Thursday, 3 October 2013

Driving Bad: The cars in AMC’s cult show Breaking Bad

If you were in contact with any form of popular media, there is no doubt that you have heard of Breaking Bad. The show about an over-qualified chemist who is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer and uses his skills to cook crystal meth with a former student after finding out how much money there is in the drug business. What’s special about this show is that there is a symbolism to just about everything, including the cars. So let’s have a look at what the good, the bad and the druggy drive.

1. Walter White/2004 Pontiac Aztec:

You don’t need a survey to tell you that this car is not a popular one in reality, despite its fame after it got the role of Walter White’s car. It met the bare minimum needs, has good potential as a family cross-over, but an eye-sore on the inside and out. Uninspired design meant that the Aztec would have to be a last resort purchase for most buyers, not to mention its placement in the “100 ugliest cars of all time” list by The Daily Telegraph. This makes it all the more hard to believe that the design was directed by the same person who went on to design the C7 Corvette. The Aztec is powered by a 3.4-litre petrol V6 engine that pumps out 185 BHP and 285 NM of torque. Not a great car, but its shortfalls reflected Walt as a person.

2. Jesse Pinkman/1982 Chevrolet Monte Carlo (The Capn):

Just like the Toyota Hilux is called the “terrorist’s favorite pick-up”, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo has been stereotyped as the drug dealers choice like the Oldsmobile cutlass supreme. Jesse’s Monte Carlo is a lowrider and comes with the standard issue ‘gangsta’ colors and flash. The car came with 3.7-litre to 5.7-litre, V6 and V8 trims.

3. Skyler White/1991 Jeep Grand Wagoneer:

A stable, solid purpose built soccer mom car, the Grand Wagoneer sums up Skyler’s life at least until it gets affected by Walt’s criminal endeavors. The car was labeled a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) because it was literally a balance of performance and practicality. Oddly enough many engines on the car were sourced from car maker AMC (Same name as the host network of Breaking Bad) although the edition Skyler drives had a Chrysler V8.

4. The Crystal Ship/1986 Fleetwood Bounder:

The one car that holds the highest relevance in the series. The car that helped Walt and Jesse start it all. The 1986 Fleetwood Bounder is the quintessential redneck motorhome. The RV had just the right amount of room for the lab to be set up and seemed harmless enough in its looks. The car summed up Jesse’s and Walt’s relationship, sometimes reliable and sometimes on the verge of breaking down.

5. Gus Fring/1998 Volvo V70:

Probably the most recognizable Volvo. The car that gave Volvo the identity of a safe soccer mom brand, the V70 sums up Gustavo’s mindset. He wants to keep the lowest possible profile as being the owner of a multi-million dollar fast food chain attracts enough attention as it is. The V70 came with 2.0-litre to 2.4-litre petrol engines and a 2.5-litre diesel. Practical, economical and enough room for a dead body or two made this the ideal car for a low-profile drug lord.

6. Hank Schrader/2006 Jeep Commander:

Sturdy, powerful and packs a heavy punch. Hank’s Jeep is the perfect extension of his personality, not to mention the fact that the name Commander goes well with a person in law enforcement. The Jeep Commander came in with a 3.7-litre V6 and a 4.7-litre V8 (Hank’s edition) offered with both 4x2 and 4x4 powertrains.

7. Marie Schrader/2008 VW Beetle:

A legendary car that has the cute appeal to attract buyers who don’t really care about specifications or bang for buck. The Beetle is the perfect extension of Marie’s character who is rather self-indulgent. The car comes with a 2.5-litre in-line 5 cylinder engine that made it a good attention grabbing car that could fulfill the non-touchy female driver’s requirements.

8. Saul Goodman/1997 Cadillac DeVille:

If you can imagine a politician driving one of these you can do the same for Saul Goodman. The car makes the statement of being a classic American car and disguises the shady lawyer that drives it very well. The car is powered by a 4.6-litre V8, an engine that has made its way on to many American cars including the Ford Crown Victoria and Mustang.

9. Mike Ehrmentraut/1988 Chrysler Fifth Avenue:

Classic, sturdy and on some level had the same expression as Mike always did. It served well for a veteran hitman and was pretty much the definition of a no nonsense car. The Fifth Avenue was made with a 5.2-litre V8 that managed a measly 140 BHP. Sufficed to say, is endorses the “no replacement for displacement” ideology.

10. Heisenberg/2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8:

The 300 SRT8 is the successor of the 300C. The 6.4-litre V8 is the replacement of the last cog of Walter White i.e. his Pontiac Aztec. The car is his way of reaffirming his position as “The Cook”. The SRT8 is immensely powerful and can go head to head with cars like the Mercedes E63 AMG, although the German would probably perform better. Big engines may get you the goosebumps, but German engineering does much more.

11. Flynn/2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8:

A teenager who’s had to deal with a disability his entire life uses his dad’s new found money to fulfill some of his own brattish wants. The Challenger is Walt’s gift to his son simply because he can give it to him. The Chrysler PT Cruiser that Skyler got Flynn to keep a low profile is happily given away by father and son and they become something of a race team.

12. Jesse Pinkman/1986 Toyota Tercel Wagon:

After hitting rock-bottom Jesse turns into a person who values life more than money. The exact opposite of Walt’s alter ego. Jesse replaces his gunned down Monte Carlo with the Tercel which he bought from badger’s cousin.

There are many other cars in the series such as Gretchen’s Bentley Continental GT, the ‘96 BMW 318i cabrio that Walt destroys with a squeegee, crazy-8’s Buick Regal, the 1977 Cadillac DeVille that turns into a tank in the finale and the ’91 Toyota Previa that the “vacuum cleaner” man uses to pick up his clients. All the cars used have a character of their own and were probably selected by a car casting director. This show may have become a legend because of its story-line, but you can never underestimate the difference each character's car makes.

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