“Then Came Bronson” was a fun adventure TV series, about a guy on a Harley, driving from town to town and getting into conflicts, and helping out. It was on the air in 1969-1970 and was great escapist TV. If you know the show, and want the bike, I found a great website really doing all the work for you and handing you the recipe on a silver Harley! Here’s an excerpt from the first page! If you want to build one, go to the site HERE and enjoy all the fun detail work that was done and shared!
“You will need to find a 1968 or 1969 XLH 883cc Harley Davidson Sportster. Your model must have a battery and points. (Not a magneto model)Since the Pilot aired in March of 1969 the bikes used in the pilot were probably 1968 XLH’s. The location schedules denote November 1968 for filming. The TV series episodes used possibly hold over 1968 models from the pilot and the 1969 XLH’s, pictured left, were purchased at the Salinas Harley-Davidson dealership. Any 1967, 68, 69 or 70 XLH will do. The kick start Bronson used was added later to give the bike a more mechanical touch and nostalgic attitude.
Note: Back then the bike was advertised as a 900cc, however this was a marketing technique used by Harley-Davidson when they rounded up the cc from 883 to 900, making the engine appear bigger than it really was. The bike above is the rare Boat-tail model. One of Peter’s many bikes.The 1970 Cycle Guide Magazine article gives evidence of what is required…. “A Harley-Davidson CH gas tank replaced the standard turtle tank. The front wheel was replaced with a 21” aluminum rim carrying a 3.00 x 21 ribbed Avon Speedmaster tire. The front fender was changed to a chromeplated, bobbed piece and the headlight nacelle, or housing, was removed and a chrome sports light replaced it. The oil tank and rear shock springs were chrome plated. A kickstart was added although the Sportster carries an electric starter. The seat was replaced with a custom leather unit and a short chrome hand-hold was mounted behind the passenger seat. (Folklore has it that the sissy bar was cobbled from a Schwinn banana seat bicycle – ed.) The chain guard cover and the voltage regulator cover were chrome plated. The rear fender was bobbed 5 inches and the tail light replaced with an old style English light. The motorcycle was repainted with a specially mixed formula which is called from this point on, Bronson Red. The final touch was the addition of the Bronson “Eye” insignia to the gas tank.”The 883’s pictured here below are a 1970 XLH and 1969, a kick starter was added later. A 1970 has a slightly different front fork because of the way the front fender mounts, but can be adapted by welding tabs on the forks for the Bronson front fender. A vintage XLH is hard to find now-a-days. Once you have your bike, move on to another step.”
Putting it all back together again! After tearing the truck down to the frame, the bed came off, and WAY too much in “ding” repair was done. Then finally the paint job. As this was an old truck and had to look brand new most of the cost was repairing 30 years of small dings and imperfections. Now it was back in my yard, and time to put it all back together again, but with new reupholstered seats, new carpets, new headliner etc.
I had custom Statler Toyota Licence plate frames made, and of course, McFly personalized plates! it was the 80’s after all!
I did have to rush the job as the mechanical and paint work took much longer than I had figured, and I had an appointment to drive down Las Vegas blvd. with the cast of Back to the Future, and almost 30 Deloreans and many other movie and TV star cars!
After my trailer was hit by a fan trying to take a photo of the truck, I got back on the road with miraculously no damage to my truck, just tore off a fender of the trailer! (I had bought rental insurance, so no worries on that!)
Once we all got to Vegas, it was filled with panels with the stars, the big parade and lots of photos! We had a great time, and I got to interview Bob Gale the writer of Back to the Future along with the cast members and fans.
The truck worked great, and during the parade I heard several people shout out “Is that you Mike?” That was funny! Claudia Wells who played Marty’s Girlfriend finally got a ride in that truck she was promised, but we didn’t go up to the lake with sleeping bags! Sorry!
Michael Scheffe, who helped design the Delorean Time machine, as well as KITT from Knight Rider is a friend, and I had the pleasure of delivering him up to the podium for the big event in Vegas!
