A Christmas Story, the beloved 1983 classic, has become a staple on cable television during the Christmas season. While many are familiar with the movie, fewer may know that its creator, Jean Shepherd— a writer and radio personality— was a devoted car enthusiast. Shepherd’s automotive interests extended to MGs, Porsches, Morgans, and even a Goggomobil. He actively participated in sports car rallies as an announcer and contributed monthly columns to Car and Driver magazine, infusing A Christmas Story with his unique perspective on automobiles.
Both Jean Shepherd and director Bob Clark were intentional about creating an “amorphously late-’30s, early-’40s” setting for the film. The narrative intentionally avoids specifying a particular year, and World War II is notably absent, preserving the movie’s tone. The vehicles featured in the film were chosen not to pinpoint a specific era but rather to evoke a particular time and mood, presenting the story as a cherished recollection shared by a friend.
For instance, in the iconic scene where Ralphie’s schoolmate Flick (Scott Schwartz) accepts a “triple dog dare” and sticks his tongue to the frozen flagpole, the authorities arrive in a 1948 Chevrolet Stylemaster police car and a 1938 Ford LaFrance fire truck. Remarkably, the same Ford LaFrance from the movie is said to still belong to the Chippewa Volunteers Firefighters Association in Ontario.
During the memorable fight scene between Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) and the neighborhood bully Scut Farkus (Zack Ward), the alley near the school features two striking props: a pair of derelict Ford Model A bodies in red oxide primer. Ralphie walks through a Cabriolet body, while a Briggs Tudor Sedan body serves as the backdrop for the scuffle.
Ralphie’s mother, played by Melinda Dillon, intervenes in the fight, passing by the distinctive front end of a 1937 Hudson Terraplane. Notably, Jean Shepherd, a master storyteller, artfully left out many details, providing just enough information to propel the tale forward.
Throughout the movie, we never learn Ralphie’s dad’s name (played by Darren McGavin). Still, we do discover that “the old man,” as he’s known, was a Chicago Bears and Indianapolis 500 fan who favored Oldsmobiles. Specifically, he drove a 1937 Oldsmobile F-37 Six Touring Sedan. As the adult Ralphie, voiced by Jean Shepherd himself, fondly recalls, “Some men are Baptists; others Catholics. My father was an Oldsmobile man.”
And so, the timeless charm of A Christmas Story is not only in its holiday spirit but also in the meticulous details, including the carefully selected automobiles, that transport viewers to a nostalgic and heartwarming world.