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Hooniverse Asks- What’s The Best Detective Ride?

Robert Emslie December 19, 2012 Hooniverse Asks 136 Comments




Over the years, television has provided us with more private dicks than the showers at basic training, as well as an equal number of detective characters tenuously employed by their local constabulary. Each TV detective has had to possess some sort of iconic quirk – lolipops and a bald pate for Kojack, a parrot and who loves ya’ baby catch phrase for Baretta, or the rumpled coat, oh and one more question weekly case solver, and battered Peugeot for my personal favorite, Columbo.

In fact, a number of TV dicks are known not just for a pithy quip eagerly awaited each week by an engrossed and sallow-eyed viewership, but also by their particular rides. Magnum had his 308, Nash Bridges his ‘Cuda, and Mannix a Comet and then plethora of Mopar iron after his custom Olds was shown the door. As they been a staple of prime time entertainment for going on 50 years now, the list just goes on and on and on.

But what’s the best car for an investigator? Do the TV shows get it right by proposing that the criminal sleuth has to be far out of the mainstream in order to be passingly engaging week after week, and that means a commensurately interesting ride? Or, do you think a dick ought to roll as much on the DL as he or she can, owning a car that is as inconspicuous as possible? What do you think, what is the best detective ride?

Image: [landofmachines]

  • http://www.proofnpudding.com muthalovin
    • Battles

      I got the Blu-Ray of this recently, I didn't notice before quite how badly beat up the Mustang was.
      I knew about the missing badge and the big dent in the side but the wear and tear was a real surprise.

    • danleym

      Damn, it took less time to get the right answer here than on some of the mystery cars.

  • $kaycog

    Dan Tanna in the TV series, Vega$, drove a 1957 Thunderbird. He parked it in his living room.

    <img src="http://www.imcdb.org/i000207.jpg"width="500"/&gt;

    Image: imcdb

    • Vavon

      To me it looks like he is just coming out of his living room…

  • Vavon
  • http://www.flowerpowerkc.com Alff

    Probably KITT from Knight Rider. It had memory and the intelligence to remind you of things you've done before…

    • SSurfer321

      P.I. /= Detective

  • Maymar

    <img src="http://images.hemmings.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/200MARS.jpg&quot; width=500 /img>
    This is what came to mind for me – relatively subdued looking, but seemingly capable of camera-friendly oversteer. Also, a little more belivable than his Quattro (and if a W201 190D was supposedly next, it's probably a good thing they didn't do a followup series).

    • Vavon

      That was a really good show! The British one that is…

      • Maymar

        The American version had its moments, and might've got really decent if it hadn't been cancelled. I mean, not as good as the British version, but I'd have been interested to see what they'd do with it.

        • TurboBrick

          Michael Imperioli stole the show in the American version. Especially towards the end when the writers started teaming Ray and Annie together it was awesome. And then they pulled the plug on it. The British show was superior, but the remake wasn't as bad as people generally claim for it to be… I saw the original ABC pilot with Colm Meaney as Gene Hunt, and THAT was AWFUL.

    • Battles

      I think Rebus drives a W201 diesel in the newer TV versions.
      Saab 900 in the books and earlier TV versions.

    • Gregg

      That is a Ford CortinaMark 3

  • Lee
  • smalleyxb122

    While, technically, a consultant to the CBI, and not a "detective" in the true sense, this is Hooniverse, so someone has to nominate Patrick Jane's Citroen DS.

    <img src="http://www.chocolatemintsinajar.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/citroen-ds-21-mentalist.jpg&quot; width=500>

    • http://hooniverse.com/ Tanshanomi

      Great show, and I love watching for the car.

    • Irishzombieman

      I think he's got at least two: this one, and another that has plastic headlight covers. I've only caught that one twice, and only for a moment each time, so I ain't positive, but I'm pretty danged sure.

    • http://o2richenvironment.blogspot.com/ engineerd

      I didn't realize he drove a Citroen DS! I might have to watch it with the wife.

      • danleym

        I've sat through a few episodes with my wife, and never noticed a DS before.

    • patrick

      It seems to me the hydraulic system on his DS is always turned off. Why is that?

  • schigleymischke
  • https://www.facebook.com/alex.w.wise tiberiusẅisë

    Detective Monk never had a car but I wouldn't mind taking Traylor Howard for a ride.