In the back of this cast photo with Paul Casey, the Organizer of the event, you can see Bob Gale and I taking questions from the audience that was gathered to see the stars. Lea loved my truck, and we ended up providing a KITT for her episode of “The Goldbergs” Hollywood is a small world, sometimes!
One of the few times they shut down the main strip! In the parade out front was a pair of Blues Brother’s cars, then two Starsky and Hutch Torinos. Next I’m in my McFly Truck followed by the cast in two convertibles and rows of Deloreans with their “wings” up!
After all that excitement a few weeks later, I was invited to come see the Hollywood Bowl screening and also stayed afterwards and partied with the cast and crew that came out. My truck was on display for the crowds of fans, some even came as their favorite characters!
Now the big year is over, and it’s time for the amazing truck to go make a BTTF (aka Back to the Future) fan happy! It’s for sale to make room for my next project, the 1940’s Batmobile!
By waiting and buying the perfect donor car, I had jumped over months of work! I skipped taking the car to and from shops, and haggling over price and workmanship. So I found myself in a great place starting with the fun details and the finish work!
After registration with the DMV, looking for insurance, it was time to go over the car.
I went through all the paperwork to see what had been done. As the dash was all custom, I had to get acquainted with all the switches, find the fuse box, etc.
The door handles had no locks, but I had been given a set of new replacement hot rod handles.
There were no windshield wipers.
A gas leak had emerged from the rear of the car.
The trunk wouldn’t open, and it had no lever, just an electronic switch.
The battery was dying because the lights would come on when I had the door open, but the battery was locked tight in the trunk!
The door handle could be a blog by itself! Figuring out how to remove a door panel in a “regular” car is hard enough, but a hot rod with custom interior, shaved doors, custom glass and reversed hinges proved to be a long learning curve! After many attempts I finally got the interior panel off, only to discover why the new handles had never been installed. There was no way to get to them!! Surrounded by sharp metal, there was a clamp like paperclip to hold the handle together. A custom metal piece held the handle in place with two screws. If you removed the screws, it fell down into the door with a thunk. So I used magnets, dental instruments, tiny clamps along with a lot of sweat and attempts to finally operate on the driver door and successfully replaced the door handle. After not being sure if I would ever get the door to close and latch again, I decided to wait on replacing the passenger side for now. I had an interior lock on that side, so I could at least key lock the car now.
Next I knew I needed some bat hubcaps to replace the jag emblems, and a bat in the steering wheel if I was going to keep that. It came with what I think was the original horn, but was rusted beyond recognition. I will try and restore, but it may be hopeless.
I would have to find a 1940’s police siren anyway, you know, for crimefighting! Also I wanted to make another big bat somewhere on the motor, and the whole dash needed the batman treatment! To the Bat-garage photos!!
So first things first, off with the Jag center caps, on with some period bats I designed and cut by my friend, the late great Eddie Paul. (He was my “brain builder” and we had started the project a few weeks before his passing. I love that guy, and I am proud that his talented hands worked on this final project. He will be sorely missed.)
I swapped out the Jaguar logo for a bat in the steering wheel, until such time as I want to swap it to either a banjo type classic wheel (They are very big, so not leaning that way) or some other custom bat wheel! A custom car is never finished!
The couple of drawings in the comics of the dash in the car were a brown dash of the basic variety, (The shot above was the most detailed drawing of the era) but I know bat fans wouldn’t go for just a plain dash! So out it all came, and I wrapped it in bat black, added a ww2 aircraft panel and dug into my magic box of switches and dials. I had to have a FEW bat-gadgets! Just for me! I moved the stereo into the glove box so the modern stereo couldn’t be seen, but I could still play batman music!
Ace the Bathound stood guard by the car most days, powered by what else? Gentle Giant Dog food, created by Burt Ward!
Remember that shot from the 40’s cop car? Well, I got a ww2 hand unit to connect to the dash, and a period linesman phone for when Batman had to make a call. With this piece of crime fighting equipment, Batman could clip into any phone line anywhere, and dial anyone, while being untraceable! It was very nostalgic to spin the dial and have that feeling again to make a call! I know it will be a fun attraction to show kids!
