Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Dating cars on TV

I have always been good at being able to tell the year of manufacture of most cars. It started when I was three or four and found out I was better at it than my eight year old cousin who stayed with my family a great deal. He wasn’t too happy with me. Of course today’s cars are the exception. I can’t tell my '05 LeSabre or '04 Mustang from their 2000 brethern, but that’s another rant.

The TV series Vegas is set in Las Vegas in 1960. They dated it right there on the screen. On the first episode, one of the bad guys was prominently shown, more than once, in a '62 Cadillac. I can forgive the round '61 T’Bird as it MIGHT be the fall of 1960… Last week the unmistakable taillights of a '64 Plymouth were shown in a close up. It bothers my wife when I mention these flaws, but she’s not a car guy…

I had a '21 Model T Ford that appeared in a made-for-TV movie about Mary White, daughter of Newspaper publisher William Allen White, about 35 years ago. The period was 1921. A 1923 Model T had a slightly slanted windshield, so any T that new was not usable according to the director’s edict. Apparently they cared about such things in that era. My car was not good enough looking to be in any close shots, but it still made me $50 a day for being parked and driving away, down the street… A costumed friend of mine drove it, and he got paid too, but I had to work at my day job which paid far less than $50…

Have you noticed automotive anachronisms like this on TV?
Why don’t the networks insist on authenticity in a ‘period piece’ such as Vegas anymore? Do they think we don’t notice or care?

I sometimes notice anachronisms, but what I usually notice is that during “driving” scenes that the car is in park, the speedometer and or tachometer read 0, indicating the car isn’t even running, or that the sound of a particular car starting or running doesn’t fit the model being shown. This is particularly noticeable with Ford, GM, and Chrysler starters of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, as each has a very distinctive sound. It’s especially noticeable with Chrysler starters, with their whiny gear-reduction system. You really notice it in the old TV show Emergency!, where the sound of the Dodge’s V8 starting up is undeniably authentic. The same starters were used up until the late 90s I think, as my old 98 pickup with a 360 made the same sound.

Another peeve is when someone in a car is chasing a pedestrian. The camera cuts back and forth between the car and pedestrian, but the car doesn’t appreciably gain on the person on foot. I guess people could run a lot faster in days gone by…

Or when the guy in the sports car can’t catch the guy in the sedan or pickup.

If Shakespeare can get away with the clock striking 3:00 in Caesar’s Rome the hoi polloi television writers and directors feel free to stray somewhat from the period of their story, maybe. But now that you mention it, the misplacement of automobiles has become quite obvious to me and I don’t really pay much attention to them. I am most familiar with the late 50s and early 60s models and can’t help but notice when a scene from 1959 includes several 60s police cars. Maybe the studios have the old Car 54 black and whites available for cheap and know few people recognize they are out of place.

I remember watching “The Lineup”, a television series about two San Francisco police detectives back in the 1950s. The detectives were played by Tom Tully and Warner Anderson. In some scenes, the detectives would start out to the crime scene in a 1957 Dodge but by the time the detectives arrived at the destination, the car would become a 1958 Dodge. Also, there were scenes where the 1957 Dodge would have the D-500 insignia on the trunk and then suddenly in the next scene the D-500 insignia wasn’t there. The earlier car the dectives used was a 1951 Ford. In some scenes it was a V-8 and in other scenes it didn’t have the V-8 insignia on the side.
It seemed to me that “Highway Patrol” starring Broderick Crawford as Dan Matthews paid more attention to detail. The 1955 Buick that Dan Matthews drove had a manual transmission and the sound was the familiar Buick “noisy in low” manual transmission sound.

Like Tridaq, I recall TV series and movies from the '50s & '60s that were…inauthentic…with their cars, so this trend of carelessness didn’t just begin recently. A couple of months ago, while watching North by Northwest, I noticed that the protagonist left the Plaza Hotel in a '57 Ford Taxi, but when he arrived at his destination (the UN), he was in a '58 Ford (or, was it the other way around?), so care to provide continuity from one scene to another was lacking.

