Author Archive for Nate Truman

09
Jan
20

Rockford Files Pontiac

Rockford Files Screen-Used Firebirds

Rockford Files Screen-Used Firebirds

By Jim Suva

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The first Rockford Files Firebird was a 1974 Gold exterior/tan interior Firebird Esprit, with a 400 cubic inch engine. All the cars used for the show came from Pontiac, a GMC division, through Visa Group, to Cherokee Productions. While filming the first season, it was decided that due to the hard driving and stunts, they needed the Trans Am/Formula suspension. So near the end of the first season, all the 1975 through 1978 Firebirds were Formulas.

In March 2002, I had a conversation with a man named Vinny Imerti who maintained the Firebirds for the TV series, as well as the Rockford movies. He sold his business, Carriage Studio Rentals, which had merged with Cinema Vehicle Services around 2002.

Vinny told me that Pontiac supplied three new Firebirds per year for the TV series. They received Firebird Formulas, and then they would remove the splitter exhaust tips and the rear spoiler. They also changed the hood and rear deck lids, and filled the drill holes from the spoilers. (I believe that Universal Studios decided to paint the Firebirds a Lt Topaz color for the 1975 model year, which was the color used throughout the rest of the TV seasons.)  This was done so that it gave the illusion, Rockford always had the same car

In 1978, James Garner was not fond of the 1979 Firebird styling, plus he knew the series was going to be ending soon.  As a way to save money, he decided to use the 1978 Firebirds for the last two seasons. 

After the last filming in December 1979, Vinny bought two of the Firebirds and James Garner bought the other one. Mr. Garner sold his 1978 Firebird Formula 400 to local TV Station WGGT (Channel 48) in Greensboro, NC. This Firebird was later raffled off by Coca-Cola on March 3, 1982. The car was presented to the winner by NASCAR Driver Richard Petty at a local Circuit City store.

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The winner was a lady named Frances. Unfortunately, she chose to have the car repainted a darker color, and she had the seat covers replaced. Francis owned and drove the Firebird until she sold it in July of 1989.

A gentleman named Lloyd bought the Firebird from Frances. Lloyd was a huge James Garner fan, and he rarely drove the car. In fact, most of the time that he owned the Firebird, it was in storage. Lloyd died in 2003.

Lloyd’s daughter, Kelly, is now the owner of the Firebird. On August 29, 2009 I had the honor of meeting Kelly in person in Iowa. I took great pleasure in photographing and then actually driving the Firebird. The Firebird is all there, including the holes drilled to run recording wiring. Kelly even has a plug-in plate with five jacks for microphones. The car also has a skid plate mounted to the frame to protect the engine and transmission from any damage from stunts. This Firebird is a rig car (sound car) used for close-ups while driving. I believe it is also a stunt car. Kelly has a letter from James Garner that was sent to the Program Manager at Station WGGT. The letter identifies this car as an actual screen-used Firebird Formula 400, and that he drove this car during the filming of the Rockford Files. Unfortunately, the letter does not state the car’s VIN number.

One interesting note is that this car has power windows. The plastic plugs for the power windows in the door panels can be seen in “Material Difference”, “Love is the Word” and the “Big Cheese” episodes. This Firebird was used during the last two seasons. Pat McKinney and I are 99% sure this is an actual Rockford File Firebird.

The documentation on the Firebirds from the TV series were destroyed sometime around 2000. Since there is no longer a written list of VIN numbers for the Firebirds used on the TV series, it is hard to identify with 100% accuracy an actual screen-used Firebird.

Ross Healey located a 1976 Firebird Formula in San Diego in 2008.  After 2 years of trying to talk to the current owner, he purchased the Firebird in March 2010.  This Firebird has a letter signed by James Garner stating the vin number and the fact he drove it on the Rockford Files.  Ross also received a photo copy of an article about the original owner’s history with the Firebird.  This could be the best documented Firebird from the original tv series.  Pat McKinney purchased the 1976 Firebird from Ross a few years ago, along with all the documentation.

