Follow TV Tropes


Hero's Classic Car

Go To
The name's Martin, Aston Martin.

Smith: What is this? Is this a classic car?
Bannon: Well, Smithy, some things get meaner as they get older if you know what I mean.

The Hero of the story (and the villain) generally have aspects that set them apart from everyone else, which often includes a Cool Car, and there's a fairly good chance it will be an old classic model. Classics in modern settings tend to stand out, with those wide grills and huge fenders and fins on some models, making its driver more distinctive.

The car could establish the hero's character. When the trope is played straight, the car is usually a luxury or sports model; expressing glamour, independence, or courage. The trope can be Played for Laughs; if the character is more of a Butt-Monkey, they can have a dated economy car, or a car in chronically bad shape. Perhaps they are a Fan of the Past, or it indicates they have a more old-school style or have old-fashioned views. Perhaps they might even come from that time. It might also indicate a degree of mechanical ability if the car is finicky and difficult to operate.

The car should be their primary mode of transportation, and be with them through most of their appearances. If it hasn't been with them from the start it will be something that they choose above all others.

The definition of a "classic car" has varied over time; usually 25 years back has been the limit between modern and classic cars. Therefore, the trope is valid only if the car is at least 20 years older than the setting (i.e. if setting is in The '70s the classic car would be from the The '50s or The '40s). Period pieces where everyone is driving them would not count, nor would contemporary works where everyone is driving a classic anyway.

The point here is that it sets the hero apart.

The same principle applies to The Future; a car made around the Turn of the Millennium (or whenever the film was shot) might stand out as antique in a setting 20 Minutes into the Future; if most other people drive a Flying Car, or an otherwise Cool Car. In sci-fi or fantasy settings, anything that is clearly inspired by classic cars would also count. In some cases for Long-Runners, the hero's car may start off as being perfectly contemporary to his setting but end up becoming this trope over time as it doesn't change for the times.

The car can be anything from an Invincible Classic Car to The Alleged Car. Also likely to be The Precious, Precious Car if not What a Piece of Junk.

If the car is custom-designed for the character, it is a Theme Mobile. If the car is designed for a collective, it is the Signature Team Transport. Compare and contrast Matching Bad Guy Vehicles.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Rally Vincent's Shelby GT500 from Gunsmith Cats (and when it is destroyed on Burst, Rally switches to a slightly newer Mach-II Mustang (with modifications to be up to her standards)).
  • Lupin III has three: a Fiat 500, which tends to be his usual transport these days, a Mercedes-Benz SSK, which he drove more in earlier works (the manga, Part I, and The Mystery of Mamo), and an Alfa Romeo Gran Sport Quattroruote in Part II and the occasional TV movie.
  • Wangan Midnight: Akio's car, the Devil Z, is a souped-up 1970 Nissan Fairlady Z (known as Datsun 240Z overseas) which was raced in the 1990s highway scene. The backstory implies it was a Chronically Crashed Car took out the lives of several drivers, however.

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics: For many years Archie was depicted driving a 1916 Ford Model T (or Model A), sometimes as a Hot Rod and sometimes just an old car, prone to breaking down more than driving. In 1983, this was permanently replaced by a 1960s-era Ford Mustang, again prone to breaking down. In one comic story, Mr. Lodge temporarily trades cars with Archie, giving him a late model sports car in an even trade for Archie's jalopy - Mr. Lodge is attending a classic car show and feels he's sure to win with Archie's car.
  • In The Maze Agency, Jen drives a 1958 Corvette in mint condition. It's a real turn-on for Gabe.
  • Xenozoic Tales (also known as Cadillacs and Dinosaurs): The main character is a mechanic who enjoys restoring classic Cadillacs (which by this point are over 400 years old) and uses a red 50s era one to get around a dinosaur infested jungle.
  • Donald Duck drives a compact convertible, known as a 1934 Belchfire Runabout. While the design began to look antiquated as early as in The '50s, it has become an Artifact in 21th century comic books, while other characters drive around in modern cars.
  • Wolverine used to have a Lotus Seven (aka Number Six's car) but the writers appear to have forgotten this.

