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Stranger Things: The most memorable cars

WWe’re less worried about what exactly is going on in the Upside Down and more worried about what people are driving. (image: Netflix via IMCDb)

The 1980s was a golden age for cars on the small screen, indeed, for those of us who grew up in that era, it was a golden age for everything, which is why Netflix mega-hit Stranger Things mines such a rich river of reverie.

In the '80s, we had Magnum PI and his Ferrari 308, The A-Team and their custom GMC Vandura and, of course, Michael Knight and his Pontiac Trans Am (aka K.I.T.T.), a car I worshipped. So it probably isn't surprising that Stranger Things is filled with similarly iconic, and very cool, cars from that era.

Stranger Things has entered the mainstream zeitgeist, even for those born long after that internet-free decade, thanks to its mysterious story, homages to the '80s and its cast of rising young stars.

But this is CarsGuide, so we're less worried about what exactly is going on in the Upside Down and more worried about what people are driving. Here, then, is a list of the iconic cars from Stranger Things that have captured our attention.

Warning, possible spoilers ahead.

What is Stranger Things?

It's a Netflix series set in 1980s America, in the fictional mid-west town of Hawkins, Indiana. The series centres around a group of teenagers and an alternate dimension known as the Upside Down.

The show's creators, The Duffer Brothers, say it is a homage to the 1980s films of their childhood, by the likes of Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street), John Carpenter (Halloween), David Lynch (Blue Velvet), Steven Spielberg (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) and even John Hughes (Pretty in Pink).

What makes it so popular?

Put simply, everything old is cool again. Stranger Things popularity is due to a lot of factors, but a large part is that it manages to resonate with both an older audience, which remembers the '80s from its own childhood, and a younger generation experiencing it as a retro/throwback period.

How were cars an important part of the show?

While the show is best described as a science fiction, horror, drama and coming-of-age story, the Duffer Brothers have been able to ground the story by making the Stranger Things cars feel true to life while also standing out.

From a beat-up Ford LTD, the classic Chevrolet Camaro to the hard-working Chevrolet Blazer, the cars from the show don't feel out of place and celebrate the best of (mostly) American cars of the era.

Why are there so many iconic cars in Stranger Things

Because there are so many iconic cars from the 1970s and '80s to choose from. As we all put on our rose-coloured glasses, we ignore the realities and enjoy the idea of driving around in a Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet, BMW 7 Series or that cool Camaro.

Below is a list of our top five favourite ‘80s car stars from Stranger Things. We'll write this as if you've seen the show (because if you haven't you should pause reading this story and watch seasons one through four), so there will be some assumed knowledge, but we'll still try to go light on the spoilers.

5. Johnathon Byers' 1970s Ford LTD

Think of the LTD as the US equivalent to the Ford Falcon. (image: Netflix via IMCDb) Think of the LTD as the US equivalent to the Ford Falcon. (image: Netflix via IMCDb)

Not the most reliable car, the coolest or the most stylish, but the Ford LTD is an icon on and off the screen. Driven by Johnathon Byers (played by Charlie Heaton), older brother of key protagonist Will Byers, the LTD makes so much sense.

The LTD was the Blue Oval's forerunner to the Crown Victoria, a large, family friendly sedan that was a popular choice in the decade prior to the one Stranger Things is set in. Think of it as the US equivalent to the Ford Falcon. So it makes perfect sense that Jonathon would be driving what is now a beat-up, old family car that doesn't always start when he needs it to, but makes the perfect getaway car to get the gang away from a pack of demon dogs.

4. Steve Harrington's 1980s BMW 733i

Steve begins the series as the handsome, rich kid of the Hawkins school crowd, so it suits him to drive around America’s mid-west in a German luxury sedan. (image: Netflix via IMCDb) Steve begins the series as the handsome, rich kid of the Hawkins school crowd, so it suits him to drive around America’s mid-west in a German luxury sedan. (image: Netflix via IMCDb)

One of the reasons the cars of Stranger Things really stand out is because of how well-suited to each character they are - and Steve's BMW is the perfect example of this. Steve begins the series as the handsome, rich kid of the Hawkins school crowd, so it suits him to drive around America's mid-west in a German luxury sedan.

