‘Happy Days’: What Kind of Car Did the Cunningham Family Own on Show?

by Chris Haney
(Bettmann / Contributor via Getty)

The Cunninghams from the hit show Happy Days are one of the most beloved families in American television history. But can you remember what type of car the famous TV family owned?

From 1974 to 1984, the classic sitcom was one of the most popular shows on television. For 11 seasons the Cunningham family was at the heart of the famous show. Howard and Marion Cunningham were the loving parents of teenage son Richie – played by Ron Howard. The sitcom revolved around Richie and his three best friends who rounded out the core of the cast. Potsie (Anson Williams), Ralph Malph (Don Most), and fan-favorite greaser Fonzie (Henry Winkler) completed the group.

While most fans of the show will remember those characters, they may not remember other finer details about Happy Days. For example, we could just about guarantee most fans of the show couldn’t name the type of car the family drove. Here’s a refresher just in case you don’t remember.

The Cunningham family car was a 1948 DeSoto Custom Suburban. At the time of production, the model was the most expensive in the company’s line of cars. Of course, the show was filmed in the ’70s and ’80s, but it was set in the 1950s. So that helps explain why the family drove a late ’40s model car.

The Suburban could fit up to nine passengers and included a fold-down back seat. The model came with a standard metal and wood luggage rack, which made it perfect for family trips. In addition, it had a three-speed manual transmission, there were only 7,500 produced, and it cost $2,631 when it hit car lots across the country.

‘Happy Days’ Creator Explained Why the Cunninghams Were ‘Ideal Family’

The Cunningham family was supposed to be an idyllic Midwestern family of the 1950s/60s. Happy Days creator Garry Marshall once revealed what made the TV family perfect for the times.

Howard and Marion Cunningham curated a wholesome household on the sitcom. The parents of Richie and Joanie were both very involved in the life of their children and their friends, and they often displayed classic family values. During a March 2015 interview with The Guardian, Marshall discussed the idyllic family.

“One of our most popular episodes was when Fonzie pretended he had somewhere to spend Christmas, when really he was home alone. So Richie went around to take him for Christmas at the Cunninghams. For a lot of people, the Cunninghams were the ideal family. They always ate dinner together and would hug all the time,” the Happy Days creator explained.

Countless fans of the sitcom connected with the Cunningham family for numerous reasons. Some got a glimpse of their own picturesque families in the Happy Days characters. At the same time, other fans that weren’t so lucky to have a perfect family upbringing connected to them in hopes of having a Cunningham-like family one day.

“A lot of people who were abused growing up used to write to me and say they would watch Happy Days and think: ‘Maybe there’s a better family out there somewhere,’” Marshall said.