Which car brands have appeared most often in movies and on TV?

Researchers tabulate a list of the most-seen automotive names

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The 1975 Ford Gran Torino in the 'Starsky and Hutch' TV show, with Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul | Walt Disney Television archive

While we’ve often discussed the top movie cars of all time – focusing on such things as James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5, Steve McQueen’s Ford Mustang in Bullitt, the VW Beetle as Herbie the Love Bug and Doc Brown’s DeLorean in the Back to the Future movies – it’s not often that we consider which car brands have been depicted most often in movies and on TV.

In research conducted on the Internet Movie Cars Database for At The Drive-In, a list of the top 50 car brands seen most often in international films and television series has been compiled.

“Cars have played a significant role in some of the most-famous movies and TV shows of all time and often end up taking center stage and becoming one of the most memorable aspects for the audience,” the researchers said in a news release.

The list focuses on the top 3 brands seen on the big and little screens because they far and away have the most numerous sightings. 

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The oft-seen Ford Victoria detective cruiser

The top brand by a long shot is Ford, which has tabulated 61,683 appearances, the results show.  But while the researchers chalk up the lofty number to some of the top-billed appearances, such as the Bullitt Mustang and the Thunderbird convertible in Thelma and Louise, one must consider which Ford is most often seen in films and TV shows: the ubiquitous Crown Victoria police cruiser. 

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Ford Model As are often seen in modern period films, such as Road to Perdition, and who knows how many Model Ts were ripped apart by Laurel and Hardy back in the day?

A distant second on the list is Mercedes-Benz, shown 34,675 times.  The German brand’s luxury cars are familiar as those driven by wealthy people and crime bosses, and as the researchers point out, a Mercedes became “a major plot device in David Lynch’s Lost Highway,” and was seen as the Red Baron 600 limousine used by Poison Ivy in Batman and Robin.

Third on the list in Chevrolet, which has racked up 34,178 appearances in such feature films as The Fast and the Furious, American Graffiti and Days of Thunder, the researchers note, not to mention a yellow Camaro’s leading role as Bumblebee in the Transformers series.

Rounding out the top-10 brands on the list are:

Volkswagen, 19,399

Toyota, 17,678

BMW, 15,267

Dodge, 13,598

Renault, 12,260

Fiat, 11,999

Cadillac, 11,365

To view the entire list of 50 brands, visit the At The Drive-In website.

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

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