Automotive Anachronisms: Five Movies That Got It Wrong

July 08, 2014

With all the focus generally on the story, sometimes movies overlook a few important details. These five films are riddled with automotive anachronisms and inaccuracies sure to set car guys and gals on edge.

The Great Escape

The Great Escape

In the memorable chase scene from this 1963 film about allies escaping from a German POW camp during WWII, Cooler King (played by Steve McQueen) makes a bid for freedom on what is supposed to be a German-made BMW motorcycle. The bike is actually a modified Triumph TR-6 Trophy 650cc. The sequence concludes with a jump over a barbed wire fence; tame by today’s standards but considered some crazy edge-of-your-seat stunt work back in the day.



In a scene from Martin Scorsese’s famous 1990 American crime drama, Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta) and Tommy DeVitto (played by Joe Pesci) stand behind this clearly identifiable 1965 Chevrolet Impala. The scene is supposedly taking place in 1963. 

Beverly Hills Cop II

Beverly Hills Cop II

Beverly Hills Cop II

What is worse? Using the wrong car for the period or thinking your audience is too stupid to recognize the difference between one red sports car and another? This 1987 movie opens with Axel Foley (played by Eddie Murphy) driving a Ferrari 328GTS. Yet during actions scenes of the car barreling down the streets of Detroit, the car inexplicably turns into a 308GTS. The pattern of using the 328GTS in “style shots” and the 308GTS in any scene involving screaming tires and speed is a pattern that repeats itself to the point of distraction throughout the film. 



This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. Theses memorable words begin this popular 1996 Coen brother’s film, which has a number of errors when it comes to period-correct cars. One of the most glaring examples is the 1990 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency driven Jerry Lundegaard (played by William H. Macy). 

No Country For Old Men

No Country For Old Men

A 2007 neo-Western thriller that supposedly takes place in June 1980, here’s another Coen brother’s film that has a problem with the “automotive time space continuum” as evidence by the appearance of this 1990 Chevrolet Caprice.

Have a favorite movie with an automotive oversight or error that you think interesting or really sticks in your proverbial craw? Take a minute to tell us and see what other members are saying over to the HVA’s Facebook page.


  1. Stephen Gage Auburn, NY

    I've always been interested in Military vehicles and some examples of movies or TV shows getting those vehicles wrong are in Patton 1970 with George C. Scott. The scene at the road crossing with traffic jam, Patton drives up in a Jeep. The Jeep has a solid windshield which didn't appear on Jeeps until 1950. Also the TV show MASH was always using a diffrent Jeep from one scene to another. They would drive out of Camp in a Jeep and the next shot, they are in the countryside but in a different Jeep. Pretty funny stuff. Also in Patton all the German tanks are actually American tanks with German paint and markings!

  2. Bill Roemerman Cedar Rapids Iowa

    The movie Bullitt includes the iconic chase of a 68 Charger. During the chase the Charger appears to lose six hubcaps a few of which magically reappear later in the chase.

  3. Roger D Gauntt Portland, OR

    The Wehrmacht bought and used British motorcycles fo recon and courier work...It's quite logical they would have them in service at the time of the film. The model "Cooler" is riding, at distance, could well appear a 500cc model, which was available from '37 - '40. Only upon closer inspection would the newer more powerful motor be recognized...It's the proper machine for the film. Besides, a pre-war BMW could never make that jump!

  4. Jim Larson Waterford Mi.

    James Bond movie 'Diamonds are forever'. James is driving a Mustang and is being chased by the cops!! Seems there is no getaway, till he drives the car on a ramp ,then on two passenger side tires, going through a narrow alley? Only to come out the other side of the alley on 'Driver side tires''...Magic

  5. Jim NM

    In the Goodfellas scene, there is also an ad for a '65 Cad on a billboard above the diner.

  6. Eric White Lapeer, MI

    In the 1994 prison escape movie “The Shawshank Redemption,” protagonist, Andy Dufrense, is shown making good his escape to Mexico driving a 1968 Pontiac LeMans convertible. The only trouble is that the story line places his escape only days before the road trip, in 1966.

