Vintage vehicles, Automotive history and stories from motoring's past. 

Car Trek: The Cars of Star Trek

Actor William Shatner poses in Gene Winfield’s “Reactor” kustom

Actor William Shatner poses in Gene Winfield’s “Reactor” kustom

Star Trek is not a show that readily conjours up images of motoring. So old fashioned for these space pioneers to put about in cars. Probably the only car you could spot out in space is the Tesla Roadster that Elon Musk launched into the cosmos. But surprisingly, there are some cool rides associated with the long running science fiction franchise. Here’s some highlights. 

The original Star Trek series was a slow starter, only enjoying middling success during its original three seasons from 1966-69. But once viewers caught on to its syndicated re-runs, the series’ popularity grew exponentially until it developed a huge audience of hardcore fans. Cast members became icons. The franchise’s popularity continued to expand in popularity, eventually including sequel series, movies, books, and merchandise galore.

Though very few autos are seen in original Star Trek episodes, Gene Winfield’s Reactor show car made a memorable appearance. One of the original kustom car kings, Winfield is still in business. He also built the Star Trek Shuttle Craft as well as vehicles for Blade Runner. Back in the late 1960s, he’d created the Reactor as a show car to advertise his skills. It starred on Star Trek as well as episodes of Batman and Bewitched. Seen in episode 54, Bread And Circuses, the Reactor portrayed the Jupiter 8, a car from a planet based on the premise that ancient Rome had survived and prospered.

William Shatners Top Ten Cars
Bugatti Veyron
Chevrolet Corvair
Ferrari Enzo
Mercedes 300SL Gullwing Coupe
Willys Army Jeep
Packard 426
Jaguar XKE
Dodge Viper
Jaguar D-Type
Citroen 2CV

In the episode “A Piece of The Action,” Kirk and Spock take a ride in a 1931 Cadillac V-12 while visiting a planet based on Chicago of the 1920s. 

A classic 1969 Chevrolet Camaro stars in the Star Trek Voyagaer program “Vis a Vis.” Lieutenant Tom Paris has a holodeck program that features the mint condition car. Star Trek Voyager also had an episode titled “Future’s End” that features a Volkswagen Minibus. 

Star Trek has spun off a series of movies. the eleventh film Star Trek (2009) featured the extreme experimental Aptera coupe in a cameo role. The Aptera was a prototype three-wheeled electric car that failed to reach production status, but its aggressively aerodynamic body looked perfect in Star Trek’s future world scenario. Shatner also briefly drove a ’65 Stingray convertible near the film’s beginning. 

Nimoy nailed his portrayal of Spock well enough for it to become his career maker. Enjoying the perks of success, he’d drive his swanky 1964 Buick Riviera to the Desilu lot each morning; the glamorous coupes were a Hollywood favorite, even Regis Philbin drove one. While Nimoy was driving the Riviera, Shatner went sportier, wheeling around in a fuel-injected, split-window Corvette Stingray coupe. 

Producing TV episodes is time-consuming work that means long days at the studio. People who spend a lot of time working together can get a little crazy and play gags to let off steam. 

After tiring of the long walk to the commissary from the soundstage, where he had to remove his ears for lunch each day, Nimoy bought a bicycle and had his name painted on it. Shatner thought it was great fun to lock the bike up and either hide it altogether or throw away the key. One slow, boring day on the lot, Shatner kicked things up a level when Nimoy found his Riviera gone, leaving nothing but an empty parking space. Little did he know, it’d been towed on the order of William Shatner who, after exhausting all possible hiding places for Spock’s bike, threw it in the trunk of his Riviera and had the car towed. History has not recorded Nimoy’s reaction. 

Buick’s Riviera originally billed itself as "America's bid for a new international classic." Star Trek didn't start out claiming such lofty ambitions, but it too became an international classic whose popularity continues to grow in time, as does that of the sharply sculptured 1963-65 Buick Riviera. The cars that have appeared in Star Trek will, no doubt, live long and prosper in the memories of fans everywhere.

Story by Jim Cherry