June 23, 2011 --
With "Cars 2" rolling into theaters, Lightning McQueen, the red racer at the center of the film, may have the most famous face -- or rather fender -- at the movies this weekend. "Cars 2" may be a movie all about cars, but with its release, we thought we'd take this opportunity to look famous cars in a broader range of movies. In this slideshow, explore some of the top movie star cars in American cinematic history. And once you're done, tell us some of your own in the comments section below.
Ghostbusters' Ectomobile (or Ecto-1)
This reconstructed 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor limousine/ambulance combination may not seem like the ideal means of conveyance for a ghost-trapping operation. But with seating for four and storage room for as many proton packs, what's not to love about the Ectomobile? Featured in the original 1984 film "Ghostbusters," the Ecto-1 was later joined by a fleet of other Ghostbusters cars, helicopters and even an airplane as the franchise expanded.
The General Lee from "The Dukes of Hazzard"
If trouble were brewing in Hazzard County, this orange, two-door 1969 Dodge Charger was likely at the center of it. Although series and subsequent film may have centered on the Duke family and their run-ins with county commissioner Boss Hogg, the real star of the show was the General Lee. Constantly involved in high-speed chases and gravity-defying jumps, the car may have always looked great on screen, but the same wasn't necessarily true behind the scenes. During production of the television series, producers went through more than 250 General Lees throughout the life of the series. Around 24 were used during the filming of the 2005 feature film.
Gran Torino from "Starsky and Hutch"
This bright red 1976 Ford Gran Torino may not be the most discreet for two crime-fighting detectives. But for four seasons on television in the 1970s (and a movie remake in 2004), this car helped officers David Michael Starsky and Kenneth "Hutch" Hutchinson crack down on criminals in style on the streets of Bay City, Calif. Affectionately known as the "Striped Tomato," coined by Paul Michael Glaser, who played Starsky in the television series and reportedly hated the look of the car, the Gran Torino became not only recognizable as the mascot of the show, but also broadly popular with fans of the series.
The car may be small, gray and ugly. The engine isn't quite as muscular as any of the other cars that appear on this list. And despite six movies, it still can't convince us that a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle could ever win a race even if it does have spunk. Still though, everyone's heard of Herbie. Famous doesn't always mean loved -- or even liked really.
This yellow 2009 Camaro may look like any other bee-themed muscle car, but in fact it's hiding a secret. This car is actually a sentient robot, known as an Autobot, from the planet Cybertron. (Or at least that's what the dealer might tell you to knock up the price.) Bumblebee, one of the most recognizable robots from the recent Transformers film trilogy, originally donned the look of a '76 Camaro before trading in for an updated model.
Kitt from "Knight Rider"
Although never technically a movie star (aside from a made-for-TV film in 2008), Knight Rider's KITT managed to talk its way onto this list. KITT, short for Knight Industries Two Thousand in the original 1980s television series, was more than a 1982 Pontiac Trans Am; it was a robotic automobile equipped with body armor, advanced scanners, a flame thrower, oil jets, a tear-gas launcher, an English accent and so much more. KITT was even equipped with that rarest of fictional 1980s technology: a phone.
James Bond's Aston
Just about any car from super spy James Bond could have made it onto this list: the Ford Mustang Mach-1 from "Diamonds Are Forever;" the Bentley Mark IV in "From Russia With Love;" or even the submersible Lotus Esprit S1 from "The Spy Who Loved Me." But one car stands above all the others: the Aston Martin DB5 originally featured in "Goldfinger." Sean Connery, the original James Bond, poses alongside the car during filming of the movie in this photo. If the luxury and the design of this 1960s-era Aston isn't enough to win you over, how about the machine guns, the bulletproof glass or the ejector seat in case you're about to roll off of a cliff (all non-standard safety features)?
1968 Ford Mustang GT
Take American film icon Steve McQueen, add this Mustang, and what you end up with is a recipe for one of the greatest car movies in cinematic history. The movie also made the Mustang an American motoring institution. During the famous chase sequence between the Mustang and a 1968 Dodge Charger, only two Mustangs were used. Only one survived and is still around today, though it's whereabouts are generally unknown. (A reproduction of the vehicle appears in this photo.)
The DeLorean from "Back to the Future"
If you're going to go through the trouble of going back in time, you might as well do it in style. When Doc Brown turned an ordinary DeLorean DMC-12 into a nuclear-powered time machine, he made history by turning this car into an icon. Although only about 9,000 versions of this model were ever produced, the modern-day DeLorean Motor Company still manufactures reproductions of this car, gull-wing doors and all.
There have been many versions of the Batmobile over the decades. From the original Batmobile based on the Lincoln Futura featured in the original Batman television series to the latest more muscular variant -- a cross between a supercar and a tank known as "The Tumbler" -- seen in "Batman Begins" and the "Dark Knight," all Batmobiles have had one thing in common: They are awesome. After all, who wouldn't want a car with a jet engine, rocket launchers, a grappling hook and a built-in motorcycle? It sure beats walking.
Those were our top 10 favorite movie star cars but there were a lot that didn't make it on the list. Which cars would you rank at the top? The Mach 5 from "Speed Racer"? The Alfa Romeo from "The Graduate"? The Trans Am from "Smokey and the Bandit"? The Mini Coopers from "The Italian Job"? Garth's Mirth Mobile from "Wayne's World"? Let us know in the comments section!
Heavy-duty trucks spend more time on the road than passenger vehicles, so improving their efficiency can have a major effect on emissions, and their owners' bottom lines.
That's why Walmart is getting into the truck-design business with the Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience, or WAVE concept.
With its aerodynamic cab, the WAVE certainly doesn't look like any other large truck currently on U.S. roads. The design was achieved in part by placing the driver in the center of the cab. The steering wheel is flanked by LCD screens -- in place of conventional gauges --and there is a sleeping compartment directly behind the driver's pod.
The WAVE features a range-extended electric powertrain, consisting of a Capstone micro-turbine and an electric motor. To reduce weight, the entire truck is made of carbon fiber, including the trailer.
Walmart says this is the first example of a carbon-fiber trailer ever produced, and that its 53-foot side panels are the first single pieces of carbon fiber that large that have ever manufactured.
Like the tractor, the trailer was also designed for optimum aerodynamic efficiency. It features a convex nose, which not only reduces aerodynamic drag but has the added of benefit of increasing cargo space in the trailer.
Walmart says the carbon-fiber trailer is around 4,000 pounds lighter than a conventional one, allowing a truck to carry more freight without the need for increased power or fuel consumption.
The retail giant did not reveal any plans to produce the WAVE, and in fact it would be highly unlikely to get into the truck business. But it's far from the only company encouraging ways to make big trucks more efficient.
The streamlined AirFlow BulletTruck achieved 13.4 mpg on a recent cross-country trip, while Peterbilt and Cummins' "SuperTruck" achieved 9.9 mpg last year. Those numbers may not sound impressive, but they're significant improvements for vehicles that typically get 5 or 6 mpg.
They'll also be necessary in the near future: President Barack Obama has directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to draft a new set of fuel-economy rules for medium and heavy-duty trucks.
These standards will take effect in 2019 and run through 2025, picking up where the current standards, which date to 2011, leave off.
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This article originally appeared on Green Car Reports, a High Gear Media company; all rights reserved.