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Immortal Iconic Car

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Pictured: Typical Parisian street in the 21st century

A sub-trope of Anachronism Stew. Ever since the 20th century the automobile has become an important part of daily life, so of course you're gonna see plenty of them in any urban landscape. Combined with the fact that there are many automobile manufacturers and makes around the world, plenty of car models have become a visual shorthand for various locations, much like landmarks or musical pieces. And in a Theme Park Version of a certain setting, they may be so iconic that you're going to continue seeing them in media even well past their prime, in a period where these cars have become classics and you're unlikely to find them in everyday situations on a city street.

This is common in drawn or animated media, however, live-action filmmakers are aware of this effect and may deliberately go out of their way to find vintage car models for filming in order to establish a location. Indeed, it may be invoked deliberately for a Retro Universe aesthetic. This trope may also apply to individual characters with signature cars in Long Runner series that are subject to either Comic-Book Time or multiple reboots where the vehicle is just far too iconic to update for contemporary times.

Compare Steam Never Dies, Improbably Cool Car, Metallicar Syndrome.


  • Media set in Italy will inevitably feature the Fiat 500. While it was ubiquitous once thanks to nearly 4 million units produced over nearly 20 years, you're more likely to see its modern counterpart produced since 2007 these days.
  • America has multiple examples:
    • Movies, TV shows and music videos set in New York City will frequently feature the famous Checker Marathon taxicab even to this day - once a common sight across major cities in America, however, the last one rolled out of the factory in 1982, and the very last one on the streets of New York was retired in 1998, already heavily worn out and on its last legs. More recent works will depict the Ford Crown Victoria, though even that was discontinued in 2012.
    • Though the continued prevalence of the Crown Victoria and Lincoln Town Car as police cars, taxis, and limousines in contemporary media is somewhat explainable as they make cheap production assets, seeing them continue in these roles in animation is more difficult to rationalise beyond recognisability and iconic status.
    • Media set in the hoods of Los Angeles frequently feature lowriders based on models such as 1960s Chevrolet Impalas or Lincoln Continentals. While many of these are still well preserved to this day, you're not going to see them driven as poor folks' hoopties (which was more common in the early 1990s, during the height of the hip-hop culture, as back then they would've been a little over 25 years old).
    • The Deep South or other poor, rural American settings may feature pickup trucks from the 1950s to 1970s even well into the 21st century.
    • The wood-paneled station wagon is still seen in media as the quintessential family hauler of North American suburbia, even though they mostly fell out of favor in the 1980s and haven't been produced whatsoever since 1996.
    • In some American series such as The Wire, the related 1973-1979 Dodge Colt will appear. Due to the car's reliability (for its era), this car often appears in movies set in The '80s and even The '90s.
  • Anytime you see France, you will see at least one Citroën DS and Citroën 2CV.
  • In the United Kingdom, it's the original Mini. Bonus points if it has the Union Jack painted on the roof. If you're in London, you will see the classic red AEC Routemaster double-deck buses and the original Austin FX4 black cabs.
  • In works set in Japan, the 1979-1983 Mitsubishi Lancer will often be present.