Found the smallest blades 9″ and the smallest arms from a 70’s VW bug. Batman’s ready for the storm! The car was sliced in the back and the front of the roof was lowered, so the windshield had to be custom cut and it’s not very tall!
Finally I made a bat for the back wall like in the toy, but I dropped it on the air cleaner, and liked it way better there. I had one spot in the dash I didn’t have figured out, but once that was filled in I could reinstall the dash. Then I would have a cool bat themed hot rod, ready to take to car shows! I think I have to start driving this thing soon! Sorry for the cliffhanger, but that’s all for now!
Next episode: Making custom side panels, getting that dash back in and working, sourcing and making side pipes and figuring out the giant bat-face, with light up eye headlights! Stay tuned bat-fans, this may take some time!
The Batmobile no one ever drove… Part 3 Pulling the trigger!
In the custom or “Kustom” world, hot rodders of every shape and size spend their time, talents and money building their dream cars. They change their minds, start over, give up, and some actually finish their weekend warriors! From “Rat Rods” to “Trailer Queens” lifted, slammed, the list goes on and on of all the directions customizing a car can go. It’s the beauty of the hobby. If you have ever been to a car show you have seen chromed engine compartments costing thousands of dollars. Lifted trucks, lowered chevys, rusted racers – each one is someone’s dream ride. It’s what they wanted to bring into the world of cars.
Some guys have been in the game a long time, and now just “fix and flip” cars they know. Get a heap, hot rod it up and sell it – then repeat. Mainly because very few of us can afford to keep every car we think is cool!
During my search for a donor “beater” or “Project” car, I had kept my eye on one amazing build that was perfect for my dream. It was out of my price range and it was just too darn pretty! But it had everything I wanted and more. It had been on a journey before I saw it though. Starting out as a project 1939 Dodge – it got the NHRA frame off overhaul. New chassis, 400 hp motor, and a builder who was willing to tinker to get a car the way he wanted it.
First a new chassy, and a new crate 400 hp motor was built for the base. The car and body was stripped clean. You can see in one photo there was a blower on the motor. That’s part of the process, trying looks and ideas, and then deciding to keep them or not!
Here is a set of different ideas for the front of the car. Swapping out original air vents, then sealing them up. The dodge had a center hinged hood, but it was converted to a solid one piece. Had I found this car for sale, it would have been on the top of my donor list even at this point!
Custom side panels were made, then discarded, and another front grill was designed.
These are not in chronological order, but a few shots to show the body work being done to smooth it all out for paint. A custom licence plate indent was added by the Rodfathers.
Lots of handwork, rust repair and sanding, priming and sanding again, until it was ready for paint!
The builder/owner even took a black marker to a photo, to see what it would look like in black, with rear wheel skirts!
The whole process of searching for a project and seeing it through to your finished vision is a long and costly process. Lots of work and yet another grill this time built by Dean Jeffries brought it all together! Finishing touches of pinstriping and a new modern interior were added. All the unique ideas and skills of many hands brought this new car to life! Once done, it was taken to car shows and just “bombed around in” for a few years like this and enjoyed! However, once a project is finished and driven for a while eventually it’s time to sell and move on to the next project!
I had watched the craigslist ad for months but never bothered to see the car because it’s list price was fair, but out of the range of what I wanted to spend on the project. I was also in the mindset of doing a build up of a project car. But then one day I was appearing in a parade in Burbank, and even though I knew it was too finished and the price was out of my budget I decided to go look at it in person. The shots of the interior were so spot on to what I would do to match the Batmobile red stripes, I just had to see it in person.
Suicide doors, check! Red and black interior with custom point, SUPER CHECK!
400 hp Crate HOT ROD motor and transmission pro installed, CHECK!
Cool from every angle? Oh yeah!
Super cool modded body with great paint, and custom red and black wheels? Check! I fell for this car. It was just too nice! The list of mods I would have to do to get it to MY dream car, was pretty short. Just all the fun stuff! I started making mental lists of what I would have to do with a few areas, like with the trunk, when I added a giant bat fin.
