Tie-ins are big bucks for everyone from toy companies to fast food joints looking for a little Tinsel Town magic to rub off on their own receipts before, during, and after a TV show, video game or movie has run its course. Car companies aren’t immune from this type of blatant promotion, and although they might be more rare than an action figure in a Happy Meal, there are still a fair number of movie and TV cars out there that can trace their roots directly to on-screen action.
Of course, there are a few pretenders in there too, kind of like those “Music Inspired By” soundtrack albums that scammed your hard-earned teenage dollars back in the day. We’ve ranked movie, video game and TV tie-in special edition vehicles from worst to best to help you make the right choice when commemorating your favourite flick in your driveway.
The Ford F-150 SVT Raptor Halo Edition earns the booby prize on our list of tie-in vehicles for a very good reason – there’s no Raptor in the Halo video game from which it draws its color scheme and aggressive modifications. Fans of Halo know that the Warthog is the transportation method of choice in that universe, and there’s no way anyone will ever build a street-legal version of one of those beasts. Still, this one-off SVT was commissioned by Ford and built by Galpin as the grand prize for the Halo 4 Infinity Challenge, which makes it official – and a supercharger sitting under the hood makes even more fun than the stock Raptor.
13. 2017 Nissan Rogue: Rogue One Star Wars Limited Edition
Once again: there are no Nissan products in the Star Wars universe, for the very good reason that well, no one really seems to do much driving in a galaxy far, far away. Still, that didn’t discourage Nissan from building the Rogue: Rogue One Star Wars Limited Edition SUV to cross-promote the latest entry in the Star Wars franchise. It comes with a bunch of decals identifying it as belonging to both the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire inside and out – confusing, or convenient, you be the judge – and it also offers branded floor mats, a glowing Star Wars logo on the kick plates, and a frightening “Death Trooper” replica helmet that will be given to each of the 5,400 buyers who takes one of these trucks home.
12. 2015 Hyundai Tucson Walking Dead Edition
The Walking Dead is a pop culture phenomenon, but Hyundai’s decision to commemorate it by building the most expensive Hyundai Tucson money can buy was more than a little strange – especially given that the Tucson doesn’t get any screen time. What it does offer is a “Zombie Survival Kit” and a sticker package that may or may not also keep away the undead. It certainly did a good job at repelling buyers, as we can count the number of Walking Dead Tucson’s we’ve seen on one hand.
The Aston Martin DB9 GT is undoubtedly a cool car, but real fans know that it was the DB10 hyper-exotic that appeared in SPECTRE, the Bond film that this special edition is meant to commemorate. Sure, you get a super-expensive watch, Bond-themed door sill plates, and a bunch of gun stuff embroidered throughout the coupe, but that doesn’t change the fact that this DB9 is a pretender. Priced at $237,007, we recommend a hard pass on paying a premium for this spymobile.
10. Jeep Wrangler Call of Duty MW3 Edition / Black Ops Edition
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Yes, there are Jeeps in the Call of Duty video game series. Yes, you can go to the dealership and drive home in a Jeep with Call of Duty stickers and seat embroidery, plus a few accessories like great big off-road tires (since 2012). But do you really want one? If faux-military Wranglers are your thing, then sure, but don’t expect real Navy SEALs and Special Ops personnel to treat you with anything more than mild amusement.
9. 2003 Toyota Tundra Terminator 3 Edition
This one’s a little harder to figure out. On the one hand, there’s a Toyota Tundra pickup in Terminator 3 that gets the stuffing absolutely knocked out of it during a big chase scene and yet keeps on ticking, taking our heroes to safety in the face of a cybernetic threat. On the other, it really didn’t look anything like the blacked-out T3 Tundra that was offered back in 2003 as a movie tie-in, which was at its core a monochromatic truck with Terminator badging (most prominently on the billet grille) and a dual exhaust system. Probably the least likely, and rarest, Terminator-themed piece of merchandise ever produced.
8. 2016 Jeep Renegade Dawn of Justice Edition
When you’re billionaire Bruce Wayne, with unlimited resources and a taste for the finer things in life, of course you drive around in a Jeep Renegade. That is the message that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – the flick where Batfleck and Superman half-heartedly beat each other up before rekindling their bro-mance – got through to us in an early scene where Master Bruce drives the Jeep through a disintegrating Gotham in a bid to save his employees – instead of just, you know, calling ahead and asking them to take cover. Back in the real world, the unique Renegade is basically a Latitude 4x4 trim with one of two special paint jobs and gloss-black rims.