    Fan Works 
  • Shinji from Evangelion 303 drives a '63 Corvette convertible. One of his old squad mates gave it to him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Ace Ventura: Pet Detective drives a beaten-up blue 1972 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
  • In Batman Forever, Bruce Wayne drives a black 1953 Jaguar XK 120 to see Dr. Chase Meridan.
  • In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Bruce Wayne drives an Aston Martin DB2/4.
  • The Batman (2022)'s version of the Batmobile is based on a late-sixties Dodge Charger.
  • Beverly Hills Cop: Axel Foley drives a dirty blue 1972 AMT Chevrolet Nova.
  • In The Big Lebowski, The Dude drives a beaten-up yellow 1973 Ford Gran Torino.
  • In the Blade Trilogy, Blade drove a 1968 Dodge Charger.
  • In Cobra, Cobretti drives a custom 1950 Mercury (the film is set in 1986).
  • In The Expendables, Barney Ross drives a 1955 Ford F100 pickup truck, which turns out in a Chase Scene to have been heavily modified under the hood.
  • The Fast and the Furious: Dominic Toretto's 1970 Dodge Charger
  • Flubber: When Professor Brainard needs a car to use as his flubber-powered flying test-bed, he uses his own 1963 Ford Thunderbird.
  • Ghostbusters (1984): In the 1984 film, the Ghostbusters buy a rundown 1959 Cadillac ambulance. The $4800 purchase is justified as the team has limited money, but the mechanical skills to transform it to the ECTO-1.
  • Give 'Em Hell, Malone: Malone drives a 1952 Chop Top Buick Straight 8, a suitable car for a noir hero.
  • Gran Torino was named after the main character and retired Detroit autoworker Walt Kowalski's classic 1972 Ford Gran Torino. The film was set in the early 2000s.
  • Happy Gilmore drives an orange 1973 Plymouth Duster.
  • In I, Robot, Detective Spooner owns a 2004 MV Agusta F4-SPR motorcycle, apparently a classic bike for the movie's 2025 time period and part of his Fan of the Past persona.
  • James Bond: Since its iconic appearance in Goldfinger, the Aston Martin DB5 has become the epitome of "classic" for the franchise since The '90s.
  • Joe Dirt: Joe starts by driving a 1967 GTX and later gets a 1969 Dodge Daytona Charger.
  • John Wick: John was given a 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 by his late wife Helen. Iosef Tarasov takes a liking to it (misidentifying it as a Boss 429 model), and breaks into John's house to steal it, beating him up and killing his dog—arranged by Helen to be delivered to him posthumously. This is what sets Wick's Roaring Rampage of Revenge in motion. Aurelio loans him a '67 Chevelle to drive in the interim. He recovers the Mustang in John Wick: Chapter 2, but smashes it and the Chevelle up almost beyond repair getting it out of the Tarasovs' chop shop.
  • The Karate Kid (1984):
    • Mr. Myagi keeps about a dozen antique cars parked outside his house. He gives Daniel LaRusso a 1948 Ford Super DeLuxe, one of his classic cars that Daniel had to Wax On, Wax Off on, as a 16th birthday present.
    • Johnny Lawrence's Avanti II is of recent vintage (1982), but the design is from 1963. It was one of the last cars Studebaker built; the design was later bought and cars built in a very limited production run.
  • Last Action Hero: Jack Slater drives a green 1969 Pontiac Boneville Convertible.
  • The Lincoln Lawyer: Named not as a referential comparison of the main character to the 16th President, but for the car he drove—a 1986 Lincoln Town Car, a big old blocky land-boat of the kind rarely seen on the road today or at the (recent) time the movie is set. (The film version only—in the book he drives a more recent (and scaled-down) model Town Car.)
  • Looper: Joe drives a Mazda MX5. While many cars in the 2044 setting are Real Life models from the early 2000s, most are utility cars, which are worn down and/or modified; causing a mint-condition sports car to stand out.
  • Mad Max: The titular Max drives a modified 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT Coupe referred to as a "V8 Interceptor".
  • Dalton from Road House (1989) drives a 1963 Buick Riviera that he purchased the moment he arrived to his new job. He has a newer car as well, but he keeps that one out of sight for the most part to prevent pissed-off bar patrons from smashing it in revenge for him kicking them out. The Riviera is what he's seen around town in.
  • 48 Hrs.: Jack drives a 1964 Cadillac DeVille convertible which gets destroyed. He liked it so much that by Another 48 Hrs, he'd bought the exact same model and color with some of Reggie's money.
  • In Crooked House, Charles drives a maroon Bristol 405 with its distinctive third headlight in the centre of the grille. Although the car is not particularly old for the period when the story is set, it is in less than pristine condition. Charles admits that he bought it third-hand, and it has a number of quirks, such as having to shove the driver's side door open with his elbow.

