I know it sounds wildly improbable, but a new Netflix series based on a dark series of kid’s books about children in grave danger happens to be the best new show, movie, series, or whatever for interesting cars. Well, maybe The Grand Tour is better, but, you know, it better be. Whatever. A Series of Unfortunate Events has some fantastic cars in it.
The series has a very distinctive visual look that’s not afraid to feel a little artificial. It’s hard to pin down the actual timeframe it’s set in, but nearly all the cars are vintage, and they all seem to be chosen because they fit a vague but unmistakable set of unspoken criteria. It’s hard to pin it down, exactly, but every car in this show seems to be chosen because it has gobs of character.
The series had a pretty high bar to meet, since the 2004 movie of the same series had some amazing cars, including this Tatra 603. Perhaps the people in charge of cars for the Netflix series really wanted to do even better than the movie? If so, I think they managed, even if they don’t yet have a Tatra.
There’s not really going to be any spoilers here, but I will be showing screenshots from the series, so if you’re really worried, we’ll see you later. Everyone else, come on, let’s look at some amazing cars!
The first car we encounter in the series is this firetruck, which looks like it’s built from a 1948-1952 Ford F-1 truck. Even though the series has some details that suggest its taking place in the present, this truck sets an expectation of the sorts of lovely cars to come.
The car that’s seen the most often in the series is this 1952-1954 Austin A40 Somerset. It’s owned by a banker, and it’s so crammed full of charm you’ll probably have to take some extra charm-inhibitors so you don’t OD if you decide to binge-watch the series. You’ll get to see plenty of this car, inside and out.
In case you’re not convinced whoever is casting the cars for this show (I’ll see if I can hunt them down for an interview) is an obsessive after my own heart, look at this. Even the car in this tiny, grainy picture in a newspaper is a fascinating car: that’s a Nissan Figaro.
A villain is nothing without the right car. Nothing. Luckily, this show’s villain, Count Olaf, has a perfect, gleefully villainous and wonderful car: a menacing, flat-gray 1968 or 1969 Oldsmobile Toronado. This front-drive, V8 American beast is just perfect here.
This is the best shot you see of this car. A very quick pass by the camera; it’s never not blurry. They really could have used almost anything and nobody would have noticed. But they didn’t. Whoever picked these cars had standards, so this fleeting shot is none other than an amazing Nissan Pao.
I love that they sourced a Pao just for this blurry-ass shot, but I hope we see more of it later.
Oh, man, I love this thing: it’s a first-gen International Scout (a ‘61-’65 Scout 80), painted orange and white like a delicious, off-road creamsicle. It fits the character and context perfectly, and it’s just a delight to look at. It does end up wrecking into some topiary, so you may want to, as they say, look away.
Sometimes, your evil deeds require more than a coupe, even a massive coupe like a Toronado. That’s why the evildoers in the series also have access to a more utilitarian vehicle, this 1959 or so Ford F100 panel van. Plenty of room for misdeeds in the back of that.
That panel van is in a scene that takes place in a parking lot, and every car in that lot is fantastic, even if you only barely see them in the dark. Let’s see what we have here:
That’s a ‘70s-era Peugeot 504 in the back there…
Oh boy! We’ve got a BMW Isetta (presumably belonging to someone named Emily), and Some kind of Step Van behind. Is that a GMC P3500 Grumman Olson? I wish I knew my step vans better.
It’s hard to see, but that black car there is a ‘60s-era Volvo PV544. Perfect car for the show.
All that in one parking lot, in the dark! You barely see those cars, yet they’ve all clearly been carefully picked—nobody is filling out a shot with stinking Altimas or any bullshit like that, that’s for damn sure.
In a rare treat for American TV (or streaming series, or whatever the hell we call things like this now) we get a lovely Citroën 2CV on screen an awful lot in this show. This one is the only taxi (I think) on an island, so there’s all kinds of great footage of it zipping around narrow, windy roads.
Even the working vehicles are carefully chosen here. This looks like a 1959 or so Dodge D200 pickup truck, wearing Lucky Smells lumberyard livery.
Holy crap, two International Harvester vehicles in one show? That’s pretty much unheard of in our modern era. But here we are, with a gloriously earthtoned International Metro van. These were made, amazingly, from 1938 to 1975. I’m guessing this one is an SM series, from 1956-1959, but that’s just a guess.
Did you know Raymond Loewy, the man behind the Studebaker Avanti, designed these?
There’s only one shot in this whole series with boring cars, and it comes at the very end. Here it is:
Yep, there’s an early 1990s Honda Accord and a late ‘80s Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. These are the most dull cars in the series, and you can see what happens to dull cars here: they rot away to hell, where they can’t bore anyone, anymore.
This series is a goldmine for seeing interesting, charming cars driving around. Even if you’re not interested in the story, turn the sound off and just watch for the cars. It’s worth it.