    <img src="http://images.buddytv.com/articles/monk/images/traylor-howard-1.jpg&quot; width="400">

    • citroen67

      I had to do a double take. With the picture being slightly fuzzy, I thought at first that she was wearing a dress from the "Lewinsky Collection."

      • http://karakullake.blogspot.com Maxichamp

        She was great in Two Guys, A Girl, And A Pizza Place.

  • EmbracingEntropy

    <img src="http://www.volvoclub.org.uk/graphics/saint4.jpg"&gt;

    Just because I love P1800s and Amazons.

  • http://www.hooniverse.com BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ
    • Slow_Joe_Crow

      what show is that and can I get it from Netflix?

    • mikltaz

      Audi 100 is the background. Really like the Audi

  • JayP2112
    • EmbracingEntropy

      What is that? A Jag?

      • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

        Sho-nuff is.

        A mid-80's XJ6.

        That was a damned good show.

    • Maymar

      <img src="http://images4.fanpop.com/image/photos/24400000/Inspector-Morse-and-his-Jag-inspector-morse-24403731-1024-768.jpg&quot; width=500 /img>
      If a Jag's what you want, you don't need to go to the fringes of detective.

      • EmbracingEntropy

        Gets a thumbs-up from me– I've never heard of the show, but the Mark II is my favorite British classic car. I'd love to resto-mod one but they don't show up here in the States at a reasonable price.

        • Maymar

          I've never seen it, I just know that Inspector Morse was a character with a Jag.

          I'm with you on wanting a Mark II, although at least they're not half as pricey as their two-door counterparts. Ten grand or so (for a runner at least) isn't terrible, although maybe a bit much for resto-modding.

      • Rover1

        A Jag with a vinyl roof. In the books he had a Lancia. Much more 'eccentric intellectual' in Britain than the Jag

    • EmbracingEntropy

      I think Emslie said "detective", not "dick", though I concede to your use of slang terminology.

      • POLAЯ

        Could it be that God has sent us someone here who understands POLAЯ-ese? POLAЯ-ish? POLAЯian?

        • POLAЯ

          You found the Dick in my Dickory.

  • JayP2112

    Technically, the only car Magnum owned was that XK-E when Higgins banned him from driving Robin's 308.

    But he had access to a C2 and C3 5000, a bad GMC Jimmy and what ever else he could manage including that MGB. How'd he shoehorn himself into that with the top up?


    Chuck Norris says it's a shitty Smurf blue Chevy candy van from the late 70s.

    [youtube cHK2YAN_Xlk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHK2YAN_Xlk youtube]

  • http://www.hooniverse.com BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ

    Miss Emma Peel in the Lotus Elan
    <img src="http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02059/TV-Avengers_2059706i.jpg&quot; width="400">
    and John Steed in the Bentley
    <img src="http://www.actwin.com/toaph/life/cars/tv/avengers_bentley.jpg"&gt;

  • citroen67

    Derrick fährt immer BMW!
    <img src="http://img204.imageshack.us/img204/663/bmw635csibymarcelbischl.jpg&quot; width="600">

  • citroen67

    Also for your consideration. The Baretta Chevy…not to be confused with the Chevy Beretta.
    <img src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-UU4qD-GZKls/T-pAKX-ajOI/AAAAAAAAGsI/M_8cYX3-ehU/s1600/baretta_impala2.jpg"&gt;

    I think Murilee would approve of this one.

  • http://hooniverse.com/ Tanshanomi
  • citroen67

    Two more of my all time favorites. A double shot of premium grade detective whips.
    <img src="http://www.imcdb.org/i002825.jpg"&gt;
    <img src="http://i583.photobucket.com/albums/ss273/RaceGameCrazy/simon-simon-camaro03.jpg"&gt;
    And Simon

  • racer139

    What about simon and simon and that bad azz dodge pickup. again I cant put up a pick cause smart phone not so smart.

  • Devin

    I figure detectives need someone that blends into the background so they can be stealthy if they have to. A vehicle that's really not very distinctive, in a common color, that can easily blend into the crowd.

    <img src="http://0.tqn.com/d/cars/1/0/w/i/12_07_Impala_gallery_side7-8.jpg&quot; width="500">

    Sorry detectives.

    • Maymar

      Except you know how it's sort of cliche for cops to wear cheap suits (and other characters frequently point it out)? The Impala is that cheap suit. I was going to say black Lincoln Town Car as an adequade substitute (since, you know, livery car), but Raylan Givens's Town Car doesn't really seem to blend in in Kentucky. So it's probably location-subjective.

