National Twilight Zone Day—yes, it’s a real thing—is coming up on May 11th. Rod Serling’s sometimes creepy and always mind-bending series aired from 1959 until 1964. Still a favorite in syndication, The Twilight Zone is also a window that looks back into a great time for the automobile. Here’s a look at some of our favorite “Zone cars.”
1959 Mercury Montclair, “The Hitch-Hiker”
Twenty-seven year old Nan Adams decides to go on a New York to L.A. road trip to see her mother only to get a flat tire that leads to an accident on Route 11 in Pennsylvania. After Nan gets the tire repaired and continues on her journey, things start getting weird when she sees a strange-looking man thumbing for a ride. The same creepy-looking man appears again and again during her journey until Nan is convinced the hitchhiker is trying to kill her. The 1959 Mercury Montclair Nan is driving is showcased prominently in this best-remembered TTZ’s episode.
1939 Lagonda Rapide, “A Thing About Machines”
If you loved Stephen King’s Christine—and what’s not to love about stories involving ordinary people locked in mortal combat with machines—then you’ll love this under-appreciated episode from TTZ’s second season. In certain scenes, the dialogue and action can be hokey to the point of being hilarious. (The scene with the electric razor chasing the main character down the steps comes to mind.) Oh, and there’s at least one pretty obvious goof when the “driverless” Lagonda makes an appearance; keen-eyed viewers will clearly catch a glimpse of a stuntman crouched behind the wheel of the car.
1962 Ford Thunderbird Sports Roadster, “Showdown With Rance McGrew”
While Rance’s horned, Corinthian white convertible only makes a brief appearance in this Season 3 episode, this rare Thunderbird leaves quite an impression. Thunderbird Sports Roadsters were pretty expensive back in the day; one reason they never sold particularly well. But today the car is a coveted classic, a beautiful two-seater and a real head-turner…even without the horns.
1956 Ford Fairlane Club Sedan, “You Drive”
Here’s another TTZ episode where the car turns against its driver. This one, a mildly possessed Ford Fairlane Club Sedan, begins to haunt its owner after being involved in a hit-and-run accident that results in the death of a newspaper delivery boy. “All persons attempting to conceal criminal acts involving their cars are herby warned,” says Sterling in the closing narration, “check first to see that underneath that chrome there does not lie a conscience, especially if you’re driving along a rain-soaked highway in The Twilight Zone.”
1930 American Austin Roadster, “Ring-a-Ding Girl”
Never mentioned as one of TTZ’s best episodes (because it isn’t), “Ring-a-Ding Girl” does offer a quick glimpse at one of the original American “small cars.” The American Austin Car Company was only in business for five years (1929-1934) before being bought out and reorganized under the American Bantam name. In that time, only about 20,000 cars were built.
Can you remember your favorite “Zone car”? Post your comment below or head over to the HVA’s Facebook page and tell us. National Twilight Zone Day is May 11th.