After teasing the audience with 276 little white boxes, Oprah told them: "If your box has a key, you will be the last person to get one of those cute little G6s."
It didn't take a long to realize that everyone had a key in their box. The crowd's joyous squeals were deafening as Oprah pointed and screamed, "You get a car! You get a car! You get a car! You get a car! Everybody gets a car!"
Watch Oprah's famous car giveaway:
Of course, the excitement was short lived. A week later, CNN Money reported that pesky tax laws would ruin the fun: The brand new Pontiac models given away on the show had a sticker price of $28,500, which would need to be claimed as income. That income would be taxed and, depending on the recipient's tax bracket, the "winner" would have to fork over as much as $7,000 to Uncle Sam.
At the time, Oprah's Harpo Productions said winners could keep the car and pay the tax, sell the car and pay the tax with the profits, or forfeit the car completely.
One winner who decided to sell the car was Kiley Russell. A recent update on Oprah's OWN show "Oprah: Where Are They Now?" highlighted Russell, who sold her G6 and used the money to start her own business, a makeup line that includes an Oprah tribute lipgloss called Angel's Halo.
"I decided to sell the car and use that as seed money to start Big Girl Cosmetics," Russell said. "Since [Oprah] gave us our start, and she was my angel, I thought it'd be nice to offer a tribute to her."
After calling Macy's every day for two years, Russell's dream came true when the department store chain came calling back and ultimately started carrying her line. In the end, Oprah's gift turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving.
In 2012, Inside Edition tracked down some other of the winners of the infamous G6s.
Winner Molly Vielweber said she lets her daughter drive her car -- which still boasts an original Oprah license plate -- and sometimes her daughter sees people taking pictures of the car while she's driving it. But another winner, Tricia Nester, immediately sold her car for $23,000, after logging a mere 15 miles on it.
Meanwhile, tax implications didn't stop the car-happy host from gifting. By 2010, when Oprah gave away the not-yet-introduced 2012 VW Beetle to yet another audience, the tax issues weren't taxing to the winners. According to the New York Post, Harpo said that the show made "a good faith estimate of the tax due for each audience member" and paid the bill on their behalf.
Now, nearly a decade after that iconic G6 gift, it appears that Oprah is still being a fairy car-mother even though she no longer has a daily chatfest. During an appearance last month on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," she randomly picked a woman in the audience to receive a brand new Ford Fusion Energi.
Kimmel's wife Molly McNearney, who's a head writer on the show, told TV Guide that producers arranged to get the car in a nod to that iconic moment from her old TV show, and then ran the idea it by Oprah. "We came up with the idea of her giving away one car, and she loved it," McNearney said. "She liked the idea that she was overcome with this affliction and that she had to shake it out of her system. She just wanted to randomly select someone. So she did."
Indeed, after Oprah surprised the stunned audience member, she told Kimmel she can't help herself. When Kimmel asked her how often this car giveaway stuff happens, Oprah said, "I don't know what comes over me. Every once in a while, it just happens, especially when I skip lunch." (The show dubbed her spontaneous car giveaways a "debilitating condition.")
As for the Pontiac G6, the car was discontinued in 2010, so clearly not everything Oprah touches turns to gold. In fact, some things even turn to "sold."
Check out Oprah's Jimmy Kimmel car giveaway:
"Oprah: Where Are They Now?" airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on OWN.
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