Car Phones!

Six Private Eye Who Had Car Phones


Once upon a time, there were no cell phones…

Okay, for those of you who haven’t jumped out the window screaming and are still here, you should know that the early adapters were not geeks, nerds and even multi-millionaires.

Nope, they were working guys, blue collar schlubs who were out on the mean streets day after day, knocking on doors and taking down names, and yes, keeping in touch via that most miraculous and wonderful of new inventions… the car phone. Although the first car telephones had appeared in the U.S. shortly after World War II, even by the sixties and seventies a car phone was still some serious, cutting edge shit — something you never saw in real life. But every week, on television, there was some private eye or another looking grim or worried or concerned, and calling someone.

  • Richard Diamond, Private Detective (1957–1960, NBC/CBS)
    David Janssen starred as  a Hollywood dick who drove a spiffy 1959 DeSoto Fireflite convertible, who regularly called in on his car phone to his answering service, looking for messages, and to flirt with Sam, the saucy operator, played by Mary Tyler Moore, whose face was never seen. But boy, did they focus on those legs!
  • Peter Gunn (1958–61, NBC/ABC)
    Sometimes it seemed like this jazz-loving gumshoe had it all: a cool hangout (Mother’s), an even cooler theme song, a great wardrobe (courtesy of Brooks Brothers) and a great and understanding girlfriend (Edie Hart). And even though we rarely saw it, he had a snazzy Plymouth Fury, that came complete with a black car phone. Just 9n case anybody asks, the number was JL1-7211.
  • Joe Shannon in Shannon (1961, syndicated)
    Sure, gadget crazy insurance dick Joe Shannon had a car phone. Why not? He had everything else in his car: a microphone and tape recorder that popped out of the dash, a movie camera that with the touch of a secret button rose from the front middle seat, another camera mounted near the driver’s outside rear view mirror, a spotlight, and several hidden compartments, including one that housed a gun.
  • Honey West (1965-66, ABC)
    Sure, all these guys had car phones, but Honey also had a pet ocelot, Bruce, riding shotgun in her jazzy white 1964 Shelby Cobra 289. Beat that, boys!
  • Joe Mannix in Mannix (1967–75, CBS)
    Mannix drove a succession of great cars, but his very first ride on the show, back in his Intertect days, was a George Barris-customized convertible Oldsmobile Toronado that came complete with a car phone… and a hidden compartment for a handgun. I know this is true, because it was the very first model car I built. 
  • Frank Cannon in Cannon (1971–76, CBS)
    Frank Cannon was a big man, and he drove a succession of big-ass Lincoln Continentals, all of them came equipped with car phones. Which made sense. The idea of Frank squeezing himself into assorted phone booths was never a pleasant site.
Respectfully compiled by Kevin Burton Smith.

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