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Pat Mc Kinney, who lives in Southern California has been lucky enough to have owned four Rockford Firebirds. He purchased the first one from a couple in the early 1980’s. At that time, Pat managed to get written documentation from Vinny proving he now owned a screen-used car. He also found a prop plate with 853 OKG on it, in the trunk of the car. He kept this Firebird for a while, and then sold to a friend, whose wife had an accident with the car. Sadly the car was totaled, but she was ok. This car and the other three Firebirds that he currently owns all came through Livingston Pontiac in Woodland Hills, CA. All four Firebirds were special-order cars with similar equipment. In fact, the VIN number of Pat’s original 1978 that was destroyed, was only a few numbers off the 1978 Firebird that he owns today.

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Pat currently owns a 1977 Firebird that was a rig car. It is unique in that it was the only car that had holes drilled near the bottom of each of its fenders for sound wiring and microphones. According to a Roy Clark stunt coordinator and stunt double for James Garner, this was the only car that was rigged in this way. When this Firebird was used as a Hero car for filming of the outside of the car, painted plugs were put in to fill the holes. These plugs are clearly visible in several episodes in the 1977 season. “Quickie Nirvana” and “Requiem of a Funny Box” are two of the episodes. The Firebird is currently being restored by Pat. You can see pictures of the restoration on the Rockford Files website. There was a spoiler that was put back on the Firebird after filming. When Pat removed the spoiler, the original Rockford paint was clearly visible. Pat had a paint chip analyzed, which matched the paint on his 1978 Firebird. The color is Lt. Topaz.

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Pat’s 1978 Firebird was purchase from the daughter of a stunt man for the Rockford Files. I believe the stuntman’s name was Create. This car was used in the episode “Rock in Roll will never Die”. Its right-front fender and passenger door were smashed, and sold as-is to Mr. Create. Mr. Create purchased the car for his daughter who had the car painted grey. When Pat purchased the car from her, the paint was peeling and worn off in areas. You could see the Rockford paint coming through. This Firebird will be his next restoration project. The car also has low mileage, making it easier to restore than his 1977.

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Because of the Firebirds that Pat owns, we now have resources to help identify the Firebirds that were used on the TV series.

I asked Vinny about the two Firebirds that he supplied for the Rockford Files movies. He told me that he and his partner tried to sell the cars. He told me that the Firebirds were repainted and made into something completely different. In fact, I saw one of these Firebirds on e-bay in October of 2002. It is painted a bright gold color.

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The three movie Firebirds were a 1977 and two 1978 used cars. They rebuilt them and painted them. In fact, Vinny said they were actually painted the wrong shade, but no one noticed. He said that everyone always remembered the 1978 Firebirds, which is why they were rebuilt that way. These Firebirds had the standard interior with power windows.

Vinny said it was a pleasure working with James Garner. He was really a great guy!

If anyone has any other information about any original screen used Rockford Files Firebirds, please let me know at jimsuva34@aol.com.

I hope that this information will help other Rockford Files fans!

07
Jan
20

Last General Lee build in Georgia!

Last Built General Lee in Georgia

Last Built General Lee in Georgia

Written by Jim Suva

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In 1978, Warner Brothers Studios had a new TV show, The Dukes of Hazzard. It starred John Schneider as Bo Duke and Tom Wopat as Luke Duke. They were cousins who lived with another cousin, Daisy Duke, played by Catherine Bach. They lived in corrupt Hazzard County and were always in trouble with the law for doing the right thing. Another star of the show was their 1969 Dodge Charger they called the General Lee. The show ran for seven seasons, from 1979 to 1985.

The Start of Filming

Warner Brothers in California built three General Lees and sent them to Georgia for filming in November of 1978. The first five episodes of Dukes of Hazzard were filmed in Georgia, from November to December of that year. Don Schisler was hired as the transportation coordinator for the show and H&H Auto Body, owned by Henry Holman, was the shop that kept the cars in good working order. During that time, they rebuilt the three original General Lees over and over, to the point that they needed to acquire more cars. They built and used two more Chargers during filming for the first five episodes, for a total of five General Lees. After the first five episodes, production went on Christmas break; filming was to continue in January. However, during the Christmas break, Warner Brothers decided it would be better to film in California instead of Georgia, and production never returned to Georgia. The Studio had any usable vehicles in Georgia sent to California. This included three General Lees. The rest of Season 1 and all additional seasons were filmed in California, where it has been said anywhere from 250 – 350 General Lees were used. Of the five General Lees from the Georgia filming, Lee #1 and Lee #2 were scrapped, Lees #3, #4 and #5 were sent to California, used, and eventually scrapped. None of the five screen used Georgia cars remains today.

