Automotive-Themed TV Shows and Episodes

Automotive-Themed TV Shows and Episodes

We’re reprising our continuing series on car-centric movies – with a new twist.

In the April 2020 issue of AMN/Counterman, Tom Dayton shared some of his favorite car movies – an eclectic list that runs the gamut from “Mad Max” to “Stroker Ace.” Now it’s my turn.

To ratchet up the fun level (for me, at least), I’m expanding the list to include TV shows.

“The Dukes of Hazzard”

I’m not talking about the movie here. I’m talking about the show that aired on CBS from 1979 to 1985 – the show that rocked my world when I was a kid. This one was my absolute favorite until “The A-Team” came on the scene.

As far as I was concerned, “The Dukes of Hazzard” had it all: simple plots, good music, loveable characters … and gratuitous car chases. Every episode was a satisfying mix of burning rubber, banjo pickin’ and fast cars flying down dirt roads in an ever-present cloud of dust. Often, those cars literally took flight – because every bridge in Hazzard County was out.

Sure, there was a lot to love about this show. But the thing that kept me coming back every week was the orange 1969 Dodge Charger known as the General Lee. I couldn’t get enough of that car. I remember riding around the neighborhood on my bike, pretending I was in the General Lee, hooting and hollering every time I jumped a curb, like I was one of the Duke boys.

According to IMDb, it’s estimated that between 256 and 321 General Lees were used during the filming of “The Dukes of Hazzard” TV series.

“Replacing the police sedans was easy, but replacing the General Lee was much harder because Dodge stopped making the Charger,” the IMDb website explains. “It got to the point where if producers saw a Charger on the street, they would approach the owner and offer to buy it on the spot.”

“Seinfeld”

Season 7, Episode 20

When it comes to “Seinfeld,” there are plenty of memorable moments from the show’s magnificent 173-episode run. Recently, I rediscovered a hidden gem: “The Bottle Deposit” from Season 7. Like every episode, this one is built on a series of bad coincidences and bizarre plot twists that converge in unexpected and hilarious ways. 

Jerry’s opening monologue provides some foreshadowing for the upcoming episode, when he riffs on the quirks of taking your car to a repair shop. Later, we learn that Kramer and Newman borrowed Jerry’s car to go shopping at Price Club (now Costco). Why didn’t they just take Kramer’s car? “Steering wheel fell off,” Cosmo confesses. “I don’t know where it is.”

When Jerry drops off Elaine after driving her to an auction – where she overpaid for a set of John F. Kennedy’s golf clubs – his Saab is clunking and clattering, and the engine is smoking. He lifts up the hood, only to discover that Kramer and Newman left their groceries in there because they ran out of space in the car.

Jerry is understandably upset, and he dreads the prospect of taking the car to his obsessive mechanic, Tony – played by the inimitable Brad Garrett (best-known for his role on “Everybody Loves Raymond”). “Have you been rotating the tires?” Tony grills Jerry. “You don’t try to – you do it! Fifty-one percent of all turns are right turns, you know that?”

After Tony has a chance to inspect the vehicle, he calls Jerry back to the shop for a heart-to-heart talk.

“Don’t lie to me Jerry,” he says. “You know that motor oil you’re putting in there? It’s from one of those quickie-lube places, isn’t it? Jerry, motor oil is the lifeblood of a car. You put in a low-grade oil, you can damage vital engine parts. See this gasket? I have no confidence in that gasket!”

Tony proposes a “major overhaul” of the engine – provided that Jerry will commit to following the recommended service intervals and keep the speed under 60 miles per hour for a while. When Jerry decides that he’d like to take the car to another shop, Tony absconds with Jerry’s beloved Saab. Afterward, a police detective who interviews Jerry tells him he sees this kind of thing all the time.

“The mechanic forms an emotional attachment,” the detective explains. “He thinks he’s gonna lose the car, he panics, he does something rash.”

More Ideas? I’m stopping here for two reasons. One, I’m out of room. And two, I’d like to keep this series going. If you have an automotive-themed movie or TV show (or song, Broadway play, etc.) that you’d like to add to the list, drop us a line at [email protected].

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