Attention gearheads and fans of things that require fossil fuels, we come here today to crown the 10 greatest cars in 1960s pop culture. Why the ’60s? Well, it was the last era before fans cared about realism, rising gas prices, or Eastern auto design. These were the years where everything was metal, and the backseats were plush for the ladies. To qualify for this list, the vehicle had to be made in the 1960s and featured in a prominent 1960s slice of pop culture.
1962 Elva Mk. VI Maserati (Viva Las Vegas)
The 1962 Elva Mk. VI Maserati featured in the 1964 musical Viva Las Vegas stands out as one of Elvis Presley’s most memorable films. Elvis plays Lucky Jackson, a young driver who just wants to win the Las Vegas Grand Prix. However, his racecar needs a new engine to compete. He wins, and soon loses the money, and must recoup the costs of his hotel by entering a talent competition.
The Elva was popular at the time as the premiere UK manufacturer of small racing vehicles. Shortly after Viva Las Vegas spotlighted the stunning Elva Mk. VI Maserati, Elva would form an alliance with McLaren to build replicas styled after the in-film car. Then, for the rest of the decade, every McLaren took on the Elva Mk. VI Maserati style.
1963 AC Cobra 289 (The Killers)
The 1964 Universal crime film The Killers (1964) had a troubled history following the JFK assassination. While it marks the only time that Ronald Reagan played a villain, it’s not why we’re here today. John Cassavetes plays a racecar driver who rocks a sweet AC Cobra during some choice driving sequences. Most of the action was long shots to cover the stunt driver, but it was nice to see an early model AC Cobra cut loose on the race track.
1963 Aston Martin DBS (Goldfinger)
Goldfinger was the Bond film that made the Aston Martin into mainstream gold. When one thinks of Bond and the Aston Martin, their mind always returns to the pretty little auto that Bond used to fight Auric Goldfinger. During the 50th anniversary, Bond saw the 1963 Aston Martin DBS return for a cameo in Skyfall. The ejector seats might not work anymore, but this little beast still hums up and down the track.
1963 Ford Econoline Custom Van (Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?)
When is a van more than a van? When the Scooby gang turns it into an icon of an era. Cashing in on rising van culture, Hanna-Barbera turned a simple 1963 Ford Econoline van into something teen friendly. Durable and gas friendly enough for families, but with the ability to customize the machine also made it friendly towards gearheads. While Scooby never indulged in the backlight culture, certain attachments could be built into the van without draining the battery. Scooby Snacks not included.
1964 Shelby Cobra 289 (Honey West)
Honey West was the first TV series to popularize the Shelby Cobra. Sure, the show lasted one season and 30 episodes, but Anne Francis could drive the hell out of that Shelby Cobra. Francis showed that the speedy muscle car could easily be adapted for the new female driver. While this unit came from the American production side, it handled like the tiny powerhouses that Shelby UK had been pumping out for a few years. Couple this development with the release of the Cheetah and the mid-1960s saw the rise of the female gearhead driver.
1966 Alfa Romeo Spider 1600 Duetto (The Graduate)
The Graduate made excellent use of its 1966 Alfa Romeo Spider. The bright red Spider became a symbol of Benjamin’s disconnection with his parents’ lives. Sure, he’d take the tools they’d offer, but he needed to find himself and his future. Eventually, Ben dumps the Spider to save his true love from a happy marriage. What’s the end result? Being stuck on the back of a city bus with a runaway bride who might not be in love with him.
1966 Chrysler Imperial (The Green Hornet)
The Black Beauty was a 1966 Chrysler Imperial that Kato drove around for The Green Hornet. Custom built and loaded with weaponry, Britt and Kato were ready to take on any attacker. When the gear was tucked away, the Chrysler Imperial resembled your standard mid-60s town car. However, it had the pick-up of bigger cars and could turn on a dime. If you’re fuel conscious, this mighty black-clad beast would put you off. Many of the Imperial’s standards were dropped for the builds between the 6th and 7th generations. This was due to Chrysler changing a ton of their make standards.
1967 Alan Mann Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang)
This darling Alan Mann custom job is the only car on the list to have an entire film based on its existence. Caractacus Potts saved the vehicle after it was nearly destroyed following a botched race during a thunderstorm. While the Alan Mann Racing team was able to create a vehicle that matched Fleming’s book, it was Dick Van Dyke who gave the vehicle its personality. Due to the particular nature of its construction, it’s the vehicle that’s rarest to find among reconstruction outfits. While Mann died in 2012, this car stands as a testament to his abilities.
1967 Austin Mini Cooper (The Italian Job)
The Mini Cooper became gearhead gold after Michael Caine made it cool in the 1969 caper film The Italian Job. Staging live-action choreographed car chases and robbery escapes, the world got to see what the Mini Cooper could do compared to its American cousins. These days, the vehicle is the exclusive domain of empty nest moms and aging dads. Michael Caine would be upset if he had any shame. This is the man that bailed on the Oscars to do Jaws: The Revenge, after all.
1968 Mustang GT90 (Bullitt)
The Mustang GT became the gearhead car of choice after watching Steve McQueen send this beast flying down San Francisco’s steep hills in the 1968 thriller Bullitt. The vehicle was a bit beefy, but the design would later influence the Dodge Challenger. The gas crisis and changes in Detroit would kill the demand for these vehicles a decade after its initial popularity. The body was so choice that the Gone in 60 Seconds remake would switch to this style as opposed to the original Eleanor. Take that, Nicolas Cage.