The Addams Family car
Old car freaks, who are also Netflix series watchers, have asked us what is the make and model of the latest Addams Family vehicle. In a departure from previous movies, it’s a 1938 Pontiac, but with extensive modifications.
Previous Addams Family vehicles have been Packards, but for the Tim Burton directed, epic, eight-part series, Wednesday that screened in late-2022 on Netflix to record numbers of viewers, the latest Addams Family car was not a Packard.
For those few who don’t know, the Addams Family is a fictional family created by American cartoonist Charles Addams. The characters originally appeared in a series of cartoons, about half of which were originally published in The New Yorker over a 50-year period from their inception in 1938.
The Addamses are a satirical inversion of the ideal 20th-century American family: a decidedly odd, wealthy, aristocratic clan, delighting in the macabre and are seemingly unaware or unconcerned that other people find them bizarre or frightening.
Beginning with the 1964 television series, the Addams Family consisted of Gomez and Morticia Addams; their children Wednesday and Pugsley; close family members Uncle Fester and Grandmama; their butler Lurch and Pugsley’s pet octopus, Aristotle. The dimly seen Thing (later a disembodied hand) was introduced in 1954 and Gomez’s Cousin Itt and Morticia’s pet lion Kitty Kat in 1964. Pubert Addams, Wednesday and Pugsley’s infant brother, was introduced in the 1993 film, Addams Family Values.
Lurch drove a variety of Packard vehicles over the history of the programs, but the one used in Wednesday was a departure. At Historic Vehicles, we were sure it was a 1938 Pontiac and our first thought was that the car was a Tour Custom Limousine that had been modified in 2008 into a stretch limousine and sold years later at auction by Trucks & Auto Auctions.
We thought this was the Wednesday car, but it wasn’t
That car looked similar to what’s evident from footage of the car in Wednesday, but there were differences. The Addams Family car’s rear window was one-piece, where the standard 1938 Pontiac’s was two-piece, but even more surprising were reshaped front fenders that weren’t obvious in the three-quarter front and rear movie footage, but were clearly visible in the below on-set shot, where Morticia was having her makeup attended to.
At this point we have to acknowledge the help of an Historic Vehicles subscriber, John C, who directed our attention to footage in the first Wednesday episode, where Wednesday was being dropped off at her new boarding school, Nevermore.
Inspection of under-car footage revealed that there was a front diff bowl on the Addams Family car. It was a 4WD!
Then, a post on the justacarguy blogspot, dated November 25, 2022, suggested that the bodywork was mounted on a stretched Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen 4×4 2.2-litre petrol-powered chassis that dated back to the 1980s.
Since then, we heard from Alexandru Titus Ipate, action vehicles supervisor at a movie-vehicles manufacturing company based in Romania. This company sources and modifies cars for movies being filmed around Europe.
The Wednesday project required the company to provide all the vehicles for the Tim Burton series and Alexandru told Historic Vehicles that building the Addams Family limousine was a dream came true for him.
The shape of the car featured in the series was designed by production designer Mark Scruton, based on Pontiac 1938 Silver Streak. Incidentally,
Incidentally, the car’s original build date of 1938 coincides with the first Addams Family cartoon appearance in The New Yorker.
The car needed to be stretched, heavily modified and reliable, as well as being able to handle the requirements for the various locations. It was decided to drop the modified Pontiac bodywork onto a robust Mercedes-Benz-Puch 220 petrol-automatic stretched chassis. The 4WD powertrain was a bonus that gave the Pontiac additional mobility.
Alexandru said that the side panels were built up from sheet metal; the fenders were reshaped to accommodate the set-back front axle and the rear window was modified to allow for camera positions.
Everything on the car had to be easily removable in minutes, including the doors, false roof, seats and windows, to allow rapid change from one camera set-up to another.
“Air front and rear suspensions were installed for the specific shot where Thing is being dropped off at the Nevermore Academy,” said Alexandru.
At Historic Vehicles, we reckon it’s almost a certainty that we’ll see more of the 1938 Pontiac-Benz on Netflix in the future, because Wednesday racked up 341.2 million hours of viewing worldwide in its opening week, creating the best opening week for any English language series on the service. One week later, it clocked up 400 million hours in a single week. Netflix won’t ignore this record breaker.