  • Demon Road, Milo's 1970 Charger (440 six-pack, 3 2-barrel carbs and 390 horses). It is actually his demonic symbiote from his days as an urban legend known as the Highway Ghost. It is not clear whether it was once simply a normal Charger.
    • It was, as the symbiosis comes from his deal. Demoriel ends up taking back the power he gave Milo, so it becomes a normal Charger and ends up being Amber, Kelly, and Glenns' ride at the end when they adopt the life of a team of hunters.
  • Dirk Pitt from the Dirk Pitt Adventures has an entire hangar of cars, most of them hailing from the '20s and '30s. Interestingly, he drives a different one in each novel.
  • Justified in The Dresden Files. Wizards mess up any technology they don't understand just by standing near it, so wizards like Harry cannot drive any car newer than roughly the 1970s for very long before it stops working. Hence Harry drives a much-abused classic VW Bug (the "Blue Beetle"), and his mentor Ebenezar McCoy uses an old Ford pickup truck (which is also a useful vehicle around his ranch in Arkansas). The Blue Beetle is irreparably destroyed in Changes, and after becoming the Winter Knight Harry is given a magicked-up Rolls-Royce by Queen Mab.
  • In the original James Bond novels such as Casino Royale Bond drives a Bentley 4 1/2 liter; the car is variously described as a 1930, 1933, 1935, and 1937 modelnote 
  • In Lilith Saintcrow's Jill Kismet series, Jill drives a '67 Chevy Impala she restored herself. (Given her job as a paranormal hunter, this is likely partially a Shout-Out to Supernatural.) It's destroyed in an altercation in book three, and she replaces it with a '68 Pontiac Bonneville.
  • Skulduggery Pleasant drives a 1950s Bentley. It's been magically repaired so many times it is said that if it takes so much as a scratch, it will implode. But he won't adopt any other for his daily driver; only ever using other cars when he needs to avoid Metallicar Syndrome.
  • Kala's Holden Monaro in Blood And Dust. To a certain extent, protagonist Kevins' Holden Commodore, though it doesn't survive very long once it is retrieved from his parent's house, and the Night Rider's Sandman panel van. In the sequel TheBigSmoke, Kevin is driving the Monaro, as Kala has given it to him between the two books. She warns him that it's hot, and the bad guys will be looking for it; he gets it modified, but this isn't much help either, as the enemy has already spotted the car and seen which garage it went into. At the end, Kevin gives the Monaro away to the former hunter from the VS who has been gunning for Kevin, and is now dying and implied not to have lived long enough to take a last drive in the coveted car.
  • In the Village Tales series, the Duke of Taunton's fleet – yes, fleet – of classic Bristol motorcars (and customised old Rovers for shooting-brakes). Lampshaded by the upper-working-class-origin Father Paddick upon arriving in his then-new parish, in Cross And Poppy, when he thinks to himself, "Surely a duke should buy a new car every year – and a Rolls or summat at that: cars over a decade old were the sort of thing he was accustomed to."
  • Geneviev's '57 Plymouth in Anno Dracula: Johnny Alucard. Complete with... highly aggressive security system.
  • Nina Tanleven: Henry Tanleven’s antique “Golden Chariot”, an enormous Cadillac (identified as a 1964 model in The Ghost Wore Gray and a 1959 model in The Ghost Let Go) that’s yellow and white, has large fins, and is longer than almost every parking space in Syracuse. According to Nine, it also breaks down about once a month, but Mr. Tanleven doesn’t mind - he says the repair bills are no worse than most people’s car payments, and it’s worth it to have a car with class.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Addams Family: A 1933 Packard V-12, also present in the live-action films.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
    • Coulson has a '62 Corvette that he calls Lola. It was a beat-up old clunker that his dad had been working on and kept dragging him in to work on it. Now he keeps it with him and has it modified to fly.
      "Don't touch Lola."
    • Additionally, Robbie Reyes' vehicle when not hellfired up, is a customized 1969 Dodge Charger.
  • The short-lived TV adaptation of the Anna Lee novels gave the character an old Sunbeam Alpine sports car.
