Every star car has it’s biggest fan, and they usually end up owning the car of their dreams.
On a rainy day television shoot, SCC member Dave Kunz turned me on to this story of the Hawaii 5-0’s Mercury.
If I am channel surfing and see Hawaii 5-0 (for the fiftieth state) I will watch to see if I can catch a chase scene with huge American cars tearing around the roads of Hawaii. There is not much info on the cars from the TV series so I will simply let Michael Timothy tell the story of his car, his way! Read on, Star Car fans!
Swishing Tahitian hips, flashing blue lights, boom-boom-boom giant combers crashing into shore, jerky camera shots and a black Mercury hardtop racing off into the Hawaiian night.
For twelve remarkable years, from September, 1968, to April, 1980, the U.S. television public was treated to a weekly viewing of CBS Television’s number one rated series, Hawaii Five-O. For at least six of those years, my Mercury was the automotive star of that show. A trip to Hawaii in March, 1986, and subsequent return with Steve McGarrett’s undercover car ended a burning desire to acquire this special Mercury and make it part of my collection. Here is as much of the story as I can disclose.
For many years I was impressed with the big, black hardtop — a 1968 Mercury Parklane Brougham 4-door. This car was used from the series premiere on September 26, 1968, to its partial destruction during the 1978 season. This car is perhaps the most photographed Mercury in existence, having appeared in approximately 130 Five-O episodes. Three black Mercurys were used by McGarrett during the life of the series; the least frequently seen was a ’67 Marquis, black, red interior. [A 2-door car.] This vehicle was used in filming the pilot and for stock footage. My Brougham took over once the series began and was in use by McGarrett through the 1973 season. In ’74, McGarrett got his last Mercury, a triple black ’74 Marquis Brougham 4-door hardtop. Someone go out and find this one. [This is the one owned by John Boley Nordium, Jack Lord’s stunt double.]
Eventually, my desire for this car led me to acquire a ’68 Parklane convertible which I still have, and which is currently undergoing restoration. The convertible was fun but did not satisfy my desire to get a Hawaii Five-O car. As the years passed, and as I learned more about the show, I became determined to track the car down and determine its fate.
Through a mutual acquaintance, I was put in touch with the show’s star and part owner, Jack Lord. At that time, March, 1986, he was essentially retired from public life. From studying each of the show’s episodes I knew that the car was partially destroyed in a 1978 episode entitled “Number One With a Bullet.” It was now eight years later and there was virtually no assurance that any trace of the car could be found. Regardless, I set off for Honolulu International Airport.
CBS had long shut down Five-O production. However, to amortize production costs, a new series, Magnum, P.I. took over. Magnum used most of the Five-O production facilities. I knew that CBS maintained a production warehouse at Fort Ruger, and that’s where I headed. If the car still existed, it likely was in that warehouse, broken and battered. Some small talk, a little quick thinking on my part, and a generous bribe got me into the warehouse. I told the security guard why I was there and what I was looking for. In his best pidgin English he told me I was crazy — what did I want with that old heap? But he took me directly to the remains of the once proud car — it still existed! But not by much, for it truly had become a sad sight. Every panel was dented or missing; moderate front end damage from the altercation with the Kumu (Hawaiian Mafia) in its last TV appearance; many trim parts were missing; interior ripped, partially burned and ravaged by a mongoose who made a home in the trunk. A few minutes later I left with only a record of what was left of the VIN number. Then the real work began.
Upon my return to Chicago, the untold story unfolded. Numerous phone calls to CBS-TV public relations and legal departments were made. CBS personnel disavowed all knowledge of ownership of the car. I also knew that Ford Motor Co. supplied many shows, including Five-O with cars to feature. Neither Ford Motor nor Lincoln-Mercury public relations departments had any records going back to 1968, though certain employees knew from “old-timers” that corporate-owned, or “program” cars, would frequently be donated to producers and the networks for production use only. Still, I knew the car existed but could not get anyone to claim ownership, much less desire to sell the hulk.
Needless to say, I eventually wore down CBS to the point that they were pleased to get that corner of the warehouse cleared out and me out of their hair. I did not get a bill of sale, but what legally amounted to a “quit-claim” of any interest that CBS, as a bailee of the car, might assert. A check with the Hawaii Department of Motor Vehicles showed no evidence of the car ever being titled or plated on the Island. Several months, countless long distance phone calls later, the hulk was crated up and transferred by Sea-Land Transport to Long Beach, California. From there, train or truck got the remains into Chicago.
Is this, in fact, the actual car used in the show? I do not know and cannot confirm with hard facts. But circumstances strongly suggest this is the car. When I got it, damage was consistent with the car’s last appearance in “Number One With a Bullet.” The roof was drilled for a dummy antenna, as seen on the car in the series. The car was in Hawaii in a warehouse owned, leased, or rented by the producers of Magnum, P.I. This series was part of the CBS Television Network in 1986. And, much to my delight, there was a series of 10 photos in an envelope which was tucked away in the glove compartment. The pictures showed several shots of the car interior, exterior, and many of Jack Lord entering his on-location motor home. The pictures were all taken in downtown Honolulu in mid 1972. From the location it appears that the episode “‘V’ For Vashon” was being filmed. With these pictures in hand (actually, in the glove compartment), I was reasonably satisfied that this was the car.
About the car itself: It’s a ’68 Parklane Brougham 4-door hardtop. The car is fairly well equipped, with a 428-4V(345 hp), C-6 automatic, power steering, power front disc brakes, power windows, power seat, A/C, AM/FM, and cruise control. The car is all black and must have been terrible to sit in for six years in the hot Hawaiian sun.
The restoration effort took three years, and involved approximately nine parts cars. Little is original from the car as it existed in Hawaii. I have made a few minor modifications from the car’s original configuration — a bumper trailer hitch was purposely left off and the antenna was moved from the front fender of the car to the rear quarter panel because that’s what my parts cars had at the time of assembling the restoration. However, the engine is untouched, unrebuilt, and at 75,000 miles is more than capable of pursuing criminals to swift justice. All exterior sheetmetal was replaced. The original Brougham interior was thrown out, as after the mongoose was through with it, it had become a health hazard. The vinyl top was replaced, most chrome redone, and the car treated to multiple coats of PPG two-stage urethane enamel. Now we were ready to cruise Diamond Head once again.
Where does Jack Lord fit into the story? Quite actually, nowhere. I did solicit his assistance to open doors at CBS corporate and was met with stony silence. He has a very chatty wife who thinks the project is a lot of fun, and won’t Jack be thrilled to see the finished result, and no, dear, I don’t think he wants to drive the car again, because you know he spent six years in that car in full makeup and his white dress shirts with that hot Hawaiian sun and if you’re reading this, you can book me, Jack, but I still won’t give your car back.
and for a look at many of the vehicles that appeared with Tim’s car, take a look at this page with lots of vintage photos of the vehicles that got Jack Lord and Danno around the islands!
This article originally appeared in Quicksilver, a publication of the International Mercury Owner’s Association.