      • Devin

        To be honest, I had the opening scene of Drive playing in my head when I picked it.

      • Battles

        I thought Raylan's Town Car was supposed to be siezed from bad dudes and thus definitely NOT selected to blend in?
        He uses a Jaguar in one of the books, and it makes him stand out all the time. I think ends up wrecking it and getting a Cadillac, or maybe he had a Caddy in a later story.
        In any case, I thought the TV show missed a trick by not having him rolling in a more than one inappropriate, unstealthy car rather than constantly repairing or replacing the Town Car when it got shot/smashed.

        • Maymar

          Oh, it's definitely not supposed to blend in – I just brought it up because of that. I first thought Town Car because of their relative ubiquity in my surroundings, but realized that's not universal.

  • XRSevin
    • http://hooniverse.com/ Tanshanomi

      "You never got the feeling that Joe Mannix fell truly in love with anyone except his gorgeous self."
      -Paul Mavis

  • citroen67

    Okay, it may be a stretch calling them "detectives" per se, but you can't dispute the overall badassery of the Hardcastle and McCormick GMC.
    <img src="http://uniquemoviecarslasvegas.com/admin/uploads/images/photos/large/435319701.jpg"&gt;

  • Irishzombieman

    The Good Guys was an unfortuneately short-lived show that:
    1– featured some of the best writing and strangest humor in recent memory, and
    2– used cars as extensions of characters' personalities. Great cars or crappy cars, every single one was absolutely perfect in its role of character definition.

    With the exception of Thomas Magnum's Ferrari 308, I don't think there's a car on TV that better fit its driver that Dan Stark's 79 Trans Am.

    <img src="http://pics.imcdb.org/0is214/thegoodguysktbcdt201009.9524.jpg&quot; width=400>

    Let's go bust some punks.

    <img src="http://static.tvfanatic.com/images/gallery/dan-stark-picture.jpg&quot; width=350>

    • vwminispeedster

      I miss that show.

      • Irishzombieman

        I am currently re-watching the entire series on Netflicks one show a week, on Wednesday nights when nothing else is on. Gotta make 'em last.

        • JayP2112

          That was shot here in DFW and the local Fox affiliate made a big deal about it.
          Didn't it last like 5 shows?

          • Irishzombieman

            One season but I think around 20 episodes. Check it out if you can. Serious excellence.

        • http://www.sub5zero.com/ Tomsk

          Do you watch on the computer machine?

          • TurboBrick

            I tried, but after 2 minutes it was just full of porn and stopped working.

          • Irishzombieman

            Streaming to my TV via WiFi through my Wii.

    • http://www.sub5zero.com/ Tomsk

      Awesome, AWESOME show.

  • citroen67

    We mus'nt forget The Six Million Dollar Stuntman who made Eastwood look so fine.

    <img src="http://assets3.indiemoviesonline.com/files/editorspics/Majors.jpg"&gt;

    • Irishzombieman

      Was singing that theme song driving in this morning. I die for a livin' in the movies and TV.

      • POLAЯ

        I wouldn't mind getting into the business, but I'd be too afraid of making LiLoh look normal.

        • Irishzombieman

          I worked as an expert consultant on one single commercial shoot for what ended up being a couple different 30-second TV spots. I've never been around so many genuinely insane people at one time as this shoot. Hell, I've never been around more than. . .thinks back, counts on fingers. . . . four truly crazy people at once other than this day, and on this day I can, without trying hard, think of 20. There were more, but I think I've blocked them out.

          My single Hollywood experience. Not my cup o' bologna.

          You might fit right in, though.


  • DemonXanth

    Best detective ride? 1992 Camry.

    Why? Who keeps an eye out for a 1992 Camry. it doesn't even look like a cop car.

    What I would choose given the choice?
    The Tornado Intecept Vehicle.

    Why? If I'm going to driving in ghettos and stuff, I want a vehicle that can take shit and dish it out. I'm way too nerdy caucasian to make it through a barrio, hood, or backwater hick town. I'd stick out like a sore thumb. I don't even got the eminem factor going for me. Vanilla Ice is more street than I am. I could make it through a comicon alright, but that's not where murders happen. The only crimes that happen there are the ones that destroy your childhood and occasional need for eye wash.