7. 2003 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Tomb Raider
Another Jeep? By now you’ve probably detected a theme at Chrysler, and the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Tomb Raider edges out the Batman Renegade by virtue of the fact that it’s a copy of a vehicle that appears not just in a movie, but a movie about a video game! Angelina Jolie starred in the largely forgettable Tomb Raider sequel The Cradle of Life, and so did this Mopar-accessorized Wrangler Rubicon, which is a faithful recreation of the off-roader she drives throughout the film. 1,000 were made, but no one is really sure how many are still haunting driveways and archaeological sites around the world.
6. 2010 Chevrolet Camaro Transformers Special Edition
The 2010 Chevrolet Camaro Transformers Special Edition represents the dividing line between pure promotional cash-in and actual cool movie car. For roughly $1,000 back in 2010, buyers could add Autobot badges on the door sills, fenders and wheel caps (as well as similar logos inside the vehicle), along with the correct striping package to match the robot character Bumblebee’s on-screen look. Chevy’s tie-in with Transformers was a big deal in terms of shining a light on the newly introduced Camaro, and Bumblebee ended up being one of the most popular characters in the movie. It’s a win-win for movie car collectors on a budget.
5. 1996 BMW Z3 Neiman Marcus 007 Edition
Goldeneye was a controversial flick for Bond enthusiasts, as it marked the first time that the iconic spy would get behind the wheel of a German car. The Bond franchise played up the switch to BMW sponsorship as much as possible, even going so far as to commission a special Neiman Marcus 007 Edition of the Z3 roadster that Pierce Brosnan’s character drove in the film. All of these Atlanta Blue roadsters sold out in pre-sale (and came with tickets to a Brosnan-hosted dinner party), despite being motivated by an underwhelming 1.9L four-cylinder engine rather than the mightier inline-six that would be available the year after. One hundred Neiman Marcus cars were made, and you can tell a real one from a fake by the presence of 007 logos, chrome trim on the exterior, and unique wheels.
4. 1976 Ford Gran Torino Limited Edition Starsky & Hutch
Starsky and Hutch were two 70s-era detectives who were probably better known for their car than their police work. Sliding a Ford Gran Torino sideways through an alley filled with empty boxes was a time-honoured trope of that decade’s television production standards, and the fact that these two did it from behind the wheel of an aggressively striped full-size coupe connected with audiences to the point where Ford felt the need to step in with a special edition car. 1,000 of these white-on-red Gran Torinos were built in 1976, and only 10 percent of the original production run are still on the road, making it as rare as it is unmistakable.
3. 2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 Kowalski Edition
Vanishing Point is a seriously weird movie about a man named Kowalski having an existential crisis while delivering a supercharged Dodge Challenger from Colorado to California. Ultimately, he ends up slamming his muscle machine into an impromptu police roadblock, making a startling commentary on personal freedom and the malaise that hung over America at the end of the 1960s. The car – and the film – became cultural touchstones in their own right, which made it surprising that it took Dodge so long to build a Kowalski edition of the modern Challenger in the same white hue as the cinematic hero car. Ten in total were produced by New Wilmington Dodge in Pennsylvania, in partnership with Chrysler, and each car features a sequential VIN, Hurst shifter, and period-correct decals to go with its Hemi (and star) power.
2. Ford Mustang Bullitt
Steve McQueen’s Bullitt contains the prototypical car chase against which all other on-screen pursuits are measured. In 2001, Ford took its first stab at replicating the legendary Highland Green ’68 fastback driven by McQueen’s detective character by releasing the 2001 Ford Mustang Bullitt special edition coupe. The car sat on a lowered, stiffened chassis, offered better brakes, had a mild horsepower bump over the standard GT, and featured no badging, fog lights, or spoiler. When the next-generation Mustang came out there was a new Bullitt model offered between 2008 and 2009 that kept many of the same performance and visual details of the 2001 version, with the added bonus of styling that was truer to the ’60s car it paid tribute to.
1. Grid 2: Mono Edition BAC Mono Supercar
Why isn’t the Mustang Bullitt number one, you’re asking yourself? In a world where the Grid 2: Mono Edition BAC Mono Supercar doesn’t exist, it would be – but given that our reality contains the BAC Mono Supercar, we really had no choice but to give it the number one slot. When you sell a video game for a six-figure price tag and include a 170-mph single-seat race car with it – one that is legal to drive on the street – well, you’ve just wiped the floor when it comes to tie-ins. Only one of these BAC’s was ever sold, and it was picked up by electronic music artist Deadmau5, who is an avid gearhead.