My Mother the Car

My Mother the Car Information

My Mother the Car is an American fantasy sitcom which aired for a single season on NBC between September 14, 1965 and September 6, 1966. A total of thirty episodes were produced by United Artists Television.

Critics and adult viewers generally panned the show, often savagely. In 2002, TV Guide proclaimed it to be the second-worst of all time, just behind The Jerry Springer Show. In 2010 The O'Reilly Factor recorded its viewers as listing it as the worst show of all time. The show's co-creator, Allan Burns, went on to create some of the most critically acclaimed shows in television history, including The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, and Lou Grant. Television producer James L. Brooks, who later collaborated with Burns on these series, created, among others, Room 222 and Taxi, and served as executive producer of The Simpsons (which later parodied the show in the "Lovematic Grandpa" segment of The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase), got his start in television sitcoms on My Mother the Car when he was called upon to rewrite a script for an episode of the series. The other co-creator of My Mother the Car, Chris Hayward, produced and wrote for Barney Miller during its first several seasons.


The show follows the exploits of attorney David Crabtree (played by Jerry Van Dyke), who, while shopping at a used car lot for a station wagon to serve as a second family car, instead purchases a dilapidated 1928 Porter touring car. Crabtree heard the car call his name in a woman's voice, which later turned out to be that of his deceased mother, Gladys (voiced by Ann Sothern). The car, a valuable antique, is a reincarnation of his mother who talks (only to Crabtree) through the car's radio. The dial light flashed in sync with "Mother's" voice. In an effort to get his family to accept the old, tired car, Crabtree brings it to a custom body shop for a full restoration. The car was originally coveted by a collector named Captain Manzini even before its restoration, but Crabtree purchases and restores the car before Manzini can acquire it.

For the rest of the series, Crabtree is pursued by the avaricious Captain Manzini (Avery Schreiber), who is determined to acquire the valuable automobile from Crabtree. In a running gag characterizing his shifty nature, Manzini (who resembles a 1920s silent film villain) always mistakes Crabtree's name when speaking to him. "Now, then, Crabapple..." "That's Crabtree." "Whatever."

Others in the cast included Maggie Pierce as wife Barbara and Cindy Eilbacher (the sister of Lisa Eilbacher) and Randy Whipple as the kids, Cindy and Randy.

Production notes

The show was created by Allan Burns and Chris Hayward, who had better success with Rocky & Bullwinkle, The Munsters, and Get Smart (which debuted the same season). Aluminum Model Toys (AMT), a well-known producer of plastic model car kits, introduced a 1/25-scale kit of the Porter in late 1965.

The composer of the theme music was Paul Hampton. It was used on an episode of Arrested Development also called "My Mother, the Car".

The Car

The "1928 Porter" used in "My Mother the Car" was not a production car. Real Porter cars had existed: The first was a steam automobile (Boston, Massachusetts, 1900"01). The second car was a powerful luxury car made (Bridgeport, Connecticut, 1919"22) made from parts left over from production of Finley R Porter's FRP. By the 1960s, no examples of either remained. For the TV show, Assistant prop man Kaye Trapp leased the producers a 1924 Ford T-tub hot rod he recently bought from his friend and its builder, Norm Grabowski. Both Grabowski and the car had earlier appeared in the B movie comedy Sex Kittens Go to College (1960).

The "1928 Porter" touring car sported diamond-tufted naugahyde upholstery, oversized white tonneau cover, plush black carpeting, chrome windshield braces and half-moon hubcaps. Trapp and studio special effects man Norm Breedlove (father of land-speed-record-setter Craig Breedlove) modified the car to give it an elongated engine compartment, palladian-style brass radiator with "Porter" script, running board-mounted spare tire, outboard fuel tank and antique cane-clad trunk. (It was later fitted, as needed, with special effects hardware such as an oil tank drip to simulate a smoking engine and "tear ducts" in the headlamp bezels.) Off-camera operation of electrics was by umbilical cable. The signature features gave it an anachronistic look, resembling cars of earlier eras.

The power train was the rod-grade 283 cu in V8 (Chevrolet small-block) engine mated with Powerglide automatic transmission. The ?Porter' was registered (as a modified Ford) in 1964 with the contemporary yellow-on-black California license plates PZR 317 evident throughout the show's run. Though it bore a few design similarities with the FRP Porter, which may have suggested the tv car's moniker, it is rumored that the car was named after the show's production manager, W A Porter.

