I’ve always been a big fan of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Although the classic sitcom ended its run three years prior to your author entering the world, I discovered it in the early ’90s thanks to Nick at Nite. Since most of the action took place either at Mary’s apartment or at WJM-TV, there weren’t a lot of opportunities for car spotting, but there were a few.
Who could forget Mary’s white ’70 Mustang hardtop? For at least the first two seasons, it appeared in the opening credits of every episode. And who could forget Mary?
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?