Robert B. Parker (1932 - 2010) made a tremendous impact on popular culture through his immensely successful and worthwhile series of mystery novels featuring his detective hero, Spenser. Along with 37 Spenser novels, his achievements continued as he launched other series featuring Jesse Stone, a small town police chief, and Sunny Randall, a Boston-based femaile private eye.
In total, Parker published over 60 books before his death at age 77, and had another one underway at the time of his lamented death. Millions of copies of his novels are sold worldwide; the plaudits in his obituraries streamed in from throughout the US and around the world.
As a writer and an individual, Parker never seemed to take himself too seriously - and this included his choice of automobiles to feature in his books.
The first Spenser novel, The Godwulf Manuscript (1974), set the right tone for its hero when Parker placed him in a late 1960's Chevy convertible, a bit ratty from age and city driving with a tear in its hood, unsuccessfully concealed by tape. Every auto fanatic knows that by the early '70's, convertibles had become rare birds as American manufacturers strove to keep ahead of safety standards by dropping drop tops. Car and Driver ran a comparison test of available convertibles during the late '70's and virtually all were British or European marques: MG, Triumph, Fiat, Rolls Royce, Alfa Romeo and VW.
Writing in the days when new cars sported vinyl roofs, opera lights, "fine Corinthian leather" and crushed velour interiors, landau irons, and bloated styling, Parker caught the essence of a man living true to himself, outside of conventional wisdom, when he put Spenser in the driver's seat of a car that elicited disdain from the valet parking attendant at Anthony's Pier 4.
By the early '80's, the last heyday of the British sports car in the US, Parker gave his hero an MG. Given Spenser's physique, it had to be an MGB [readers do know it was a convertible because the top leaked]; he would never have fit into an MG Midget. Still, it's his crime-detecting vehicle of choice in Ceremony (1980) and subsequent novels. He tracks New England car trends over the decades as Spenser migrates to Subaru 4WD's, a Mustang, and later, Jeep Cherokees.
As befits a writer keenly aware of popular culture, Parker's secondary characters run the roads with their own automotive statements. Spenser's "dark side" partner, Hawk, seems to have a Jaguar sedan that never exhibits any of the quality control problems associated with the marque. His significant other, Susan, moves from a '70's Nova to a full-sized Bronco, to an unidentified "rice rocket" which she always drives too fast.
Let's credit Parker with creating the only American fictional detective hero tackling society's ills with an MG (although I must credit the 1973 television program Harry O as the first American detective series to put a hero in a British sports car, a 60's Austin Healy Sprite).
Too bad he could never see Spenser in a Land Rover!
1968 Jaguar XJ6
1980 Ford Bronco
"The Land Rover is not a vehicle, it's a way of life."