I too am a bug on authenticity of everything in a movie, and it is not just the cars that are frequently wrong. How about a film that is supposed to depict the early-mid '50s in NYC, but the urban row houses have modern cable TV junction boxes on the outsides of the building, and the squalid apartment has a modern 3-prong electrical outlet visible on an interior wall?

@VDCdriver–I remember that scene from “North by Northwest” and it was unusual for an Alfred Hitchcock movie to make that mistake. However, the one scene in Indiana where the hero was in the middle of the country where an old intercity Flxible bus arrived, the sound was that of the buses I remember riding in back and forth to college.

Re: Lack of attention to detail in '50s TV shows

I can recall that I was watching a TV Western when our trusty TV repairman, Bruno, arrived to fix something (again!) on our Emerson B & W TV. While he began opening his tool case, Bruno was apparently looking at the program out of the corner of his eye, and he pointed out an unmistakeable jet contrail in the sky, directly over a scene depicting action in “The Old West”!

On that day, even though I was probably only about 10 years of age, I learned to look at details in the background of film productions, and I have been finding goofs ever since!

The ideal dating car I have yet to see on TV; a 62 Rambler for reasons that only those of us who owned them, know.

Well, I know, you know, and–for sure–Triedaq knows.
Others may be too young to know what unusual (for the time) feature these cars had.


@dagosa–On Superman, Lois Lane drove a 1952 Rambler. I often wondered what happened when she and Superman were in the car together.
I also worried about Wilbur pulling a horse trailer with the Studebaker Lark. I would have thought that Mr. Ed would have had the horse sense to insist that Wilbur buy a Studebaker Champ pickup truck.

Its probably getting harder for the studios to find period cars so they take whatever they can get, and the directors are too young to know the difference.

BTW, I didn’t notice the Plymouth, I had forgotten what year is was supposed to be, I do remember the cadillac because it occurred right after the date was posted. It is hard to tell the difference between the 61 and 62 though. But I like that show anyway. I remember passing through Vegas in the 60’s as a kid when we went on vacation from So Cal to Wyoming.

@dagosa I didn’t have one of those but a friend did. We usually had station wagons.

I guess Hollywood guys just aren’t car guys. I’ll be watching a little closer now. I love seeing the old 50’s and 60’s movies though just to see the cars.

Dating cars on TV

I suggest you seek professional help.  I understand you may like cars, but I believe that dating  a car, is going too far.  Try to at least stick with mammals.

Cars dont tell and give you lip-Kevin

Is this thread becoming a partisan battle?

@JosephEMeehan @dagosa and @VCDdriver, I knew someone would misinterpret my title.

My folks drove Ramblers. When I was in high school I showed up at my girlfriend’s house driving a '65 Ambassador because we were going into “the big city” on a date, and I didn’t want to take my MGA. Her dad, who had owned an early '50s Nash Ambassdor, asked me “Do those Nash seats still fold down into a bed”? When I answered in the affirmative, he insisted that we drive his '60 Corvair instead. For some reason he thought it would be safer.

TV shows are called “content” … the other half of the “show” are called “commercials”…The only important thing is that you watch the commercials…Nobody gives a fig about the “authenticity” of the cars in the “show” as long as you watch and respond to the commercials…Yes, and they expect you to pay $40-$80 bucks a month for the privilege of watching this stuff…

We all only get so many hours in our lives…We should all use those hours more wisely…

It comes down to people NOT knowing or looking too deeply into into it and just taking the story as it is.

As a Software Engineer manager with over 35 years in the field…I lost count of the all the inaccuracies about computers I’ve seen over the years. Some are so way out there…it’s obvious they didn’t have a technical consultant with the film or tv-show. I’m not talking about Si-Fi…but shows that are suppose to somewhat accurate. And MOST of the Si-Fi shows are more accurate then the TV shows like CSI or Law and Order.

So I just live with it. I know the inaccuracies are there and I cringe when I see them, but I live with them and move on.

Like VDCdriver, I was flipping channels late one evening and stopped for a minute on an old 50s era Western movie. There was a long contrail in the sky above a large mesa in the background.

In another movie some years ago set around the time of the French Revolution there was a package of Mentos on a table. I would think bad breath would be the last thing under consideration if the unruly mob is about to haul you off to the guillotine and solve that problem permanently. :wink: