The StarCar virus keeps growing and changing, and as I have found out is very contagious! From before the dawn of the World Wide Web, I have been hunting, building, restoring and writing about famous on screen vehicles. So over the last 30 years or so, and mainly thanks to the internet most famous cars and their storied histories have come into light. Some cars are harder to sort through than others, but all the iconic cars now have fan clubs, builder sites, replica forums etc.
So what is a “Patient Zero” like me supposed to do? I still enjoy the “Carcheology” (tm 2003 Nate Truman) “The discovery of the history of a vehicle by digging through it and discovering what has happened to it over the years”
But I don’t want to do the same car twice. After the Batmobile, the Keaton batmobile, the A-Team Van, Austin Power’s Shaguar, buying and adding a audio-animatronic dinosaur to a Jurassic Park Explorer, KITT from Knight Rider, and at the same time “collecting” and locating hundreds of famous move and TV cars around the world there wasn’t much left to find or make that interested me.
Then a pal of mine sent me a message about how 2015 was the “FUTURE” that Marty McFly went to, in Back to the Future. I worked at Universal and I was often on set for “BTTF” back in 1985. I remember them shooting in the Town Square, and seeing the Delorean time Machine tear around the back lot. It was a great time at Universal Studios for cool TV and Movie Star Cars!
Fast forward to today, aka the FUTURE, and I have too many pals with Delorean time machines, and building one would just be redundant at this point. But this is the FUTURE! So I sat down and watched the movies with a new set of eyes, laughing at what they envisioned 2015 was going to be like and hoping to be inspired! 2015 was going to be the last big hurrah for the BTTF trilogy, and I wanted to do something that wasn’t all ready done to death, packaged and sold on ebay.
It didn’t take long for the movie to remind me of one special vehicle, Marty McFly’s dream truck, that appeared in all three films! There were two trucks used in the film and they have both been tracked down and are restored, one is owned by Universal Studios, and the other is in the hands of a big fan, who also has a Delorean and a Lybian VW bus! That’s OK, that is where the originals should be!
So I was off on a quest to build an accurate replica for myself. After several failed attempts to find a 1985 Hilux Extracab 4×4, I didn’t give up. I kept searching, first all of Los Angeles, then Southern California, then country wide. I gave up on finding a black one after a while. Apparently all the 2wd trucks have been used as gardening trucks and have 400,000 miles on them and just as many dents. The 4×4’s suffered a worse fate. Due to the fixed front axle the 1985 trucks have been sacrificed to the off road world. Cut, rolled, smashed, engines blown, all in pursuit of a good time out in the wild.
I am sure there are still a few “correct” trucks out there still banging around, but understand these trucks have been used, abused, and tossed away. There is a tiny group of 4×4 fans that try and keep theirs alive by cannibalizing other trucks. There is no “restoration” catalogs for these babies! Just junk yards that are stripping old trucks, and then one by one the trucks still limping around fall, and are set upon by those still running. I watched a group of guys tear into a “new” truck at a junk yard and it was stripped in a matter of minutes! Some wanted parts, most were selling “organ transplants” on craigslist.
When we weren’t looking, these iconic trucks have just disappeared, like the Pinto, Vega, K Car…
After abandoning my hunt for the “perfect” donor car, finally found one with the right “bones”. 1985, Check. Toyota 4×4 Stick-shift. Check. Even had a Smitybilt rear bumper all ready on it. Grey Interior with bucket seats? Check. Finally I had a new project!
A McFly Truck is similar to a Herbie or General Lee, if you can find the right year make and model, the rest is restoration, parts hunting and paint. Rust has killed many a dream of a star car builder, and these Toyota’s after 30 years fall into that category as well.
The McFly Truck was delivered NEW in the movie, still on the back of a tow truck, and then seen in the garage at the end of the first film freshly polished by Biff. The second truck was seen on the street at the end of the third installment (with some changes due to time travel) when Marty decided not to drag race Needles. (Aka the Bass player “FLEA” from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, fun fact!)
So the goal was a raised 4×4 1985 gloss black Toyota Hilux Pickup with Smitybilt bumpers, KC lights and a roll bar. Now you may search for a truck, and find one with some or most of the needed elements, but no matter what most everything will be worn out, or headed in that direction. Either that, or it has been “upgraded” to something “better” or newer, leaving you with the decision to either settle for some detail you know isn’t quite right, or a big bill to find and rebuild the original parts.
Ten or fifteen years ago, this would have been a pretty simple and affordable star car, but add another fifteen to twenty years and the trucks that everyone saw on the road are on their last legs and second or third engine.
After months of searching off and on and discovering it wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought, I found one that was pretty darn good. It was white, but recently painted so I thought would mean less body work. (WRONG!) I did a few laps in the dark, poked around and looked past the current condition and awful smell. (please, if you smoke, don’t do it in your car!!!)
I knew this truck had a shady past, but I either had to pull the trigger or just walk away. As my friends know, when it comes to star cars, I am a bit trigger happy!
So cash was laid out, paperwork signed, and I had a new hole to toss money into!
Well first things first, get it registered. Quick trip to the AAA and I had the process started. When talking with the lady at my local office, she asked me “So, you like REALLY old cars?” I thought to myself, “Sure, like Dusenburgs, and Model “A”‘s?” Then I realized she was talking about my 1985 Toyota!
To finalize the purchase I had to smog the truck. No Problem, I had a smog certificate that it had passed three months ago. Only it really hadn’t. So off to my trusted mechanic who knows “really old” cars. Days turned into weeks, then weeks into months. Apparently he was discovering what I had found out, they don’t make parts for these trucks anymore! So lots of delays due to finding and buying used parts, only to get them and find they are the same or worse than what he wanted to replace on my truck! Through persistence he finally got the truck to pass smog. While he was at it he fixed a “list” to the passenger side that I hoped was bad shocks, but was body damage. Cha Ching!
Building a McFly Truck is a lot like building any star car from the 80’s. When looking for parts, you hear the same thing, “Oh, sure, those were everywhere, everyone sold those parts!” “Ok, when was the last time you saw one, or had one for sale?” “Oh, I haven’t seen one for 15 years!” Tires, bumpers, lights, all no longer available. So a big part of any build like this is spent in the quest on craigslist and Ebay. The front bumper I found near San Francisco, the single roll bar in Hesperia. The KC lights in La Mirada, and lots of stuff off the net. For me, the hunt is the fun part. When I found replacement 4×4 side badges in Ebay, it was like I won the lottery! A very small lottery. That I had to pay for.
Now that it was registered and running well, the “Carcheology” could begin! Everything had to come off the truck as I would be changing the color. Even though you might not be able to tell, the “hidden” white areas would bug me. So all the tail lights, grills, mirrors, and the entire interior had to pulled out, reconditioned or replaced, recovered or repainted.
The next few weeks was spent removing, repairing or reconditioning and setting aside for later reinstall. During this process I was also making a list of small little parts that I needed to find to bring this truck back as close to “Statler Brother’s showroom” condition as I could!