So, you’ve decided to buy a certified pre-owned Chevy, but you’re not sure where to start. Why not get your wheels turning with some inspiration from the world of music and film? It’s inarguable that the Chevy name has secured its place in pop culture as an all-American favorite—making appearances in a wide range of media over the years, from classic film to contemporary television. Featuring a deep history and a long cast of A-list personalities, including bubbly pop stars and devious mobsters, Chevrolet’s demo reel continues to expand.
Here are some highlights of the brand’s impact on pop culture over the past several decades.
10. The Sammy Johns Van
The song “Chevy Van” by Sammy Johns was written in 1973, just a year after Johns graduated from Belmont High School in Gaston County, North Carolina. After its release in 1975, it climbed the Billboard Top 100 charts, topping out at number 5 in May 1975. Johns never mentions the specific model of the Chevy in the story and later revealed in an interview that the story itself was a fantasy and never truly happened. Hypothetically, if Johns had owned a new Chevy van at the time he wrote the song, it might have been a 1971 Chevy Beauville Sportvan. This was a popular model at the time that featured a boxy exterior, two rows of passenger seating, and a large rear cargo space that made it popular for travelers.
9. Tommy DeVito’s Impala Convertible
Goodfellas, starring the late Ray Liotta as Henry Hill, featured several noteworthy vehicles. These include the cherry red 1966 Chevrolet Corvette that briefly appeared in a scene in which Hill confronts the man who assaulted the woman he was dating. However, the car driven by the character Tommy DeVito, played by Joe Pesci, is given a great deal more screen time; this is the vehicle that Tommy and Henry are often seen driving. DeVito’s 1961 Chevy Impala Convertible is simply angelic with a white body and matching convertible top—a stark contradiction to the sociopathic nature of its owner.
8. The Hollaback Lowrider
Spending four weeks in the number 1 spot on the Billboard Top 100 list, “Hollaback Girl” from Gwen Stefani’s Love, Angel, Music, Baby seemed to pour from radio speakers—everywhere from local grocery stores to adrenaline-pumped amusement park rides in 2004. The image of Gwen Stefani riding down the street in a bright yellow 1961 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu with her likeness custom-painted on the hood might be just as iconic as the hit song. In the video, Stefani is seen riding in the Malibu with her Harajuku backup dancers through the Van Nuys and Reseda neighborhoods of Los Angeles.
7. The Long-Lost Chevelle from “Pulp Fiction”
In Pulp Fiction, John Travolta’s character, Vincent Vega, sports a cherry red 1964 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu when he escorts Mia Wallace, played by Uma Thurman, around Los Angeles for a night on the town. Did you know that the car featured in those scenes was actually personally owned by the film’s legendary writer and director, Quentin Tarantino, and was missing for almost twenty years? The Malibu was stolen in 1994 while the film was undergoing production—disappearing until 2013 when the Victorville Sheriff’s Department found it in Oakland, California.
6. The Chevy Don McLean Drove to the Levy
Released in 1971, the notoriously catchy chorus of the song “American Pie,” by Don McLean, contains the rhyming line, “Drove my Chevy to the levy”—forever imprinted in the minds of all who hear the tune. Long after the peak of the song’s success, McLean told MotorTrend Magazine in a 2017 interview that, like Sammy Johns, he had never personally owned a Chevy. However, McLean cites his love for the ‘57 Chevy Impala—even while growing up in a family of Ford-lovers—as inspiration for the legendary lyrics, specifying that it was the low rear end on those models that appealed to him.
5. Ice Cube’s Impala in “Boyz n the Hood”
Doughboy, Ice Cube’s character in Boyz n the Hood, is seen often throughout the film cruising around South Central, Los Angeles with his friends, brother, and girlfriend. In real life, the car, a 1963 Chevrolet Impala Convertible, actually belonged to the actor himself; he reportedly sold it to a buyer in Japan some years later. Impalas are heavily featured in Ice Cube’s work, including the video for his 1992 single “It Was a Good Day,” in which he is again depicted riding around South Central in a green 1964 Impala Convertible.
4. Ryan Gosling’s Malibu Sleeper
Viewers never learn the name of Ryan Gosling’s character in the 2011 noir-inspired film, Drive, in which Gosling stars as a professional stunt driver determined to fulfill his promise to an associate to protect the man’s wife after his demise. Equally as commanding as its onscreen owner, the protagonist’s personal vehicle is a dull gray 1973 Chevy Malibu, which the character chose for its inconspicuous appearance. But as the film progresses, viewers discover that the car, like its driver, packs an astonishing amount of intensity and power. During the production process, Ryan Gosling was reportedly allowed to choose his character’s car from a junkyard—after considering his character’s personality at length.
3. Prince’s Little Red Corvette
As a master of innuendo, Prince managed to seamlessly merge sexually-undertoned song lyrics with the classic notion of a red Chevrolet Corvette as a “sexy car”—ultimately producing the hit 1982 song “Little Red Corvette.” Chock-full of suggestive metaphor, the song reminded listeners that the Corvette maintains its status as the original sexy car—even as the Chevy name became synonymous with workhorse pickup trucks. Fun fact: Prince wrote “Little Red Corvette” after spending the night with a woman in a pink Mercury.
2. Tony Soprano’s Suburban
Even if you’ve never watched The Sopranos, you’d likely recognize the opening sequence of the show—in which Tony Soprano, played by James Gandolfini, takes his routine drive from Manhattan to his home in New Jersey in his 1999 Chevrolet Suburban 4×4. He is depicted regularly throughout the show in and around the vehicle, often with a cigar in one hand. The Suburban has been featured so heavily in film and TV, in general, that it’s even earned its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—although it was placed in Texas, where Suburbans are built, instead of Hollywood. Fast forward to 2022, when viewers were treated to an updated version of the Sopranos sequence, sans-Suburban, as an ad for the Chevrolet EV Silverado. The commercial, dubbed “New Generation,” featured the same scenes shown in the show’s opening—only with Jamie Lynn Sigler, the actress who played Meadow, in the driver’s seat of an EV Silverado, holding a lollipop instead of a cigar.
1. The American Graffiti Impala
The white 1958 Chevy Impala owned by Steve Bolander, Ron Howard’s character in the 1973 film American Graffiti, had remained undriven since shortly after filming in 1972. After years of asking the previous owners to sell, NASCAR racer and TV personality Ray Evernham acquired the car; it was finally put up for auction in 2015. The crew he assembled to restore the vehicle carefully watched American Graffiti scene-by-scene, capturing stills to provide a perfectly detailed reference for the project. Eventually, they were able to restore the car to its appearance at the time of the film using salvageable materials in the vehicle, as well as some replacement parts. The car was proudly unveiled at the 2016 SEMA show by Evernham and Candy Clark, the actress who played Debbie Dunham in the film.