From dentist to superstar to Olympic gold medalist, there’s no doubt Barbie is one busy woman. With blonde locks coiffed to perfection, a wardrobe that would make even Paris Hilton blush, a killer career and a pink mansion (pool included), Barbie seems to have it all – including a garage bursting with Corvettes, Jeeps and Volkswagens, just to name a few.
Born Barbara Millicent Roberts, the fashion doll has long demonstrated her fierce passion for fast and fun cars. Though Barbie first stepped on the scene in 1959, it was not until 1962 that the first Barbie doll drove in her very own automobile. This car was a British Austin-Healey roadster type, available in bubblegum pink or a subtler orange-brown with tortoise interior seating. Created by Irwin Corp for Mattel, the Austin-Healey 3000 MKII car was a two seater intended for Barbie and her boyfriend, Ken. By choosing this style car, marketed as “Barbie’s own Sportscar,” it added an economical vibe to the doll’s image, which is not evident as much in later years. Sears was one store that benefited from the increasing popularity of Barbie dolls as it advertised the toys based on a German-made BMW style sports car.
Then, in 1962, came the Mercedes Benz in a sweet, Robbins-egg blue hue. Barbie’s second ride was a two seated sports car like her last roadster, but this time around it was geared toward Barbie, Ken and Midge, Barbie’s best friend. With an exposed engine attached to the front of the vehicle, the toy automobile had quite the intricate design, an element lacking in the 1963 to 1964 Racy Hot Rod made by Mattel. Made of somewhat cheap-looking plastic, Barbie’s hot ride came painted in holiday-looking red or green colors. Around this same period, Barbie’s younger sister, Skipper, got in the driver’s seat in a greenish-blue Mercedes in 1964 and another one in 1968.
Have you ever wondered why Barbie has flaunted such ardent affection for convertibles throughout her lifetime? It is not just because the buxom bombshell likes her top down. Most of Barbie’s cars come sans roof because it allows children to actually place their dolls inside the compact seats and see their toys in action. But there is something to be said for the easy breezy delight of seeing Barbie’s long, flaxen hair blowing in the wind.
As the 1970s emerged, Mattel, the company that brought Barbie dolls to fruition, gave the Golden Girl a convertible Chevrolet Corvette. While this ‘Vette came in colors like candy apple red, vibrant yellow and electric blue, the most popular paint job, by far, was pink. During this time, remote controlled Corvettes sold well and were plentiful in stores, but present day, these varieties are difficult to find.
When many people think of the 1970s, Woodstock is something that immediately comes to the forefront of the mind. In 1972, the first Country Camper was crafted to allow Barbie and her friends to travel in style – flower power style. The camper was decorated with brightly-colored flowers and rainbows stuck against a background shade of mustard-yellow with Dreamsicle orange trim, a perfect complement to Barbie’s groovy bell bottom inspired wardrobe. Varieties included the Volkswagen Camper in 1971, the Beach Bus Boating Trailer in 1973 and the Barbie Star Traveler Motor Home in 1976.
As the 1980s jazzed their way in, Barbie began achieving true superstar status debuting as the lead in her own band, Barbie and the Rockers. To stay on-trend with the doll’s ’80s rock-and-roll glamor theme, Mattel gave her a shiny new set of wheels. To continue driving forward in Barbie’s newly-acquired extravagant lifestyle, the toy’s producers introduced the Ferrari 328 GTS convertible in a glistening shade of crimson. In 1982, Barbie acquired yet another Corvette, the Silver ‘Vette, which spiraled into a long line of upgraded Corvettes to come, including the DreamVette and the Ultra ‘Vette. One way this toy car was advertised was through the use of commercials that featured a 1985 Ultra ‘Vette in a slick magenta paint wash.
Then, a Rolls-Royce rolled into Barbie world, followed by a light blue and white trimmed Volkswagen Cabriolet in 1985. A transition from the first Barbie who was originally meant to be a seventeen year old fashion model, the compact Cabriolet was incorporated to symbolize a shift from carefree teen to a more mature, family-oriented Barbie. This Heart Family car was fixed with a driver’s seat, a passenger’s seat and two additional back seats that had the option to insert child car seats. To advance the familial image, a license plate with the word “Family” was offered as a sticker.
In spite of Barbie’s shift toward maturity, the end of the eighties delivered a throw back to the past with the debut of the 1957 styled Chevy Bel-Air drop top convertible. This toy car channeled the thrill of the chase with the resurgence of Grease-like hot rod Barbie cars.