  • The Avengers (1960s): John Steed has a nice collection of vintage cars. From the fourth season on, Steed's signature cars were six vintage green 1926–1928 Bentley racing or town cars, including Blowers and Speed Sixes (although, uniquely, in "The Thirteenth Hole" he drives a Vauxhall 30-98). In the final season, he drove two yellow Rolls Royces — a 1923 Silver Ghost and a 1927 New Phantom.
  • In Ballykissangel, an elderly parishioner bequeaths Father Clifford a Jowett Javelin, a luxury car only produced from 1947 to 1953. It's unfortunately destroyed in series three when it rolls off a cliff after another parishioner borrows it and forgets to set the parking brake.
    • In the middle seasons, Niamh drives a VW Type 3 Variant (wagon), an unusual choice for the wife and newborn baby of a traffic cop in the late 1990s.
  • Bergerac. Jim Bergerac's 'maverick' personality was expressed by driving a Burgundy 1947 Triumph Roadster. The producers thought it looked cool but — as many a critic and viewer noted — it was a car supremely unsuited to Jersey's narrow, winding roads and 40mph speed limits. Nevertheless, it inspired a tradition throughout the 1980s and 1990s where any "quirky" police investigator or private detective in a British show would drive some kind of collectible car.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Giles was mocked for using the beat-up but still cool and rare 63 Citroen DS, while Angel used a 67 Chevy Impala, and Spike's mode of transport was the '59 DeSoto Fireflite before he changed to a bike.
    • Angel. Angel is noted for his '67 Plymouth GTX, which Spike dubbed the Angelmobile. A convertible. In LA. Known for its sun. For a vampire. No Vanity Plate reading, Irony?
  • Burke's Law: Burke, a millionaire police detective, drives a 1962 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II during his police investigations. While not actually an example during the original 1963 series, it certainly fits when it appears in the 1994 revival.
  • In The Bridge (2011), Saga drives an early-model Porsche 911. It's eventually revealed that she won it in a bet from a fellow police-academy student who thought that, because of her mental issues, she'd never graduate. Sofia Helin, after the show had finished, complained that it had been extremely difficult and tiring to drive.
  • In Burn Notice Michael Westen drives his father's 1973 Dodge Charger. Justified in that, thanks to the eponymous burn notice, his records are all screwed up so he can't legally purchase a newer vehicle, but because of the car's age and his father's ... approach to vehicular maintenance he's frequently having to repair various things (the DVD featurettes note there's some Reality Subtext here: the vehicle used in the show had regular problems). Michael is forced to bomb the Charger to delay pursuers in the season 4 finale, but he spends the first few episodes of season 5 restoring it.
  • Columbo drove around in a pretty banged-up 1959 Peugeot 403 convertible. In an episode, he claimed that there were only three cars like his in the US.
  • Doctor Who: The Third Doctor's personal car during his exile on Earth was a canary yellow Edwardian roadster named Bessie. It was also driven by the Fourth and Seventh Doctors.
  • The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden's ride of choice in this adaptation is an old cloth-roof Jeep. In keeping with the Walking Techbane nature of magic from the novels it had to be an older car, but the TV crew explained that the bigger interior of a Jeep compared to a novel-accurate VW Bug is easier on camera angles (as well as being easier for a tall man to get in and out of).
  • Due South:
    • Ray Vecchio goes through three different 1971 Buick Rivieras during his two seasons on the show. The first two get destroyed in the line of duty and he buys another.
    • Ray's replacement Ray Kowalski drives a 1960s Pontiac GTO.
  • Forever Knight: Nick drives a 1962 Cadillac Series 62. Whenever anybody asks, it's because it has the most trunk space of any car from the last 30 years. What he doesn't tell them is that he needs the trunk space in case he gets caught away from home during the day he can get into the trunk and wait until night. In the original TV movie, the car was a '59 Cadillac Convertible, but it was changed to the '62 for the series.
  • Highlander: Duncan's black '66 Thunderbird convertible.
  • Lucifer (2016): Lucifer drives a black open-top 1962 Chevrolet Corvette C1, with licence plate "FALLIN1".
