QotW: What TV series or movie fueled your love for cars?

Forty years ago today, on September 26, 1982 Knight Rider debuted on NBC. As much as I hate to admit it, the show played a seminal role in my love for cars. The reason I hate to admit it is because, well, the show was objectively ridiculous. The screenshot above is from a first season episode in which Michael and KITT enter an alternative fuel race to root out a saboteur. It was a funny episode because the race included an “electric” Porsche, a “solar” Mustang, a “propane-powered” Datsun 200SX as the Japanese entry, and a not-so-subtle jab at that other jumping car show in the form of a “moonshine-powered” orange Charger (which gets blown up, naturally). Despite its terrible writing, what could be cooler to a grade school kid than a talking Firebird Trans-Am that could fly through the air, reach 200 mph, and be your best friend?

What TV series or movie fueled your love for cars?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What will happen to classics after the EV revolution?

According to the comments most readers believe that classics will live on with a conversion to a new form of propulsion. Fred Langille‘s alcohol, daniel‘s hybridization, or Lakdasa‘s full-on battery electrics. A few remained hopeful regarding an actual fuel, like JJ with carbon-neutral synthetic petrol  hydrogen fuel cells or Socarboy with hydrogen. Jonathan P‘s lament almost had us in tears. But the winner this week was Michael Jue, who plans to hold onto hope till the bitter end.

In 2035, when ICEs are gone and EVs are the only cars in the showroom, I’ll buy a used RZ34 Nismo on Bring A Trailer to go with my by-then 32 year old Z33 and 67 year old Datsun Roadster to look at them in my garage and wax eloquently, “I remember when….” followed by “Get off my lawn!”.

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23 Responses to QotW: What TV series or movie fueled your love for cars?

  1. RamenEater3000 says:

    Wacky Races. In the late 90’s as a kid I used to spend my school holidays at my grandparents house, they only had 3 TV channels, and one of them used to show 2 episodes of Wacky Races back to back, starting at 10:00am on Saturday morning. I used to try and draw the different cars, and I remember pointing out the special features of each car to my grandfather, who did his best to show his interest as he rolled his tobacco. Side fact, my grandfather drove a Datsun 180B, which used to smell strongly of petrol at all times. But I digress… that TV show had me interested in cars from an early age. I literally used the term “looks like something out of Wacky Races” when pointing at a heinous body kit on a C3 Corvette at a local car show a few months ago. I’ve got two kids now, aged 4 and 2. At some point I’ll look up Wacky Races on Youtube or wherever and play it for them, whilst letting out an evil “Muttley laugh”.

  2. エーイダン says:

    Initial D really fueled it. As a teen it sparked my obsession with Japanese cars of the ’90s and decades prior.

  3. Danny says:

    Speed Racer (1960’s cartoon) also known as Mach GoGoGo for me.

  4. Nigel says:

    Same as you Ben Knight Rider…what makes it a bit cooler is that KITT could have been a Z.
    (Or sad ). I think also of another show with a bit of car jumping…Speedracer.

  5. GeorgeL says:

    Speed Racer (the original cartoon series) and the movie Smokey and the Bandit. Yes, I’m old. 🙂

  6. MWC70 says:

    All of them!!! It’s hard to nail it down to 1. I am speaking mainly from a North American “prime time 80’s TV” point of view, but the crazy customs on the Munster’s, Magnum PI’s 308, Fall Guy’s mega cool square body High Sierra – and Simon & Simon’s Power Wagon and IROC Camaro – in fact I have a red IROC Camaro today were all part of it…sure KITT was a part of that, but so was many others like Hardcastle & McCormick’s Coyote! but then it happened: CANNONBALL RUN!!! that was the end-all and be-all for me,

  7. Fred Langille says:

    The supermarionetion show Supercar … I mean, who WOULDN’T want a car that …
    ” … with beauty and grace, as swift as can be. Watch it fly through the air. It travels on land or under the sea and, it can journey anywhere .. SUPERCAR!” Not even the flying AMC or submersible Lotus put all of it together (although, I thought Condorman’s Condormobile was the coolest … especially the music!).

