That Time When VH-1 Gave Away Every Corvette!

What do you do when you’re the Number Two music video station in the late 1980s, and there are only two contenders to begin with? How do you bump your ratings through the roof? You start the world’s first successful reality TV show…!
No. Wait. That was the other channel…

You create a call-in giveaway contest on a scale that has never been duplicated…! That’s what you do.

VH-1 came to our televisions on the heels of mega-hit channel MTV more than 35 years ago on New Year’s Day 1985 under the Viacom Media umbrella. The two stations battled back and forth for viewership across several decades before both channels eventually dropped music videos from their lineup and started showing reality shows and reruns of Saved by the Bell.
But in the mid-1980s, viewership of Top 40 music videos is what brought in the advertisers, and advertisers paid the bills. Even though MTV and VH-1 were owned by the same company, VH-1 was targeted toward a more mature audience, and MTV was relegated to the pop and “bubble-gum pop” crowd.

So, how do you draw in a more-sophisticated audience with a more-mature taste? You give them a chance to win a Corvette.

And how do you blow that idea out of the water, and turn it up to 11…? You offer one lucky winner a Corvette from every year of production.
And that’s exactly what VH-1’s marketing guru Jim Cahill did. He used almost $1 million of Viacom’s bankroll to track down and purchase one example from all of the 36 years that a Corvette sports car had been made – from the first one in 1953, to the latest model available during the contest – 1988.

[Via] Two By Two 2
Not all the cars were what you’d consider “cherry.” Most were considered “drivers” and not all were completely “collectable.”

Of the 36 models Cahill collected, 14 were convertibles, and only 11 had manual transmissions. Cahill later told an automotive magazine reporter that he drove each of the 36 cars home – one a night for 36 nights – and some of them were “nightmarishly bad.”

But, as we retro collectors sometimes say, “They existed,” and the contest to determine one sole winner was underway.

To enter, a person had to call a 900 number at a charge of $2 per entry. For each call, VH-1 pocketed $1.49.

More than 190,000 people called the number on the first day with more than 1.3 million folks registering altogether. I’ll save you from doing the math. In the first two weeks of the promotion, VH-1 almost doubled their $1 million investment.

The winner of the contest didn’t have to try very hard. Dennis Amadeo only made one call to the contest, and the New York carpenter became the poster-boy of every teen male in the country.

Amadeo flew out to California to take ownership of all his sports cars, and when presented with all the keys by ex-Beach Boy Mike Love, the bag weighed five pounds.

[Via] Jim Cahill
And that’s the end of the story, right? Amado kept all the cars and still has a garage full of vintage and highly-collectable sports cars in his Long Island garage?

Of course not. And that’s where the story takes a drastic left-turn into Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone and things get crazy.

Shortly after taking possession of the Corvettes, Amadeo sold them all to a psychedelic artist of the 1960s, Peter Max. The sale price was $250,000 in cash, $250,000 in artwork and a portion of the proceeds should the cars be sold again.
Max had a vision to turn all 36 Corvettes into a work of colorful art, but life events got in the way of beginning the project, and the cars were stored in the basement of a Brooklyn apartment building.
And time took its toll on the Corvettes. None of the cars were prepped for long-term storage, and soon became non-functional.
In 2005, a group of Corvette enthusiasts searched for the cars and found them, and lost them again after Max refused to listen to their pleas to let the cars be saved and restored.
Now, more than 28 years after the cars were given away, Max wanted to purchase additional cars to use for his “project,” but eventually agreed to sell the lot to a family who intend to restore and sell the cars. Many have already been brought back beyond their condition when given away in 1988.

Have you seen Paul Newman in “Once Upon a Wheel”?

When I worked in a video store, I never knew what people might request from day-to-day. Often what they wanted would surprise me in that they were things I had never heard of. A title that was often requested, but that we never had, was the Paul Newman narrated 1971 television documentary about auto racing, “Once Upon a Wheel”.

The documentary was released on ABC TV here in american, but had a theatrical release overseas. While I never saw it on TV, I was impressed with the impression it made on its viewers who would seek it our decades later. Eventually I would get my hands on a copy of the film on home video and it is a pretty enjoyable hour-long piece that is a great snapshot of its time featuring in addition to Newman, Mario Andretti, Kirk Douglas, Hugh Downs, Dean Martin, Cesar Romero and Dick Smothers.

