On The Tube: The Cars Of Hitchcock

August 13, 2013

August is the birth month of the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Directing over 50 feature films during the Golden Age of the Automobile, Hitchcock made a number of movies featuring cameo appearances by some truly memorable cars. Check out some of our favorite clips on YouTube. 

The Birds 

What old car buff could forget the 1950 Aston Martin DB2/4 drophead coupé featured in this 1963 Hitchcock classic? The car, driven by socialite Melanie Daniels (played by Tippi Hedren), is definitely the flashiest prop in this classic horror film about birds gone bad. But for American car lovers, the backdrop for The Birds also provides a great snapshot of automobiles typical to California roads 50 years ago. If the sign for 36-cents-per-gallon gasoline doesn’t distract you, see if you can spot the 1951 Plymouth Cranbrook and the 1947 Studebaker ½-ton pickup in this classic scene. 

Foreign Correspondent 

Because Austins appear to line every city street in this 1940 spy thriller — Hitchcock’s second Hollywood production after leaving the United Kingdom in 1939 — the 1936 Bentley 4¼-litre really stands out. This clip of the original movie trailer shows a brief image of the car (0:40) being commandeered by reporter Johnny Jones (played by Joel McCrea) to pursue an assassin. 


Hitchcock supposedly had a life-long fear of police that ran so deep he refused to get a driver’s license on account of the possibility that he might someday be pulled over and ticketed. Instead of the driver’s seat, Hitchcock preferred the director’s chair where he often used fast cars and cliff-top roads to build suspense. Enter Suspicion. This 1941 romantic psychological thriller (starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine) features a cliff-top climax with a 1936 Lagonda LG45 4½-litre drophead coupé. 

To Catch a Thief 

Filmed along the French Riviera, this 1955 film starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly offers a glimpse of many great European and American cars now considered classics. Peugeots, Mercedes, Fords and Buicks are featured prominently in the film, but the car that really stands out — a car perfect for cruising beside the Mediterranean — is the1953 Sunbeam Talbot Alpine Mk.1 driven by Grace Kelly in this memorable scene. 

Family Plot 

Hitchcock’s 1976 foray into the realm of the dark comedy/thriller, Family Plot, starred Barbara Harris and Bruce Dern. Outdoor scenes in the movie feature a variety of Fords, Plymouths, Buicks and other American cars popular around San Francisco in the mid-’70s. But the standout car in the movie is the 1966 Mustang driven by Dern in a comic scene involving a steep mountain road, hairpin turns and a car gone out of control.


  1. Pete Johnson Rochester Hills Michigan

    Hitch was definitely a FOMOCO guy, his series on TV always used Mercury cars and sprinkled in a few Lincoln's and Fords for good measure.

  2. Brakeservo USA

    An overlooked movie - in the very opening scene of North by Northwest, the car behind the protagonist's taxi on the streets on NYC is a Czechoslovakian Skoda Octavia . . . an interesting choice of a Soviet Bloc car during the time of McCarthyism

  3. Scott Ferrell Cleveland Ohio

    We cannot forget the best Hitch/car connection. Psycho 1960, trading the 1955 Ford Mainliner for a 1957 Ford Custom 300, of course that is after looking at all those unsold 1959 Edsels. Vertigo, 1958, 1956 Desoto two door hardtop and 1958 Jag VIII.

  4. David Ellithorpe Fountain Hills, AZ

    One of the scenes from the movie “North by Northwest” that I always liked is when a “drunken” Cary Grant is forced by the bad guys to drive a Mercedes 220s down a very curvy road in the dark! Come to think about it, when you put that scene together with the scenes that you have on this segment of Historic Vehicle News – Hitchcock may not have had just problem thinking about being stopped by the Police, it looks like he also had a “thing” about careening fast down mountainous curvy roads!

  5. David A. Gillespie The Woodlands, Texas

    As a kid growing up in San Jose California in 1956, my friends and I knew a man who built up Flathead Mercury V-8 engines and he drove a 1941 Ford Woody Station Wagon that had been owned by Alfred Hitchcock. He showed us scripts and correspondence that he had found under the seats. What was also unique about the vehicle was that the new owner had installed a 110 gallon gas tank in the rear portion of the wagon. Said he wanted to be able to drive to Canada without refueling! Gas "Ethyl" at that time was 37.9 per gallon. He had bored and stroked the engine, so it was a real sleeper in it's day.

