Miami Vice Daytona Found
By Jim Suva
Speaking with Brian Gram from the Volo Auto Museum, he tells the story of how the first replica, known as “Car One” came to his family museum. This particular car was used primarily for the first two Miami Vice seasons, and was brought back for a few episodes in the third season.
Volo Auto Museum purchased this car many years ago from Jeff Allen of The Car Chasers, before Jeff had a TV show. It came with a lot of paperwork, and the car itself showed obvious signs of film use, as well as evidence that was unique to the Miami Vice car. When Volo bought it in very poor shape, basically they redid paint and interior. Please see pictures below:
Volo Auto Museum is planning to restore the car to the next level. They already removed the TPI motor and replaced it with a carburetored motor like it had in show, as well as the correct Momo steering wheel. Research is still being done on the interior. As in many TV productions, the interior of the car had some changes over the seasons.
At those earlier days, Brian was not nearly as knowledgeable about the background of the Miami Vice cars as he is today. So when Volo Auto Museum listed the car as the one from the TV series, Brian got an earful from folks saying that this wasn’t the real car. There were a total of three Daytonas used, and there was a real Ferrari Daytona that was used briefly. The owner of the car didn’t like the way the car was being taken care of, so he withdrew the car. Universal Studios bought two Daytonas that were built by Tom McBurnie. Car #1, the first Daytona replica ever built, and Car #4. Both were built on Corvette chassis. Car #1 was built on a 1976 chassis and Car #4 on a 1981 chassis.
Ferrari didn’t like the fact that replicas were being used on the show. Ferrari ended up suing McBurnie’s company to stop them from building the replicas. Ferrari offered to supply their newest model, the Testarossa for the show. As part of the deal with Ferrari, the Daytona was blown up in the third season. They wanted the Daytona removed from the show, in a way that would put it out of people’s minds permanently.
The Daytona was also part of a real life Miami Vice story. A mechanic that had access to the car was arrested in a police sting. The mechanic was caught trying to sell an illegal gun silencer. Guess which car he was driving when he was arrested?
When they discontinued the Daytonas use, both cars went to a man named Carl Roberts. In exchange for the cars, he was to build a Testarossa stunt car. Carl got the title to Car #4, but not to Car #1. When Carl was trying to make a business by producing and selling Daytonas, he sold Car #4. Later he was hired to provide two Daytonas to go to Canada for use in the movie Speed Zone. The Volo Auto Museum car, and one other were sent to Canada for that movie. You need titles to get cars into Canada. After the two cars came back, they were pretty much abandoned. The owner of the property where the cars were left was able to get titles back in 1992, and he has owned at least the Volo Auto Museum’s car, if not both since. Jeff Allen discovered the car and Volo bought it. Many people were interested in find out what happened to Car #1.
Carl Roberts said the car was dismantled, the frame was scrapped, and the body was put on another chassis, but he doesn’t know which chassis it went on. So basically he was saying the car no longer exists. Then all these people started coming forward claiming “we have the car,” including Volo Auto Museum. But Brian felt strongly that theirs was the actual car because of the items on the body that were unique to the screen-used Miami Vice cars. For instance, the nose emblem, which was originally mounted in the wrong spot by the producers, and later relocated to the right spot. Volo Auto Museum’s body has the original emblem holes that were filled, from where the emblem was incorrectly placed. The body was 1-1/4 inches shorter on the passenger side than the driver’s side on Car #1 because of an accident. Volo Auto Museum’s car was 1-1/4 inches shorter. So it was determined and accepted that the Volo car may possibly be the #1 body but without a VIN there was no way to know for sure. Brian accepted this and left well enough alone.
Then Jeff Allen called up Brian and said, “Hey watch my show, lots of great McBurnie/Miami Vice information”. Brian watched the show and Jeff found the lost Car #1…which raised Brian’s eyebrows, because the car he bought from Jeff was thought to be Car #1. After talking to Jeff again he said no mine is the ‘81, Car #4, even though the ‘81 is accounted for. So that prompted Brian to start the investigation again. Brian wanted to research the VIN, which is a 1980 VIN number. Brian sent the number to GM Heritage, and got a window sticker back for a beige 1980 Corvette. But he then noticed the VIN tag was tampered with, which of course raised a flag. So Brian decided to investigate the frame numbers hoping to find a 1976 VIN. First he looked in the most likely spot, the rear frame rail on the driver’s side. Brian had the frame section cleaned to bare metal but found no numbers. Then he asked a Corvette buddy, who said the only other spot GM placed VIN numbers, was on top of the frame under the sill plate. Unfortunately, you have to remove the frame to see them. Brian was disappointed but determined. So he got a hole saw and cut through the sill. He cleaned the frame, found the numbers, and they were 1976 serial numbers! Then Brian noticed the original Corvette trim tag was still attached to the door jamb. He looked up the codes and it was a 1976 trim tag, green with black interior. That obviously didn’t match the beige that the 1980’s VIN tag called for. Brian was able to cross reference the date code on the trim tag to the serial number on the frame, and both were built during the third week of March in 1976. The frame and VIN number went together. Another piece of the puzzle fell into place.
The man who owns the other Miami Vice Daytona has the documentation that shows the original VIN numbers to the two cars. He keeps the documents and VIN numbers confidential to keep anyone from committing fraud and producing a replica. Brian sent him an email with the VIN number from the frame, asking if we have a match. After several days of nail biting, hoping he would hear from him, Brian got a phone call and … it was a match! The lost Daytona that was said to no longer exist had been found.