Shahzad Sheikh – AKA Brown Car Guy – is an automotive journalist with three decades of experience on various titles including the Middle East edition of CAR Magazine and Used Car Buyer.
If you happen to be in Los Angeles between now and 15 March 2020, you absolutely must get over to the Petersen Automotive Museum. Actually you should go there any time of the year, but right now they are holding a spectacular exhibition that is astonishing for the sheer breath of vehicles on display.
'Hollywood Dream Machines: Vehicles of Science Fiction and Fantasy' presents around 50 famous vehicles from hit movies and television shows – just check out this incredible gallery of images supplied by the museum, both of vehicles on display and shot in the studio.
The display includes the original Ford Futura-based Batmobile from 1966 and the Michael Keaton-era 1989 Batmobile. You'll also see the 2010 Tron bike; Black Panther's Lexus LC; Tony Stark's Ford Flathead Roadster and his Audi R8 with a remarkable static exploded engine; a replica Alligator Corvette from 1975's 'Death Race 2000'; The Green Hornet's 'Black Beauty' Chrysler Imperial Crown; a future Hill Valley Police Cruiser and even the Luke Skywalker's Landspeeder from 'Star Wars: A New Hope'.
Thus inspired, this car and sci-fi fan has come up with a list of the Top 7 best ever fantasy cars - in reverse order:
7. Italdesign Aztec. Frankenstein Unbound, 1990
This real world concept car first appeared at the Turin Motor Show in 1989 and then in 'Frankenstein Unbound' (staring John Hurt) in which it was operated by full AI and was connected to home security. The movie was set in 2031 and that doesn't seem far-fetched.
The Aztec's styling on the other hand does: it had a divided cockpit with conventional door AND a glass canopy that lifted upwards on each side. With exposed details and graphic motifs on the side profile, this thing looked quite alien and good enough to star in yet another movie in 1996, 'A Spasso Nel Tempo' – yeah, it was Italian.
6. SAPD Cruiser (GM Ultralite). Demolition Man, 1993
All the cars you see in the Sylvester Stallone-starring 'Demolition Man' are GM concept vehicles, apart from one classic Oldsmobile 442 (why is that in a movie set in 2032? You'll just have to watch it). But the star car was Sandra Bullock's police vehicle, a 1992 low-emissions concept dubbed 'the Ultralite'. It was capable of autonomous drive and had 'secur-o-foam' that engulfs the driver in a hard foam to prevent injury in accidents - which is a cool idea actually.
The three-cylinder concept was said to be capable of 120mpg, weighing only 635kg due to a carbon fibre construction and featuring gullwing doors. It was the antithesis to the raw 442, which perfectly dovetailed with the underlying satirical commentary on nanny-state societies in this action comedy.
5. Lexus 2054. Minority Report (2002)
With the Tom Cruise-starring 'Minority Report' director Steven Spielberg wanted a realistic vision of the year 2054 and much of what was envisioned seems scarily plausible, apart from maybe cars that drive up buildings to their occupants' apartments! Or perhaps not. Lexus employed the concept of Maglev (magnetic levitation) for its Lexus 2054.
The cars were fully autonomous, selected music to match the passengers' moods, ran on fuel cells, had biometric security and could even order dinner. Lexus made several versions for the movie including a roadster, but the red car is probably the most well known, there was even a 1/24 scale replica model available to buy.
4. Audi RSQ. I, Robot (2004)
Like the Lexus, this was a case of a manufacturer specifically designing a car for a movie. 'I, Robot' starring Will Smith was set in 2035 and I know what you're thinking, that it was based on an Audi R8. Except the R8 came out two years later! Plus the RSQ had spheres instead of wheels, rear-hinged butterfly doors and a retractable steering wheel for autonomous mode.
3. Spinners. Blade Runner (1982 & 2017)
'Spinner' in the 'Blade Runner' universe applies to flying cars – a sci-fi trope. But how did designer Gene Winfield create a vehicle with forward thrusting wheel assemblies and a gap where the engine should be for the 1982 movie? He used Volkswagen Beetle platforms keeping the rear-engines of course!
Harrison Ford returned for the 2017 sequel set 30 years on in 2049, but this time the 'Blade Runner' was Ryan Gosling and he was at the helm of a Peugeot Spinner – a three-wheeler. Another Spinner is run by the character Luv, and that's the sleek, clean and squared-off version which is meant to be 'the Ferrari of Spinners'.
2. Delorean DMC-12 Time Machine. Back To the Future (1985-1990)
Who doesn't know the 'Back To The Future' trilogy? It featured one of the most famous cars of the 1980s, which arguably might also be deemed one of that decade's biggest auto-industry failures – the DeLorean DMC-12 here (it might be worth catching docu-drama 'Framing John DeLorean' for more on that).
Let's echo the incredulous tone of Marty McFly who says to Doc Brown 'you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?' The Doc's response – 'Well why not do it with some style!' And for the nerds amongst us, the inventor of the flux capacitor adds that the car's stainless steel construction allows for greater 'flux dispersal'. Director Robert Zemeckis chose it because the car’s gullwing doors made it look like an alien spaceship!.
1. Knight Industries Two Thousand (K.I.T.T.). Knight Rider (1982-86)
Without getting into the what the 'Knight Rider' television series was all about – because frankly if you don't know that, why are you even here? – let's just explain why KITT (based on the 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am) is the ultimate sci-fi car.
KITT is an artificially intelligent (plus rather witty and somewhat sarcastic), fully autonomous vehicle equipped with a hydrogen-powered turbojet engine, 8-speed gearbox, capable of 0-60mph in two seconds, boasts an indestructible 'molecular bonded shell', an arsenal of gadgets and weaponry and 'Turbo Boost' which illogically, somehow made it jump! Plus it had scanners and radars and our hero, Michael Knight (The Hoff!) could communicate with it through a Smart Watch. Aside from not quite being able to fly, or to time travel, it encapsulates everything you'd wish for in a sci-fi supercar.
Plus it looked sexy in black and all us car geeks wanted an AI friend like K.I.T.T. because, let's face it, we didn't have any real ones!