My Mother the Car

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My Mother the Car
Gladys (My Mother the Car).jpg
Created byAllan Burns
Chris Hayward
Written byAllan Burns
James L. Brooks
Phil Davis
Chris Hayward
George Kirgo
Arnold Margolin
Jim Parker
Directed byRod Amateau
David Davis
Sidney Miller
Tom Montgomery
StarringJerry Van Dyke
Maggie Pierce
Voices ofAnn Sothern
Theme music composerRalph Carmichael
Paul Hampton
ComposerRalph Carmichael
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes30 (list of episodes)
ProducerRod Amateau
EditorsRichard K. Brockway
Dann Cahn
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time24-25 minutes
Production companiesCottage Industries, Inc.
United Artists Television
DistributorUnited Artists Television
MGM Television
Original networkNBC
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseSeptember 14, 1965 (1965-09-14) –
April 5, 1966 (1966-04-05)

My Mother the Car is an American fantasy comedy that aired for a single season on NBC between September 14, 1965 and April 5, 1966. Thirty episodes were produced by United Artists Television. The premise features a man whose deceased mother is reincarnated as an antique car, and she communicates with him through the car radio.

Critics and adult viewers generally disliked the show, often savagely. In 2002, TV Guide proclaimed it to be the second-worst of all time, behind The Jerry Springer Show.[1] TV Land's first day of programming in April 1996 included the series premiere as a collection of television firsts and rarities, billing it as "the strange but true...infamous series". The show's premise was similar to other popular comedies of the 1960s that featured a fantastic gimmick, such as a talking horse (Mister Ed), a suburbanite witch (Bewitched), an obedient genie (I Dream of Jeannie), or a flying nun (The Flying Nun).

My Mother the Car had an experienced production team with established comedy credentials. Rod Amateau had produced The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Allan Burns had written for Jay Ward and went on to create several critically acclaimed shows, including The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, and Lou Grant. Television producer James L. Brooks created Room 222 and Taxi, and served as executive producer of The Simpsons.[2][3] 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 hears the car call his name in a woman's voice. The car turns out to be the reincarnation of his deceased mother, Gladys (voiced by Ann Sothern). She talks (only to Crabtree) through the car's radio: the dial light flashes in synchronization 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 is coveted by a fanatical collector named Captain Manzini (Avery Schreiber), 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, who is determined to acquire the valuable automobile by hook or by crook. In a running gag characterizing his shifty nature, Manzini (who resembles a 1920s silent film villain) always mangles Crabtree's name when speaking to him. "Now, then, Crabapple..." "That's Crabtree." "Whatever."

Others in the cast included Maggie Pierce as wife Barbara, Cindy Eilbacher (the sister of Lisa Eilbacher) and Randy Whipple as the kids, Cindy and Randy. Veteran movie and television character actors played supporting roles, including Bill Daily, Harold Peary, Byron Foulger, Bob Jellison, Sam Flint, and Willis Bouchey.

Production notes[edit]

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 theme music was composed and conducted by Ralph Carmichael. It was written and sung by Paul Hampton. It was used on an episode of Arrested Development also called "My Mother, the Car".

The show began with a black-and-white pilot, which was later refilmed in color. This pilot did not originally air, but has been shown several times on Canadian television. Network censors insisted that one particular scene be deleted where the car backfired.


The on-set car, called a 1928 Porter Stanhope touring car, was a hot rod, rebuilt by Norm Grabowski,[4] from a 1924 Ford Model T, and later restyled by property master Kaye Trapp and Norm Breedlove.[5][6][7][8][9] A stunt car, driven by a rear-floorboard-hidden driver, was built by George Barris, as a replica.[9][10][11][12][13]

The on-set car used in My Mother the Car, was, in 2016, located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and owned by Dave Bodnar.[14] The stunt car was once owned by casino giant William Harrah, who had one of the largest special-interest and antique auto collections of all time in Reno, Nevada. 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. (The actual Porter Motor Company existed only in 1900-1901.) Harrah's F.R.P. is, since 1994, at the Seal Cove Auto Museum on Mount Desert Island in Maine. As of 2012 the stunt Porter is located at the Star Cars Museum in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.[15] On September 3, 2017, the car sold at the Dragone auction, part of the Historic Festival 35 at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, CT for $50,000.[citation needed]



