Cars and other vehicles were so closely tied to pop culture in the 80s that they often had prominent roles on the most popular television shows. It seems strange that TV show cars would be such a big deal, but we can vouch that it is true. Sometimes, a show featured a vehicle because it just looked exceptionally cool. Other times, the angle of a show revolved around a highly advanced car full of secret technology.
That flimsy premise was more than enough to keep countless 80s kids glued to their dangerously heavy CRT televisions every week. Who wouldn’t want to watch a car literally fight crime while also making sarcastic quips at the driver? We certainly did!
To honor those cherished memories, we will share with you some of our favorite cars from 80s TV shows.
‘The A-Team’ van
The A-Team was an over-the-top, action show with tons of violent scenes in which nearly everyone magically escaped unharmed. Yet, none of that mattered because millions of people tuned in to see the hilarious banter between the A-Team members and watch them chase adventure in their iconic van.
The A-Team van never had a nickname, but it was so synonymous with the show that it didn’t need one. Based on a 1983 GMC Vandura, the A-Team van was the group’s mobile base of operations. Equipped with aggressive fender flares, a rear spoiler, and one of the coolest paint jobs ever, the A-Team van was easily recognizable. While technically a van, it is still one of the coolest TV show cars of all time.
The ‘Magnum P.I.’ Ferrari 308 GTS
Tom Sellick’s “Thomas Magnum” character had it all in 1980: a closet full of floral shirts, daringly short shorts, a mighty mustache, and on-demand access to a bright red Ferrari 308 GTS. Is there a better TV show car than a Ferrari? It is tough to say, but we would imagine Tom Sellick would probably go with “no.”
The Ferrari that the Magnum P.I. character drove throughout the entirety of the series is easily the reason why countless kids (and more than a few adults) daydreamed about owning their own 308 GTS someday. Audiences were so enamored with Magnum’s Ferrari that the car didn’t need a gimmick. That is what makes it one of the excellent TV show cars of the 80s.
‘K.I.T.T.’ From ‘Knight Rider’
We are sure you all saw this coming. It is impossible to create a list of our favorite TV show cars and leave out “K.I.T.T.” from Knight Rider. Knight Rider was a prime example of an 80s car TV show. K.I.T.T. was featured prominently in the show’s intro, outro and was on screen just as much as the show’s main character “Michael Knight.”
Knight Rider was K.I.T.T.’s show; the other characters were just along for the ride. No pun intended. K.I.T.T. is based on a 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. The production team created a custom front end to set the fictional car apart from the actual muscle car it was built on, featuring the iconic tracing red lights. A replica of K.I.T.T. can be seen in person today at the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA.
We are glad you came on this trip back to the 1980s with us to a time when all you needed to get a show greenlit was a cool car. These days things are not as simple but maybe if that Knight Rider film ever gets made, shows like it will get a resurgence.