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50 years of TV's best cars

Ashlee Pleffer
The Telegraph

16 Sep 2006 • 5 min read

From the background to the limelight, cars have been a vital ingredient in Australian television – be it Ted Bullpitt's obsession with his Kingswood, to Kath's "beep beep Barina".

The Wiggles would be lost without their Big Red Car - and how would Australia's best on-screen detectives have caught their criminals without their trusty Fords and Holdens in shows such as Division 4, Homicide, Matlock or Blue Heelers.

Cars have also been involved in the invention of new technology, with Channel Seven pioneering the Racecam, a camera mounted inside race cars that lets viewers see their driving heroes in action.

It ranged from the lively connection to the camera from Sydney car dealer and driver Peter Williamson and the whimsical Dick Johnson to others such as Bob Morris, who wasn't quite as excited over the technology.

Four-wheel drives have allowed the Bush Tucker Man, Russell Coight and Malcolm Douglas to explore nature, bringing the outdoors to our living rooms.

Outback automotive ingenuity starred in Bush Mechanics.

And it was cars that came to the rescue when Seven experienced a power outage during filming for the first show, with car headlights used to light the set.

Now take a walk down memory lane as CARSguide brings you the best, the worst, the coolest and the daggiest cars of Australian television.

Kingswood Country

"Not the Kingswood" were the words made famous by Ted Bullpitt as he spoke of his pride and joy, never allowing his son or son-in-law to drive his beloved Holden car.

The Leyland Brothers

It was a Toyota LandCruiser that allowed Mike and Mal to "travel all over the countryside, ask the Leyland brothers", as they brought the delights of Australia to television - a forerunner to today's travel shows such as Getaway and The Great Outdoors.

Beyond Tomorrow

A show exploring new and upcoming technology, Beyond Tomorrow has shown off some of the fastest and most impressive cars, from the Lotus Exige to the Koenigsegg CCX and concept cars such as the Holden EFIJY.

Bathurst

The top race car drivers and the best cars are brought to the small screen in an annual ritual. Highlights have included the Australian innovation of Racecam, which put cameras inside speeding cars; Dick Johnson's famous tangle with a rock and the resulting crash in 1980 that led to an impromptu fund-raising telethon; Peter Brock's teammate Doug Chivas running out of petrol and pushing his car in 1973, and the 1977 Ford 1-2 finish captured by Channel Seven's chopper.

Skippy

Sonny and Skippy, his clever pet kangaroo, were the undoubted stars of the show, but who can forget Tony Bonner's knockabout ranger character and his tough-as-teak XR Ford station wagon kicking up clouds of dust as he made his daily runarounds?

The Sullivans

Set during Word War II, this story followed the Sullivan family - and it was an old Ford that was their vehicle of choice.

Comedy Company

Glen Robbins' character Uncle Arthur, one of the stars of this Channel Ten sketch show, relied on an Austin A70 for transportation.

The Wiggles

Those skivvy-wearing, finger-pointing Wiggles travel in class as they bundle into their Big Red Car.

Kath & Kim

The "beep beep Barina" took foxy Kath on all of her journeys, especially her shopping trips to the Fountain Gate shopping centre.

The Aunty Jack Show

The star of this comedy series, which aired in the early 1970s, was a motorcycle riding, transvestite boxer. And it wasn't just any old motorcycle but a Harley Davidson that everyone's favourite aunty rode.

Mother And Son

A divorced son, a peculiar mother and a Morris Minor. Mother and Son was a classic Australian comedy and the quaint and quirky British car matched the characters.

The Bush Tucker Man

In his trusty, rugged Land Rover, Australian Army bush survival expert Les Hiddins went right off the beaten track to bring the Outback and its host of hidden, free culinary delights to city slickers' lounge rooms.

Torque

Peter Wherrett's pioneering ABC car show broke new ground by bringing car tests and new products to our screens in the '70s. No other Australian car shows have reached the same heights. However, Jeremy Clarkson and his BBC Top Gear show have followed the theme and taken car shows to a new level.

Sylvania Waters

In what was essentially Australia's first reality television show, this documentary followed Noeline Baker and Laurie Donaher and their family. The Donahers were already a motor-racing family, with starts at Bathurst in a Holden Commodore and in historic touring car racing in a classic Ford Mustang.

Homicide

Shot in Melbourne, Homicide used Falcon XPs and XRs as police cars. It ran for a decade from the mid-'60s to the mid-'70s and was one of the most popular and influential programs of the time, winning 11 Logies.

Matlock Police

Not so much a car as the star (Valiants filled the car role) - instead it was the police bike Paul Cronin's character rode that is synonymous with this '70s cop show.

A Country Practice

Few star TV cars have ever lived beyond the small screen, but the red Falcon ute used in Wandin Valley has survived. Now restored, it is a regular at Sydney car shows.

Peking To Paris

The car hit of 2006 saw five ancient machines recreate an historic car race. The three-wheeled Contal was the star.

All-Aussie Adventures

Another persona of comedian Glenn Robbins. In this hilarious show, inept would-be larrikin adventurer Russell Coight, the man who is a danger to anyone (or anything) he meets, gets around the outback, somehow, in a rugged-looking Toyota LandCruiser.

Acropolis Now

It was hotted-up Valiants and Monaros, mag wheels and fluffy dice all round in this Greek Australian comedy set around a restaurant in Melbourne.

Great commercials

And love them or hate them, there have also been some great car ads on Aussie TV. They include: the Yellow Pages Goggomobile ad (gee-oh, gee-gee-oh), Honda's award-winning Cog ad where an Accord performs piece by piece, GMH's "Football, Meat Pies, Kangaroos and Holden cars", Valiant's "Hey Charger" campaign, and the catchy "Go well, go Shell" jingle are among them.