  • Inspector Morse with his red 1960s Jaguar Mark 2 (which actually became a Canon Immigrant into the later prose novels).
  • The Mentalist: Patrick Jane has a collection of classic cars but favors a '72 Citroen DS 20 as his day-to-day ride for most of the series.
  • Mac Gyver: While for most of the show Mac drives a contemporary Jeep Wrangler, in Season 5 he starts driving his grandfather Harry's 1946 Chevy Pickup. When Harry dies, he wills Mac his 1957 Chevy Nomad. Richard Dean Anderson has called the latter his favorite vehicle on the show.
  • Moonlight: Mick drives a car that appears to be a mid-60s Mercedes 250. In contrast, Josef, a 400-year-old vampire, drives a modern sports car.
  • NCIS: After Gibbs and his dad reconcile, his dad gives him the keys to a 1971 Dodge Challenger R/T. The younger Gibbs had bought it to restore prior to their rift, and in the intervening years his dad fixed it up until it was like new.
  • Played with in NCIS: Los Angeles. Sam owns an old Dodge Challenger (initially one that belonged to his father, but it's stolen and destroyed in one episode and Callen buys him a replacement), but it's a project car that he never drives. In the show, he drives the 2000s version of the Challenger (which is Product Placement).
  • Our Miss Brooks: Through the series, Walter Denton drives a 1930's style jalopy; also qualified as The Alleged Car. In The Movie Grand Finale, Mr. Boynton borrows the car to drive to Crystal Bay and "rescue" Miss Brooks from Lawrence Nolan.
  • Private Eyes: Matt Shade drives a silver 1969 Porsche 911 S Coupé with licence plate SHADE 17.
  • Supernatural: The brothers' '67 Impala, which turns out to be the most important object in the universe.
  • Republic of Doyle has a '68 Pontiac GTO as the heroes' main transportation. Fitting as the show was partly an Homage to '70s-style detective shows.
  • Stingray (1985) is named after the '65 Corvette that the hero drives.
  • Mr. Bean drives a Mini. The model has varied; most of them were made in The '70s. With the series set in 1990 to 1995, it is not quite a classic car but dated enough to stand out from modern standard cars, together with its small size. He also has something of a rivalry with a blue Reliant Robin that he frequently causes to roll over.
  • Vega$ (1978): Dan Tanna drove a 1957 Ford Thunderbird convertible.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: The General Lee was a 1969 Dodge Charger, although sometimes they filmed with a 1968 as they tended to wreck a lot of them.
  • Played with in New Tricks with Gerry's Triumph Stag which, at the start of the series run, was regarded by the public as a right old clunker which the characters always wondered if it would even complete a single short journey. By the time the series ended though the Triumph Stag had been re-evaluated in terms of public opinion and is considered a worthwhile classic in its own right, thus making Gerry's choice of cars very cool and some of the jokes about it seem rather odd.
  • Cobra Kai:
    • Rather than the super-rare Avanti II convertible of the movie (to which this series is a continuation), Johnny Lawrence now drives an '80s-vintage Pontiac Firebird. Unfortunately, much like him, it's seen better days: the paint is peeling all over it, and when it gets T-boned while parked in the series premiere, Daniel LaRusso offers to repair it for free as a favor since it's more than the car is worth. Then the car is destroyed by Daniel's cousin Louie and some biker goons as payback for a time Johnny spraypainted a penis on one of Daniel's billboards, forcing Daniel to give Johnny a 2009 Dodge Challenger at a discount. Then in season 3, Johnny takes up driving a 1993 Dodge Grand Caravan that Robby had stolen when he went on the run following the school brawl at the end of season 2.
    • For his part, Daniel still has the 1948 Ford Supe DeLuxe that Mr. Miyagi gave him, breaks it out on special occasions (notably, it's where he gets to sit down and know Miguel in season 3), but he typically now drives a 2016 Audi A7.
  • Schitt's Creek: The Rose family shares a black, 1978 Lincoln that is all they could afford but is still pretty cool.
  • Queens of Mystery: Mathilda drives her mother's previously beloved car, a 1960s Morris Minor Traveller. She seems equally besotted.
  • Dex's piece-of-crap 1992 Mustang GT in Stumptown.
  • Top Gear: Just about every other episode has the presenters take road trips in older used cars. How "Classic" they are varies.

