The Cars of The Mary Tyler Moore Show

I had already discovered how good she was as Laura Petrie in reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show, but it took MTM to show me just how beautiful she was.  Thanks to ’90s basic cable, I had a crush on Mary at the age of 11. Still do.

But I was into cars even then, and I certainly remember the Mustang sightings. It appears that her first car in the series was a plain Mustang hardtop with whitewall tires and little else.

I’ve heard that that white Mustang was a rental from the Minneapolis airport, just used to film the intro and some establishing shots, then returned.

One of these ran about $2,618 with the inline six, and $2,723 with a V8. All in all, not a bad commuter car for early ’70s Minneapolis. Just make sure you’ve got a good set of snow tires…

In one memorable episode, Mary apparently decided to get rid of the white coupe. I haven’t seen the episode in years, but thanks to the Internet Movie Car Database, we have some screenshots. I do remember Mary’s surprise at how expensive the car she wanted was.

She did wind up with another Mustang, which you can see in the opening credits of later seasons. If memory serves, it was the blue ’73 seen in the opening credits by about season four. But what of the other cast members’ cars?

We saw Mary’s car, but never did get a look at what everyone else drove. Lou Grant was a no-nonsense type, but he was also a higher-up at WJM.

Perhaps the ’70s upper-middle class “doing well, but not too well” image he projected may have led him to drive a Pontiac Bonneville. Or a Chrysler Newport or Mercury Marquis, perhaps.

Mary’s landlord, Phyllis Lindstrom, had a Scandinavian husband, Lars, who was a dermatologist. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see her driving a Volvo 145. Heck, maybe they had a matched set, sedan and wagon.

After all, in an episode in which Lars’ relatives visited from Sweden, she claimed that they cried every time they saw a Volvo commercial…

And the rest? You might expect Ted Baxter to have a Mercedes 280SL, or maybe an Eldorado convertible, something fancy and flashy, but in several jabs at Ted during the series, it was implied that Ted had a German car whose design hadn’t changed in years.

Ted was notoriously cheap, too. So what else could it have been but a VW Beetle?

Murray was a family man, and with a wife and kids. A Malibu hardtop sedan might have been his choice of wheels, perhaps to complement Marie’s Malibu Concours woody wagon in their suburban Minneapolis garage?

And what of Rhoda, Mary’s best friend? Well, she may have been influenced by Mary’s style, and since she didn’t have the spending money that Mary had, perhaps a sporty little Maverick coupe would have been her choice of wheels. Even today, MTM is my favorite TV show, bar none.

We’ll never know for sure what everyone other than Mary drove, but it’s fun to guess. What do you think the MTM characters would have driven?

20 Replies to “The Cars of The Mary Tyler Moore Show”

  1. PaulyG

    I loved and still love that show. What a talented cast and great set of writers MTM and Grant Tinker assembled.

    Mary, you have spunk. I hate spunk! – Mr. Grant

    Saturday night on CBS: All in the Family, M*A*S*H, Mary Tyler Moore Show, Bob Newhart Show, Carol Burnett Show. Was there ever a better lineup on TV?

    • Bill

      Looks like that golden line up only lasted one season, 74-75. I think that was the only time our whole family watched an evening together. Mary was a great character: independent yet vulnerable, talented yet unsure of her ability. Beautiful but seemingly chaste. Loved and loved by others, but couldn’t/wouldn’t give up her career for a relationship. Can’t think of a better family TV show.

  2. John Marks

    When my parents bought their first house in the Washington Park neighborhood of Providence (RI), and for a few years thereafter, one of the neighbors from the block behind my parents’ back yard was Tadeusz Wladyslaw Konopka, known to the world first as “Ted Knight,” and then, as the talent-free Vortex of Narcissism “Ted Baxter,” of the MTM show’s ensemble cast.

    Knight was a minor celebrity because local television was nearly all live in the mid-1950s, and Ted Knight was a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. He sometimes read the news but his usual job was a kids’ show.

    He had a very active career in Hollywood doing voice-overs and movie bit parts–he was a non-speaking policeman in Hitchcock’s “Psycho.”


    • Jim

      Dude, that’s pretty cool!

      As Ted Baxter he also blundered into a quote which I consider to be the meaning of life:

      “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.”

      • Tom Klockau

        Very interesting, John! I remember seeing him on an episode of Get Smart once. He played a KAOS agent, believe it or not.

