Viewed through the lens of the passage of 40 or 50 years, our favorite classic TV shows seem to have been full of great classic cars. Of course, they were all just new cars then and their presence on our favorite shows was no accident. It was the dawn of the product-placement era, and cars were by far the choicest products to embed in shows like “Green Acres” and “Bewitched.” In those days, the Big Three got near-exclusive sponsorships on the shows plus a credit at the end. Here are some of our favorite shows and the brand of cars they featured:
- “The Rockford Files”: One of the last great private-eye shows, former big-screen star James Garner played slick Jim Rockford to perfection. And while Rockford almost never used a gun, he did use a gold Pontiac Firebird on a regular basis. Frequent continuity errors meant that Rockford could be seen driving several different years of mid-’70s Firebirds in one scene.
- “Green Acres”: One of the trio of CBS’s hit “rural shows,” along with “Petticoat Junction” and “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Green Acres” was a Ford show, and the cars that received most of the screen time were a series of 1965-67 Lincoln Continental convertibles driven by cranky Oliver Douglas (played by Eddie Albert). Oliver’s Continentals get our vote as the most stylish and elegant star cars on classic television.
- “Charlie’s Angels”: Every adolescent boy’s favorite show was also a Ford show for most of its run. Two of the Angels drove a Mustang II — Farrah Fawcett’s character, Jill, drove what passed for a Cobra in those days — and ironically, the brainy Angel, Sabrina, actually drove a Pinto. The less said about the Pinto and the Pinto-based Mustang II, the better, but sadly, this is what Ford was pushing in the ’70s.
- “The Beverly Hillbillies”: The Hillbillies was a comparatively rare Mopar show —The Chrysler Corporation supplied the vehicles. The snobby Drysdales, a wealthy banking family, could usually be seen in a top-of-the-line Imperial, and Milburn Drysdale’s long-suffering assistant, Jane Hathaway, usually drove a Dodge Coronet or a Plymouth Fury convertible.
- “Bewitched”: For most of its run, “Bewitched” was proudly pro-Chevy, with tons of Camaros, Caprices and even Corvairs appearing over the show’s long run. But the guy with the wife who could twitch her nose and conjure up any car he wanted rarely had the coolest ride on the show. Nope, it was Darrin Stephens’ boss, Larry Tate, who often showed up in a new Corvette convertible.