Now, I'd lay low, 'cause I love life and its infinite mysteries. But you two want to be dumb, that's fine. At least have the common sense to ditch your car. Dean Winchester:
Wh — uh, excuse me — what?
In Real Life
, fugitives would most likely use inconspicuous-looking vehicles to travel around, otherwise, they'd get caught quite easily.
Not so in fiction.
If your protagonists, Alice and Bob
, are of the Anti-Hero
variety, they will drive a rare and/or unique-looking vehicle in order to show how utterly Badass
they are. Somehow, the authorities never think to look for their pink-and-green SUV or purple-striped Ferrari, though ordinary Muggles
might, if Alice and Bob are the We Help the Helpless
type of anti-hero.
A subtrope of Cool Car
and Unusually Uninteresting Sight
. This trope is about how that kind of vehicle should
be a liability precisely because it is so rare and/or unique, but somehow never is. A Cool Car can
be cool and not fall under this trope (like Angel
's Plymouth, for example)—keep that in mind before adding an example.
Named for the somewhat rare 1967 Chevy Impala (The Metallicar
) that Sam and Dean Winchester drive on Supernatural
; somehow, the authorities never mention their car when they send out alerts to catch them, even though this would help increase the possibility of capture because there are so few of that model left.
Compare Improbably Cool Car
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- Despite being an internationally-wanted criminal, Lupin III often drives the very rare Mercedes-Benz SSK. A Justified Trope; his desire to show off is at least as powerful a motive as the money from his spectacular capers.
- Averted in A Certain Scientific Railgun, where the fact that Harumi Kiyama drives a very distinct Lamborghini Gallardo helps considerably when they're trying to find her on traffic cameras since they recognize it immediately.
- Averted but discussed early in Runaways, where Chase drives the Runaways around and one of them complains about how uncool his plain white van is; he responds that he got it on purpose because a plain white van is the most inconspicuous vehicle possible.
- The Batmobile is Awesome but Impractical: it gives away the fact that Batman (a hero who depends often on stealth) is in the neighborhood! Some versions have the ability to disguise their appearance as more normal cars, however.
- Sometimes out and out invoked, as Batman scares criminals and regularly uses this fact to his advantage.
- Characters in Sin City are often supposed to be hiding out from the cops or mafia, but when they choose rides, they usually get the Cool Car. This trope is actually justified in that most cars in the city are vintage muscle cars.
- Of course, we have The Green Hornet and his car Black Beauty. Not just a Cool Car, but one specifically modified to be distinctive. The 2011 movie even gives the Hornet multiple identical cars in case one is destroyed. Near the end of the film it demonstrates color-shifting paint (from black to red), but it's still not the kind of car you see every day.
- The Scaremobile from Scare Tactics is a one-of-a-kind mobile home. It fits their cover as a rock band, but it is hardly inconspicuous.
- The black 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit.
- This is actually an aversion, as the entire point of The Bandit's car is to draw Smokey's attention away from the tractor-trailer he is escorting.
- Snowman's rig, in one film, is pulling a trailer with a large custom-painted mural on the side, which is very out of place for someone ostensibly trying to blend in with the hundreds of other 18 wheelers on the highway hauling plain white trailers or ones with less-conspicuous industrial graphics.
- Played with by the "black and white 1974 Dodge Monaco" from The Blues Brothers. It sounds like it should be a straight example, but it's actually an ex-police cruiser still in CPD colours, and the lack of a light-bar or the emblem on the doors isn't immediately noticeable from some angles. This doesn't actually help very much in the end, though.
- Pretty much every car in The Gumball Rally.
- Fozzie's Studebaker on The Muppet Movie is painted in psychedelic colors by the Electric Mayhem to help Kermit elude Doc Hopper. The paint job doesn't fool Hopper, but it does hide it surprisingly well when they stop in front of a similarly-painted billboard.
- Played with in Cannonball Run, when a black Lamborghini tears past another competitor's car on its way to the finish line. The passed car's driver (Dean Martin) asks if it's in the race, and his co-driver (Sammy Davis Jr.) looks at him like he's an idiot before screaming for him to catch it.