    So I'd probably end up with the CSI van.
    <img src="http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/uploadedImages/Police/Level_3_-_General/crime scene 3.JPG" width="400/">

  • http://www.proofnpudding.com muthalovin

    One fictional detective that my wife really like is Harry Dresden. The books are the The Dresden Files, and are a really good series. He drives a blue Bettle that has so many replacement parts, it is not really blue any more. I mean, when escaping from bad guys, what could be a better choice than a multi-color bettle?

    • danleym

      Good for the incognito escapes. Not so good for the they're on your ass and you need to outrun them escapes.

  • http://www.proofnpudding.com muthalovin

    I have gotten into hard-boiled detective novels lately, and recently I read Big City, Bad Blood, by Sean Chercover. A woman lets him take her ex-husbands Mustang GT350 for a night of passion. That would be my top pick of way to get an awesome detective ride, as well as the ride. So meta.

  • http://www.proofnpudding.com muthalovin

    If I was a detective in this day and age, the requirements would be:

    1. power
    2. inconspicuousness
    3. reliability
    4. a hint of panache

    Pontiac G8 GT.

    • Irishzombieman

      Who are you, and what have you done with the real muthalovin?

      • http://www.proofnpudding.com muthalovin

        Okay, how about a modern Magnum P.I.?

        Totally would rock an NSX.

        • Irishzombieman

          That's more in line with what I expected.

          /eyes "muthalovin" suspiciously

  • XRSevin

    Andrew Vachess' Burke drives this:
    "a l969 Plymouth two-door post that had gone through half a dozen life changes since it rolled off the assembly line as a Roadrunner. Its last owner obviously had been in the long-haul contraband business. The beast's undercarriage was a combination of an independent-rear-suspension unit pirated from a Viper, and subframe connectors with heavy gussets to stiffen the unibody—and let it survive a pretty good hit, too. Huge disks with four-piston calipers all around, steel-braided lines. The cavernous trunk had plenty of room, despite housing a fuel cell and the battery, but I didn't find the nitrous bottle I'd expected. Maybe that was because a 440 wedge, hogged out to 528 cubes, sat under the flat, no-info hood. I'd balked when Lymon first told me it was a crate motor, but he'd jumped all over my objections, taking it personally. Lymon's a car guy first; thieving's just his hobby.

    "That motor ain't from the Mopar factory, man," he said, contempt cutting through his Appalachian twang. "Al deKay himself built this one." I knew who he meant—a legendary Brooklyn street-racer, rumored to have switched coasts. "You got yourself an MSD ignition and a brand-new EFI under there," he preached. "NASCAR radiator plus twin electric fans, oil and tranny coolers—this sucker couldn't overheat in the Lincoln Tunnel in rush hour. In July. Reliable? Brother, we're running an OEM exhaust system, H-piped, through a pair of old Caddy mufflers. Costs you a pack of ponies, but it's as quiet as a stocker with those hydraulic lifters. This piece, boy, you don't need to even know a good wrench—you want, you could fucking weld the hood shut."

    It was tall-geared, running a 3.07 rear end—which Lymon proudly gushed was "full cryo" while I pretended I knew what he was talking about—and a reworked Torqueflitte off a column shifter."

    Later he has a Subaru SVX and a custom 1955 Packard. He wins, if they ever make a movie.

    • http://www.hooniverse.com Mad_Science

      I'm intrigued…

    • http://www.sub5zero.com/ Tomsk

      Sounds like a book I need to read post haste.

    • http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/pages/Tombstone-AZ/Goodenough-Mine-TourTCMC/205373899689 CptSevere

      Badass. Another great literary detective ride, sort of, is Travis McGee's Miss Agnes. It was a Rolls Royce from I believe the thirties on a Dodge truck frame, with a 440. Homemade truck bed. It's a major character in several of those books, along with the houseboat he lived on.

  • http://o2richenvironment.blogspot.com/ engineerd

    It's not the best, but it makes me laugh every time. Especially since it's named Blueberry.

    <img width=500 src="http://cehowell.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/psych2_5_wall_1024.jpg"&gt;

    • Maymar

      Bonus points for tipping the hell out of their Canadian shooting location (since it's still the same Echo Hatch from the start). I mean, as if the plethora of semi-recognizable Vancouver sights didn't already give it away.