As you might guess, this video has been posted online, so if you are interested in the history of auto racing or just like retro TV, it is worth checking out.

The ad above was very common leading up to the release of the film. I want all these prizes!

Who wouldn’t want a Toyota RV-2?

In the early seventies Toyota tried its hand at creating a car that I still dream about. One that combines the ease of driving of a station wagon, with some of the convenience of an RV. Their first attempt was the RV-1 in 1971, but I think the real magic started in 1972, when they RV-2 wagon concept car was shown at the Tokyo Motor Show and then a few month later in 1973 at the New York International Auto Show.

The RV-2 was larger than the RV-1, but the real magic of this car were its side hinged clam shell doors. When they were raised you could stretch a tent between them and two adults could sleep there or on the fold down front seats. (You can get a good idea of how this would work from the image above.)

A fully working prototype of this was built and shown starting in 1973 and although it was fairly well received, it was not enough to go into production. So all we are left with are ads and promotional material of what might have been.

To see more images of the RV-2, check out this video. The music is very inappropriate, but you can see a real life RV-2 in its various stages of use.

Good Thing Happen on a Honda Motorcycle

I didn’t know where they were going to with this classic ad from the early seventies. The robbers were using Honda motorcycles to make a speedy and dependable getaway. What sort of message are they sending to consumers if their product is featured in use by successful criminals? Well Honda got me in the end. They put the police on Honda motorcycles as we well! Which only makes sense, since the only thing that could catch a Honda, is another Honda.

9 Car Companies that Disappeared from Movies and TV after the 1990’s

(Beautiful Image of a Gremlin by Gerry Dincher)

For Americans cars are a big part of who we are and how the country was shaped. They’re the backgrounds of our lives and it really only takes a glance at the cars in a picture or a movie to tell what era it is set in. Almost everyone has a fond memory of a first car or going on road trips in the family sedan. But what you might have grown up with might be gone now. There’s a bunch of car companies for whatever reason have disappeared since the 1990s, so let’s take a look at which brands you won’t find in a dealership today.

Eagle was a Chrysler brand from 1988 to 1999. They’re most notable for having cars that looked exactly like Chrysler and Mitsubishi cars… because they were. They were just re-branded as Eagle products. You can probably guess why they didn’t last long. The two most notable cars from Eagle’s line up were the Talon and the Laser, which both have amazing names.

Famous Eagles: A Talon is used in Blade Trinity in a car chase and another was featured in an episode on the show Viper which featured a heavily modified Dodge Viper as its star car.

A couple of bad guys in Road House are seen exiting an Eagle Premier. It’s a really minor role, but it’s in Road House, the best movie of all time, so it’s worth noting.

Geo also lived a short life from 1987 to 1997. Geo is one of those car brands that almost nobody respected. They were tiny and slow, but they were affordable. In my high school two of the guys bought brand new Geo Metros, because they were that cheap. Geo also made a sports car of sorts, the Geo Storm, that was basically a Isuzu Impulse.

Famous Geos: The most famous Geo was the Metro that was almost always the butt of jokes. It featured prominently in the films One Night at McCool’s, Big Trouble, and Blast from the Past. Other than that you can catch them in the backgrounds of some movies and TV shows of that time period.

Saab was a Swedish car company that was formed in 1945 that lasted until 2012 when they declared bankruptcy. The company reformed as National Electric Vehicle Sweden, but you will be hard pressed to find a dealership in the U.S.

Famous Saabs: The most famous Saab undoubtedly is Jerry Seinfeld’s Saab 900S. There was a whole episode dedicated to his mechanic stealing it, then another where he hung out in a Saab dealership for the entire episode hoping to get a deal on a Saab convertible.

Saturn began production in 1990 and went defunct in 2009. Their commercials were catchy and they emphasized how they were a different kind of car company. In the 1990s it seemed like everyone knew someone who had a Saturn. Then like that they were gone. What happened? Well, it was a lot to do with politics at GM.