When series production was approved, the Grabowski rod was retained as the ?hero' car, and a second"?-?stunt', or special-effects"?-car was commissioned and built by celebrated car customizer George Barris, whose Barris Kustom Industries licensed it to AMT for model kit production (an inaccurate rendering) and also toured it after series wrap with other of his creations. The stunt car, not conventionally driveable, was ingeniously equipped with apparatus to let Mother "drive herself" via a system of levers and mirrors operated by a short human driver concealed on a tractor seat below the removed rear floorboards. It also had other special mechanical features such as gimbaled headlamps.

Both cars had the dashboard-mounted radio head with flashing dial light through which Mother "talked" (though only to her son). These scenes were filmed with a stand-in; actress Ann Sothern's voice was dubbed to the soundtrack in post-production. Generally, the hero car was used for driving shots and close-ups, and the stunt car for long shots and special effects sequences. Either was available as a stand-in in case of mechanical breakdown on set. Though made to represent one car, they can be distinguished by minor details, and actually appeared together in one episode.

Additionally, a third car was used in filming, representing both the dilapidated car-lot Porter of the pilot and, in another episode, a "1932 Porter". This car may not have been complete, and its existence and whereabouts are unknown.

The hero car is currently located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The stunt car was once owned by casino giant William Harrah, who had one of the largest special-interest and antique auto collections (Reno, Nevada) of all time. After Harrah's death in 1984, the auction catalogue advertised the lot as having a carnation red body with white top and created from parts of a Ford Model T, a Maxwell, a Hudson and a Chevrolet. Following ownership by Rear View Mirror Museum (Nags Head, North Carolina) and later Herbie's Antique & Classic Car Museum (Mount Pleasant, South Carolina), the stunt Porter is currently on display in Star Cars Museum (Gatlinburg, Tennessee).


  • Jerry Van Dyke as Dave Crabtree
  • Maggie Pierce as Barbara Crabtree
  • Ann Sothern as 1928 Porter (Gladys Crabtree)
  • Avery Schreiber as Captain Bernard Manzini
  • Cindy Eilbacher as Cindy Crabtree
  • Randy Whipple as Randy Crabtree


Episode # Episode title Original airdate
1 "Come Honk Your Horn" September 14, 1965
2 "The De-Fenders" September 21, 1965
3 "What Makes Auntie Freeze" September 28, 1965
4 "Lassie, I Mean Mother, Come Home" October 5, 1965
5 "Burned at the Steak" October 12, 1965
6 "I'm Through Being a Nice Guy" October 19, 1965
7 "Lights, Camera, Mother" October 25, 1965
8 "The Captain Manzini Grand Prix" November 2, 1965
9 "TV or Not TV" November 9, 1965
10 "My Son, the Ventriloquist" November 16, 1965
11 "My Son, the Judge" November 23, 1965
12 "And Leave the Drive-In to Us" November 30, 1965
13 "For Whom the Horn Honks" December 7, 1965
14 "Hey Lady, Your Slip Isn't Showing" Gust starring Paula Winslowe || December 14, 1965

15 "Many Happy No-Returns" December 21, 1965
16 "Shine On, Shine On, Honeymoon" December 28, 1965
17 "I Remember Mama, Why Can't You Remember Me?" January 4, 1966
18 "Goldporter" January 11, 1966
19 "The Incredible Shrinking Car" January 18, 1966
20 "I'd Rather Do it Myself, Mother" January 25, 1966
21 "You Can't Get There From Here" February 1, 1966
22 "A Riddler on the Roof" February 8, 1966
23 "My Son, the Criminal" February 15, 1966
24 "An Unreasonable Facsimile" February 22, 1966
25 "Over the Hill to the Junkyard" March 1, 1966
26 "It Might as Well Be Spring as Not" March 8, 1966
27 "Absorba the Greek" March 15, 1966
28 "The Blabbermouth" March 22, 1966
29 "When You Wish Upon a Car" March 29, 1966
30 "Desperate Minutes" April 5, 1966


The current owner of the show is Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer which bought United Artists in 1981. All 30 episodes are available for viewing on

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "My_Mother_the_Car" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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