We are counting down the Top 50 hot rods and street cars of all time that have made an appearance in a television series, or a memorable television episode. Starting from No. 50, and counting down to our No. 1 pick, follow along with our memories, and see where your favorite show lands.
47. Hazel: Ford Sponsorship Equals Plenty of Product Placement
I was still too young to remember every episode of the television sitcom series, “Hazel,” which aired from 1961 to 1966, but I do remember watching reruns as a child with my mother. Hazel (played by actress Shirley Booth) made her living as an upfront take-charge housekeeper/maid living in a suburb of New York with the Baxter family. She got into plenty of trouble over the five-season, 154-episode series, but it was all in good fun with happy endings.
The first four seasons of the program were sponsored by the Ford Motor Company, and as such it excelled in product placement as a marketing tool. Prime examples were featured in the driveway of the Baxter home as storylines were written specifically around a model, and sprinkled throughout episodes. In addition, commercials sandwiched between the programming featured Hazel and the Baxter’s as an extension of the plot. There was even a Thunderbird pedal car belonging to the Baxter’s child, Harold (Bobby Buntrock).
Two specific episodes involving early model Ford cars were “Hazel and the Model T” in season three, episode 16; “A Car Named Chrysanthemum” from season 5, episode 15, that featured a 1930 Model A. In both stories, Hazel purchases the jalopies for herself when Mr B (George Baxter, played by Don DeFore) refuses to buy her one.
Present day makes of the early to mid-‘60s were plentiful on the program. When the Mustang was introduced to the market, it was prominently featured as part of the storyline in an episode titled “Let’s Get Away From It All” on April 16, 1964. In fact, it is this very episode that is said to be credited with the first appearance of a Mustang on television!
On the heels of the Mustang’s introduction at the New York World’s Fair the previous day, this special promotion by Ford featured Hazel in the opening credits driving a red 1964.5 Mustang out of the Baxter driveway. The episode then opens with Hazel and the Baxter family making their way to the hardtop coupe parked in front of their home. Not only did the Mustang have a starring role in the episode, a vignette commercial featuring the cast of Hazel, in complete character, gave prime-time coverage to the new pony car.
While sponsored by the Ford Motor Company, many other iconic models were used in the five-year run, including several years of Thunderbirds, Galaxies, Fairlanes, Falcons, Country Squire Wagons, Econoline Vans, and F-Series trucks. In the final season, the Hazel show moved from NBC to CBS and Ford dropped its sponsorship. The latter part of the fifth season features Hazel in a two-door convertible 1959 Plymouth Sport Fury, among other makes.