  3. John C.

    It would be interesting if they had showed what Mary was driving by the end of the show in 1976. Logic might point to a Mustang II but she was getting older and perhaps coming to terms with not being a wife and mother, and the four/auto would have seemed so much rougher. Therefore I would probably go with a Granada. There is an outside chance that she might have gone for a new Accord or an also new Toyota Corolla liftback depending if she was holding a grudge against her country for not finding a man. Interestingly MTM was in real life a Republican and has said her character in Ordinary People was more the real her.

    As far as the rest of the people at the station. Remember it was a Watergate era newsroom. Murray I would give a Corona, Lou a 220D and Ted a Seville, paid for by the station. Rhoda being a NYer would probably have an old Valiant

  4. Disinterested-Observer

    The Mustang of today has a rep of being the car that you crash when leaving Cars and Coffee, but when it was introduced it was maligned as a secretary’s car. Not unlike the supremely capable, if not reliable, Boxster.

      • One Leg at a Time

        Definitely took that in an unexpected direction.

        I was going to go with the new Malibu, or Kia Optima as the cars that most “early career professionals” covet.

        • Disinterested-Observer

          Well first of all, I don’t know how anyone can afford a new car these days, full stop. When I see someone in a new-ish pick up truck all I can see is the transaction price and I wonder if they are swimming in debt or trampling on their neighbors. Secondly, when the Mustang was introduced it was possible for people who were not exploiting their neighbors to buy one. Thirdly, anyone can buy a Boxster. Not new, and they may not be able to keep it running, but in the &present_year& anyone can have one, and at least in my circles it had a rep as a girly car despite being a mid-engine flat-six Porsche.

          • Latisha Brown

            Kind of like how so any people will say the Miata is a “chick car”, despite the fact that most Miata drivers seem to be men with white hair. To be fair, Miatas do check a lot of boxes that most “chicks” demand in a vehicle, such as 1.Manual transmission. 2.Ultra-low ride height.

          • Disinterested-Observer

            @ Latisha
            Lulz. All the girls I know like doing doing donuts and are extremely impressed when I do donuts 🙂 I’d love a Miata or one of its British antecedents but I just can’t rock a Tam O’ Shanter.

          • One Leg at a Time

            People can afford a new car when they (1) have a decent job, and (2) don’t have a fortune in student loans for a degree that has no bearing on #(1)

            (I have definitely mentioned it before, but…) I work in manufacturing. More than half of the people in the plant have a vehicle that they bought new. And I am almost positive that none of them are “exploiting their neighbors”.

            Except this weekend – there were people giving out full size snickers! FULL SIZE!

  5. John

    They say what car rhoda drives in the “new car” episode (3×24, on hulu if anyone wants to check it out). Turns out, it’s a rusty 65 Ford Falcon.

  6. Sobro

    Assuming Ford was a sponsor, even though they weren’t, Ted would be rocking a Continental, Lou a Mercury Montego, Murray the LTD wagon, Rhoda’s clapped out Falcon traded for a Maverick, and Sue Ann Niven (Betty White) drove a Bronco. Phyllis drove a SAAB 99 while Lars had to have a Sonnet.

    • John Marks

      Dear Sobro,

      I cannot help my pedantry, but at least I came by this one honestly. I owned a SAAB model 96 2-door hardtop, the one that looked like an insect. Once I got it fixed up, it was pretty trouble-free for a 30-year old car. People would take photos of it. The power train was headed up by a Ford of Germany V-4 engine. I really meshed with the freewheeling four-on-the-tree manual transmission. I could impress people by shifting without using the clutch pedal.

      You made an inconsequential error among two homonyms. The Sonnet was an Italian poetic form that was popular among Elizabethan poets such as John Donne. The term derives from the Italian for “little poem,” which itself derives from “little song.”

      However, the name of SAAB’s fiberglass sports car was Sonett, a Swedish colloquial expression for “That’s Cool!”–literally, “So Neat!”

      It’s a shame that GM bought SAAB. The company went from struggling to terminal.


  7. Johnny O.

    I seem to recall that Rhoda purchased the newer mustang for Mary. A yellow Mustang was purchased. Mary said it was the car she wanted in the color she hated. I remember she said it looked like a Dixon -Ticonderoga #2 pencil. So any time I see a deep shade of yellow car, #2 pencils come to mind.


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