The Kick-Butt (and Not So Much) Cars of Cobra Kai

Audi S5, 2009 Dodge Challenger, BMW 4 Series, and one vehicle Johnny hates. 

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Cobra Kai, the Karate Kid spinoff series, was picked up by Netflix in June of last year after a run on YouTube Red. Now in season three, audiences are watching by the millions, including me. I have never binge-watched a show in my life and I devoured seasons one and two in a week over the summer. It’s campy deliciousness, and the drama is entertaining; the cars are a tasty and indispensable side dish. 

Cars play an important part in the original Karate Kid franchise. After all, part of Daniel’s training was to wax Miyagi-san’s collection of post-war classic cars. When Miyagi-san handed Daniel the keys to the 1947 Ford Super De Luxe for his birthday, I felt a stab of envy myself. The old Ford returns to the small screen on the continuation of the story in Cobra Kai, along with a host of other vehicles. There are even a few fast-paced car scenes, including one in which a new Audi sedan pursues an aging Dodge minivan.

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*Mild spoilers ahead, but none that will ruin the main storylines. Proceed.*

Johnny Lawrence, the villain we loved to hate from the original film series, started season one in a well-loved 1991 Pontiac Firebird with a mottled paint job. After an unfortunate incident during which his Firebird turns into a flaming s’more, he chooses a new 2009 Dodge Challenger to replace it. It’s “badass”.

Johnny, trying to play it cool at the car dealership his nemesis Daniel LaRusso owns, points at the Challenger and says, "This one's not half-bad."

"It's a 2009 Challenger, 5.8-liter,” Daniel says, car-salesman style.

Johnny corrects him with a smirk: "5.7."

Two Dodge vehicles play prominent roles: the Challenger and a boosted 1993 Grand Caravan with some life left in it. In the “Back in Black” episode, the Challenger gets a makeover with the distinctive black-and-yellow colors of the Cobra Kai dojo, plus the seats are stitched with the cobra logo, black rims, and an over-the-top cobra-head gear shifter.

Improbably, the Grand Caravan, which shows more than 150,000 miles on the odometer, outruns Daniel's daily driver, a 2018 Audi S5 that has more than twice the horsepower. Daniel’s dealership on the show had it priced at $909, so they didn’t think much of the condition. It embarrasses Johnny to drive it, but he doesn't have much choice at the time. Sharp-eyed Reddit users pointed out that it’s not a 1993 but a later model; a quick comparison of the nose and grille on a 1993 edition versus a 2001 proves they’re right. 

Other vehicles play smaller roles, like the BMW 4-series Daniel’s daughter Sam drives, and a whole showroom full of cars at both Daniel’s and his competition’s dealerships. Doyona, the fictional Japanese automaker in the show, brings an element of automotive drama in season three, and every time a character said “Doyona” I thought “Toyota”.

In 2014, Ralph Macchio revealed that gorgeous pale-yellow 1947 Ford convertible is in his garage to this day.

That old twinge of envy returns.  

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