By Mischa Arnosky
“Keys, scumbag. It’s the universal symbol for keys.”
Remember this? Mike Ehrmantraut says this to Walter White in the desert in the first episode of the first half … of the last season of Breaking Bad. Mike had just left a makeshift hospital in Mexico (after feeding the chickens) and ran into Walt and Jesse. He ultimately ditched his Cadillac DTS to hop in Walt and Jesse’s white, sand-covered Dodge Charger.
Oh, and if you haven’t seen all of the episodes of best show that ever graced television (sorry, I’m one ofthose guys), you might want to stop reading.
And while I’m one of those insufferable supporters of AMC’s former flagship show, I’m also a car guy — and I’m thinking a lot of the writers of Breaking Bad were car guys/girls as well. Cars are big on the show.
I’m always excited when a TV show doesn’t cover a car’s badging with a piece of haphazardly placed electrical or duct tape. (“Oh, I had no idea that was a Porsche 911 because there’s a piece of tape over the crest.”) Breaking Bad makes no apologies when it comes to showing car brands.
So let’s break down the marques and see who drives what. There are some weird coincidences … if you’re a nerd … and into that sort of thing.
Cadillac: Walt, Saul, Mike, Tuco
Yep. Walt is probably best known for driving the biggest joke to ever come out of General Motors, the Pontiac Aztek. But, in the first episode of season five, we see that Walt has upgraded (?) his Volvo 240 DL to a mid-70s, reddish brown Cadillac DeVille courtesy of his gun guy Lawson — replete with an aftermarket M60 machine gun in the trunk and (definitely aftermarket) keyless entry.
Jack’s white supremacist colleague Kenny was impressed.
“Damn man, this thing’s a classic!” Kenny said. “What block you got in there, [a] 500 or 425?”
Walt doesn’t know the size of the engine.
“Huh. Five-hundred,” Kenny replies. “That’s the one you want. No replacement for displacement.”
See, even Kenny's a car guy
Saul drives a newer version of the DeVille, with the much-ballyhooed Northstar 32-valve V8 and the now classic “LWYRUP” tag. Mike drives a Cadillac after he’s discharged from the hospital. Again, after feeding the chickens. (“If Wendell doesn’t eat, nobody eats.”)
Tuco was a drug dealer … and the writers decided to have him drive in an Escalade. I’m OK with that.
General Motors G Body: Jesse (twice), Emilio, Krazy-8, drug dealers who “eyeball” Combo “hard”
G Body? G Body. GM made a bunch of cars on what's called the G Body platform, spanning from 1978 to 1988, according to G-Body.org, and a bunch of them show up in Breaking Bad.
Jesse initially drives a red Monte Carlo with the showy tag “THE CAPN,” first shown in the pilot episode … and escapes from the neo-Nazis' compound in the final scene of the final episode in another G Body car, an older El Camino. Emilio and Krazy-8 show up to the desert in the pilot in a Regal coupe; and Fring’s drug dealers who threaten Jesse’s buddy Combo drive a murdered-out (that means two things) '80s Monte Carlo — probably an LS mocked up to look like an SS.
And for all of the GM talk, it's interesting that creepy Todd drives a newer 5.0-liter Ford Mustang.
Volvo: Gus Fring, Walter
“Is Walter turning into Gus?” the internet asked.
Well, Walter steals an old Volvo 240DL in New England and drives it across the country. Zillionaire drug lord Gus Fring also drove a staid Volvo, probably a V70. Fring's once had a bomb strapped to its undercarriage. Not much of a connection.
Chrysler Group: Walt, Walt Jr., Hank, Skyler, the Cousins
I’ll never forget the scene: Walt sells the Aztek for a bucket of baseballs and comes home with a 300 SRT for him (formerly known as a Chrysler 300C SRT8), and a Dodge Challenger SRT for Junior. The scene showed both Walters revving their 6.4-liter 470 horsepower engines to the music of Knife Party’sBonfire. It was clearly an in-show commercial for Chrysler’s SRT division, and I loved it. I also enjoyed the scene where Walt paints a parking lot in spent Goodyears and then sets the Challenger on fire.
Less cool was when Walt and Walt Jr. (over breakfast, of course) were bragging over which of their cars had more horsepower, as both cars have the same engine, but I’ll let it slide. Especially because Junior lets an expletive slip during the conversation ... which is always awkwardly entertaining.
Hank drives a Jeep Commander; Skyler drove a Grand Wagoneer until it's replaced by a Ford Edge; and Walt Jr. had to trade in his Challenger for a snazzy PT Cruiser. Also, the cousins, who show up to murder Walt at his house with an axe, show up driving a middle-of-the-rung 3.5-liter Dodge Charger -- a step down from the Benz they had in Mexico.
Toyota: Jesse, Jesse’s parents, Walt
Jesse, who needed to replace his Monte Carlo, decides against buying what looks like a ’69 Chevelle, and grows up by buying a (probably) reliable Toyota Tercel 4WD wagon … which is a pretty rare car. Jesse’s well-to-do parents have two Priuses; and Walt drives a Yaris after he wrecks his Aztek.
Terrible GM cars: Walt, Badger
Walt’s green Pontiac Aztek makes me depressed, especially when he and Skyler drive it to the Schwartz’ mansion for the garden party. Badger’s Pontiac Fiero is equally terrible, but it seems like a perfect place for concocting Star Trek scripts.
BMW: Ted Beneke, “KEN WINS,” lady at the carwash
While it pains me to say this, the two biggest weasels to appear on the show drive BMWs.
Tax evader Ted Beneke, while we don’t see him driving it, likely owns the black E46 BMW, possibly a 328i, in the Beneke Fabricators lot. And instead of paying off Uncle Sam with his ‘windfall inheritance,’ he takes a chunk of that money and buys a Mercedes-Benz SL550 — with a heated steering wheel, according to Saul.
The other jerk — the guy who steals Walt’s parking spot, talks on his Bluetooth device at the bank, and almost runs over an old person at the gas station — drives a maroon E36 318iC with the license plate “KEN WINS.” Walt gets the satisfaction of setting “Ken’s” BMW on fire by putting a wet squeegee in the engine bay (even though the car’s battery is in the trunk). Walt does not get the satisfaction of punching Ted in the face or torching his BMW or Geo Metro, though.
I’ve owned an E36 and an E46 and have never cheated on my taxes or yelled at an old person at a gas station.
There is also a very brief glimpse of what appears to be an E31 850 on perhaps Dinan wheels at Bogdan’s car wash. It’s the last car Walt sees before he passes out.
Bonus: Jane’s dad Donald Margolis
Even if you don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jesse drives the same brand of car as his parents, there’s no denying that the writers went out of their way to select a specific car for Donald Margolis. In keeping with the tradition of revealing plotlines right in the show — like show titles, for instance — Margolis, who in later episodes is revealed to be responsible for causing a plane crash while he’s working as an air traffic controller, is seen driving a Lincoln Navigator earlier in the season.
Do you buy into any of the coincidences? What was your favorite car of the show? Did we miss any? Were any of the older cars misidentified? Was Marie's car purple?