These Are the Wild Cars of Netflix’s Tiger King
Come for the cats, stay for the cars.
If three weeks ago we would've told you that a flamboyant zookeeper named Joe Exotic would become a household name in America after the release of a Netflix docu-series that oddly coincided with the government's orders to quarantine at home due to a deadly virus outbreak, would you have believed us? Probably not, and we wouldn't blame you for it.
Yet here we are, living life drastically different than we were earlier this month, with some automakers shuttering their plants while others adjust them to build life-saving medical equipment. In the midst of this crisis, one force that's larger than life has united the country with hilarious memes and cringe-worthy country music videos. Its name is Tiger King, and within days, it seems, it's replaced every Baby Yoda meme with one of a tiger, lion, or Carole Baskin.
Netflix's latest blockbuster features a spicy recipe for success: gobs of drama, guns, murder for hire, things that go boom, inflatable dolls, mullets, big cats, sequined shirts, leather pants, cowboy boots, meth, weed, Latin American drug traffickers, people losing limbs to wild animals, and of course, cars.
It's because of that last one that we decided to watch the entire series a second time—this time for work, you see—to comb for all, if not most cool cars featured on the seven-episode series. Granted, there are a hundred or so cars that make brief appearances on screen, but we mostly focused on the ones that played some sort of role in the story or were driven by the show's main characters.
If you haven't watched the show and you don't want us to ruin it for you, exit now. If you haven't watched the show and don't plan on watching it, here's the CliffsNotes version: A man named Joe Exotic (not his real name, as you might guess) owned a massive facility in Oklahoma where he kept hundreds of big cats and other wild animals like bears and crocodiles (the latter would eventually be burned alive in a mysterious case of arson).
Exotic had a lifelong enemy named Carole Baskin, an animal rights activist he believes killed and fed her second husband to the tigers in order to keep his fortune. At some point, Joe had two husbands at the same time, but one would eventually die of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while the other one left him when things started to get crazy.
When faced with a millionaire lawsuit that threatened to put him out of business, Joe partnered with a questionable character named Jeff Lowe, who he eventually signed over the zoo to protect his assets—but that's when things really went downhill. Fueled by his hatred for Baskin, Joe allegedly paid another questionable man (basically the handyman of the already questionable Lowe) to murder Baskin. Joe was also found guilty of 17 charges of animal abuse.
Get all that? You should watch the show if you haven't. Now, onto the rides.
Some Dude's Chevrolet Astro Van
It all starts with the show's producer encountering a random man who had a freaking snow leopard in the back of his Chevrolet Astro van. This scene sets the tone for the poor animals of the show, as the producer highlights that a cold-weather animal was stuck in the back of a van that must've been at least 100 degrees.
Joe Exotic's Chevrolet Silverado HD 3500
Not much is known about this truck, other than Joe Exotic used it as a makeshift concert stage during the filming of the I Saw Tiger music video, which you can watch here. And you should. It's the banger that will get us through 2020.
Mario Tabraue's Bentley Continental GT
Just when you thought that the show was all about gun-toting rednecks, the plot introduces Mario Tabraue, a former drug trafficker from Cuba who allegedly dismembered a body with a machete and was even the inspiration for Scarface's Tony Montana. On the show, Tabraue appears to own Contie GT and a sizable collection of exotic animals, including several big cats. More shockingly, the Florida-based character was once sentenced to 100 years in prison but was released after serving just 12 years.
Freightliner Century Semi Truck
Exotic's early days as a zookeeper, magician, comedian, and tiger breeder, forced him and his husband to live on the road. This Freightliner Century shown on the show is where they allegedly called home while traversing the country putting on tiger-petting shows at malls, parties, etc.
GMC Sierra and Ford F-150
Not a lot was discussed about these GMC Sierra and Ford F-150 pickup trucks driven by Joe Exotic, but what we do know is that his tigers always rode shotgun—and that's all we really care to know.
It's perhaps the smallest car featured on the series that's caught the most attention from viewers, including us. It's the Kandi Coco or KD08E, a miniature electric car from China with a range of approximately 40 miles. This open-top version is apparently limited to a top speed of 25 mph and Oklahoma residents could import it the United States for as little as $865 once all federal and state EV credits were applied. (h/t: Scott Evans)
Our friends over at Jalopnik have a deeper dive into what this thing is.
John Reinke's Various Toys
John Reinke was Joe Exotic's zoo manager and friend for many years. We don't know exactly if Reinke afforded all these cool rides like dirt-track racers and Polaris Slingshots from his day job (it was made clear that Joe didn't exactly pay well), but it really doesn't matter. He allegedly lost his legs during a ziplining accident and then decided to get a job handling big cats in order to overcome depression.
John Finlay's Ford F-150
John Finlay was Joe Exotic's first husband, and allegedly the recipient of five pickup trucks "and anything else he wanted," according to Finlay's statement on the show. We never actually witness all of those trucks, but we do get a good shot at one of the F-150s he used to transport big cats around the country.
Jeff Lowe's Ferrari F430 and Hummer H2
Lowe's partnership with Exotic marked the beginning of the end for the Tiger King. Lowe was reportedly a fraud and a swinger, and also the owner of a Ferrari F430 and Hummer H2 with oversized chrome wheels. Much like his questionable taste for wheels, he was also a big fan of Affliction and Oakley gear.
Don Lewis' Chevrolet Silverado
It's unclear if Don Lewis was actually driving a Chevrolet Silverado when he first met Carole Baskin. According to the show, Baskin was walking the streets after running away from an argument with her first husband. Lewis, who is recreated as the driver of a late '70s Silverado, pulled over to see if she was okay but ended up spending the night with her at a motel despite both of them being married.
Don Lewis' Ram 1500 Van
According to Carole Baskin, on the day of his disappearance, Don Lewis drove to a nearby regional airport in this sweet Ram conversion van and was never seen again. It's rumored that Carole drove the van and parked it there to throw off investigators, but no one actually knows what happened.
Lincoln Navigator Limousine
Exotic allegedly rented this Lincoln limo for various parades and events during his candidacy for Oklahoma governor. It is shown on various scenes and is also a point of contention between him and Lowe, who typically argued about zoo funds being misused on his campaign for governor of Oklahoma.
James Garretson's Toyota Tundra
James Garretson calls himself the "whistleblower" of the Tiger King shitshow and played a crucial role in getting Joe Exotic in jail. He can be seen hopping into his blacked-out, late-model Toyota Tundra pickup in various scenes. Per Garretson, "he's not done yet," meaning that he supposedly has more dirt on Joe, Lowe, and other big cat collectors.
Tiger King II, anyone?