Monday, March 7, 2016

TV Sidekick Blogathon: The Corvette in "Route 66"

The very first Route 66 Corvette.
You could make an argument that the Corvette was one of the stars of Route 66. After all, there wouldn't have been a show without it. Though it never received a credit, it appeared in every episode. Plus, the entire concept of Route 66  was built around the Corvette convertible. Tod Stiles (Martin Milner) inherited it from his father--and pretty much nothing else (his father's bankruptcy being an unexpected surprise). The iconic car plays a major part in Tod and Buz's decision to wander the highways of 1960s America.

Surprisingly, though, the Corvette rarely had a prominent role in the plots. It did so in the series' debut 1960 episode "Black November," in which car troubles strand Tod and Buz in a very unfriendly Mississippi town. In another season one episode, "Eleven, the Hard Way," Tod sells his hubcaps to bankroll two gamblers (Walter Matthau and Edward Andrews) trying to save a small town. And, in the second season episode "Bird Cage on My Foot," a desperate drug addict (Robert Duvall) tries to steal the 'Vette in the opening scene.

Tod's car looked pretty different by season 3.
There were several models used throughout the four-year run of Route 66. The first episode introduced a 1960 light-blue Corvette (which looked gray since the show was filmed in black-and-white). Subsequent first-season episodes featured a beige 1960 model. Starting in season 2, Chevrolet, which sponsored Route 66, introduced a new model every year. The famed Corvette Stingray made its debut in the third season.

The color of the Corvettes has become the source of much discussion over the years. On the cover of a 1962 board game, the Corvette is cherry red and white.The DVD set covers opt for the light blue 'Vette.  However, most sources state that, with the exception of the first episode, the cars were Fawn Beige or Saddle Tan because they reflected less light and thus photographed better.

I'm not a sport cars enthusiast, but have read where the luggage rack on the back of Tod's car was not an option offered by Chevrolet at the time. For me, one of the great mysteries of Route 66 was how Tod and Buz packed up all their belongings into the less-than-spacious Corvette. In at least one episode, Buz takes all his belongings off the luggage rack, implying perhaps that Tod kept his in the little trunk?

Whatever the model or color, there's no doubt that the Route 66 Corvette helped inspire a generation of sport cars enthusiasts. Even today, there are Corvette clubs, web sites, and Facebook pages named in honor of Route 66. Yet, despite its fame, the Corvette never held out for more money, never demanded more screen time, nor lobbied for its name in the credits. It was content to remain a snazzy supporting player--and, in that sense, it became the ultimate TV sidekick.

This post is part of the TV Sidekick Blogathon. Click here to read all the great posts about television's most beloved sidekicks!


  1. What a clever choice for sidekick in this TV blogathon! Indeed, it was the Corvette that started Tod and Buz on their travels and kept them going. The cars were pretty and I especially loved the cherry red and white one that was so prominently displayed on the Route 66 board game box. Awesome post, Rick!

    1. It's funny, Toto, because I always imagined the Corvette was blue when watching the show in B&W. But the red & white one is pretty cool, too!

  2. I've just recently started to watch epsiodes of Route 66 regularly having seen only a handful of them through the years. No doubt I'll be paying closer attention to the Corvette details you include here. The trunk space - or lack thereof - hadn't occurred to me until now, but it's true. How do they do it???


  3. Great piece and yes, this is a very clever choice! I sometimes have my problems with individual stories in this series, but the Corvette never lets me down!

  4. Wonderful post! It's great to have a series that is not only classic TV but also has a gorgeous classic car at its center! I guess the guys never had a pet name for the car, something which could have turned it into a diva, perhaps. I love the show and now I love the hard-working Corvette even more than I did before!

  5. Nice choice! I could not wait for the Sting Ray to first make an appearance. Gotta have the luggage rack, too.

  6. Is there a Hall of Fame for TV and movie cars? Mr. Stiles' snazzy legacy would surely be in the first round of inductees.

  7. Hahahaha! This IS a clever choice for TV sidekick. Love it!

  8. The Vette did not appear in every episode. It's not seen in the 4th season episode "Is it True There are Poxies at the Bottom of Landfair Lake?". It appears for only a few seconds in the second season episode "There I Am, There I Always Am".

    They did not sell the hubcaps in "Eleven the Hard Way". They sold the wire wheels which had been on the car from the beginning. Tod got $300 and a set of new plain wheels for the wire ones. The wire wheels seen in early episodes were an aftermarket item the producers thought made the car look sportier.

    The car played an important role in the episode "Ten Drops of Water". The rear tire was removed and the hub was hooked up to a rope to lift some pipe up out of a water well on a ranch.

    The 1961 Vette used in the first season(except for the first episode) was blue. Martin Milner took color slides behind the scenes and they show the car being blue through the entire first season. These slides were posted on Milner's Facebook page in 2015.