TV and Movie Cars That Became Stars: Design and Graphics Define Memorable Fan Favorites

by Vanessa Davidson

Inspired by “Five TV and Movie Cars with Vehicle Graphics We Love,” here is another look at some famous vehicles, all of which are one-of-a-kind. Some even spurred real-life sales for auto manufacturers, like Herbie the Love Bug did for Volkswagen six times, starting with The Love Bug in 1968 and ending with the sixth in the series Herbie: Fully Loaded in 2005. Will we see Herbie again?

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was designed with aero-engined vehicles (using an engine designed for aircraft) of the early 1900s in mind. The 1968 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was filmed almost exclusively in England and was based on a 1964 novel written by Ian Fleming (author of the James Bond series of spy novels). The crisp pinstripe red fender lines and radiating yellow lines on the engine cover echo the intricate detail of the overall design.

Trotters Independent Trading Company

Trotters Independent Trading Company

Photo courtesy of BBC

Another famous British car is Trotters Independent Trading Company’s yellow Reliant Regal used in the long running BBC comedy Only Fools and Horses that ran from 1981 to 1991 with sporadic holiday specials through 2003. Although this unusual, 3-wheeled car stands out due to design already, the bright yellow color with contrasting graphic lettering makes this car even more of a stand out.

Pointer 1


Photos courtesy of the Imperial Club

The Pointer 1 was used more than 40 years ago by the Terrestrial Defense Force against extraterrestrial threats in the series Ultra Seven filmed and aired in Japan. Its design and distinctive logo blend together into an unforgettable vehicle. The original Pointer 1 didn’t run and was pushed around by the TV crew; when the series ended it was donated to a kindergarten but then disappeared from history, presumed scrapped and crushed. Although Ultra Seven aired for only one year ending in 1968, the Pointer 1 has been likened to the Batmobile in the United States for fame and popularity in Japan.

Speed Racer’s Mach 5

Speed Racer’s Mach 5-1 Speed Racer’s Mach 5-2

Also originating in Japan, but making a big splash in the USA, is Speed Racer’s Mach 5. The animated Speed Racer attracted a variety of viewers because it featured an underdog who won the day supported by an eclectic but lovable family, and a car. Speed Racer didn’t drive just any car, he drove a modified Mach 5 that included controls to trigger an auto jack (for repairs), belt tires (for traction on any terrain), cutter blades (rotary saws to remove obstacles such as trees), a deflector (protects passenger chamber from bullets, crashes and water), frogger mode (transformation to an underwater vehicle), an illuminating eye (for clear views at great distances), and a homing robot bird (to carry pictures or messages). Later, a mini wings function was added to improve the length of Mach 5 aerial jumps. Although the animated series led to a full length move in 2008, 40 years after the TV show ended, the familiar design and idiosyncratic vehicle graphics needed no updating. Starkly visible in the bright field of white is the red “M” for Mach and the yellow number five in the red circle, showing a great design can be striking and timeless.

Speed Racer’s Mach 5-3

Can you think of more star cars with great design and memorable graphics? Let us know @FASTSIGNS.