Anime and Manga

  • Lupin III is most often shown driving a yellow Fiat 500. However, the most recent series in the franchise do depict the more modern versions of the car so it is slightly averted.
  • The anime adaptation of the fifth part of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has Italian city streets full of classic Fiat 500s in 2001. This was less the case in the original manga.
Film - Animated
  • Ratatouille is set in ostensibly present day in Paris and features many Citroen DSes and 2CVs alongside more modern cars on the street - one of the many deliberately anachronistic stylistic choices in this film.
Film - Live Action
  • The Expendables falls into this on the island of Vilena. Though it's a fictional country, it's intended to emulate a stereotypical Banana Republic, and all the cars there are very old and dilapidated, even though many of such countries that are not Cuba would have people drive far newer cars - indeed, during various overhead shots that are not carefully crafted for this effect (filmed in Brazil), one can spot much newer cars more realistically likely to be found in such a country.
  • Mamma Mia! is set in the present day, but the Greek island of Kalokairi exclusively features cars that are at least 30 years old in order to evoke an image of quaintness.
  • 2012 has a brief portion in Paris where the director of the Louvre is assassinated in a car accident. Of course the car has to be a vintage Citroen DS.
Video Games
  • Grand Theft Auto III, set in then-present 2001 in partially New York-inspired Liberty City has the Checker Marathon-based Cabbie as one of the two available taxis in traffic despite the real life counterpart being obsolete at that point. Subsequent games carry the vehicle over and fare much better due to being set in The '80s and The '90s respectively.
  • Grand Theft Auto V seems to fall Two Decades Behind in its portrayal of the ghetto, where everyone who doesn't drive luxury Maseratis seems to drive mint condition 1960s muscle cars or even 1950s Bel Airs in 2013. Compare this to the previous installment, Grand Theft Auto IV, which had more realistic traffic to be found in poorer areas (cars mostly from the late 80s and the 90s in 2008) and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas which also had an LA-based city which similarly had 1960s classics driven around in ghettos, but much more plausible with its 1992 setting.
Western Animation
  • The Mystery Machine used by the Scooby-Doo gang appears to be a 1960s van resembling various designs at the time such as the Ford Econoline no matter the amount of different incarnations and reboots. Averted in the 1998-2001 direct to video movies.
  • The family cars in The Simpsons appear to be 60s-70s designs intended to be slightly out of date but common for everyday use by the average lower middle class American family at the time of the show's debut. Like many things throughout the show's run, they do not change and would be considered classics by the 2010s.

Real Life

  • Truth in Television for Cuba. Due to a combination of the US embargo and the dictatorship's nature it continues to use 1950s American cars to this very day, patched up by various means. The only other vehicles are Cold War-era Soviet Bloc cars.
  • The Eastern Bloc had much more limited choices of cars than any Western country, so any most produced car in each country became a national symbol (such as the licensed Fiat 126p for Poland) - and though they're no longer quite ubiquitous on the streets as they used to be, they're not completely uncommon to find to this day.
  • The Lada classic series is a Soviet-built clone of the 1960s Fiat 124 sedan. The first Ladas were built in 1970 and production lasted until 2012 with little change. To this day it's the ubiquitous Russian car and is still fairly popular in Europe on the cheap second-hand market. Similarly, the Niva 4x4 truck is a 1970s Soviet design that as of 2019 is still being produced in Russia with minimal changes to the original design.
  • Mexico City continued to use Volkswagen Beetles as taxicabs until as late as 2012, and would have probably continued to use them even longer due to its iconicness and drivers and passengers alike being fond of them if it wasn't for government regulations. Once the Beetle was discontinued, it was replaced by the Nissan Sunny B13 ("Tsuru"); after the Tsuru was discontinued, the Nissan Versa was sold as its next generation replacement, and it is currently profiling itself as the new mass vehicle of choice for Mexican cities.
  • In the United States, you will find Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas everywhere. While General Motors, Ford and Chrysler were wreathing back in the late 70s and early 80s in inner political struggles, Honda and Toyota were hyper-efficient car manufacturing machines that cranked out good cars while their American competition was underpowered, unreliable and poorly manufactured.
  • Domestically produced transport trucks in North America often see decades of manufacture with precious little changed over time. The Kenworth W900, one of the most iconic trucks in North America since the 1970s, has been in continuous production since 1961 and has seen very few changes save for drivetrain and safety improvements.
  • The Hindustan Ambassador, which was based on the 1956 Morris Oxford sedan, remains a common sight in India even after its discontinuation in 2014.
  • The second-generation Mitsubishi Delica, first introduced in 1979, can still be found on Philippine and Indonesian roads to this day thanks to its remarkably long production run—while the Philippine-market Delica, known locally as the L300 and first produced in 1987, has been around for decades, its utilitarian nature precluded any major redesigns at the cost of safety, though it received minor facelifts and an engine upgrade to a Euro 4-compliant 4N14 common-rail diesel enginenote . The van variant, which was a common sight as getaway vans for Mooks in action movies in the Nineties (no thanks to its dual sliding doors allowing for criminal gangs to conduct ambushes easily), was retired in 2012 in favour of cheaper cab-and-chassis variants though.