Volo’s History with The General Lee (#6)

In 2007 Volo Museum Director, Brian Grams, ran across a General Lee for sale. The description was vague, but it appeared to be documented with Warner Brothers paperwork. Volo promoted a “real General Lee” which sparked heated debate in the Dukes of Hazzard Fan community. They were told the car was never used, nor was it built by Warner Brothers. Volo was told it was bought as a parts car and was turned into a replica General Lee much later. At that time, Brian was no expert on the Dukes of Hazzard, so he had to rely on what he was told. But Brian also asked a lot of questions!

Investigation into Volo’s General Lee (#6)

The former president of the now defunct General Lee Fan Club, Travis Bell, visited the museum, suspicious of the validity of the car. He looked the car over and was able to confirm with Volo that their car has the main hoop section of the roll bar in it from Lee #1. Travis has the additional pieces of the roll bar from Lee #1 and was able to match them up, using the cuts and some of the chain links. Travis also supplied Volo with a few pictures of the car in pre-General Lee condition, taken at H&H Auto Body. This is where Brian’s investigation truly began.

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Looking at the photos of the car in its original state, it was obvious to him that the car was much too nice to have been a parts car. Brian questioned if they had a car that nice sitting there, then why would they not use it instead of rebuilding the wrecked ones? One thing the photos did prove is that the car was still in its original state after filming had finished in Georgia. Lee #1 was repainted blue and used in the final scene filmed. Lee #1 was sitting next to Volo’s car (gold) in its final state before going to the scrap yard. Brian knew it was not screen used, but still questioned its pedigree based on the fact it was too nice to be a parts car.

He contacted a man by the name of Jon Holland. Jon had written a book called Roads Back to Early Hazzard. He was and still is the devil’s advocate about this car, saying that it is a Warner Brothers owned parts car that was bought by Don Schisler and turned into a General Lee replica years after production. Don gave the car to his son, John Schisler. Jon Holland has talked down the car since day one, which has been one of the greatest resources Brian could have had, because whenever Jon said something about the car, it gave Brian a new direction. For example, Jon said the car was painted several years after production left Georgia. This gave Brian the clue to finding out when the car was painted. If it was painted several years later, then it is a replica, plain and simple. However, if it was painted before Don Schisler bought the car (Dec 1, 1979) then it is a real General Lee and not a replica.

Thus began the quest: when was the car painted orange? No one seemed to know. Jon Holland’s theory is that the car was gold when production left Georgia, as seen in the photos. Brian’s debate on that is that just because the film production went on break, that didn’t mean business at H&H stopped. They had wrecked cars to dispose of, and not knowing at the time that production wouldn’t return, they would have been preparing for the return of production, which was supposed to happen in only a few weeks. Filming stopped, production did not.

The first thing that was proven, thanks to Travis Bell, was that the roll bar was in fact from Lee #1. The next thing discovered was that it was not Larry West who did the graphics on the car. Brian had posted the car to the Volo Auto Museum’s Facebook page which showed a man painting the graphics on it, with the caption “Larry West painting the graphics on our General Lee”. Soon after, someone named Ronnie Edwards left a comment “That’s not Larry West, that’s me”. Brian reached out to Ronnie and asked some questions. Ronnie was hired by Don Schisler to do graphic painting. Ronnie said Don hired him to do two General Lees. Lee #6 was for the show, it was a gold car with a 360 engine, that is Volo’s car. Ronnie said “It’s the real deal and the holy grail of all General Lees out there”. Ronnie could not remember when he did the graphics on the car, but he did supply Brian with more photos of the car when it was at his shop, having the graphics painted. There was an interesting item in one photo, the roof of a General Lee can be seen leaning against his building. This was the roof from Lee #2. They cut it off so Ronnie could copy the graphics.

