With Halloween upon us, here’s our pick of terrifying rides in which to roam eerie roads as darkness descends. These motors are scarier than petrol shortages and a privation of pumpkins in Tescos. Jack O’ Lantern will greet these carriages of carnage with a diabolical grin, but be warned, as you call forth the horrifying spirits of automotive celluloid infamy, your body will start to shiver, as no mere motor can resist, the evil of the thriller.
1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Ambulance/Hearse (Ghostbusters)
When we first see the custom-bodied 59 Caddy in the 1984 ‘Ghostbusters’ movie, it appears to be painted black like a hearse but features the emergency lights and wails of an ambulance, plus the suspension and brakes are shot. So, what is it? Purveyor of death or saviour of souls? Who cares? As Dr Raymond Stantz (Dan Akroyd) says: 'Everybody can relax, I found the car'. If you don’t want to get slimed, there is no better ghoul-vanquisher to be in on Halloween than ‘Ecto 1’ as it became known. And if it comes with a Proton Pack, whatever you do, don’t cross the streams!
George Barris Custom 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III (The Car)
The first and most relentless of our demonically-possessed jalopies, in 1977 ‘The Car’ brought with it a boot-full of nightmares. Colossal, stale black, driverless, unstoppable and hunting humans. This B-movie beast was created by movie-car making supremo, George Barris, rebodying a regular, innocent Lincoln Continental in this gruesome garb. Like many of the protagonists on this page, there is no back story, it doesn’t need it. Know only that it is pure evil and wherever it rolls a murderous rampage will ensue.
1955 Peterbilt 281 Tanker (Duel)
In ‘Duel’ we never see the driver of this menacing truck, but his killer intent is self-evident from the moment he takes umbrage at David Mann (Dennis Weaver) determinedly overtaking him in a red Plymouth Valiant repmobile. From then on, it’s a dice to the death in this Hitchcockian road movie, brilliantly paced and directed by none other than a relatively fledgling Steven Spielberg doing only his second movie. It’s a cult classic, and the reason you never mess with huge dirty old trucks sporting a collection of trophy numberplates on the front.
1958 Plymouth Fury (Christine)
From one Plymouth to another, and you were waiting for this one, weren’t you? Possibly the most infamous of the demon drives to grace the big screen, ‘Christine’ is a manipulative seductress of a saloon that delights in savage death and destruction. This Friday Afternoon Car made clear its murderous nature at its very inception on the production line, where it openly maimed and killed. Health and safety notwithstanding, it was still sold to unsuspecting motorists regardless. This 1983 movie was based on a Stephen King novel, who we’re guessing must have owned a lemon or two in his time without MotorEasy coverage!
KARR – 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am (Knight Rider)
The killer KARR was the evil twin brother of KITT, star of ‘Knight Rider’, featuring one David Hasselhoff as sidekick Michael Knight. Okay that was probably the other way around, but not to us fans of KITT, which seemed undefeatable until that is, it encountered its estranged sibling. A short-circuit in its programming convinced KARR it was a superior being, a prescient allegory of the advent of artificial intelligence in autonomous cars and which will one day become self-aware and decide we’re redundant. Anyhow the clash of KITT and KARR set up the conundrum of an ‘unstoppable force’ colliding with ‘an immovable object’. Guess who won?
George Barris 1964 Munster Koach & Drag-u-la (The Munsters)
In the fourth episode of freaky hit TV show, ‘The Munsters’, when Lily decides to get a car for husband Hermann Munster, she buys both a 1926 Ford Model T hot rod and a hearse to create a Franken-car – the Munster Koach. In reality, movie car design legend George Barris once again set to work to create this delightfully spooky conveyance. Barris also made a second car for the series, the Drag-u-la for Grandpa, basically a coffin (a real one was used) grafted onto a hand-built frame. Both vehicles were powerful enough to rip open the gates of hell having been fitted with Ford V8 engines from Shelby Cobras!
1981 Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor (The Wraith)
Boy is killed by car thieves, comes back as supernatural entity (possibly reincarnated by aliens). The mysterious helmeted street racer, in a never-before-seen vehicle, appears to have the ability to be blown to smithereens and instantly be resurrected. Frightening the octane out of his previous persecutors, swift revenge is forthcoming. Even the police give up as the car appears impossible to catch or stop, and on account of its killing bad guys anyway, so let it. The sleek and sinister supercar was in fact a real-life prototype. The $1.1m Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor mid-engined supercar, finished in a bespoke bronze pearl finish, was only lent out to the movie makers for a week to film closeups. Seven replicas were made, only two of which were runners and most were destroyed during filming.
1942 Hydra-Schmidt Coupe (Captain America: The First Avenger)
Just behold this brute, cower at its magnificence and definitely beware its driver – no less than Hydra’s evil mastermind Red Skull. Featured in the first Captain America movie from 2011, this unique one-off behemoth was a custom design created for the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) by automotive design artist, Daniel Simon. Dripping intimidation, it was inspired by cars such as the 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K and Hitler’s 1939 Mercedes G4 6-Wheel military command car and supposedly powered by a huge V16 aeroplane engine. In reality the ‘Hydra-Schmidt Coupe’ was built on a truck chassis and powered by a Ford V8.
The Gigahorse (Mad Max: Fury Road)
In 2015’s ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ Immortan Joe rode astride the awesome Gigahorse, the flagship of his War Boys armada. This monstrosity was created out of two 1959 Cadillac Coupe De Villes, split, widened and mounted one on the other, pitched at a rakish angle by huge double rear wheels and powered by twin V8 engines. Each car featured in the movie was made for real. The Gigahorse was described as a “memory of past glory and pledge of future victory. Armed with whaler’s harpoon and the devil’s own flamethrower, the Gigahose is likely the first thing you hear and the last thing you see on the Fury Road.”
1968-69 Dodge Charger & 1971 Chevrolet Nova (Death Proof)
Kurt Russell plays a psychopathic stuntman in ‘Death Proof’, a 2007 slasher movie by written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. Basically, Russell’s character creates stunt cars with roll-cages that allow him to survive the most horrific crashes but, and here’s the killer (literally), not his passengers, who are inevitably young women. We first see him in a matt black Chevrolet Nova with a skull and lightning bolts on the bonnet. Later he is in one of the most evil of all standard movie cars, a 1968 Dodge Charger in black again with the signature bonnet motif. Chargers have always been bad boys, right back to the 1968’s ‘Bullitt’ in which assassins in a black example go head-to-head with Steve McQueen Mustang, and 2011’s ‘Drive Angry’ in which Nicolas Cage’s character breaks out of hell and drives one.
1989 Batmobile (Batman)
To many, the 1966 TV Batmobile remains the most iconic vehicle used by the Caped Crusader, however for the Tim Burton-directed 1989 big-screen debut of Batman starring Michael Keaton, the comic book hero was to go in a darker direction. The Batarang and utility belt were no longer enough, now fear, intimidation and dread were also to be part of Batman’s arsenal, and that would reflect on the car too. The Batmobile was outrageously long and fuselage-like in construction and purporting to be gas turbine-powered, which explained the after-burner style rear design. Browning machine guns popped out of its fenders, spherical bombs deployed from its sides, along with Batdisc ejectors and other deadly features. But ultimately why is this car so scary? Because Batman!