26
Sep
11

Rockford Files’ Roydon Clark

 Nate Truman

Well, heres some great info on Rockford Files by Jim!  Now where are the super fans for all the other shows?  Send me links to great informative stuff about star car shows, and you may see your work right here!

Rockford Files’ Roydon Clark

Written by Jim Suva

SAM_0349

Picture by Paul Santo
I met Roydon Clark on July13, 2011 at the 1st Annual Rockford Files Fest. Through Rob Howe, I later had the opportunity to talk to Roy on the phone and ask him some questions about the
Rockford Firebirds and GMC pickup trucks.

After speaking with him, I have to say that Roy is one of the nicest guys you would ever want to meet. I really enjoyed talking to him. In case you don’t know about Roy, he is a stuntman that has worked with John Wayne and many other top stars over the years. His best known work is with his good friend, James Garner.

Roy worked as James Garner’s stunt double since the days of the original “Maverick” TV series. He talks to him two or three times every week, and they remain good friends to this day. On “The Rockford Files”, Roy was not only a stuntman, but also the second unit director. He worked with getting the Firebirds and trucks for the show, and was in charge of setting up the Firebirds.

Roy confirmed that the Firebirds used on the show were Formulas, slightly altered to look like the Esprit model. Jim and Roy met with race car driver Parnelli Jones, for advice on what kind of tires and tire size should be used on the Firebirds. Parnelli Jones was working for Firestone at the time, and Roy believes they chose the wider Firestone tires.

Around the third season, Roy started to help set up one of the three Firebirds that Pontiac gave them as a sound car each year. This car was used a rolling sound stage. They mounted electric plug connections on the corners of the car and trunk. They mounted cameras on the hood or the doors for their cross-over shots. James Garner would be the director in the car and start the scene. Mr. Garner actually drove the Firebird as the scene played out. (Today the car would be towed, or on a platform.) Once the scene was over, James Garner would pull up to the director and they would plug into the Firebird and check out the scene. With the car wired like this, a scene in the parked car could be done easily, since all the microphones and wires were already mounted in the car.

P1010048 LicensePlateArea ConsoleWiringHoles FrontMicJacks

One of the safety items that Roy came up with later in the series was using inner tubes in the vehicle tires, since there was a lot of flexing of the tire sidewalls. This was a result of all the high-speed cornering.

The GMC Pickup trucks used on the show were set up by Vic Hickey Enterprises, using their equipment such as roll bars, spare gas tanks, winches, push guards, and lights. Roy believes James Garner helped design the truck. From what I have been told by others, James Garner loved to drive the trucks; after all he was an off-road racer!

RFGMC1  RFGMC2

Roy calls James Garner “Jimmy.” As he told me, “Most of the J-turns done on screen were with Jimmy behind the wheel,” although Roy did some on the show as well.

Roy used to buy a new Firebird each year the show was on. As he said to me, “What better way to know a car, than to drive it every day?” Of course, Roy did get a special deal from Pontiac. He said, “Pontiac Firebirds made me a better driver.”

RockfordCrewTAs

Picture by Blake Delgado

I remember Roy speaking at Paradise Cove. He said he used to tell the other stunt drivers not to try to keep up with James Garner. He was just too good, and he loved to have fun with the Pontiacs.

Roy told me that when the transporter with the Firebirds pulled up at a filming location, people passing by would stop to check out the cars. In fact, the cars were almost as popular as the stars of the show!

Roy remembers filming at Paradise Cove at the end of each filming week. So when he came back to Paradise Cove this past July, it brought back a lot of memories. He feels he has been blessed in his life. He started as a kid working on a farm in Pennsylvania with migrant workers, and today he is one of the best stuntmen in the business.

Roy Clark and James Garner: two really nice guys!

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