  • The Jack Benny Program: Jack Benny, throughout his radio show, had a 1928 Maxwell from 1939 to 1955. It was definitely The Alleged Car, prone to breakdowns, doors falling off, and other mishaps, but Benny was too much of a Miser to replace it.

    Tabletop Game 
  • In Monster of the Week, a "classic car" is a mobility option for the Mundane (though theirs is in "terrible condition"), the Professional, and the Wronged playbooks. Player characters form an Ensemble Cast, so every one of them is technically a protagonist. It is set in the Present Day, so a classic car is not something non-player characters normally drive in it, and the player characters who do automatically stand out.

    Video Games 
  • Cyberpunk 2077: Johnny Silverhand drove a 1977 Porsche 911 Turbo back when he was alive (he died in 2023). You can get the car back during the course of the game.
  • In Enter the Matrix, Niobe and Ghost drive a 1967 Pontiac Firebird while in The Matrix. They drive it during the freeway chase in The Matrix Reloaded.
  • In True Crime: Streets of LA, Nick Kang has three cars - a brown 1967 Cadillac Coupe DeVille Convertible, a blue and white 1969 Chevrolet Camaro, and a red 1996 Dodge Viper.

    Western Animation 
  • Elisa Maza from Gargoyles drives what appears to be a red Ford Fairlane (models from 1955 to 1970).
  • Reboot: Bob cruises around Mainframe in a red 262 convertible hovercar. When it's not having engine trouble, that is.
  • The Venture Bros.: Brock Samson drives a 1969 Dodge Charger that he has converted to electric ("100% crybaby suicide proof"). Knowing when someone else is in the driver's seat is called out as Brock's "legitimate super power". Brock calls her Adrienne, although Hank calls her "The Mayhem Mobile", Dean calls her "Danger Hawk", and Virginia Donne calls it a "Penis Substitute".

    Multiple Media 
  • Sam & Max, in all their various incarnations, get around in a 1960 DeSoto Adventurer with a "Freelance Police" paint job. For the Telltale Games series, the DeSoto was apparently replaced with another DeSoto, identical to the original except that it's a convertible (presumably so the characters would more easily fit and still be visible during driving sequences).