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Lee #1 and Lee #2 went to the scrap yard on Christmas Eve 1978, which raises the thought in Brian’s mind, if the car was built years later and Lee #1 and #2 went to the scrap yard, what is the probability that they would have, without reason, cut out the roll bar from Lee #1 and the roof of Lee #2, and just have them sitting around for years. Common sense says, they cut those parts off because they had immediate use, which tells Brian the photos were taken closer to the filming dates than the claimed built dates. Common sense isn’t proof though. Brian studied the pictures hard, looking to see if he could find something with a date, like a registration sticker, and then he spotted it. In the background of the General Lee is a sign “Bill Hutson for Sheriff”. Bill Hutson became Sheriff in 1980, his campaign was in 1979. The election was the 2nd Tuesday in November of 1979. Ordinance is a campaign sign must be down no later than 10 days after the election. This was a populated town and not a rural area, the ordinance would likely have been enforced. That means the picture was taken no later than November 23rd 1979, and there the car is, as a General Lee. That means the car was turned into a General Lee sometime between December 24th 1978 and November 23rd 1979. Don didn’t buy the car until December 1st of that year, after it was already a General Lee. This also proves Jon’s “Years later” comment was incorrect. Being fair, there could have been a verbal agreement between Warner Brothers and Don and that’s just the paperwork date. So technically, Don could have built it into a replica, just earlier than thought.

Travis Bell, who confirmed the roll bar, had come across more photos of Volo’s General Lee, this time at H&H Auto Body with H&H employee Danny Hobbs behind the wheel of the car. Those photos place the car at H&H proving H&H were the ones to paint the car. So, Brian questioned how he could get in touch with any of the original builders. Ronnie Edwards was able to give him contact info for Don Schisler’s son, John, who was a helping hand during production, as well as the one the car was supposedly built for. Don had passed away several years prior to Brian’s investigations, so he was unable to speak with him. When Brian asked John about the car and brought up the story about the replica built from a parts car for him, he chuckled and said, “There is nothing further from the truth”. They had a discussion, which he later put in writing, that it was the last car they had built for the show. He said he remembered it well because it was the last one built. He said it is the only surviving Georgia era General Lee.

Brian was able to find Henry Holman, owner of H&H Auto Body and speak to him. Henry said, in writing, it was the last car they had built for the show, Lee #6. He also said he remembered it well, because he was the one who found it. Henry was making a beer run to the gas station, when a woman pulled up in the car, he asked her if she wanted to sell it, put her in touch with Don and they made a deal. He said when it was announced that production was moving to California there were four General Lees on set, three of them went to California, and the fourth was given to Don Schisler, to settle money owned to him by Warner brothers. Warner Brothers gave Don Schisler all the unusable wrecked and scrapped cars as partial payment. This showed the car as being built prior to mid-January 1979, and built for Warner Brothers with intent to be used, NOT as a replica for Don’s son.

Later Brian was able to track down John Blanchette, who purchased the car from Don Schisler in November of 1980. According to him, Don told him the car was screen used for close up shots and was sold to him as the real deal. John, amazingly, kept and still had possession of all his records of the car from work he had done to it, old photos, letter correspondents and best of all the original ad he purchased it from. The ad that Don Schisler himself posted. The ad clearly reads “General Lee as owned and built by Warner Bro. for Dukes of Hazzard series, not a replica, only privately-owned General Lee in existence.” The phone number in the ad corresponds to Don Schisler and is actually still is registered to his family.

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Brian was later able to contact one other person, Danny Hobbs, the man pictured in the car at H&H Auto Body. He too confirmed that they “Got it ready, but didn’t use it” in the Georgia episodes.

Explaining the False Stories

As a summary, the false “known history” of the car was that it was originally bought by Warner Brothers, used as a parts car only, and was sold to Don Schisler, who later restored the car into a replica for his son John. Actually, this was the 6th General Lee ever built, as well as the last General Lee ever prepared by the Georgia crew for screen use. It is also the only surviving Georgia-era General Lee. If filming didn’t move to California, this car would have been used and would not exist today. It is the first General Lee ever to be released to the public. The Volo ad has cool factor of being the first advertisement ever for a General Lee!

So, where did the parts car/replica rumor come from? This is what Don Schisler told people over the years. But why? It’s likely because when production moved to California, Don was given all the scrap and parts cars. Since the car was never screen used, Warner Brothers wouldn’t have known if the car was a parts car or a ready-to-use General Lee. He could easily acquire the car by saying it’s a parts car. The bill of sale shows “$10 and consideration” which supports the car was given to him as part of the “scrap and parts cars agreement”. When questioned, to avoid any backlash, he maintained the story he told Warner Brothers, except when he told the complete opposite, in writing, in his ad! Don basically told two different stories.

