Part 1 of 2 The car is the star
Courtesy of ReMIND Magazine
(Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part article. See next week’s edition for part two.)
Americans like our autos like we like our celebrities — sleek and sexy or macho and muscular, but always, always with enough panache to make ’em stand out in a crowd. No wonder stars and cars hold neighboring sweet spots in our hearts and most vivid memories. With convertible season just around the corner, ReMIND salutes pop culture’s love affair with car-crazy famous folks and iconic rides that held their own on top TV shows and road-ready films.
There’s nothing like a great car to impress a girl, chase down a bad guy or amp up your cool cred. No wonder Hollywood has long relied on four-wheeled superstars to turbocharge a storyline. We salute some of pop culture’s most notable “TV-ehicles,” their backstories, fun facts and famous drivers.
For eight seasons (1980-88), Tom Selleck donned a half-buttoned Hawaiian shirt and drove around Oahu in an open-top Ferrari 308 GTS to play Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV, a Vietnam vet turned private investigator living a luxurious island lifestyle in the Emmy-winning CBS series Magnum, P.I. While the mustachioed Magnum brought plenty of sex appeal to the long-running series, when he slipped into that red-hot convertible, he smoldered. Producers originally intended to use a Porsche 928 for the show, but the automaker wouldn’t concede to modifications enlarging the sunroof for aerial shots. It was their loss. Having a sexy male lead in the driver’s seat on one of television’s hottest shows was good business for Ferrari — so much so that the Italian car manufacturer gave Selleck a car for his own personal use. “I couldn’t drive that around Hawaii — I would have looked ridiculous,” Selleck admitted. “I ended up sending it back to L.A., and my dad got to drive it.”
Magnum’s own ride suffered countless mishaps — it was stolen, keyed, blown up (a few times) and driven off a cliff. But when the series ended in 1988, all of the surviving Ferraris used in the series were auctioned off. Last year, one of them — the 1984 308 GTS — sold for $181,500 at auction.
Another white-hot ’80s star-and-car combo was Knight Rider’s (NBC, 1982-86) high-tech modern crime-fighter Michael Knight — a role that made David Hasselhoff an international star — and his tricked-out Pontiac Firebird Trans Am called KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand). In addition to being able to drive itself, KITT also talked, with a voice supplied by William Daniels (who was also starring in St. Elsewhere at the time). Hasselhoff is still one of the car’s biggest fans. “KITT was programmed to save lives, not take lives,” he boasted, commending the series for being family-friendly. In true Hasselhoff fashion, he also credits himself for giving some personality to the car by calling it pal and buddy — which wasn’t originally part of the script. “I wanted it to be like my horse,” he laughed.
On Hasselhoff’s 60th birthday in 2012, the original car’s designer gifted him with a 1986 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am that was modified to resemble and function like KITT, including the flickering red and yellow LEDs on the dashboard and more than 4,000 sound effects.
Be sure to catch the second part of this article in next week’s issue.
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