  6. Mike NY

    Can't forget the Aston Martin in "The Birds": http://www.imcdb.org/vehicle_3988-Aston-Martin-DB2-4-1954.html

  7. Gary Edwards Tallahassee FL

    How dumb is the driver (played by Bruce Dern) not to TURN OFF THE IGNITION! when the accelerator is stuck, but no, he keeps driving at (full!) throttle an no brakes. Highly unlikely he or anyone would survive, but then, it's only a movie, so that's why no on turned off the ignition, the movie would not be as exciting.

  8. Ron Brooks El Cajon CA. 92019

    I have been working on old cars since I was in my teens, I made my living as a master tech (50yr.s) I'm 72yr.s now an still have th trill of old cars. Only most of them were not called old cars back then.

  9. Ray Homiski Elizabeth, NJ

    HVA must have been reading my mind. I notified my club a few months ago to watch several of the Alfred Hitchcock TV series, especially ones with Triumph TR3s and early Jag roadsters. I am with the New Jersey Triumph Association and have been talking this up for some time. Thanks for agreeing and catching up with me HVA. Now if you want a treat, look up the very first Fast & Furious movie from the 50s and you will see some fantastic European roadsters throughout the movie. Long before Vin Diesel was born.

  10. Todd Maryland

    Don't forget what I think is the most memorable car in a Hitchcock film, The Beautiful white Lincoln Continental Jimmy Stewart drove in Vertigo. It was a sleek, elegant, and enigmatic car that was a perfect metaphor for Stewart and Kim Novack. Almost a character itself.

  11. Nestor Gonzalez Manahawkin, NJ. USA

    I am new at this, I have a 1973 Chevrolet Impala Coutom with 82,300 original miles, all works in very good condition. ( All Stock ), but need some advice in getting some parts to restore the car, it has been stored in the garage all its life, do I restore or keep it as is.??

  12. Dick Hitchcock Wilmington NC

    I lived in Santa Monica Calif. for several years. Alfred was a distant cousin and I had the chance to meet him a few times. He loved to get the details in his movies as correct as possible. He was a hoot.

  13. art Allison Park (McCandless), PA

    Besides turning off the engine and pulling the handbrake, he might try downshift to increase engine braking and perhaps simply overrev and blow the engine thus locking up a bunch of mechanicals.As for the brainless Bimbo, if he had the chance he should have booted her out the door.

  14. Greg Denver, CO

    Don't forget Vertigo. There are many scenes driving through San Francisco with great cars in the background.

  15. Randy R. Louisiana

    Loved the unusual cars in those movies. Also remember: Gas at 37.9 cents per gallon in 1956 is equivalent in today's money to $3.25 per gallon. People forget inflation so they think gas was almost free years ago, when it was expensive compared to what people earned.

  16. Brian Adams Reno, NV

    Sorry, Todd, Jimmy Stewart drove a white '56 DeSoto Firedome Sportsman Hardtop Coupe in "Vertigo."

  17. Curt Northbrook, Il

    From the first time I saw North by Northwest when I was about 17, I wanted "Laura's Mercedes", the 1958 220S Cabriolet that Cary Grant drove while he was drunk. Three years ago I was fortunate enough to find a well restored one and I have enjoyed driving it ever since. Hitchcock did take some license, though, because the car only came with a four speed manual transmission on the steering column and Cary Grant does no shifting in the movie scene.

  18. Bob Hadd Reno, NV

    "Hitch" himself had a Bentley Continental S-1 Flying Spur. The finish was in a metallic mint green with his caricature profile on the door. I believe the f2f ar u s still owned by a member of the Rolls-Royce Owners Club.

  19. George Mimnaugh Hollywood

    As previously noted and missing here are the Aston Martin DB2/4 drop-head coupe. An Interesting sidebar: The 1956 film High Society once again features Grace Kelly behind the wheel substituting Frank Sinatra for Cary Grant as co- pilot and the beautiful Mercedes Benz 300 SL for the equally stunning Sunbeam Alpine, a scene almost directly lifted verbatim with the bluffs of Rhode Island substituting for the French Riviera. The Mount Rushmore scene with the 1959 Lincoln Continental convertible driven by Ava Marie Saint in North By Northwest. Could Lincoln ask for a better product tie-in! The 1963 Lincoln Continental from Marnie again with Tippi Hedron with Sean Connery.

  20. comatus Ohio

    It's a Hitchcock thing: In many Hollywood Hitchcock films, set in the US, the back-window projection is done British style, creating the impression that Jimmy Stewart is driving on the wrong side of the road. Now, with Cary Grant, he usually was, so you wouldn't notice.