Travis Bell and a partner of his, located Lee #1 in the scrap yard and purchased it. That is how Travis was able to confirm the Volo car’s roll bar is from Lee #1. Volo’s #6 car has had only 1,500 miles on it since 1978 and it is all original and unrestored, just as it was built in 1978/79. Original H&H paint, original hand painted graphics, original wheels, push bar, etc., hence the only “Surviving Georgia Lee”.

Epilog

Brian believes only 20 TV series General Lees exist. 17 of the California cars were sold off to Wayne Wooten in 1990 – these are the ones that have a contract and are for private use only. There is Volo’s Lee #6, Lee #1, now owned by Bubba Watson, and there is a California TV series car that Warner Brothers painted a different color and used for another TV show after Dukes of Hazzard. It was later discovered to be a General Lee. Volo’s car is the nicest unrestored General Lee in existence.

You can find a video and many of the documents on the Volo Auto Museum website https://www.volocars.com/the-attraction/vehicles/13166/1969-dodge-charger

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04
Jan
20

Ford vs. Ferrari

Ford GT40 from Ford v Ferrari

Ford GT40 from Ford v Ferrari

by Jim Suva

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The movie Ford v Ferrari opened in November, 2019. It stars Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as Ken Miles. The movie tells the story of how Ford beat Ferrari in the 1966 “24 Hours of Le Mans” road race in France.

This story is about one of the screen-used Ford GT40s from the movie, and how Volo Auto Museum got ownership of it.

Opportunity Comes Calling

Brian Grams, Museum Director at Volo, was in his office chatting with his father, Greg Grams, Founder and CEO of Volo Auto Museum and Auto Sales. Greg had seen Ford v Ferrari the night before and was commenting about how great it was, and how Brian had to go and see it. Ironically, at that exact moment Brian received a text message from one of his contacts who works in the Entertainment industry. He was asking if Volo Auto Museum wanted any cars from the movie. Brian knew they would not be bargain autos by any means, and he figured there would be little interest on Volo’s behalf, considering they did not have any space to display an additional movie car at that moment. But he still brought it up to his father, whose eyes lit up with excitement. Brian thinks the adrenaline from seeing the movie was still racing in his veins, because Greg was definitely interested.

The offer was pretty wide open as far as the pick of the litter. They had their choice of cars, from the Ken Miles family’s woody wagon, to partially assembled Ford Falcons from the Ford factory scene, to Corvettes, Porches, Ferraris and of course, the GT40s. Not having seen the movie, Brian gravitated to the Ferraris, whereas his dad loved both the Ferraris and GT40s. They knew there was a limited window on this opportunity, because the cars were released that day, and were offered up to museums and collectors. They knew that the best ones would be the ones to disappear first. Brian and Greg narrowed their choices down to the #21 Ferrari or the Green #95 GT40. Greg suggested Brian and his brother Jay, go to see the movie. This would help them to decide which would be the right car. They could then make a more informed decision the following morning. Jay went to see the movie, but Brian was unable to go.

The next morning Jay said, “Get the GT before its gone! The whole movie is about the GT40!” Brian tried calling his father, but could not reach him. He called his mother and asked her to get in touch with Greg, but she had no luck either. Not wanting to miss out on the car, Brian decided to pull the trigger on the green #95 GT40. The purchase was done sight-unseen, and with little to no information about the car. He knew it had an LS3 engine and he had seen a few photos of the car, sandwiched between other cars, and it showed a lot of scrapes and scratches. Brian at this point had no idea how the car was built. Was it built quickly, just so that it would look good on film, like so many Movie/TV cars? Was the car built with quality in mind? What was he going to get for the premium price he was about to pay? He also knew in the back of his mind, that no matter the car’s condition, it would be timeless. Ford v Ferrari is the first true car movie to have been released for many years. Even the Fast and Furious franchise, that features a lot of cars is not a true car lovers movie. So here he had a real car from a true car movie.

After making the commitment to purchase the car, Greg reached out to Brian (the adrenaline of the movie having since left his veins), and decided that Volo did not need the car, did not have the space, and felt the funds could be better used elsewhere. When Brian told him he already bought the car, Greg was angry that Brian did not wait to discuss the purchase with him, but Brian also thinks he was secretly pretty happy and excited.

