Let’s face it, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without Christmas movies. They warm our hearts. They lift our spirits. They make us laugh. And if they happen to include a memorable classic car or two, well, all the better.
We all have our favorite holiday films and automobiles, but here is our list of “Top 5 Christmas Movie Cars” (technically, four cars and a truck):
The film, set in 1940s Indiana (but filmed in Cleveland), may have centered on a 9-year-old boy’s quest for a Red Ryder BB gun, but the family car played a starring role.
In real life, Oldsmobile touted its 1937 Six and Eight models as “Modern to the Minute!” and the “Best Looking Cars of the Year!” Olds’ advertising touted the cars’ size, durability, power and economy, and also highlighted the unique attributes of each: “Two great new cars … entirely different from each other.” The Old Man’s Six, had he purchased it new (and we know he didn’t), started at $685 – equal to only about $11,500 in today’s economy. That’s a screaming deal. But in the film the Old Man screams more at the family’s demonic furnace than he does at the Olds. Still, the car doesn’t escape his frustrated sarcasm.
“That hot damn Olds has froze up again! That son of a b#$*& would freeze up in the middle of summer on the equator!”
The ’37 Six featured Art Deco styling cues, including a turret top and a large grille with horizontal bars, and it had a 230-cid, 95-hp inline-six engine under the hood. But in the movie, the tires – one in particular – set the stage for a most memorable scene. “My old man’s spare tires were actually only tires in the academic sense,” Ralphie recalls. “They were round … they had once been made of rubber …”
And when one goes flat, Ralphie’s mother encourages him to give his father a hand changing it – a first-time opportunity. When Ralphie accidently spills the lug nuts his father had tossed inside the dog-dish hubcap for safe keeping, Ralphie blurts out “the ‘F-dash-dash-dash’ word!” As punishment, he gets a mouthful of soap.
In 2012, the U.S. Library of Congress declared “A Christmas Story” to be “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant,” and it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. Let’s not forget the Old Man’s Oldsmobile, either.
We know. It isn’t nearly as famous as its older sibling, the frighteningly ugly – or ridiculously cool, depending on your point of view – Wagon Queen Family Truckster from “National Lampoon’s Vacation” (a heavily modified 1979 Ford LTD Country Squire). But the 1988 Ford Taurus wagon that transported the Griswolds on their Christmas adventures is still awesome.
The Taurus takes center stage when it’s time to cut a Christmas tree and the Griswolds head out for a little F3 (Forced Family Fun). On the way, Clark’s competitive nature gets the best of him, and the car launches itself – literally – into Christmas movie history.
George Bailey’s 1919 Dodge Brothers touring car in “It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946)
One of the most beloved Christmas films of all time, “It’s A Wonderful Life” is chock full of great automobiles. Some we remember well – Ernie’s taxi cab, Burt’s police car and Sam’s Duesenberg, for instance – and many that we don’t. But the most cherished of them all is the 1919 Dodge Brothers touring that Jimmy Stewart crashes into a tree, sending him over the edge as he contemplates what life would be like if he’d never been born.
The open-air Dodge might otherwise be forgettable, but its role in Frank Carpra’s magical story makes it special. The car, which still has its original movie studio ID badge, was displayed in a museum for years before passing into private ownership. Five years ago, it was purchased by a movie-loving Colorado couple. The Dodge was up for auction in 2014 but didn’t change hands, perhaps because – like the movie – its owners ultimately decided that it was priceless.
In “Scrooged,” David Johansen scares the hell out of Bill Murray – which is exactly the point – by taking him on a wild ride in a 1970s Checker taxi cab.
Technically, the iconic yellow cab is a Checker Marathon, which retained the same basic design during its 22-year production run from 1961-82. The Marathon, produced in Kalamazoo, Mich., was built to take a beating, as would be expected of any taxi cab, particularly those that roam New York City. The Checker is an underappreciated keeper, and so is “Scrooged.”
Bonus Christmas taxi tidbit: Will Farrell gets hit by a yellow cab while crossing a New York City street in “Elf” (2003). Don’t think about it too much. It’s funny.
What’s that you say? “Lethal Weapon isn’t a Christmas movie?” Au contraire, my friend. It is indeed a Christmas movie; it just doesn’t give us the warm fuzzies we’re used to receiving from holiday fare – unless you like action, explosions and kick-ass trucks. And we do. Which means we really dig Mel Gibson’s 1985 GMC C-3500 Wideside Dually. The thing is a beast. It’s so tough that it brings down the house – an actual house. Hope Santa wasn’t inside.
Honorable mention: Argyle’s 1988 Lincoln limousine in “Die Hard” (1988)
The “Lethal Weapon” GMC reminds us of an automotive hero in another “That’s a Christmas movie?” movie: the black 1988 Lincoln limousine that gives Bruce Willis a lift from LAX to Nakatomi Plaza in “Die Hard.” Who knew that in the end, the limo and its driver, Argyle, would become heroes? ’Tis the season.
Honorable mention: Willie’s 1969 Chevy Impala in “Bad Santa” (2003)
Forgive us in advance, but there’s something about the beat-up 1969 Chevrolet Impala that Billy Bob Thornton drives in “Bad Santa” that we just can’t get out of our heads. What’s that, you ask? Let’s just say the car’s best feature – in the movie, at least – is its generous leg room.
Honorable mention: Plymouth Woodie Wagons in “Holiday Inn” (1942) and “White Christmas” (1950)
We find it amusing – and hopefully interesting – that two movies often mistaken for one another both cast similar-looking Plymouth woodie wagons in essentially the same roles.
In “Holiday Inn” (1942), a fresh 1942 Plymouth Special DeLuxe wagon is used to transport guests to the Holiday Inn. In “White Christmas” (1954), a 1950 Plymouth Special DeLuxe wagon is used to transport guests to the Columbia Inn. Two Plymouth woodies, two country inns, two iconic Christmas musicals.
As far as we’re concerned, you can’t go wrong with either car or movie.