One of our West Coast correspondents, Michele Brittany, writes and snaps these photos from Long Beach Comic Con:
One of the benefits of the Long Beach Convention Center is its trademark promenade lining the length of the front entrance where people could congregate to enjoy a break from the con. I, as well as many other attendees, were treated to a line up of iconic automobiles from film, television, cartoon and even a comic or two. Adults and children alike, myself included, were delighted to see some old familiar favorites. Many took time to pose, take pictures and peer into the vehicles to have a closer look at the various gadgets each to offer. Of course, we were all tickled when a cosplayer that matched the automobile came by and re-enacted a moment from the television show or movie. Talk about a Kodak moment in the making!
Smoky and the Bandit (Film, 1977)
“Breaker, breaker…..You got your ears on?…..Come on back?” Ah, CB radios, cheap gasoline, and the great open highway. Burt Reynolds, Sally Field and Jackie Gleason starred in this directorial debut by Hal Needham. The film was shot in 1976 but the storyline described Reynolds character purchasing a brand new “speedy car” so Needham picked the 1976 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am SE and had them modified to reflect the newer 1977 version. The sleek black and gold accented car became quite popular and would become iconic in a television show in the 80s.
Magnum P.I. (Television series, 1980-1988)
Who wants a mustache ride? Who was melted by the dimpled smile of Tom Selleck? I’ll be honest, I didn’t know this Ferrari 308 GTS was from the Magnum P.I. until I heard some dialogue clips being broadcast from the car – Tom Selleck has such a distinctive voice. Thomas Magnum drove around the island of Oahu solving cases where the targa topped red sports car could be showcased with it’s top off amongst the tropical locale, every Thursday evening for the majority of the 80s.
Knight Rider (Television series, 1982-1986)
The autonomous male voice announced, “I am the Knight Industries Two Thousand. You may call me ‘K.I.T.T.’” As probably the most recognizable black Pontiac Firebird Trans Am in the history of television, the 1982 car cost $100,000 to customize for the show. David Hasselhoff starred as Michael Knight, a high tech crime fighter that has been teamed with an artificially intelligent car, who happened to have some of the best dialogue banter for a non-human character at the time. Personally, the roving back and forth red LED display always reminded me of the mono-eyed Centurion Cylons from the original Battlestar Galactica series. (Apparently it was a nod to Glen A. Larson who produced both of these shows as well as Magnum P.I.)
Ghostbusters (Film, 1984)
“If there’s something strange / In your neighborhood / Who you gonna call / Ghostbusters!”
Sporting the license plate Ecto-1, this ghostbustering automobile started out as a 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor. The endloading limo-style conversion allowed our intrepid ghostbusters to store their equipment in a pull out rack. White and red with the ghostbuster logo on the side and back doors, this spawned a lot merchandise, even from Hot Wheels as recent as 2010!
Back to the Future (Film, 1985)
Doc Brown said during BTTF “The way I see it, if you’re going to build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?” Oh yeah, who wasn’t thinking about those weird gull-wing doors that opened up and the flux capacitor along with Mr. Fusion providing the kick to Doc Brown’s time traveling DeLorean DMC-12. Production began in 1981, but was stopped a year later when the automobile industry experienced a severe downturn. A total of 9,000 were originally manufactured and it is estimated that a little over 6,000 still exist. With the 30th anniversary of BTTF just around the corner, the DeLorean Motor Company in Huntington Beach, California is working on an electric version. No Mr. Fusion or flux capacitor, but having one parked in the driveway would still be envy-worthy!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Cartoon, 1987)
Cowabunga dudes, it’s a turtle van on a half shell! The TurtleVan or Party Wagon, was the main TMNT transport throughout the series. The van at the show was VW Camper bus that had been converted into this colorful van, complete with a ninja turtle behind the wheel, looking like he was read to set off for some adventure.
Batman (Film, 1989)
This is probably the coolest of all of the various Batmobile styles over the decades. Ever evolving to keep pace with advancements in technology, Tim Burton’s take on Batman’s wheels started with a Chevy Impala chassis and was designed to compliment Anton Furst’s designs of Gotham City. I’m partial to it for beautiful clean and functional lines of the car that take from the Art Deco style of the 1920s. This is not for the faint of heart – it’s jet engine under the hood and the mounted guns did actually shoot of loud blanks at dusk, which was quite impressive and probably took a few people by surprise!
Jurassic Park (Film, 1993)
Anyone for a tour of the park where objects are closer than they appear in the mirror? Perhaps not as glamorous as some of the other automobiles on display, but the colorful tour vehicle was actually a 1991-1992 Ford Explorer XLT. Roomy and huge windows allowed Lex, Tim and Alan to the T. rex more clearly when the power went out.
Also on display was one of the maintenance jeeps – a 1992 Jeep Wrangler Sahara – just like Dennis Nedry would have used when he tried to escape with the dinosaur embryos, only to have a very cozy encounter with a Dilophosaurus….
There were even a couple of custom automobiles: a custom Joker (Jack Nicholson) golf cart and a Star Wars homage car – forget Onstar, this car has its own astromech droid! All of the cars were provided by Star Car Central out of Hollywood. And, according to the association’s website, all of the cars are street legal – yeah, think about that one for a moment….I’m looking at you TurtleVan!
Michele Brittany is an independent pop culture scholar and semi-professional photographer currently editing an upcoming anthology on the influence of James Bond on popular culture. She regularly posts reviews and analysis on the spy/espionage genre on her blog, Spyfi & Superspies.