Bronzed, beach babe Malibu Barbie donned an emerald colored grass skirt. But that is not all she donned. In 1987, Barbie acquired a 4 x 4 “Island Fun” motorized Jeep as well as a California Dream “Jeep ‘n Beach.” Painted in none other than Barbie’s famous pink hue, the latter vehicle also included barbecue and pool equipment.
What’s more, there is no question that Barbie is an outgoing social butterfly who loves to surround herself with a posse of friends and family. To accommodate the fashion doll’s socialite status, a California Dream Barbie Beach Taxi was showcased as was the Barbie stretch limousine. At thirty two inches long with spacious rear seating, the newest addition to Barbie’s car closet came in a pale pink color with gold trimming and had the potential to fit approximately six Barbie dolls in the back of the limo.
The psychedelic seventies may have initiated an ethereal, outdoorsy vibe with the inclusion of toy motor vehicles like the GMC motor home, but the eighties took the style to another level. This vehicle made the smooth transition from the 1970s Flower Child sunshiny yellow Barbie Country Camper motor home to the 1980s rock star inspired pale purple touring edition motor home.
Barbie’s scope of popularity expanded during the 1990s when the Mattel Corporation signed off on a series of commercials, contracts, and of course, cars. Mastering approximately 130 different professions and careers, Barbie needed many different ways to get from one job to the next. In order to keep up with Barbie’s active and demanding lifestyle, Mattel decided to introduce a whole school of cars to fit inside Barbie’s ever-growing garage. The body style of choice for the preppy and popular doll was the convertible, naturally. Some of her most popular sets of wheels were the BMW Z8, the luxe Lexus SC40 and the Ferrari 360, just to name a few.
The signature “Barbie pink” shade got a make over during the nineties, when Mattel brought forth a slew of automobiles offered in an array of other colors outside of the standard plastic pink. Cars like the 1990s Mercedes-Benz M-Class in metallic purple and the Ferrari F430 Spider in electric white were flaunted by Barbie and her crew during this time period.
Available in an assortment of paint shades including white, green, purple and blue as well as the classic red and yellow shades, the 1991 Barbie Porsche 911 Cabriolet was the epitome of subtle coolness. Fully equipped with a chic hot pink interior and fixed, raised headlights, this toy car lit up the Barbie world in style.
An old automotive classic resurfaced in the 1990s when Barbie and her on again off again boy toy, Ken, came cruising through SunnyVille in a throw back convertible Mustang. While the light pale pink version of the car was feverishly popular among children, another version drove onto the scene, making a splash. This convertible was a two seater with a small back compartment to store Barbie’s plethora of purses while on the open road.
At the genesis of the new millennium, Barbie began to see an increase in family-style cars once again. Trading in her impossibly pink convertibles for green station wagons like the Volvo V70. Perpetuating a more sensible side to the typically fun-loving and extravagant doll, Mattel began positioning Barbie as a family-friendly gal, producing a Volkswagen Vanagon, and a Volkswagen New Beetle. These cars were not just geared to fit Barbie and Ken, but were meant to hold the plastic golden girl’s married friends, Midge and Alan, and their two young children, as well.
In spite of this family-forward trend, Barbie still possessed a party girl attitude in many ways. One of these ways rested in her alternative modes of transportation. From the sassy fold-out party bus she sported around this same time along with the Porsche Boxster Sports Car, the 2003 Ford Thunderbird and the 2005 Ford Mustang, it is clear that Barbie has yet to relinquish her zippy, sporty, flirty persona.
In February of 2004, Barbie faced some tough relationship decisions in her personal life as she broke up with her boyfriend of more than forty years, Ken doll. After Ken released a public statement saying he is thrilled with Barbie’s new look and career success, Barbie went out on a shopping spree – not just any shopping spree, but a megawatt car shopping spree.
One year after Midge, Alan and their kids were showcased in the “Happy Family” Volvo V70 SUV minivan (fully equipped with child car seats and a spacious back hatch), Barbie and Ken’s relationship fell apart. This gave Barbie a chance to exercise her many options as an independent woman, which she did by purchasing a “My Scene” Club Car convertible. After forty three years with the plastic guy doll, Ken, Barbie was given the opportunity to expand her car repertoire considerably as she ventured out on her own.
While convertibles seem to be the staple in Barbie-world, there have been a variety of non-drop top vehicles in tow in Barbie Toyland. One of these cars being Barbie’s favorite sports utility vehicle popular for nearly two decades, none other than the classically colored, pink Jeep.