The 733i was still a relatively new model by the time Steve was driving it in 1983, having only launched in '77. But as the seasons progress, Steve's character evolves and he becomes more three-dimensional as he cares for the younger kids at the heart of the show. So by season four he's using the 733i to ferry the kids around town, taking advantage of the Beemer's spacious interior.

3. Billy Hargrove's 1979 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

Billy's car perfectly suits his character, as the arrogant older stepbrother to Max, he exudes the kind of cockiness and selfishness you tend to associate with young men with mullets in pony cars. Billy's car perfectly suits his character, as the arrogant older stepbrother to Max, he exudes the kind of cockiness and selfishness you tend to associate with young men with mullets in pony cars.

From the moment he shows up in his 1979 Camaro, complete with California licence plates and mullet in full flow, Billy Hargrove's Chevy became an instant co-star in the show.

Once again, Billy's car perfectly suits his character, as the arrogant older stepbrother to Max, he exudes the kind of cockiness and selfishness you tend to associate with young men with mullets in pony cars.

The V8-powered Camaro would have been a few years old by the time Billy showed up in Hawkins in '84 (when season two is set), so right in the wheelhouse for the cool kids at school to snap up on the used-car market.

While Billy did try and use the Camaro to run over the show's stars on Halloween, we can't hold that against it. Instead, this classic American performance car deserves its high ranking on our list because it's just peak retro cool.

2. Joyce Byers' 1976 Ford Pinto

Just the sort of affordable, undesirable, small, dangerous car that perfectly suits the down-on-her-luck Joyce. (image: Netflix via IMCDb) Just the sort of affordable, undesirable, small, dangerous car that perfectly suits the down-on-her-luck Joyce. (image: Netflix via IMCDb)

No, the Pinto is definitely not as cool as a Camaro or a 7 Series, but it so perfectly suits Winona Ryder's Joyce Byers character that it takes runner-up spot on our list.

Why is it so perfect? Well, because she's driving a 1976 model, so it's already seven years old by the time the series starts and it just wouldn't make sense for a struggling single mother to be rolling around in a new set of wheels.

Next, the Pinto was Ford's compact offering of the day, splitting the more memorable Cortina and Escort in the brand's small car family lineage. So, again, it fits perfectly with the character of Joyce.

Finally, and perhaps most aptly, was the Pinto's infamous ability to catch on fire after even a low-speed rear end accident.

Making it worse, Ford knew it was a serious problem and ultimately was forced into a recall to fix it. But only after producing the unfortunately titled "Fatalities Associated with Crash Induced Fuel Leakage and Fires" memo that looked at the cost-benefit analysis of fixing the car against the number of deaths and serious injuries it would potentially inflict.

Again, just the sort of affordable, undesirable, small, dangerous car that perfectly suits the down-on-her-luck Joyce.

1. Jim Hopper's 1980 Chevrolet K5 Blazer

The K5 Blazer is the perfect ride for a small mid-west police chief, capable of exploring the wilder areas of this tortured town. (image: Netflix via IMCDb) The K5 Blazer is the perfect ride for a small mid-west police chief, capable of exploring the wilder areas of this tortured town. (image: Netflix via IMCDb)

Tough on the outside, but under the surface a more complex and nuanced character.

I could be referring to either David Harbour's Police Chief Jim Hopper or his ride, a 1980 Chevrolet K5 Blazer. That's because this is without doubt the best piece of automotive casting in Stranger Things.

The K5 Blazer is the perfect ride for a small mid-west police chief, capable of exploring the wilder areas of this tortured town. The second generation K5 Blazer that Hopper drives was a stalwart for Chevy throughout the '70s and '80s, with production running all the way from 1973 to 1991.