Inspection and History of Volo’s Ford GT40

The deal was completed and the car picked up. Upon delivery Brian noticed that the many scrapes and scratches that were on the car were actually studio effects! They were painted on, including dirt and brake dust, to give the car that race-track-used look. There was no actual damage to the car! He was happy to learn the car was not the typical movie car that was cheaply built just to look good on screen. It was an incredible build.

This is where Brian’s research began, which wasn’t too difficult, because the movie’s recent release. The first thing he did was a Google search, and picked bits and pieces out of articles. During that process he learned that two companies, Superformance and Race Car Replicas had supplied a majority of the cars to the film. Brian reached out to both Superformance and RCR. RCR replied that it was one of the cars they had built. They supplied the production company with over 100 cars, from the Ferraris to Porsches, GT40s, etc. All the cars used the same driveline per request by the production company. All the cars were powered by LS3, for ease of repairs and maintenance on the set. This was much easier than having a variety of different drivelines. There were a total of twelve GT40s and RCR supplied 10 of them. Superformance supplied the other two.

The cars all featured an RCR custom built aluminum chassis, designed after the original GT40 chassis. The body is made of fiberglass from a mold that was taken off an original GT40. It is a very close replica to an original GT40, unlike other replicas that have mis-proportioned bodies and use existing chassis, from a Fiero, for example. The RCR GT40 has the same chassis design, but is a few hundred pounds lighter because of its use of aluminum instead of steel. It handles and performs much like an original GT40. RCR sent the cars to the production company complete, with exception of one thing, the paint. All the cars were sent in bare gel coat, ready to be painted by the production company.

Another discovery Brian made was a few sheets of paper in the car, which depicted the Daytona race scene. This was an outline so the drivers knew where they needed to be positioned and when. It was essentially the race choreography. There was also a GPS transponder likely to be used by production to monitor everyone’s position and speed. One last thing he found in the car was a tag labeled Paul Dallenbach. With a Google search he discovered that Paul is a professional stunt and race car driver. Paul is the one who drove this GT40 in the movie. Paul said the car handled great, like a true race car, with the exception of the tires, which were chosen for looks instead of performance. They had a hard time sticking. Paul drove the car on average 130 mph for filming. Ironically, the #95 car that Paul was driving was in the 24 Hours of Daytona race scene, where car #95 had come in 2nd place. In real life, Paul actually raced in the 24 Hours of Daytona race, and placed 2nd in his racing career!

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In the movie there are far more than twelve GT40s shown. Since the production company had only twelve cars, how was that possible? The cars were recycled and painted to look like different cars for different scenes. Through a friend, Brian was able to get a few images from the production “key list” of cars. He learned before Volo’s car was the green #95, it was the red #3 Dan Gurney car, that was used in the Le Mans race scene, as well as a yellow #8 car that was used in one of the pit scenes of the Le Mans race.

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In addition, the key list showed a scene where the green #95 car hits a 66 Mustang, in which the Mustang ends up exploding. Unfortunately this scene must have ended up on the cutting room floor.

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One last discovery was the paint scheme of the #95 car, the real Moody and Holman #95 car that raced the 24 hours of Daytona was white with some green accents. So why was this car not painted the same? The production company did this intentionally, to help the audience more easily identify cars that would otherwise look too similar and could be confusing to movie goers.

Final comment

I went to see this movie and I can’t wait for it to come out in digital format. In my opinion, it is one of the best racing movies ever made. If you get a chance, go see the movie and then come to the Volo Auto Museum to see this piece of movie history. You will not be disappointed!

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20
Dec
19

Miami Vice Daytona Spider

Miami Vice Screen Used Daytona

Miami Vice Screen Used Daytona

Written by Jim Suva

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In 1984, a new TV show called Miami Vice hit the air waves on NBC. It was a big hit because of the designer clothes, exotic cars, the hit sound tracks. Don Johnson starred as Sonny Crockett and Phillip Michael Thomas as Rico Tubbs as two undercover Miami Vice detectives. Sonny drove a black 1972 Ferrari Daytona GTS/4 Daytona Spyder.

The Ferrari Daytona cars that were used on the first two seasons, and a few episodes of Season 3, were actually Daytona kit cars built on a Corvette chassis. This is the story of the original Daytona, Car #1. The car is presently owned by the Volo Auto Museum, in Volo, Illinois. Brian Gram oversees Volo’s extensive Star Cars display. He has thoroughly researched the Daytona Spyder, and this is what Brian found out about the history of their car.

