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Home > car news > Mustangs and RVs and Ford Thunderbirds

Mustangs and RVs and Ford Thunderbirds

It must be the Fourth of July!

What better way to celebrate Independence Day than by taking a good ol' fashioned road trip. The idea of being able to forget your cares and cruise along the open road with nothing but miles of empty tarmac in your rear-view mirror is a huge part of the American dream. Almost 42 million Americans will take to the roads and head off on vacation over the Independence Day weekend, according to the American Automobile Association - the highest level since 2007.    

Why not get a taste of that kind of freedom this July 4? While the M6 might not offer the same kind of magic as Route 66, if you're behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang then you're probably not going to mind too much.

To celebrate Independence Day 2015 we've pulled together a list of some of the hottest sets of wheels ever taken on road trips across the US by Hollywood's A-listers. Think Thelma & Louise, think The Cannonball Run, think Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. When it comes to hood-down cruising, no one does it quite like the Americans and with cars this good you'll be reaching for your passport and booking a one-way ticket to California before you know it.      

1979 Lamborghini Countach LP 400S

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Hollywood blockbuster The Cannonball Run is jam-packed with stars and their cars, but it's the sleek and shiny black Lamborghini Countach that features in the opening scene of the movie that managed to win most people's hearts. The film starts by showing the supercar speeding past a police cruiser, which immediately gives chase but is hopelessly inadequate against the raw power of the Lamborghini.

Posters of the car could be seen on bedroom walls across the world during the 1980s as young boys and grown men alike dreamed of getting behind the wheel. There are still models changing hands today, but you'll need to have an extremely healthy bank balance if you want to slide behind the wheel of one for your next road trip. A 1979 Lamborghini Countach LP 400S Series I was auctioned by Sotheby's in Arizona in January. Only 50 of the models were produced and as a result, collectors are keen to snap up models in good condition. This one went under the hammer for $725,000.

Saab 900 Convertible

Although flash Italian supercars are more likely to get you noticed at the traffic lights, sensible automobiles are just as likely to become stars of the big screen. For evidence, look no further than the 2004 cult classic Sideways, in which Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church climb into the former's Saab 900 and head out for a tour of California's wine region.

Unfortunately, the red convertible meets a rather nasty fate towards the end of the film when it's driven at full speed into a tree in order to stage an accident.

1983 GMC G-15

In the hands of the A-Team, the GMC G-15 van in its unmistakable black, grey and red livery really covered some miles during the 1980s. The truck is instantly recognisable to anyone who grew up during that decade and spent their Saturday afternoons watching John "Hannibal" Smith, B. A. Baracus, Howling Mad Murdock and Templeton Peck travel across America in order to help people in distress. The television show featuring the group of former commandos was a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic and the iconic van received just as much attention.

The GMC Vandura model that starred in the hit show was released in 1983 and quickly built up a fan base around the world. The truck came out of retirement in 2010 when it made an appearance at the 2010 New York International Auto Show in order to help promote the release of the new A-Team feature-length film starring Liam Neeson. 

1966 Ford Thunderbird Convertible

While the green 1966 Ford Thunderbird came to a rather sticky end in the final scene of the 1991 classic Thelma & Louise, the film certainly helped to propel the convertible into the limelight. After deciding to go on a two-day road trip in Louise's car, the pair end up falling foul of the law and have to go on the run in order to escape the police officers who are in hot pursuit. According to a report by the Telegraph newspaper, a total of five Thunderbird models were used during filming. One came onto the market in 2008 and sold at auction in Italy for $65,000.

1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

Just like the A-Team's GMC truck, the black 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am will be all too familiar to anyone who was an avid watcher of action television shows in the 1980s. The car gained its reputation after featuring in the hit series Knight Rider, starring David Hasselhoff. The programme involved the actor's character Michael Knight charging around America fighting crime with the assistance of his artificially intelligent Pontiac named KITT.

The car's appearance in Knight Rider is by no means its only claim to fame. Versions of the Pontiac also starred in the hit Hollywood film franchise Smokey and the Bandit, helping to boost the 1977 Pontiac Trans Am's popularity among the car-buying public. In fact, the vehicle's appearance in the film led to sales skyrocketing as motorists set out to style themselves on the film's star, Burt Reynolds.

A Special Edition Y82 version packing a huge 6.6-litre engine, which was owned by the actor, was put up for sale at the end of 2014. The vehicle was expected to bring in between $60,000 and $80,000 but fans of the film franchise helped to create a bidding war, resulting in the price spiralling during the auction. The hammer eventually went down once the car had topped $450,000.

