Hollywood car royalty: cars made famous by the movies



Often times, a movie’s biggest star isn’t the one named after him in the title. Will Smith, Kate Winslet and Tom Cruise are big stars, but the cars they drive often get as much attention as they do. Many of the best-selling cars in history have become iconic after appearing as product placement on the big screen. It’s called “brand awareness,” and Mike Jackson, vice president of marketing and advertising for GM North America, said the right car in the right movie “represents the intersection. perfect for entertainment, marketing and design ”. It can also lead to big sales, as these examples show.


Andrea Hiott, author of “Thinking Small: The Long, Strange Trip of the Volkswagen Beetle”, called the coupe “the most comfortable car in the world”. It was this characteristic that earned the Beetle the star role of the anthropomorphic car in the 1968 Disney film “The Love Bug”. Before filming, the producers assembled a dozen cars, including a pearl white Volkswagen Beetle, and watched people interact with them, kick the tires and move the steering wheel. The reaction to the Beetle was different. It was the only car that people stretched out and stroked, as if they were meeting a friend. The popularity of the film helped push VW Beetle sales in the United States to an all-time high with 423,000 units sold that year. In 1972, the “People’s Car” broke the Ford Model T’s 40-year record as the world’s best-selling car.


The chaotic and climactic car chase of 1969’s “The Italian Job” made Mini Cooper’s iconic, but that hardly happened. When the film was in pre-production, Fiat, sensing the promotional value of the film, offered an unlimited supply of Fiat 500s – and a cash bonus – if producers used Italian cars instead of Minis. It was a tempting offer, but the filmmakers wanted a car that symbolized Britain, and that was the Mini. The cheeky car chase showed the versatility of the compact car as it rushed in and out of drains, cascaded down stairs and hopped onto rooftops, and led to increased sales. The later 2003 remake of the film propelled a 22% increase in Mini sales from the previous year, despite star Mark Wahlberg’s joke that driving a Mini Cooper is “like driving a go-kart. very powerful”.


The Pontiac Firebird Trans AM was successful before the release of “Smokey and the Bandit,” but the popularity of Burt Reynolds’ road movie made this charismatic car a four-wheeled superstar. Pontiac agreed to supply the cars for production – four 1976 models with 1977 front faces and decals – as part of a deal that would mark the history of product placement. The cool cars and action of the movie made it the second highest grossing film of 1977 alongside “Star Wars,” but it wasn’t just the movie that raked it. Sales of Trans Am rose from 68,745 units sold in 1977 to 93,341 in 1978 A year later that number jumped to 117,108. Film sales were so strong that Pontiac actually delayed new designs for the Trans Am. Firebird until 1982, two years later than originally planned.


In the animated series “Transformers”, Bumblebee was an alien robot capable of transforming into a Volkswagen Beetle. Michael Bay, director of the 2007 live-action film, worried the Beetle would make unfavorable comparisons to “Herbie the Love Bug,” so he changed the design to a Camaro muscle car. General Motors manufactured and supplied a unique and operational Chevrolet Camaro concept with Autobot side shields and wheel covers. The success of “Transformers” and its 2009 sequel, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” created demand for the deceived Camaro. Chevrolet responded by putting the cars, which had not been in production since 2002, back on the line. The bet was successful and, at the end of the year, Chevrolet transformed the old brand and sold 60,000 units.


James Bond drove many cars during his career as a cinematic super-spy. Pierce Brosnan trained in a BMW Z3 and Roger Moore put the pedal to the metal of an AMC Hornet in “The Man with the Golden Gun”. However, the car most closely associated with 007 (and featured again in the upcoming “No Time to Die”) is the sleek silver Aston Martin DB5. According to Hagerty Classic Insurance, it is “thought that half of the world’s population would recognize a James Bond Aston Martin DB5,” especially those equipped with Q Branch modifications like ejection seats, machine guns and tire cutters. Sales of suave sports cars jumped 50% after the release of “Goldfinger”, earning the Aston Martin DB5 the nickname “The World’s Most Famous Car”.


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