of-age film, it quickly became known as one of the most recognizable hot rods in the world.4 Credit that quick fame to its electric hue, and, of course, the feel-good vibes associated with a group of recent high school grads cruising around small-town America before embarking upon real-world, lifelong journeys. It was said that director George Lucas was specifically seeking a 1932 coupe with a chopped top (i.e. a roof cut off at the pillars to result in a lower sedan height).5 The pursuit of such a model was rooted in style and substance alike: In addition to an eye-catching appearance, the lower roof ensured less wind resistance for racing (it was, after all, the model through which Ford brought affordable V8 performance to the public).5
4. 1963 Modena Spyder California (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986)
Ask any ’80s enthusiast their favorite flicks of the decade, and this one almost always lands at the top of the list, thanks to famous scenes featuring baseball, lip-synced parades, and, of course, the car belonging to Cameron’s father (and the symbol, we come to learn, of one of the film’s core themes—freedom versus the lack thereof). While depicted onscreen as a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT, director John Hughes actually relied upon a “replicar” (three of them, to be exact) found in the Modena Spyder California.6 It was one of those three that ended up rolling out of Cameron’s glass showroom and into the ravine below—and a different one that collector vehicle enthusiasts saw for sale as recently as last January. Complete with a 427-cid V8 engine, tan leather interior, and Blaupunkt amplifiers (plus 14 hidden speakers), the ride sold quickly for $400,000.7,8
5. 1968 Ford Mustang GT 390 Fastback (Bullitt, 1968)
It was the iconic car chase in this ’60s action-thriller that helped to establish overnight notoriety for this car—driven in the film by actor Steve McQueen, whose character is protecting a Chicago mobster in exchange for critical information. The suspense of this plotline only increased post-flick when the celebrated Mustang went missing for nearly four decades. Finally, it showed up under the ownership of Sean Kiernan, whose father saw the car in Road & Track magazine in the early ’70s and purchased it for $6,000.9 When McQueen heard the news, he tried to purchase the car from the family (perhaps inspired to hit the road again)—but they did not accept his offer.9 Instead, the Kiernans kept the car until they teamed up with Ford for a special reveal coinciding with the 2019 Mustang Bullitt, the third special edition model in Mustang history.
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Nicole Schnitzler is an editorial writer with Berkley One. She has written for many popular publications and covers trends and topics in travel, food, drink, lifestyle, culture and more.