And the dash was going to have to be bat-upgraded. The steering wheel was out of a late model Jag, and there were Jag emblems on the wheels, and a Dodge emblem on the dash. Great signs that the car was a toy that had been played with and enjoyed!
Lots of fun modern upgrades, like courtesy lights all around, AC!!, hot rod door handles.
A beautiful headliner! How to add a fin without destroying it?
The owner had been trying to sell for a couple years, and for various reasons needed it sold ASAP. I knew I would never find a car like this again, one where so much of the work I was planning on doing was already done! After a day or two of deliberation – this beauty was in my batcave!!
And just as the modder before me, I had to do a quick sketch to see what my ideas might look like, down the road!
Let the Bat-transformation begin! Stay tuned bat-fans, the best is yet to come!
The building of the 1940 Style N8MOBILE part 2! Read part one HERE!
By Nate Truman
How do you take an idea of a never built car and get to a finished car that’s legal to drive down the highway? Focus. Desire. Time. Creativity, and of course, CASH! I had a lot of the first four, but not an unlimited amount of the last one. Besides, if I had unlimited amounts of money I could just go to a custom shop and say “BUILD THIS” and throw money at them. That’s a terrible journey.
I did also have a few rules: Rule #1. As a son of a “Car Guy” I knew a few things I shouldn’t do. DON’T destroy a car that can be restored to it’s original condition. These are also known as OS, Original Steel. I wouldn’t use a car like this because they are rare and if there is someone out there that wants to restore a car back to it’s original look, it should go to them. So it had to be a car that would be near impossible to take back to stock.
Rule #2. RUST will drain your wallet. Cars from 1939-42 are 75 years old. Rust happens and it costs a LOT to repair. I don’t like to do it, I don’t want to do it, it’s not fun. SO I must have a car with no rust or the rust already repaired.
Rule #3. The closer the donor car is to your idea of a finished product the fewer variables there are to get it there. This basically means that if a car has some costly work done the way I want it done, that’s a fixed price. A finished interior or installed motor, etc. is work that is paid for in the purchase price. It’s very easy to get way over budget by hoping for the best prices and no problems and then end up thousands of dollars in higher costs because of unforeseen problems along the way. A cheaper donor car can often mean a lot more expensive finished car. Ask any Knight Rider replica builder!
I spent months scanning craigslist for about an hour a night. I started seeing some cars that didn’t sell for months. I figured out what was a good price, what was way too high, and what was a deal. I didn’t buy anything, I didn’t go see anything, I was just learning. I was an expert on other cars, but not this era.
The odd part about this search was that I wasn’t looking for a specific make and model! Ford, Dodge, Cadillac, Plymouth and Chevy were all on the table. Details I had to have: 2 door coupes, with two windows on each side. Headlights incorporated into the fenders. That would eliminate a lot of cars. For between 6-18 grand there were lots of choices of “heaps”. That means it’s a body, and a HEAP of parts! Maybe an engine inside, some ran, some were in great shape, others were barely cars.
I considered a lot of cars, but I knew I had to be patient to find the perfect donor car. I didn’t mind doing the interior exactly how I wanted it, but that opened me up to lots of cost overruns. These kinds of cars can be an endless project of broken parts and unknown problems. I wasn’t going to pull the trigger until the perfect car showed up. Besides, shopping for cars is pretty much the only shopping I consider “fun”!
As time passed, I found a few good possibilities. I was searching about a 1000 mile radius, so if I just wanted to get a better idea of the actual condition of the car, I would ask a friend who lived closer to go take a look at it for me.
Unfortunately, rust and the state of disrepair made most of them unsuitable. In fact, the more I looked at the “heaps” the more I realized that starting that far down the ladder would really open me up to a lot of frustration, and money spent with little to show for it. So I changed my parameters of my search. Still 1939-1942, but now I added “Hot rod” or “Kustom”. I started seeing chopped and channeled projects, cars with motors replaced with newer more reliable and powerful motors, and for about the same price as the “heaps”.
