The 10 most memorable TV trucks of all time

Movie trucks might get bigger press, but television pickups, SUVs, and vans are often more enduring as they invade our homes on a weekly basis and give us a better chance to get to know their rough and rugged charms. Although often relegated to supporting roles, there are more than a few trucks that became stars as a result of their regular appearance on the idiot-box, in some cases becoming indelibly associated with a character or series. Which TV trucks stand out after decades of exposure to re-runs?

These are our picks for the most memorable small screen rigs of all-time.

Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985)

The truck(s): Cooter’s rotating cast of tow trucks The driver: Ben Jones as Cooter Davenport Why it’s awesome: The cars from Dukes of Hazzard are replete with problematic Confederate imagery, but there’s a happy exception when it comes to the various tow trucks used by Cooter Davenport to rescue the Duke boys from whatever chaos they’d become embroiled in that particular week.

How many different trucks did Cooter use to road-block the sheriff, tow the Dukes, or send off a really sweet jump as part of the Hazzard County airtime requirement built into every stunt vehicle’s contract? He had two Fords (a ’67 and a ’78), three Chevys (a ’68 and a ’69), and even a GMC (’68). The show’s producers weren’t too fussy about the color schemes or models of truck that Cooter was supposed to be driving, sometimes switching them mid-chase within the same episode as footage from past shows was re-used to stretch the budget as far as it would go.

As for actor Ben Jones, he would go on to become a prolific writer, as well as a two-term Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, giving hope to anyone named ‘Cooter’ who might be reading this article. 

CHiPs (1977-1983)

The truck: 1977 GMC K1500 Stepside The driver: Larry Wilcox as Jon Baker

Why it’s awesome: You’re going to notice something as you move through this list of TV trucks: producers in the late ’70s and early ’80s had a massive crush on the GMC K1500. It appears in CHiPs as the personal vehicle of Office Jon Baker, done up in bright blue with a fantastic graphics package diving down the door. You’ll also notice the truck’s obligatory KC Hi-Lites on the front cow-catcher and the roll bar rising up from the bed.

In the show, Officer Baker scored this sweet truck by buying it for a song from a perp who was trying to set it on fire after falling behind on payments. Originally, the character had been driving a Mini Cooper, which actor Wilcox purchased from the show and kept for many years after it was no longer needed for shooting. No one knows what became of the original K1500.

The Fall Guy (1981-1986)

The truck: 1982 GMC K2500 Sierra Grande

The driver: Lee Majors as Colt Seaver Why it’s awesome: The premise of The Fall Guy was a simple, gleaming beacon of ’80s high concept: what if a stuntman was also a bounty hunter? And what if, somehow, those two skill-sets were complementary?

For character Colt Seaver, they definitely were, and this included as many jumps as possible from behind the wheel of his GMC K2500, which was quickly becoming the ‘go-to’ vehicle for TV shows looking for blue-collar cred. The tough truck was modified with a lift kit and, as with CHiPs, a light bar. Unlike Officer Baker’s truck, however, Seaver’s was further equipped with its own portable jail, which took the form of a hidden compartment accessed via a swing-out door in the covered portion of the cargo bed.

Surprisingly, this modification never caught on with the serial killer set, no doubt saving ABC television millions of dollars in out-of-court settlements over the decade or so The Fall Guy spent in reruns.

Baywatch (1989-2001)

The truck(s): 1987 Dodge Dakota, 1997 Ford F-150, 1992 Ford F-350 ambulance, 1999 Ford F-350 ambulance, 1993 Ford Ranger Splash, 1982 GMC S-10, 1990 GMC Sierra K2500, 1989 Toyota Truck, all done up in lifeguard yellow The driver(s): Almost the entire Baywatch cast, but primarily heartthrob David Hasselhoff Why it’s awesome: The Hoff was never lacking for a truck to drive down the beach at full speed, but in retrospect it’s shocking just how many vehicles the lifeguards of Los Angeles County (and eventually Hawaii) had access to.

The show seemingly had no brand loyalties, as Fords, Toyotas, and GMCs all played across the sand at varying intervals, and one has to wonder why production chewed through so many different models over the course of a decade. Fun fact: Baywatch: Hawaii was originally supposed to be Baywatch: Down Under, but a massive counter-campaign from the residents of the New South Wales town where it would have been filmed squelched the idea, depriving us of any cool Holden or Ford beach utes.