Barbie has long been the embodiment of the star-studded glamorous lifestyle coveted by young girls and mature women alike. During the 1960s, Barbie was modeled after bodies and lifestyles of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. However, with each passing year, Barbie has continued to stay on-trend with the times.
Demonstrating just how influential Barbie dolls still are since their introduction in 1959, today’s celebrities have been jumping on the Barbie bandwagon. Platinum blonde and wealthy heiress, Paris Hilton can be seen as a real-life version of Barbie with respect to her entrepreneurship, socialite presence, color-coordinated handbags, love of everything and anything pink, and now, a Barbie-inspired Bentley. In 2008, Simple Life star and fashion icon, Paris Hilton, purchased a posh pink Bentley Continental GT as a Christmas gift to herself, shelling out more than $200,000 for the Barbie-licious ride. With incredible speed and agility, it is hard to believe that the picturesque pink car is on the heavier end of 5,000 pounds. Running steadily and luxuriously with a 6 -liter W12 engine and an acceleration speed of 0 to 60 in 4.3 seconds, this Bentley is the epitome of fast-and-furious Barbie.
Present day, Barbie recently celebrated her 50th birthday with a brand new car – a pink convertible, of course. To complete her California Girl persona, Malibu Barbie was given this pink Volkswagen which exhibits that the Barbie name is just as powerful and enlivened as it was when the toy was first introduced.
Bringing her image full circle, it is imperative to note one of the rare, limited edition automobiles available to buy for Barbie. In 1994, a strikingly intricately crafted Jaguar XJS was released with a full body all over coat of sparkled pink paint.
At the turn of the century, Mattel introduced a navy blue hued Jeep Wrangler. In light of the newly budding technological age, this Barbie car was given a special feature: a remote to control the doll sized car.
Perhaps one of the most popular Barbie-mobiles of the early 2000s would have to be the Barbie Volkswagen VW Beetle bug car. Coming in a wide variety of colors to suit all of Barbie’s personalities and styles, this modern looking toy car was on many young children’s wish lists when first introduced. This sturdy, shapely Beetle had a more realistic look to it than some of Barbie’s ultra colorfully upholstered car interiors. The standard color of the seating and fixtures on the 2000 Volkswagen was a nude or neutral tan shade with a black dashboard and black b-pillars. Some of the paint colors offered included a deep purple color, a classy jet black, mint green, cerulean and silver, along with the usual reds, yellows, and pinks.
In 2010, the pint sized doll got a full sized gift when Mattel received guidance from Volkswagen of America, Inc. in constructing a new Beetle convertible automobile. This real life car was designed to be a present to commemorate the birth of the first Barbie doll. But Volkswagen was not the only company jumping on the automotive Barbie car train. Fiat introduced a Special Edition Fiat 500 ride in slick fuchsia. Weighing in on the life size Barbie vehicle, Fiat 500 creator, Robert Giolito declared that “All-American Ms. Barbie already has a number of ‘transport solutions’ available, like thundering GTs and motor homes with endless accessories.” However, the features on this car in particular shine light on the resurgence of the idea that dreams can come true. With a white and pink interior color scheme and rounded buggy body style, this set of wheels is sure to turn heads and elicit nostalgic memories of dressing up Barbie dolls in fabulous clothing and pushing the plastic princesses around in perfectly pink toy cars. Inside the interior of the Fiat 500 there are soft mats made of silk and sleek viscous lending an all over shiny, glistening look to the already chic ride. But this life size car would not be Barbie enough without some glamorous glimmer. One of the main accessories to this vehicle is the inclusion of jewel encrusted hubcaps, antenna, and window ridges to accentuate the stylish Barbie modeled automobile.
In 2011, Playhut manufactured a glamorous pop up SUV that fit two kids in order to contend with the growing demand for new Barbie brand toys. Rumored to have gotten back with Barbie, Ken underwent a “cool” make over. Donning chic black sunglasses and a side swept blond hairdo, in 2012, Ken began driving a sharp blue Mini Cooper adorned with two white race car stripes on the hood.
No matter what way you dress her, there is no denying the impact Barbie has had on and off the toy store shelf, as well as in the automotive world. From the thrifty Austin-Healey sports car to the star studded Mercedes Benz to the Volkswagen Beetle to the classic Corvettes, Barbie is no ditz when it comes to choosing the coolest cars.