I was finding many more cars that fit my specific bill, and a few that I started looking at hard. The best one was in Northern California, and a hot rod guy had started building a big horsepower 1/4 mile race car. I didn’t want or need a car that was “tubbed” with 800 hp, but he had to stop his build for personal reasons, and it was at just about the point where I wanted to take over. Motor and tranny were brand new and mostly installed, and the body was mostly straight. I loved the overall look of the car. So we started to email back and forth, looking for any problems, haggling over price, and figuring out transportation. I thought I had found THEE donor car for my Bat build.
I didn’t like the single window in the back, but I had toyed with the idea of just sealing that up. Challenges: A few missing panels, missing glass, ZERO interior other than a cage and a couple of really low racing seats. At this point in the journey is when the rational mind needs to step in! I really wanted to get started and this was the best donor I had found up to that time. The price was fair, and I sensed he would go even lower, giving me some financial room to finish it my way without breaking the bank. But there was the window, and several “mostly’s”. I did some math, looked at how much I would have to do, and what would have to be undone. It just didn’t add up. I sighed, and took a pass. At the time I was disappointed, but in the long run it was a great decision to let someone else finish this for the race track, and wait for the street driver I wanted. Another old rule, don’t spend ANY money for starter cars or cool extras that make your project less accurate to your idea. 800 horse power! Tubbed! Cool!! But I had to remind myself, not on my want list. The search continued on…
THE 1940’s BATMOBILE aka N8MOBILE BUILD STORY Part One
By Nate Truman
The hobby of star cars has grown from a few crazy people like me pre-internet looking for original movie and TV cars, sweating the details by scanning every frame of a show to try and recreate our childhood dream cars, to a world wide movement! Since the 1970’s fans of famous cars have been recreating, or restoring the famous rides of the small and big screen to live out their childhood fantasies of driving the ride from their favorite film or TV show. Even cartoon cars, like the Ninja Turtle van, Speed Racer’s Mach 5, the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine, and Transformers have become real drivable vehicles when a fan with a dream decides to bring them to life.
I have been called a “Founding Father” of the star car movement. That’s a nice way to say I have been doing this a long time. Since the 1970’s. Because of that I am running out of cars to find or build that “float my boat”. I still have a short list of cars I want to drive or see on the roads of Hollywood, but the list is getting smaller. Other fans have jumped in and are building most everything now, sometimes before the movie has even come out! One that has yet to appear, however, is one I have been waiting for someone else to buildfor many years. Because it’s hard, expensive, and not a car that everyone will even “get” except the big time Batman fans. Only a couple of people have tried it. Due to life getting in the way the few that have started builds have given up or stalled. So I have stopped waiting and am building my own version!
Batman started in 1939 driving a couple of red sedans, but as the early artists and creators, Jerry Robinson and Dick Sprang started to make batman stuff, like the Bat-plane, the Batarang, etc. it was only a matter of a few issues of the comic books that the term “Batmobile” showed up. Throughout the 1940’s various young artists drew the Dark Knight’s ride. Even though they were pretty similar, it was when the Batmobile burst through the cover of the Batman comic #20 that the world knew Batman’s ride was something pretty special!
Believe it or not, the Batplane was created first! Made to look like a bat, Batman was flying everywhere in his custom bat plane, but just had an ordinary car for a short while. As the early artists were young guys trying to work fast to finish more pages to make more money, continuity and conformity to previous art was not a high priority. So the car was drawn based on each artist’s skills, and their favorite cars at the time. In other words, it rarely looked the same way twice! No stripes, red stripes, blue stripes, the fin changed in every panel, sometimes with or without fender skirts, windows moved around, doors opened both ways but a few things stayed the same. It had a big BAT face on the front, and a big bat wing/fin down the middle and out the back!
I think someone saw the 1925 round door Rolls Royce and just took it a step further.
Batman introduced the Batmobile, then drove it off a cliff in the first story, but it was right back in the next issue!
For the sake of speed, many times panels were copied, or used as reference to draw the car like it had been drawn in previous issues, like these two panels. Basically they played fast and loose with the details of the batmobile, as each artist tried to copy another version, or put a new spin on it for his panels.