No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
1"Come Honk Your Horn"Rod AmateauAllan Burns & Chris HaywardSeptember 14, 1965 (1965-09-14)
While perusing the local car lot, Dave Crabtree discovers that his mother Gladys has been reincarnated as a junky old Porter automobile, so he buys her and brings her home, much to the dismay of both his wife and eccentric car collector Captain Manzini.
2"The De-Fenders"Rod AmateauAllan Burns & Chris HaywardSeptember 21, 1965 (1965-09-21)
When Dave learns that there are local vandals who are stripping cars, he spends a sleepless night going to ridiculous lengths to ensure Mother's safety.
3"What Makes Auntie Freeze"Sidney MillerEarl Barret & Robert C. DennisSeptember 28, 1965 (1965-09-28)
Dave is forced to drive his mother to a mountaintop wedding, but along the way she gets drunk on antifreeze.
4"Lassie, I Mean Mother, Come Home"David DavisPhil DavisOctober 5, 1965 (1965-10-05)
Gladys falls asleep and winds up on a truck bound for Mexico. When they discover she's missing, both Dave and Captain Manzini go into mourning.
5"Burned at the Steak"David DavisArnold Margolin & Jim ParkerOctober 12, 1965 (1965-10-12)
When his mother encourages him to meddle in their quarreling neighbors' affairs, Dave inexplicably winds up breaking up their marriage.
6"I'm Through Being a Nice Guy"David DavisGeorge KirgoOctober 19, 1965 (1965-10-19)
Captain Manzini launches Operation Unscrupulous: he replicates the Porter, hires a trio of thieves to steal the original and establishes an airtight alibi for himself.
7"Lights, Camera, Mother"Sidney MillerFrank FoxOctober 26, 1965 (1965-10-26)
An obnoxious neighbor petitions Dave to get rid of his "eyesore" car, but he changes his tune when a television executive announces plans to feature the Porter in a TV commercial.
8"The Captain Manzini Grand Prix"Tom MontgomeryAllan Burns & Chris HaywardNovember 2, 1965 (1965-11-02)
Captain Manzini goads Dave into a race against a speed walker in an attempt to attain ownership of the Porter.
9"TV or Not TV"James SheldonAllan Burns & Chris HaywardNovember 9, 1965 (1965-11-09)
Dave puts a TV in the garage for Mother, but confusion abounds when she wins a chance to appear on a game show.
10"My Son, the Ventriloquist"Sidney MillerPhil DavisNovember 16, 1965 (1965-11-16)
With the help of his mother, Dave lands a new client by pretending to be a ventriloquist.
11"My Son, the Judge"Sidney MillerPhil Davis & Lila Garrett & Bernie KahnNovember 23, 1965 (1965-11-23)
Dave is up for a job as a judge, but complications ensue when he gets a pair of roller skates stuck on his feet.
12"And Leave the Drive-In to Us"David DavisLou Breslow & Alan WoodsNovember 30, 1965 (1965-11-30)
For his mother's birthday, Dave decides to take the family to the drive-in, but the evening is mostly a disaster.
13"For Whom the Horn Honks"Rod AmateauGeorge KirgoDecember 7, 1965 (1965-12-07)
In order to get his mitts on the Porter, Captain Manzini fakes a terminal illness.
14"Hey Lady, Your Slip Isn't Showing"Tom MontgomeryTom KochDecember 14, 1965 (1965-12-14)
When Captain Manzini manipulates Barbara's mother, it results in the whole family treasure hunting for the Porter's registration slip.
15"Many Happy No-Returns"Tom MontgomeryPhil DavisDecember 21, 1965 (1965-12-21)
Dave and Barb each decide to forfeit their own Christmas presents to bid on the other's work in a charity art auction.
16"Shine On, Shine On, Honeymoon"Rod AmateauAllan Burns & Chris HaywardDecember 28, 1965 (1965-12-28)
Dave and Barb decide to finally go on their honeymoon, but Barb's mother goes to ridiculous lengths to ensure they don't leave.
17"I Remember Mama, Why Can't You Remember Me?"Rod AmateauArnold Margolin & Jim ParkerJanuary 4, 1966 (1966-01-04)
Dave's mother gets amnesia following a fender bender.
18"Goldporter"David DavisPhil DavisJanuary 11, 1966 (1966-01-11)
Captain Manzini uses a hypnotic drug on Dave to get him to agree to sell the Porter.
19"The Incredible Shrinking Car"Rod AmateauAllan Burns & Chris HaywardJanuary 18, 1966 (1966-01-18)
Captain Manzini uses a molecular compressor on the Porter to render it useless to Dave.
20"I'd Rather Do It Myself, Mother"David DavisPhil DavisJanuary 25, 1966 (1966-01-25)
Dave hires a maid to help out with the housework, but she quickly takes charge of the house.
21"You Can't Get There from Here"Tom MontgomeryArnold Margolin & Jim ParkerFebruary 1, 1966 (1966-02-01)
The Crabtrees, taking the children to summer camp, get stranded in the backwoods after a busybody local sheriff discovers Dave's driver's license has expired and refuses to let the family continue on.
22"A Riddler on the Roof"Rod AmateauPhil DavisFebruary 8, 1966 (1966-02-08)
Dave and his mother try to thwart the assassination of a visiting dignitary.
23"My Son, the Criminal"Rod AmateauPhil DavisFebruary 15, 1966 (1966-02-15)
A nosy mailman convinces officials that Dave killed his mother and buried her under the floor of the garage.
24"An Unreasonable Facsimile"David DavisArnold Margolin & Jim ParkerFebruary 22, 1966 (1966-02-22)
Captain Manzini tries to steal the Porter away from the Crabtrees by hiring a Dave lookalike.
25"Over the Hill to the Junkyard"Rod AmateauPhil DavisMarch 1, 1966 (1966-03-01)
Numerous complications ensue when Barbara wins a new car.
26"It Might as Well Be Spring as Not"Rod AmateauJames L. BrooksMarch 8, 1966 (1966-03-08)
Dave's wealthy new client loves the Porter, and offers his limo and chauffeur in exchange for it; Gladys, who's smitten with the client, wants her son to make the deal.
27"Absorba the Greek"David DavisPhil DavisMarch 15, 1966 (1966-03-15)
A prudish building owner hires Dave to close down a nightclub he claims is indecent. Dave and Barbara go to check out the place and end up masquerading as exotic Greek dancers.
28"The Blabbermouth"Rod AmateauJames L. Brooks & Mitch PersonsMarch 22, 1966 (1966-03-22)
Barbara learns the truth when she walks into the garage and catches Dave and Mother talking. In no time, the secret's out and the press descends on the Crabtrees. This only makes Manzini want the car more, so he plays on Mother's vanity by convincing her he will make her a star.
29"When You Wish Upon a Car"Rod AmateauJohn Barbour & Gordon MitchellMarch 29, 1966 (1966-03-29)
Mother leads Cindy and Randy to believe that she's a genie who makes wishes come true when they rub her with a magic cloth. The Crabtree kids are soon charging other youngsters to rub and make a wish. Mother is basking in the attention, but Dave wants it to stop immediately.
30"Desperate Minutes"David DavisPhil DavisApril 5, 1966 (1966-04-05)
A gun-toting hooligan and his moll are hiding out at the Crabtree house after robbing a jewelry store. Dave botches several attempts to escape, leaving it up to Mother to save the day when the criminals try to escape in her.


