Jay Leno Picks the 7 Most Iconic Cars From TV History (PHOTOS)

Michael Schneider
TV cars

Revered Roadsters

Car enthusiast Jay Leno remembers a time when TV shows “had the star and the car.”

Growing up in a small Massachusetts town, Leno says, he didn’t get to see cool cars on the street, so he relied on TV to get his auto fix. “We don’t really have that anymore,” says the former Tonight Show host, whose new series, Jay Leno’s Garage, premieres Wednesday, October 7 (10/9c, CNBC).

“Cars have gotten so appliance-like. They don’t seem to have that cachet they had back in the day,” he says. “I’m amazed now at the number of teenagers who don’t really care about getting their license. I was born the day I got my license.”

We asked Leno to name some of his favorite iconic TV rides, and it's a long list: The Starsky & Hutch 1975 Gran Torino, The Monkees’ 1966 Pontiac GTO, Magnum P.I.’s 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS, the Green Hornet 1966 Black Beauty Imperial and Columbo’s 1959 Peugeot 403. Here are seven more of his favorites.

Courtesy of Everett

Batman (The Batmobile, a reworked 1955 Lincoln Futura)

“That would be the most famous,” Leno says. “[Even people who don’t know about] cars know that car.”

Knight Rider

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Knight Rider (1982 Pontiac Trans Am)

“I have a lot of enthusiasts who come by my garage from Germany. That’s the home of Porsche and Mercedes Benz, but you meet these guys and they have all come to America to buy a Knight Rider car," Leno says. "I ask them, you have Porches and Mercedes, what do you want a Pontiac for? In Germany it was a huge hit, and all German boys wanted the Knight Rider car when they grew up.”

Courtesy of Everett

The Dukes of Hazzard (General Lee, 1969 Dodge Charger)

General Lee toys and Dukes repeats were recently pulled after the Confederate flag controversy. But ultimately, “I think some version will still exist. You’ll see the General Lee without the flag and maybe called something else," Leno says. "But I get it. It’s being sensitive to people’s needs. I don’t think any kid bought that toy because it had that flag. I think they bought it because it jumps and was cool.”

Cannon

Everett Collection

Cannon (1972 Lincoln Continental)

“The crooks would always run toward his car, and he’d open the door and slam them in the head with it," Leno says. "For some reason, the criminals instinctively knew they had to run toward the driver’s door so he could open it hard and bop them in the head.”

Ironside (1940 Ford police truck)

“It was a panel truck with a big Hemi engine that made it really fast," Leno says. "I’m not sure what happened to Ironside when they accelerated since he was in the back in his wheelchair. They never told you that.”

Mannix

CBS/Landov

Mannix (1967 Oldsmobile Toronado)

"It had the roof cut off, which always used to make me laugh," Leno says. "It was an enormous car, and when Mannix would follow people, he would duck down the dash. He’s in the most ridiculously obvious car you could imagine and then he’d follow people.”

ROUTE 66

Courtesy of Everett

Route 66 (1961 Chevrolet Corvette)

“No one ever questioned where these two drifters got a new Corvette every year," Leno says. "It never came up on the show!”

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