Famous Saturns: There’s not any “star car” Saturns. However, put on any movie with a contemporary setting in the 1990s and you’re bound to see at least one Saturn, probably more.

Plymouth started all the way back in 1928 and ended in 2001. The end of Plymouth is best summarized in Norm MacDonald’s joke during an SNL Weekend Update at the time, which went something like, “Plymouth has announced bankruptcy. They’re the maker of popular…”

This was an ignominious end for the brand that brought us the classic Barracuda muscle car. By the end they had only four models, the most common being the Voyager minivan and the Neon compact car. Both were very common, but not common enough to save the company.

Famous Plymouths: A 1979 ‘Cuda appeared in the horror film Phantasm and a 73 Plymouth Duster named “The Grey Ghost” was featured in Dazed and Confused.


One thing I’ve tried to do with this list is not to include companies that simply left the U.S., but are still making vehicles (that’s why you see mostly American companies here). However, Isuzu is an exception. Isuzu formed in 1916. Yes, you read that right. They peaked in the U.S. in the 1990s and were done in 2009.

Famous Izusus: Now the biggest reason Isuzu made the list was for the super popular “Joe Isuzu” commercials which featured actor David Leisure in comedic commercials touting the benefits of Isuzu vehicles. These ads aired from 1986 to 1990 and they were impossible to ignore if you had a TV then. The name “Joe Isuzu” became a pop culture reference that applied to slick liar types, like politicians.

As for a background car, you’ll see them more in Asian movies, but you can pick out a Isuzu Trooper here and there in western films.

Mercury was founded in 1939 by none other than Edsel Ford who was the son of Henry Ford (and whom the Edsel car was named after). Mercury’s were “entry-level” luxury cars so in the scheme of things from lowest to highest it went: Ford, Mercury, Lincoln. Mercury was donezo in 2011 after extremely poor sales. Perhaps the coolest Mercury was the 1960s Cougar, a muscle car.

Famous Mercuries: The Mercury is another car that’s more famous as a background car, but Mercury is the star of a song, “Mercury Blues.”

AMC (American Motors Corporation)
It doesn’t get much more American than having it in your name! AMC was a car company that formed out of a merger between Nash and Hudson. In 1985 they began working with Chrysler. Eventually, they were absorbed by Chrysler in 1987.

In the 60s they made the super cool looking Javelin and the two seater muscle car (which isn’t common at all) AMX. Unfortunately, the most memorable car in the general public’s mind that AMC made is regarded as one of the ugliest of all time, the aptly named Gremlin.

Famous AMCs: There was a song starring the Nash Rambler that I strongly associate with Doctor Demento.

There’s an AMX in an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with guest Jon Stewart (which also features a Gremlin). Gremlins have appeared in a ton of movies and shows like True Blood, mostly as a joke car.

Arguably, the most famous AMC star car is Garth’s Garthmobile from Wayne’s World and that was an AMC Pacer, not a Gremlin like many believe.


Pontiac was a brand that lasted from 1926 to 2010 when GM decided to nix it in order to focus on their “core” brands. Out of all of the car manufacturers to go on this list, this one hurts the most. Why? Pontiac invented the muscle car with the GTO. They also made the super cool Firebird (and its Trans Am varient). Since Pontiac is gone that means we don’t get any new GTOs, Trans Ams, or Firebirds.

It should also be noted that the Fiero was a Pontiac invention, while it has a controversial place in the minds of gearheads, it is one of those cars that screams 1980s.

Other notable Pontiacs include the Grand Am and Grand Prix, both were staples of American roads throughout the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. And lets not forget the Sunfire which was a compact and sporty car for those with lower budgets.

Famous Pontiacs: Where to begin? How about with Burt Reynolds and his Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit.

Or how about Kitt from Knight Rider? Yes, it’s a heavily modified car, but it’s still a Ponitac Trans Am at its heart.


Dwight from The Office had a 1987 Trans Am that appeared in several episodes.

As far as GTOs go you’ve got the Monkeemobile, the chosen transport of the band The Monkees, though it was heavily modified. Also, one appeared in Dazed and Confused, George drove his Dad’s on Seinfeld in an episode, and there are many, many smaller roles for the first muscle car. And you can’t forget the song, “Little GTO”.