  7. Lynn Nordby Bainbridge Island, WA

    In the 1967 movie "The 25th Hour" with Anthony Quinn there is a scene subtitled "Allied Headquarters 1945" near the end of the movie. As an army truck pulls away there is an olive drab painted 1955 Chevy station wagon parked in front of the building.

  8. Michael Gordon Hendersonville NC

    In Moonrise Kingdom, the story is set in late 1965, but the "Police" station wagon is a 1968 Plymouth Belvedere....

  9. Ron LaDow San Francisco

    One of the Indiana Jones flics; he's out running the nasty Nazis who are riding 2-stroke off-road bikes. If they'de have had a time machine, I'd be speaking another language.

  10. Steve Merrill Hiram Ohio

    In the Guns of Navarone the Germans are driving around in American Military Dodge's - you can even see "Dodge" on the tailgate in one scene.

  11. Marc Rossi San Diego

    In Animal House the black Lincoln Continental that Flounder has access to is a 1964 model. The movie takes place in 1962. in Driving Miss Daisy in the part of the movie that shows the long road trip miss Daisy and her driver take, the black 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood changes to a 1956 model and back to a 1955 more than once. In American Graffitti the yellow 1955 Chevy has a set of slotted mag wheels on it that didn't come out until the 1070's.

  12. Michael Nami Syracuse New york 13209

    Here is one for you I was watching a TV episode of the series The Virginian a western and there is a scene where Trampus played by Doug McClure is riding on horseback into Shilou Ranch now mind you this a series set back in the 17 or 1800,s and as he rides by the corral there parked in sight is a 1964 Chevy pickup some one forgot to move it out of the scene and for some reason the editors did not catch it now I thought that pretty funny and I believe that was a new truck because I think that episode was from season three which would have been 1964 because the series ran from 62 to 71

  13. John Gilbert Berkeley

    And of course it was Bud Eakins, motorcycle shop owner and stunt man, not McQueen whom the studio allowed to do the jump although Steve could easily have done it. The studio didn't want to risk McQueen getting hurt. He used to live up the street from me and would regularly outrace the cops in his Cobra up Nichols Canyon to his home.

  14. Donnie Woolaway Rocky Comfort, Mo

    In the final scene of the movie "Innerspace". Red Shelby Mustang convertible. Lays rubber with one tire. Always dissapointed me.

  15. Dean Greenblatt Bloomfield Hills, MI

    An automatic equipped 1977 Pontiac Firebird TransAm with the sounds of a manual throughout Smokey and the Bandit.

  16. Vintage Bob Va.

    The list could go on forever. A few of my favorites are: On the Beach. In the big sports car race scene a Jag roadster goes off a cliff and a 49 Ford coupe is seen crashing and burning. The Longest Day : German tanks are turning a corner in a low level shot. Jeep wheels appear below the plywood tank hulls. Le Mans. The famous scene when McQueen wrecks the # 20 Porsche 917 you see a yellow Lola T 70 beneath the blue 917 body. Grand Prix: Pulling a race car out of the harbor that just went in. There is no motor in the rear. Just an open hole. They just go on and on.

  17. Jeffrey Cjase St. Clair Shores, MI

    In the 70's TV series "Cannon," Cannon's Mark IV is never damaged when shot at, and in one scene where it supposedly is driven off a cliff, the actual car going over the cliff is a 60's era Lincoln Continental 4 door sedan!

  18. GTOMIKE Syracuse NY

    The first Smokey and the Bandit movie, chase with the cop cars going from MOPAR cars and Pontiac's with Shaker scoops.

  19. Larry Blyly Hartford, MI

    In the 1992 movie, The Lover, the time period is supposed to be 1929. A 1932 Buick series 90 is quite prominent in the movie. There is apparently also a 1932 Packard Standard eight.

  20. Mike Gibson Arizona

    one of the worst in my humble opinion is when in the movie Peal Harbor the two main characters during the attack are driving a jeep looking for an airplane so they can get up there and battle the Japanese - the problem is they are clearly driving an M38 which would have been 1950 - 1953. It was quite obvious when they pulled up and the jeep had a large fuel cap on the driver side. They should have been driving a Willys Slat Grill jeep where the fuel cap is under the seat. Not to mention the windshield, body and everything else was notably incorrect. Being a Slat owner it makes me cringe every time I watch the movie.

