The CBS television series Route 66 was every car guy’s fantasy: two footloose young men exploring America and looking for adventure in a brand new Corvette.
We have to wonder how many young baby boomers were transformed into lifelong Corvette fans by the television drama Route 66, which aired on CBS from October 7, 1960 to March 20, 1964. Seldom has roaming aimlessly through the countryside without a home or a job looked so glamorous.
Every Friday night at 8:30, Tod Stiles (played by Martin Milner) and Buz Murdock (George Maharis) managed to find a new adventure, hopping from one town to the next, one thought-provoking drama to the next, in Tod’s new Corvette. Who hasn’t wanted to be Tod or Buz, at least for a week or two? And who hasn’t lusted after a Corvette like Tod’s, if for only a moment?
One thing that may surprise fans of the show: Tod’s Corvettes weren’t red. Although the show was filmed entirely in black and white, somehow viewers came to assume that the cars were red—following, perhaps, the notion that All Corvettes are Red. But in truth, the production crew chose neutral metallic factory colors including Sateen Silver, Fawn Beige, and Saddle Tan for the Corvettes, reportedly because they looked the best on film. We don’t know how many Corvettes were used in the show, but we can see they were updated most every season, and that multiple cars were apparently shuffled in and out for closeups. In one episode in season two, the Corvette Mako Shark factory show car makes a guest appearance, driven by an heiress played by Janice Rule.
One novel aspect of the series was that it was filmed largely on location at sites across the country, on and off the real Route 66. This gave the show a more authentic look than the typical sitcoms and police dramas of the day, which were produced mainly on Hollywood sound stages and studio lots. Entertainment critics were also impressed by the writerly scripts and gritty story lines, with topical themes that included mental illness, the Vietnam war, and gang violence. When CBS was unable to obtain rights to the Bobby Troup song “Route 66,” Nelson Riddle composed an equally memorable alternative theme (you can hear it here).
While the program was a critical and commercial success for several years, fans agree that the story began to lose its steam midway through the third season, when George Maharis left the show and was ultimately replaced by Glenn Corbett, playing a new companion named Lincoln Case. The last Route 66 Corvette was a 1963 Stingray convertible (below) in Saddle Tan, which was used through the final show aired in March of 1964. There have been several attempts to revive the program, including a 1993 series reboot that lasted only a handful of episodes. There was talk of a new series a few years ago, but nothing more came of it.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.