We are continuing our countdown of the Top 50 most memorable hot rods and street cars of all time that have made an appearance in a television series, or a memorable television episode.
No. 41: Jack Benny’s 1923 The Good Maxwell Tourer
Jack Benny, an American comedian, accomplished radio, vaudeville, television, and film actor, and one of the most beloved American entertainers in radio and early TV days. He is also credited as having a great influence on the genre of situation comedies, variety, and talk shows that were structured much in the same manner.
Benny was the star of his own weekly radio shows before the advent of television, and became a national figure with The Jack Benny Program from 1932 to 1948 on NBC, then on CBS Radio from 1949 to 1955. Through the 1930s and ‘40s, Benny often spoke of his 1923 Maxwell car, complete with fluttering, spouting, and other hilarious sound effects by the famous voice and sound master, Mel Blanc (who later gained worldwide fame as the voice of Bugs Bunny and an entire cast of animated cartoon characters).
Benny also used this, his personal car, in stage shows across the country, and for a good decade after Maxwell ceased production, kept the car maker’s name in mainstream culture. When his program made the jump from radio to television in 1950 as The Jack Benny Hour (it would run through 1965), a 1923 Good Maxwell Tourer was a prop that was often used with guests, and in skits, and was later joined by a 1916 model. He also would go on to make many public appearances in a Maxwell, most famously shaking the hand of U.S. President Harry S. Truman from the seat of a 1908 Maxwell roadster.
Built by the Maxwell Motor Corporation in Detroit from about 1904 to 1925 (when it ceased operations), the original price for a 1923 model was $885. Powered by a 185.8 cubic inch, L-Head four-cylinder engine, it was capable of achieving a whopping 27 horsepower. In October 1942, Benny surrendered his ride to a junkyard to support the efforts of World War II, receiving $7.50 in war stamps for the steel body and parts.
The present-day successor to the Maxwell company is Chrysler Group. We can’t help but wonder if the name will ever grace a Daimler-Chrysler model sometime in the future.