  21. Mike J. North Dakota

    Good Morning, Vietnam is a 1987 American war-comedy film written by Mitch Markowitz and directed by Barry Levinson. Set in Saigon in 1965. At least one point in the movie, possibly more, you can clearly see a 1969-1971 Dodge pickups on the flight line. I picked up on this because I own a 69, 70 and 1971.

  22. MD O'Day kensington, NH

    In "Bullitt", watch the downhill chase seen scene through San Francisco and pay attention to the cars parked on the side of the road. They pass the same parked cars several times! In "The Battle of the Bulge" the use of allied vehicles painted as German ones was egregious, tanks, trucks, etc. In fairness to producers of WWII movies there are very few German vehicles remaining in running order but most did a better job than "Bulge". For "Band of Brothers" the German tanks were post WWII British tanks rebodied to match the lines of Geman tanks.

  23. Jack Weiszer Portage, Michigan

    How many times can you count the green Volkswagen Bug in the famous Bullitt chase scene? I think I saw it 9 times.

  24. Bruce Cunha United States

    My favorite is the Back to the Future Delorean. The car has to hit 88 miles per hour to travel in time. Only problem. The Delorean speedometer only went up to 80 mph. They added another set of numbers to get to 88

  25. Barry Hackney Houtex

    In one of the movies about Gen. Patton I saw, the General took his fateful ride of 1945 in a '48 Packard staff car.

  26. john hurst stlouis mo.

    the great stlouis bank robbery, steve mcqueen, early 50s bank robbery , show with lots of late 50s cars

  27. Laguna Mike Austin, TX

    In most oif the WWII war movies the Jeeps are the round hooded models with one-piece windshields. I have even seen some of the evil handling independent suspension models from the 70's in hese movies.

  28. Bob Mayer Athol, MA

    In the original "Day of the Jackal" the timeline is early 60's (some great cars and bikes seen in the film) but in a scene at the French/Italian border one of the cars in line is a much later Alfa. A more obvious one is from "Then Came Bronson" when Michael Parks' Harley Sportster becomes a two stroke CZ during a hill climb. One of the best intentional "mistakes" is from "Airplane" where the scenes of the jetliner flying through a storm are accompanied by the sound of a large prop-driven plane!

  29. MIKE BURCH Daytona Beach, Fl

    GET OVER IT ! ...... It's not that easy to get the correct vehicles. The owners do not want their vehicles to be abused and driven by strangers. The movie companies do not care anything about the cars. They will paint them, drill holes to mount cameras, etc.

  30. Dave Houston, TX

    I always like the supposed Czech Army vehicles in Stripes - they were US Gamma Goats.

  31. Dave Denver, CO

    The supposed Challenger crashing into the bulldozer at the Vanishing Point is actually a Camaro if you slow the film down.

  32. Howard Davis AR

    In the WWII movie "In Harm's Way" John Wayne's character is picked up at the pier in a jeep that clearly has an independent front suspension.

  33. Bruce So CAl

    in American Graffiti which was set in 1962 Ron Howard's Impala had a 327 with six stongbergs. Not bad for a high school kid, he had a motor that came out that year. They did a good job in making such an iconic film. That one has bothered me since the first time I saw it when I was ten years old.

  34. Dan Kavanagh Yelm Wa.

    In the TV show the Walton's John boy buys a car from a ww1 vet who bought the car before he fought in France trouble is the car is a 1930 Model A Ford. Also same show has another son wanting to become a aircraft mechanic so off to the nearest airport Yup Ok with brand new steel building and Bonanza's, Cessna 152, 172 all built after WW2 . You'd think that they could have done better. In California there are many AACA members ( Antique Auto Club of America ) who would have loan cars for the movies, And there are many aircraft in Chino that would fit the bill for pre WW2... I personally think the studios are just LAZY and think they I.E. the viewers are not smart enough to figure it out.. How hard can it be to get it right. For what movie ticket sell for I would hope they could to a better job

  35. lisa wa

    Good comments and stories. It is fun to catch the errors in movies and TV.

