For all Friends was and continues to be to its fans – funny, corny, comfortable – the hit sitcom wasn’t exactly a show about cars.
Where Seinfeld had its Saabs and various hidden gems that make it an excellent way to go virtual car-spotting – not to mention the show’s namesake is a renowned Porschephile – the automobile didn’t play much of a role in the version of New York depicted on Friends. (In hindsight, maybe that lent a sense of credibility to the lives of these make-believe Manhattanites, of which less than a quarter own cars in real life, according to census data.) Even so, there were more than a few supporting roles occupied by the automobile over the years – they simply don’t stand out like they do in the show about nothing.
Now, I’m something of a rare breed among my age group: a Millennial who’s willing to admit to enjoying both shows. Yet I’ve lost count of the number of hard-seltzer-sipping hipsters and bros who have tried to shame me over the years for my fondness of Friends. In reality, it’s a perfectly delightful (though undoubtedly imperfect) journey through early adulthood.
It’s the comfort food of comedies, the kind of show I can – and do – consume religiously, just as with Seinfeld. That’s why I was tasked with assembling this list of the five most memorable cars from Friends. Some stand out more than others, but each played a significant enough role to earn its rightful place below.
1. Phoebe’s Cab
Of all the cars to appear on Friends over the years, none played a more significant role than the Buffay family cab. No less than a half-dozen times did the classic yellow cab play into the show’s various storylines over the years, starting with season two’s “The One with Phoebe’s Dad” (episode nine).
Pinpointing a precise model year is all but impossible, but there’s no denying that it’s a Checker Taxi (some online sources claim it’s a 1977 A11). Notorious for its poor condition, the story goes that it was originally a working taxi owned by Phoebe’s grandmother, Frances. Noteworthy ailments include a lack of seatbelts in the back and front passenger seats, and (apparently) a malfunctioning fuel gauge.
When Frances died a few seasons – and a couple cab appearances – later, Phoebe inherited the rundown Checker, which then managed to make the 5,000-mile round-trip journey to and from Las Vegas without issue (perfect for Joey and Phoebe’s frienaissance). It also stood the test of time, with the show’s writers including it in the series finale as Phoebe shuttles Ross to both John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports so he can profess his love to Rachel.
2. Gary’s Police Car
Season five was kind of a big deal for cars – at least by Friends standards. That was when Phoebe inherited her grandma’s cab, and when Joey borrowed it to drive to Las Vegas. Sandwiched in between is a fleeting love story involving Phoebe and an undercover cop named Gary.
His time on the show is brief – in all, Gary appeared in just four episodes – but half of it also involves his Ford Crown Victoria unmarked police car. They debut on screen together in episode 16 of season five, with Phoebe flashing Gary’s own badge at him in an attempt to get him to clear his car from the sidewalk in front of Central Perk; but that’s not what cements the car’s place in Friends lore.
No, it’s a few episodes later (season five, episode 20, to be exact) that does it, with Chandler, Joey, and Ross going for a ride-along with Gary – presumably in the same unmarked cruiser. With the help of a meatball sandwich, the Crown Vic leads to the guys reflecting on life and friendship in a way only Friends can pull off.
3. Joey’s Porsche 911
Jerry Seinfeld might be notorious for his love of Porsches, but never once did one of the brand’s vehicles play a supporting role in his show. Over in the Friends universe, however, the rear-engine 911 made its first appearance in the aptly named “The One with Joey’s Porsche” (season six, episode five).
The actual car’s time on-screen was brief; a little more than a minute, by my count. And yet it played prominently throughout, with the idea of 911 ownership infectious enough to inspire Joey to make one out of cardboard boxes that he tucks under a car cover – all in a bid to meet women, of course.
The car in question is a 996 – perhaps not the most desirable 911, but a 911 nonetheless. It appears to be a Carrera Cabriolet with a removable hardtop, which is a fairly cumbersome piece of equipment. What else do we know about the car? Not much, except that it has a leather interior, and Joey gets it up to 160 mph upstate. Oh, and it’s Por-sha!
4. Monica’s Porsche 911
Ah, to be as lucky as Monica Gellar. As if landing her grandparents’ rent-controlled palace of an apartment in Greenwich Village wasn’t enough, in season seven’s “The One where Rosita Dies” (episode 13) she ends up being handed the keys to her dad’s Porsche to make up for her childhood keepsakes getting ruined by water. Not a bad deal, if you ask me!
Unlike Joey’s 911, Monica’s newly acquired sports car is of the air-cooled variety. The 3.2 Carrera (some say it’s an ’85) features a targa top but no so-called Carrera tail. That means the louvres feeding air to the 3.2L flat-six are integrated into the trunk lid. Output was 207 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque – about the same as a modern Honda Civic Si.
The 911 appears again nine episodes later (season seven, episode 22), when Rachel finally steals the keys from Ross’s jacket after finding out she’s the only one of the six friends to not yet drive it. Fast-forward to the final season of Friends, and “The One with the Cake” (season 10, episode four) sees the 911 make yet another appearance, this time as Rachel and Ross do their best to replace an inadvertently inappropriate birthday cake.
5. Ross’s MGB
Of the many phases of Ross Gellar, his most brief was his time as a sports car enthusiast. It was in “The One They All Turn Thirty” (season seven, episode 14) that he shows off his newly acquired MGB Roadster – a car he seemingly never actually gets a chance to drive.
Just like Joey’s 911, the little roadster’s screen time is brief, yet the show’s writer’s managed to squeeze a cute storyline out of it. Wedged in between a rock and a hard place – or in this case, a wood-panelled Dodge Grand Caravan and what looks like some sort of General Motors (GM) J-body – the rubber-bumpered roadster never makes it out of its curbside parking space before the episode ends. We’re left to assume Ross decides to ditch the car after seeing a rolling stereotype in the closing scene: a heavyset, balding, middle-aged man driving an identical car.
It’s not as if this list was especially difficult to put together, although it might have been if it were any longer. That’s because Friends was never a show about cars in the first place, but as the ones listed here prove, there are plenty of ways to squeeze some comedic mileage out of even the most humble and hardworking automobiles around.