1971 Chevrolet Impala Convertible

Alongside Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro, a red 1971 Chevrolet Impala convertible is one of the big stars of Terry Gilliam's cult hit, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The film is based on a novel by Hunter S. Thompson and sees Depp and del Toro take off in the stunning soft-top across the Nevada desert. In order to prepare for the role, Johnny Depp swapped his own car for Thompson's red Chevy convertible and spent a number of weeks driving around in it prior to filming. In fact, the actual vehicle that stars in the film is Thompson's own Chevy.

The Impala became one of Chevy's bestselling models and by the early 70s it was the largest vehicle that the company had ever produced. The last convertible to bear the model name rolled off the production line in 1972.

1968 Ford Mustang GT

Although the 1968 crime action film Bullitt isn't exactly a road trip movie, if you were planning a long journey across the United States you'd likely be more than happy to do it behind the wheel of Steve McQueen's 1968 Ford Mustang GT. McQueen was already a huge star by the time Bullitt went on general release in the October of 1968 but he helped to bring the Mustang to an even wider audience. The film is particularly well remembered for the remarkable high-speed chase scene that takes place through the streets of San Francisco, involving the Mustang and a Dodge Charger. It is widely regarded as one of the most famous chase sequences ever filmed.

The arrival of the Mustang GT helped to create a whole new segment in the motor trade - the pony car. With its affordable price tag and good looks, Ford's new release captured the imagination of the American public and the brand has been going strong for more than five decades. Demand for the Mustang is still such that Ford released the sixth generation version at the start of this year. The latest model with its immense 5.0-liter V8 powertrain is available to order now and the first vehicles will be delivered to customers in the UK within the coming months.  

Pace Arrow RV

There's one school of thought that says if you're going to go on a road trip, you might as well do it in style. Cue the Pace Arrow motor home. This monster of an RV played a starring role in the 2004 Hollywood hit Meet the Fockers, the follow-up film to 2000's comedy hit Meet the Parents. Hilarity ensues when, instead of flying as planned, Robert De Niro decides to drive his new RV across the country in order to meet his son's new parents-in-law. Pace Arrow supplied Universal Pictures with three models to use during filming, one of which was cut in half so interior scenes could be successfully shot for the movie.   

1963 Volkswagen Beetle

Probably the most famous Volkswagen Beetle in the world is Herbie, star of numerous films and a vehicle that undeniably has a mind of its own. The 1977 film Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo saw the plucky Beetle take part in a road trip/race across France, getting into plenty of scrapes along the way.

Following the success of the first film, Volkswagen was keen to push the promotional angle as far as possible in order to help lift sales of the car. The manufacturer even went to the trouble of getting models installed in its showrooms painted with the Herbie livery. In total, more than 21.5 million Beetles were sold between 1938 and 2003 and the car has quite rightly secured its place in the annals of motoring history. 

Volkswagen T2 Microbus

Time for another Volkswagen, but this time it's considerably larger. If fact, writer Michael Arndt specifically chose to use the Volkswagen T2 Microbus to star in his road trip screenplay because of the camper van's size. The story involves a family driving 800 miles across New Mexico, Arizona and California in order to attend a beauty contest. Mechanical problems begin to surface and before long the family members find they have to push the van so it will reach 20mph, before jumping in and starting the engine so they can continue on their way.

In many ways the Volkswagen T2 Microbus was made for road trips, and it's little wonder that hippies and free spirits took the model to their hearts in the 1960s. When production finally ceased in Brazil on December 20, 2013, it marked the end of the longest continuous production of any vehicle, ever, anywhere. What's more, Volkswagen didn't end the T2's record-breaking run simply because the van fell out of favour with the car buying public, it simply wasn't able to meet the increasingly stringent safety regulations imposed by the authorities in South America. From 2014, vehicles were required to have ABS fitted as standard, along with driver and passenger airbags and this just wasn't compatible with the van's manufacturing process.

DeLorean DMC-12

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The DeLorean DMC-12 went on what was arguably the greatest movie road trip of all, considering it managed to travel back in time from 1985 to 1955. The vehicle played a central role in the Hollywood blockbuster Back to the Future, in which Michael J. Fox is accidentally sent back in time thanks to a malfunctioning time machine built from a DeLorean.

DeLorean Motor Company only ever built one version of the car during its short production run of just three years. However, the DMC-12 quickly became an icon of the 1980s thanks to its unique look, starring role on the silver screen and the fact that the company's founder was arrested as part of a drugs trafficking sting. The car's gull-wing doors and striking exterior styling helped to give the DeLorean a unique look, but due to various factors the car failed to sell in large numbers. It's estimated that about 9,000 models were produced in total before the company went bankrupt.

Of course, it doesn't really matter whether you'll be behind the wheel of a pony car or a city hatchback this July 4 - just remember to pack the hamburgers, prepare the potato salad and pick up an apple pie to guarantee a great time!