  36. Dave Sutton SF, CA

    The movie A Christmas Story is supposed to take place in 1940 (if you look closely, you can see the date embossed on Ralphie's Little Orphan Annie decoder doohickey), but in the scene where the kid gets his tongue stuck to a pole, resulting in the cops and fire department being called out, the cop car in the background appears to be a '47 or '48 Chevy.

  37. Dave Gardner Morton, IL

    Wasn't the Ferrari that Ferris Buehler drove actually an MGB modified to resemble a Ferrari?

  38. Phil Campbell Kaiserslautern, Germany

    the number of these errors is amazing and how often non car people look askance if you point out a mistake. Watching the film about James Dean recently there were several decade mistakes, cars in the 50s or late 40s in scenes from the late 30s. It is fun to see these things partly as it pushes me to realize if the film maker plays fast and loose with cars in films and I can see this and recognize it, what other errors are they allowing in topics I do not know about, clothing, house styles, interior items etc. etc. cheers

  39. Ted Main Naperville, IL

    In the movie Backdraft, the opening portion shows Kurt Russell as the dad as Captain. His ladder truck responds to a fire and his younger son rides along with dad. At the fire scene, the Captain orders the ladder truck to put the "Stick on the roof" and then proceeds up the ladder. For us fire engine collectors and buffs, the Captain goes up a Seagrave Ladder and at the roof, he climbs off a Pirsch Ladder; two very distinct different ladder types.

  40. Ed Labounty L I New York

    The Renault in Titanic was built two years after the ship sank. It's ok as it looks old enough.

  41. Linda B GA

    You guys are so smart. I never pay any attention to the cars in films. But let them start showing Army insignia I notice right away, all because I worked for the Army in my younger days. Also, hubby and I love crime dramas, and since he's a retired deputy, he always notices when things aren't right. He'll be sitting there in his recliner and saying *no way* :0) when he sees something the police are doing wrong.

  42. Somer Hooker United States

    Gulp! HVA got the Great Escape story wrong. That was a Triumph T-100 (500CC) used by Ekins. You can tell the difference by looking at the primary cover. A TR-6 isn't as bulbous. Great article though.

  43. Steve Alger Higgins Lake, MI

    In California Highway Patrol TV show (CHP's) they rode Kawasaki motorcycles but the sound was pure Harley. This prompted Harley Davidson to try to get a patent on the sound of their bikes.

  44. Robert Purcell Texas

    Here,s one from a more recent movie. In the Tarrentino movie Death Pruf near the end when the girls steal the Challenger and go for a joy ride one of them ties herself to the roof of the car using belts. The problem is she ties to the window frames on the doors . Of course the Challenger has no window frames! Come on Quinten. You think we wouldn,t notice.

  45. Darwyn Lumley United States

    In "Bugsy" a 1946 Lincoln Continental Coupe is supposedly a 1942 model, per the story line. When the movie was made the LC belonged to good friend Joel Prescott. I later bought the car from Joel and had it for a number of years. There are not many striking differences between a '42 and'46 LC. But there were many more 1946 models built as auto production was stopped in 1942 when the auto manufacturers began production of war material. One owner of a '42 LC could not come to terms with the movie studio so they used the '46 that was available.

  46. Cobranut VA

    "The pattern of using the 328GTS in “style shots” and the 308GTS in any scene involving screaming tires and speed is a pattern that repeats itself" That's impossible. A Ferrari 308 is incapable of producing screaming tires or any real semblance of speed. ;-)

  47. Greg Ferrell Ohio

    I think cop shows are the worse offenders. I've lost count on how many times they switch vehicles, especially in a chase scene. At one point it's a Crown Vic and after a few turns it's a Chevy Impala. This holds true to both marked and unmarked cars. On Blue Bloods, the Commissioner's SUV is an Expedition one minute and a Chevy Tahoe the next. And crashes or fires or whatever is going to happen can usually be clued in by the characters all of the sudden driving an older model car, not even necessarily the same make. Obviously a lot of this occurs due to shooting many scenes out of sequence and broken up over days of production. But it's still distracting.