- Likewise in the sequel, where two hot chicks in a Lamborghini are practicing for the Run by messing with the local cops. They even invested in a false paint job: after getting the local cops all worked up looking for a speeding Lamborghini of one color, they drop by a friendly construction site and have the fake paint washed off. Presto, now there's a DIFFERENT speeding Lamborghini with two hot chicks in it tearing around the local cops!
"If I tell you boys something, you boys won't think I've been drinking, will you? The white Lamborghini has vanished...but there's a RED one behind me—correction, PASSING ME, and it's got two great looking chicks in it!"
- Subverted to the point of comedy in Drive. The opening scene shows Ryan Gosling picking up a modified car for use in a heist. He and the mechanic walk past 5 or 6 flashy American muscle cars while the mechanic quips, "Here she is, plain-jane as can be, the most popular car in the state of California, the [modern day] Chevy Impala". Keep in mind that the Impala also used to be a flashy American muscle car back in the day.
- Mentioned in The Dark Knight when Bruce needs to go rescue someone in daylight, and Alfred asks if he'll be taking the Batpod.
Bruce: In the middle of the day, Alfred? Not very subtle.
- James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 could rotate the license plates to choose between 3 different versions to distract the villains. Even as the 1960s lacked computer databases of cars, even a thick-headed villain might have understood there couldn't have been too many silver Aston Martins in a given town, leave alone in the relative poverty of most European countries at that time. A real London-based spy in 1964 probably would've driven a gray Morris Minor.
- Subverted in the 2011 The Green Hornet film, where the car should be conspicuous, but turns out at the end to have camouflage technology that lets it hide from a police pursuit.
- Subverted in Taxi, where the bank robbers first escape in conspicuously red Mercedes-Benzes, but then, after making the whole city police searching for red Mercedes cars, they drop off into a garage and quickly repaint the cars in inconspicuous grey.
- Played with in Johnny Dangerously, when Johnny and Lil are making their escape in a black... er, white... er, duckies-and-bunnies car that was previously covered in layers of shelf paper specifically so they could invoke the trope.
- The Impala from Supernatural, of course.
Madison: You know, for a stake-out, your carís a bit conspicuous.
- The A-Team's black van with custom red trim, though it got noticed as "The A-Team's Van" once or twice during the series. Not very often, though.
- Face Lampshaded this once when Hannibal told him to keep tailing the episode's villain in his white-with-red-stripes Corvette:
Face: He's going to know I've been following him in the 'Vette.
- Referenced on The Muppet Show when Sam the Eagle complains that guest star Elton John "dresses like a stolen car."
- Nash Bridges' Hemi Cuda (which there are like 7 in existence). He drives it everywhere even while undercover at times.
- Sure, but Nash is a cop. Who would he be hiding from?
- From the criminals while working undercover?
- Perhaps justified on Burn Notice. The team tends to use fancy cars for their high-speed chases and wealthy cover identities. But they also go through a lot of cars - stealing (and then returning) new ones for almost every job, and buying junkers when they are more appropriate. The exceptions include Michael's Charger, which really should have been recognized at some point. Of course, he blew it up, so that isn't going to happen.
- Most of the time Michael is not really hiding from anyone so there is no point in tracking him through his car. It is easier to just ask one of the many people who know where he lives.
- In the Middle East Special of Top Gear, the hosts had to sneak across Syria. At first, they tried to modify their convertibles to more desert ready conditions. They painted their cars in various colors and added some accessories. When, they realize that it was too dangerous, they dressed up in burkas and drove down the roads. Their cars were still convertibles with crazy paint jobs and stuck out like sore thumbs.
- Lampshaded on In Plain Sight after Mary's car is destroyed and she gets a muscle car as a temporary replacement. She wants to keep it permanently but her boss tells her that working for Witness Protection she cannot drive a car that people will notice and remember.
- The Torchwood van. A large, black van with the organization's name on it.