  8. speedie says:

    This is such a generational question. Representing the older generation from the 60s and early 70s, mine are mainly movie based as there were not many TV series that focused on cars with the exception perhaps of Batman (Batmobile), Green Hornet (Black Beauty), and the Monkees (Monkeemobile). So the movies that influenced me: Vanishing Point (1970 Dodge Challenger R/T), Bullitt (1968 Ford Mustang GT), and The Italian Job (1969 version; Lamborghini Miura and Mini Coopers). If you are don’t want to be the driver of the Miura after watching the opening scene of the Italian Job then you will never love cars.

    https://youtu.be/jwILuBnm6zQ

  9. Steve says:

    At first Green Hornet, and that cool Chrysler Imperial custom. Secondly, Speed Racer, as it was so cool and corny, my favorite kind of fun.

  10. james says:

    Believe it or not, it was MotorWeek that got me interested in cars. I guess it was a combination of that theme(from ’87 onward) as well as the cars presented.Especially the classic Japanese models.

  11. Jeff Koch says:

    My parents both drove VW Beetles in the 70s, and when I was 4, circa 1974, Herbie Rides Again was the first movie I remember seeing in theaters. It was amazing seeing the cars my parents had in our driveway, on the big screen! Other shows and films helped fuel it, and the car-crazy gene was already on board by the time I saw it, but this is my automotive-entertainment Genesis.

  12. Taylor C. says:

    I’m trying to see if that is General Lee and KITT in your QotW picture??

    I grew up watching Knight Rider, along with Dukes of Hazzard, as well as the Transformers cartoons. I don’t think any other automotive-related show fueled so much car testosterone for me.

    Luke and Bo (specifically) Bo just flooring it and swinging the tail wide whenever possible, even in the city streets. Flying over the creeks and unfinished bridges, I used to mimic that with my rusty old bmx bike and cinder block / wood plank ramps.

    I don’t know David Hasselhoff, and barely knew enough English to know that his name was Michael, but I sure knew KITT. The illuminated gas pedal, the red LEDs, all the buttons and jumps KITT could do. My parents took us to Universal Studies Hollywood in 1985(?), and seeing that car on display just cemented its coolness.

    Similar with Knight Rider, I probably didn’t catch any of the synopsis in the Transformers cartoons, but I’m sure able to sing the song, mimic the Autobots (and Decepticons) transforming noises, and just watch with awe as they zoom around and such.

    I forget what car-related TV shows were there in the 90s; oh, there was this extremely short-lived one called “Viper,” which was pretty cool, but then I think it just didn’t catch on, and maybe the plot was very weak.

  13. Jim Daniels says:

    For me it would be Speed Racer and a show that stared a car called The Jack Rabbit Special, I do not remember the name of the show. However, that of course lead into what could be considered a TV series NASCAR that use to be interesting in the late 60 through the 80 along with drag IHRA drag racing and INDY. To me NASCAR was always more interesting when they were at a road course. I would watch them every chance I got. Back in those day there was usually only one TV in a household and Dad would always have control of what was being watched. No one in my family wanted to watch racing of any type. My Dad would always have a golf tournament or basketball on. But when he was out of the room or out golfing himself I would turn the channel and watch as much racing as I could before Dad would change the channel back to golf or basketball. Although my Dad loved to drive he could not understand how watching it on TV was of any interest.

    • Steve says:

      Jim, was that “On Track” with Bud Lindeman? Awesome stuff on that show.

      Are you the Spec Miata racer we feared back in it’s infancy?

      • Steve says:

        Forgot to mention, my Dad took me to see Grand Prix in the theater back when I was a child. Oh boy, that is what cemented racing in my brain for sure. No question, cars and racing are on top of my list of life’s pleasures.

      • Jim Daniels says:

        No, that does not sound familiar, This was a cartoon, much like Speed Racer and same story type line. The car was white and had a built in roll bar that would look like a fly bridge on a boat right behind the drivers compartment. I would guestmate Speed Racer and this show came out about 1969.

        I may have dreams of being a feared race car driver but no I never raced the Spec Miata series.

    • Jim Daniels says:

      Just found this on line.
      The Jack Rabbit Special was a car in the 1970 Hot Wheels line-up. It is notable for being one of the featured vehicles in the Hot Wheels animated TV series. The Car were packaged with a metal ‘Collector’s Button’.