Walker, Texas Ranger (1993-2001)

The truck(s): 1993 GMC Sierra K1500, 1995 Dodge Ram The driver: Chuck Norris as Cordell Walker

Why it’s awesome: It’s easy to forget amidst the extreme Chrysler product placement that permeated Walker, Texas Ranger, that the original ride for Norris’ most enduring badass character was actually an early-’90s GMC Sierra K1500, carrying on the great tradition (or secret blood-pact?) between Hollywood and General Motors. Seriously though, almost every other vehicle on this show hailed from Mopar, and it was Walker’s 1995 Dodge Ram that would become the second-biggest star of the series. A Viper V-10 version of the truck even showed up in the TV movie follow-up that appeared a few years after Walker, Texas Ranger had stopped broadcasting.

The A-Team (1983-1987)

The truck: 1983 GMC Vandura

The driver: Almost always Mr. T as B.A. Baracus

Why it’s awesome: Just like Starsky and Hutch, The A-Team made a star out of a fairly ordinary automobile by painting a diagonal stripe down the side. Of course, the A-Team’s Vandura also offered a number of other impressive attributes, such as a spoiler, an amazingly complete wardrobe of disguises, a printing press (?!?), and of course a full suite of electronic gadgets depending on what that week’s episode script required. Eight vans in total were built for the show – some with sunroofs, some without – but only one survives today, and for some reason it sits in a British museum.

The majority were used for stunts and as such didn’t survive the various jumps, fishtails, and other tragedies to befall the A-Team in their pursuit of vigilante justice.

Simon & Simon (1981-1989)

The truck: 1979 Dodge Macho Power Wagon The driver: Gerald McRaney as Rick Simon Why it’s awesome: The Power Wagon is one of the most underappreciated classic trucks on the market, with far fewer built as compared to its Chevrolet, GMC, and Ford rivals of the day.

Even the boost of starring on the popular Simon & Simon TV show, about a pair of private detectives who also happened to be fire-and-ice brothers, couldn’t do much to boost its profile with collectors throughout the 1980s. At the very least, Rick Simon wasn’t shy to emphasize the brute force of his Macho Power Wagon, routinely bashing it across the screen and drawing scorn from his more genteel sibling. It was kind of like a cooler version of the GMC in The Fall Guy, except Simon didn’t have any particular stuntman skills other than the ability to take aim and slam his right foot to the floor.

Knight Rider (1982-1986)

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The truck: Peterbuilt 352 Pacemaker

The driver: David Hasselhoff as Garthe Knight Why it’s awesome: Any ’80s TV show that gives the main character an evil twin is automatically cool, but Knight Rider took things one step further. Not only did it offer the Hoff the chance to play the nefarious Garthe, his long-lost mercenary sort-of-adopted half-brother (complete with a sinister moustache), but it also elected to provide his super-advanced K.I.T.T.

Trans Am with its own blacked-out 18-wheeled bad-guy counterpart named Goliath. We’ll give you some time to breathe. Goliath had missiles, sleep gas, a razor bumper, and was coated in the same mystery substance that made K.I.T.T. completely invulnerable to all but the most advanced of weaponry.

The giant truck’s Achille’s heel turned out to be a single bolt holding its trailer in place, which good-guy Hasselhoff DESTROYS WITH A LASER to save the day. During their second encounter, Goliath ends up hurtling off a cliff to its doom, taking Garthe, and the moustache, with it.

The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971)

The truck: 1921 Oldsmobile Model 46 The driver: Max Baer Jr. as Jethro Bodine

Why it’s awesome: There were an astonishing 274 episodes produced of The Beverly Hillbillies, a show that in lesser hands could have come across as incredibly mean-spirited, but instead managed to preserve its tone of social commentary on modern Californian society as seen through the eyes of suddenly stinkin’ rich oil barons, the Ozark-sourced Clampetts. Although the Clampett family may have transferred their homestead to the 90210 zip code they didn’t see much need in changing other aspects of their lifestyle, which meant the Oldsmobile Model 46 pickup truck – built by George Barris – came along with them. It’s one of the least-discussed of the Barris-mobiles of the day, but aside from the Batmobile perhaps the most enduring to have emerged from television.

The Rockford Files (1974-1980)

The truck: 1976 GMC K1500 Sierra Classic

The driver: Noah Beery Jr. as Rocky Rockford, James Garner as Jim Rockford Why it’s awesome: Although The Rockford Files was famous for the low-key Pontiac Firebird Formula driven by its titular detective, Jim Rockford would often borrow his dad’s – wait for it – GMC K1500 whenever he needed something a little beefier. In fact, the truck appeared on the show so often that magazine features were written about it at the time, calling out its built 400-cubic-inch engine, carpeted bed, 52-gallon auxiliary fuel tank, and brush guard and roll bar, complete with Cibie driving lights.

These were all installed by Hickey Enterprises, which would do a brisk business modifying trucks for television.

GMC would even tag Garner for a series of print ads extolling the virtues of the GMC truck line-up.

It’s safe to say that this show was the start of the brand’s decades-long flirtation with TV stardom.

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