In the United Kingdom the series debuted on ITV on 8 November 1965.

Ownership status[edit]

The current owner of the show is Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which bought United Artists in 1981.

Home media[edit]

TGG Direct released a DVD box set of the series on 12 November 2013. It contains the 30 episodes that aired, but not the unaired pilot. The laugh track has been removed for the DVD set.[16]

All 30 episodes were available for viewing on Hulu.[17] The show is also available on MGM's YouTube channel.


Antenna TV began airing episodes of the show on September 19, 2015.[18]


  1. ^ Cosgrove-Mather, Bootie (July 12, 2002). "The Worst TV Shows Ever, 'The Jerry Springer Show' Tops TV Guide's List Of Worst Shows – CBS News". CBS Broadcasting Inc. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  2. ^ "The New South has risen in the post-industrial North". The News Sun. March 31, 2006. p. A6.
  3. ^ Alex Simon (December 1997 – January 1998). "James L. Brooks: Laughter That Stings In Your Throat". Venice Magazine. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  4. ^ "Norm Grabowski". Rumpsville. October 23, 2009. Archived from the original on January 5, 2014. Retrieved June 23, 2022.
  5. ^ "Magicar Revisited and Revised". Rumpsville. December 8, 2009. Retrieved June 23, 2022.
  6. ^ "Kaye W. Trapp". Catalog. AFI. Retrieved June 23, 2022.
  7. ^ Printz, Larry (February 25, 2020). ""My Mother the Car" is the worst automotive TV show ever". Hagerty Media. Retrieved June 23, 2022.
  8. ^ "Kaye Trapp". tcmdb. Retrieved June 23, 2022.
  9. ^ a b Stewart, Jack (June 25, 2012). "The Car That Starred in My Mother the Car". Consumer Guide. Publications International, Ltd. Retrieved June 23, 2022.
  10. ^ "The custom auto shop behind Hollywood's most iconic cars may be closing". Retrieved June 23, 2022.
  11. ^ "My Mother the Car". Interviews. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. October 23, 2017. Retrieved June 23, 2022.
  12. ^ Garage Girl (November 7, 2016). "Top 50 TV Cars Of All Time: No. 3, My Mother The Car 1928 Porter". Street Muscle. Retrieved June 23, 2022.
  13. ^ "Barn finds, TV cars and classics on Dragone auction menu". Old Cars Weekly. Retrieved June 23, 2022.
  14. ^ "My Mother The Car, TV Made Me Do It". YouTube interview with Dave Bodnar, and Mother. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
  15. ^ "My Mother The Car at Hollywood Star Cars Museum". Classic Cars Today Online. April 20, 2012. Retrieved December 18, 2015.
  16. ^ "My Mother The Car: The Series". Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  17. ^ "My Mother, the Car Available for Free at Hulu". August 17, 2009. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  18. ^ "Shows". Antenna TV. Tribune Broadcasting. Retrieved September 2, 2015.

External links[edit]