      During the same year of the regular release, there was a Jack In The Box Restaurant promotional version released. It came in a baggie with header card with the Jack In The Box logos and exclusive sticker sheet.

      The Jack Rabbit Special is believed to be based on the 1962 Ford Mustang I Prototype or the 1970 Meyers SR 2 Manx.

  14. HE HE says:

    There are two movies I enjoyed as a kid. They were Hot Wheels: The Origin of Awesome and Cars 1.
    The music always gets me hyped about cars or Hot Wheels, even when I’m not 5 years old. I own and still play with Hot Wheels, mainly realistic ones, like my bronze 510 or my blue 70′ Celica. It fuels up my heart with energy and makes me feel like 5 year old me. Every time I watch it, it makes me want to go fast, like my hot wheels yellow STI hatch that is a lot like Gage’s Twin Mill. Every now and then, I make a track that requires a lot of speed, and the STI always suceeds, unless it flies off the track due to its insanity. And the fact that Gage and his friends have project cars, in middle school! This is nuts and also awesome. If only I had my own project car in middle school. Hot Wheels has led me to many ideas and has inspired me to do awesome things with Hot Wheels.

    Cars 1 was also a heavy hitter. I loved it so much that I would play countless Cars games. I guess you could say that Lightning McQueen was a NASCAR based on the track MQ competed in. He started the wave of how I love cars. I’d get stickers, toys and much more to show my passion for Cars. The Tuner Gang is a really cool group, with a purple car most likely a Nissan Sports Car, a green car, possibly a 2G Eclipse, a blue car, most likely a Scion XB, and an orange muscle car, resembling a Dodge Challenger. My favorite is probably the Eclipse (which I think the name was Wingo) because of the nice paint job, which in a way reminds me of the HKS splash paint. I could go on, but I would probably die before I finish, so it ends here.

  15. j_c says:

    Initial D for me. For my generation it was either that or Fast and the Furious.

    I’d say the most ridiculous car scene in Knight Rider was when KITT was lapping as fast as Indycars when Michael goes undercover to find a saboteur in the championship.

  16. Mark F Newton-John says:

    LeMans. Steve McQueen, I was so taken up by the imagery and the driving, it changed my 11 year oldyoung mind in 1970, it was prptotypes from then on. Then my dad bought a brand new RT40 Toyota Corona and it was JDM from then on. Followed by my TE27 Corolla SR5, a FA4 Mazda GLC (Familia), 2nd gen Subaru GL (Leone), a RA60 Celica ST, and a TE71 Corolla.

    • speedie says:

      Le Mans along with Grand Prix were the two movies that used real racing footage from their time that captured what racing was like before safety measures thankfully stopped the ever increasing driver death rate. I would also offer up the 1966 French film “A Man and a Woman” whose main character was a race car driver and mechanic. It had some great footage of mid sixties Le Mans.

  17. Michael K. says:

    For me it was definitely Dukes of Hazzard and Knight Rider. I was really young so I don’t remember all that clearly, but I probably started out watching Dukes but KITT quickly took over my life once it came out. Every show of the 80s had to have a car co-star. Magnum P.I. and his 308. Hardcastle and McCormick and the Coyote. The A-Team and the GMC van. The Fall Guy and his Sierra. It was a winning formula and I lapped it all up.

  18. ra21benj says:

    I watched a lot of TV shows and movies growing up with cars starting with Speed Racer, Tom Slick, Starsky and Hutch, Batman, B.J. and the Bear (cool semi), Smokey and the Bandit, Cannonball Run, Dukes of Hazard, and Knight Rider. I wanted to own all the hero cars as a kid. The car that really fueled my love for cars was the James Bond’s Lotus Esprit in “The Spy who loved me” and “For your Eyes only”. I was pretty sad when it blew up at the beginning of the second movie, but glad he got a new on later. The later model Esprit in the movie “Pretty Woman” was also cool, but I prefer angular James Bond versions. I thought the Lotus Esprit was the coolest looking car I’ve ever seen. I was always drawing it in elementary school.

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