  • http://o2richenvironment.blogspot.com/ engineerd
    • JayP2112

      Why is Don Johnson leaning on a Rover?

  • JayP2112

    The answer is:

    [youtube qLp4FhDAfQk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLp4FhDAfQk youtube]

  • Slow_Joe_Crow

    How about a Triumph Stag, as used by Dennis Waterman in New Tricks and Clive Owen in Second Sight?

    • http://www.proofnpudding.com muthalovin

      I really enjoyed Second Sight. Good call.

  • wisc47

    The Jaguar Broadspeed from the New Avengers. Okay, it was technically about spies, but still it was an awesome choice for a car in a TV series.
    <img src="http://pics.imcdb.org/0is230/newaveeps08269bs.4310.jpg"&gt;

    • JayP2112


  • Van_Sarockin
    • JayP2112

      Wow. You'd have to be a hardcore fan of Ironside to want to build that thing.

    • Dr Fine

      I preferred his 40 Ford. That flathead really told the news!

      <img src="http://www.imcdb.org/i325058.jpg&quot; width="500">

  • Van_Sarockin

    Scooby Doo's Mystery Machine
    <img src="http://www.clownscharacters.com/jpgs/austin/scoobyshaggydaphnesm.jpg&quot; width="600">

  • facelvega

    The 1941 Packard One Eighty driven by the wealthy, turtleneck-clad, Bostonian, Polish insurance investigator (say what?), Banacek, played by George Peppard.

    <img src="http://scotterb.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/banacek.jpg"&gt;

    <img src="http://www.imcdb.org/i190780.jpg"&gt;

    • danleym

      How about the George Barris designed AMX-400 that made a one episode appearance on Banacek?
      <img src=http://starcarcentral.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/george-barris-banacek-amx-400.jpg" width=500>

      So it wasn't exactly a detective car, but hey, you mentioned Banacek and it came to mind.

    • topdeadcentre

      Beautiful car. It's parked at the corner of Beacon Street and Spruce Street, across from Boston Common, and the corner still looks nearly the same.

      (man, I need to figure out how to embed google map street views here)

  • jeepjeff

    Captain Hastings, Hercule Poirot's assistant, drives a Lagonda 2-litre Speed model. So dope.

    [youtube hJ5YSnfso7s http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJ5YSnfso7s youtube]

  • Smells_Homeless

    My two-second attempt to find a pic failed, but I've always been partial to Frank Cannon's 71 Mark III.

  • Frere P.
  • http://hooniverse.com/ Batshitbox

    1963 Lotus Elan

    <img src="http://www.imcdb.org/i093042.jpg"&gt;

    Inspector Clouseau

  • manchowder
  • From_a_Buick_6

    120 posts and no one has mentioned Rockford's Firebird? For shame.

    • Van_Sarockin

      It was noted quite early on. Else I would have brought it up.

  • patrick

    Kojak's Chrysler 300C?

  • https://secure.flickr.com/photos/deadelvis/collections/72157607912481786/ dead_elvis

    Maybe not the best, but probably the creepiest. Spotted this in Seattle a couple summers back.

    <img src="https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4120/4887109804_73fde00f6d_z.jpg&quot; width="640" height="480" alt="IMG_0204">

    <img src="https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4081/4886506511_102eae4c84_z.jpg&quot; width="640" height="480" alt="IMG_0205">

    <img src="https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4135/4887109964_2c0196e8d3_z.jpg&quot; width="640" height="480" alt="IMG_0206">

    As to the veracity of the claim, I can't say.

  • Zach


  • CJinSD

    A brilliant detective would have a Camry or Accord V6 these days. Nobody would ever know he was there, but he could run down practically anything on the road when necessary.

  • XRSevin

    How did we get this far without Honey West's Cobra? http://hooniverse.com/2011/01/04/hoonobituary-ann

  • scroggzilla

    This post needs more Sweeney!
    [youtube CtaxAsUbIH4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtaxAsUbIH4 youtube]

  • Xehpuk

    Derrick and Matula were already mentioned, so I'm going to say Schimanski's Citroen CX Turbo 2.

    German detectives always seem to switch to the newest model available, but Stolberg just keeps driving his E34. Anyway, the changing cars make a fun timeline of sorts.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/jjd241 jjd241

    Missed it by 'that much'

    <img src="http://i.imgur.com/nnXI1.jpg&quot; alt="" title="Hosted by imgur.com" />