’Tis the season for holiday movies. Among them are a handful of Christmas classics, films we’ve found funny or sad, but entirely memorable – and not just for their plot. Some of the leading characters weren’t even human, but instead cars that play an integral part in each story. Here’s our pick of the five top cars from holiday movies.
1.Planes, Trains and Automobiles: 1986 Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country Convertible
Anyone who came of age in the 1980s remembers John Candy and Steve Martin, two of the decade’s top comedy actors. Candy and Martin co-starred in the 1987 classic, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” which also starred a 1986 Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country Convertible rented by Candy’s character, Del.
The Chrysler served as one leg in the duo’s trek to Chicago for Thanksgiving. Rented from mythical Marathon Car Rental, the Chrysler was nearly sandwiched between two rigs, then later caught fire when Del forgot to extinguish his cigarette. Somehow, the vehicle survived and the men were able to get it back on the road until it was impounded by police because it wasn’t roadworthy.
Few people know this, but six cars were used for the film, including similar Dodge 600 models. Furthermore, Chrysler wouldn’t allow the cars to be filmed with badging included, but the then-popular Chrysler LeBaron was easily recognizable by fans.
2. A Christmas Story: 1937 Oldsmobile Six
“A Christmas Story” is a 1983 classic about young Ralphie Parker growing up in 1940s Indiana. Little Ralphie has his eye on the “Holy Grail of Christmas gifts,” a Red Ryder 200-shot range model air rifle. Despite the universal admonition, “You’ll shoot your eye out,” Ralphie was not to be deterred from his Yuletide quest.
While the storyline is definitely centered on the youngster, Ralphie’s father was a colorful character in his own right. “Some men are Baptist, others Catholic; my father was an Oldsmobile man,” narrated the grown Parker. The elder Parker’s 1937 Oldsmobile Six four-door touring sedan played an integral part in the movie, including a scene where the car blew a tire as the family was on the road, having secured a Christmas tree and tying it to the Olds’ roof. Ralphie got out to assist his dad, who let out a tirade of masked “F-bombs” when the lug nuts disappeared in the snow. Throughout the movie, the creaking Olds served as a supporting character for the frustrated father.
3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: 1989 Ford Taurus Wagon
Recognized as a modern Christmas classic, the 1989 hit “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” makes our list, with the Griswold family car featured in one three-minute action-packed stretch. That car was a 1989 Ford Taurus wagon dressed in fake wood body paneling, and the adventure began with a run-in with a couple of guys driving a beater Dodge pickup truck.
However, the most memorable part of the film is when Clark W. Griswold attempts to pass the pickup, only to slip underneath the carriage of a lumber truck, then drive between its axles. Once freed of their constraints the Griswold family nearly missed snow removal equipment, went airborne, then continued the journey home.
“Christmas Vacation” was the third of four National Lampoon “vacation” movies. Another memorable model was a 1979 Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon, also known as the Wagon Queen Family Truckster, outfitted with eight stacked headlights, wood paneling decals, avocado green paint, and dual taillights.
4. It’s a Wonderful Life: 1919 Dodge Brothers Touring Car
The oldest movie in our list is the 1946 classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Stewart’s character, George Bailey, is the focal point of the movie as it flashes back to his youth and forward to an alternate world where his beloved Bedford Falls is transformed into an unseemly Pottersville, all because George took his life and the town’s fate changed dramatically without him.
Indeed, it was the black 1919 Dodge Brothers touring car that George was driving and smashed into a tree that sets off the personal crisis that endears fans to the film. The car wasn’t destroyed during filming and is now owned by Keith and Marilyn Smith of Johnstown, Colorado, who use the car to raise money for charities benefiting veterans. Tune into the Rose Bowl Parade on Jan. 1, 2018, and you’ll see George Bailey’s Dodge carrying parade grand marshal and actor Gary Sinise.
5. Scrooged: 1978 Checker Model A11
Based very loosely on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” “Scrooged” is the 1988 Christmas hit featuring Bill Murray. Murray’s character, Frank, is a modern-day version of Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge, a television executive who treats his workers terribly. Of course, visits from various Christmas spirits is in order – in keeping with the situation.
One of the most memorable scenes is when Frank enters a yellow cab driven by none other than the Ghost of Christmas Past. The Checker Taxicab with its interior adorned with Christmas decorations and lights transported Frank on a wild ride through Manhattan, before traveling back in time to 1955, specifically to Frank’s boyhood home where his redemption story begins. Checker, incidentally, produced cars for 21 years, beginning in 1961, and was the de facto livery vehicle in large cities throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
Your holiday movie car of choice
What are your favorite Christmas classics? Do they include a car that’s on your list of favorites? Please enlighten us by sharing your top choice in the comments.