For my 1940’s “N8MOBILE” build, I decided that I would use what inspired me from drawings from 1941 to 1948. After world war 2, the new artists started updating the batmobile and the design changed almost every time the car appeared for decades after 1948. (If you want to see all the different versions, go to a great site by a pal of mine, Batmobile History.)
As there were surprisingly few panels of the batmobile over the 41-48 years of the comics – a few versions emerged based on different artists. Some of those have become available as toys or maquettes and toy designers had to decide what a solid 3d version of these drawings would look like. Above are some early designs for the toy versions from several companies.
Danbury Mint came out with the first high end detailed model and I like a lot of what they decided on in the real world!
The red stripe patterns, the four exhaust ports out each side and the coupe style with the swoopy back end was what I wanted to shoot for in my artistic “mash up” version. The one thing I did NOT like was the bat fin. TOO big. Rear skirts maybe, front skirts no. In several panels of the comic the doors had “suicide” front opening doors. I think reverse opening doors made it more custom and less like a car from the 40’s with a bat and a fin on it!
There have been a few other toy versions, Corgi, Eaglemoss, Mattel and a couple of model kits release as well.
Here is the 4 door Maquette version.
Most of all the drawings had the car with two doors, but a few had 4 like this display piece. I liked the split back window, and the fin on this version was a better design in the real world. So my fin I would be built to look more like this version.
Here’s a great line up of most of the toy versions. All the fins are different, there are versions with 2,3 and 4 exhausts on each side, stripes move around a bit, or all black, but it’s basically the same overall design. I looked at how many times a detail appeared, and what I liked and didn’t like, as well as cost to come up with my final design that I wanted to bring to life. I searched for shots of cars with the side hood exhaust in 2-3-and 4 versions and two looked stingy, three would raise questions of “Is this a v6? (no, they had v8’s but the two center exhausts were combined) so for various reasons mostly that it looked the coolest, I decided I would have 4.
In my quest to do my due diligence I also scoured old comics, one shots, and any source where I thought I might find another take on this era Batmobile. A few items showed up, but my favorite was in a modern version of a Batman cartoon where his current batmobile is stolen and he has to use his “vintage” backup ride.
Here is a frame that is a nice “nod” to Michael Keaton stopping his Batmobile from the 1989 movie.
As you can see, the red stripes and many of the details from the Danbury Mint version are included, other than adding an afterburner to the rear. Because, afterburners are just cool. 🙂
Actually in this cartoon version, they swapped out the big curvy batfin and added a composite version fin.
This cartoon also brought something else to my attention, the interior of the car. In the comics all you see is a 1930’s “Banjo style” steering wheel, and a “circle” on Robin’s side. Most cars of the day had a clock on the passenger’s side dash, and just a few dials for the driver.
Pretty simple by today’s standards but it’s just what cars looked like then.
In this recent cartoon take though, the animators decided to “gadget it up” for some Joker gags and add lots of switches and stuff. I suppose Batman could have had this batmobile retrofitted with bat stuff over the years, he does tend to over prepare! It was a fun bit, but the bat gadgets didn’t really get going until almost the end of this batmobile’s run – in the comics all they added during those years were some boat propellers and extra costume storage compartments.
The police of the day did have early CB like radio systems, so I would have to put in something like that in mine.
There was a blueprint dash that was just made up for one of the toys. It was cool, but it was also too busy for the time period and what I wanted the final product to look like.
Lastly I had to decide what my Bat symbol would look like. It has changed a lot over the years, and during the 1940’s batman often had NOTHING on his chest or a weird scribbled wing with no head. I was amazed at how this iconic part of Batman was not really defined in the early years and it seemed almost an afterthought to the artists. The Danbury Mint version had it’s own classic bat on the hub caps and on the motor.
I eventually combined a few designs, and cropped the ears to come up with a bat I liked.
Now, all that was left to do was find a donor car, and make this fictional cartoon car into my version of a street legal crime fighting monster! STAY TUNED, BAT FANS, the best is yet to come! PART TWO, the search for the CAR!