Birth of the Daytona Spyder Kit Car #1

In the 1980s, Al Mardekian, who was a specialty car dealer in CA, also built kit cars, such as a Lamborghini. He considered doing a Cobra replica and contacted known builder Tom McBurnie. Tom visited Al’s shop to discuss the project. Al’s idea was to build a Cobra on a Corvette chassis. Unfortunately, Tom said the proportions were too different to make this possible. While at the shop, Tom noticed a Ferrari Daytona Spyder for sale in the dealership showroom, and asked, “What about a Daytona?” Al agreed and gave Tom the Daytona (which was really a customer’s car and not Al’s) to be dismantled and have molds made from it. Once the molds were made, Tom set out to make his first car, which was built on a 1976 Corvette chassis. When putting the car together he ran into an issue. The panels did not fit on the passenger side. Tom was unaware that the Corvette donor car had been in an accident and was improperly repaired. The wheelbase was 1.5 inches shorter on the passenger side than on the driver side. Tom was able to make the adjustments to make it fit, the car was painted red and had a Gale Banks Twin Turbo engine in it. Tom continued to build an additional three cars, known as Cars #2, #3, and #4. Car #4 was black with a tan interior, built on a 1981 Corvette chassis. Those were the only cars Tom built for Al.

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The Miami Vice Connection

Meanwhile, Universal Studios was working on the new Miami Vice TV series. They wanted an exotic car that would fit the character of Sonny Crocket. Miami Vice producer, Michael Mann, was friends with Dan Haggerty, a.k.a. Grizzly Adams. Dan had seen the Daytona replicas on Al’s car lot and suggested to Michael that they should be used on the show. Michael went to visit Al and asked about leasing Car #4, the black and tan one, and Al agreed. The Miami Vice pilot was filmed, and the show went into production. Once in production, they needed a second car to use as a stunt vehicle. They ended up leasing Volo’s Car #1 from Al. They had to remove the Gale Banks motor for a tamer engine and painted the car black so it would match Car #4. Meanwhile, Al got into some difficulties, and Universal was concerned because they were leasing the cars. The studio couldn’t afford to lose them. So, they did what any large, well-heeled movie studio would do, they bought them! (See Ferrari Lawsuit Section below.)

Universal Studios secured the cars and continued to film. On an interesting note, Michael Mann placed the Ferrari emblems on these cars, and it is obvious he placed them incorrectly. In the early episodes, you can see that the nose emblem was placed high above the headlights. In later episodes it was moved to the correct location between the lights.

A Real Life Miami Vice Sting Operation

During filming, one of the Daytona’s was borrowed by a mechanic who worked on the set. Unfortunately, the mechanic used the car to make an illegal deal selling gun silencers. But it was a sting operation and he was arrested. Luckily, the car was returned to the set, unharmed by the experience!

Ferrari Lawsuit

Since Miami Vice became such a popular TV show, Ferrari became upset with the notoriety the replica Ferrari was receiving, so they sued Universal Studios. In the end, Ferrari and Universal came to an agreement; they would get rid of the Daytona in the storyline. This would ostensibly make people forget about the Daytona. Ferrari would then donate two new Testarossa’s to take place of the Daytona’s in the show. But how would they make Sonny’s Daytona disappear from the storyline? The answer was simple. Blow it up on the show! Disclaimer: Special effects were used; no Daytona’s were actually harmed during filming!

Universal Studios now had two Testarossa’s and two Daytona’s, but they needed a Testarossa stunt vehicle. They agreed to trade the two Daytona’s to Carl Roberts, who had been involved in maintaining the cars on set, for a Testarossa replica for stunt use. Carl built the Testarossa stunt car, and took possession of the two Daytona’s, but without their titles.

Carl wanted to go into business building Daytona replicas. However, Ferrari eventually sued both Tom McBurnie and Carl Roberts for trademark infringement and put a stop to production.

Daytona Car #4 history after Miami Vice

Carl Roberts sold one of the Daytona’s, Car #4 to a private party. Car #4 changed hands several times, but today has been owned by the same owner for many years.

Daytona Car #1 history after Miami Vice

After Miami Vice stopped using the Daytona’s, Carl Roberts rented out two Daytona’s to produce Speed Zone, starring John Candy. Which included car #1.The movie was filmed in Canada. The cars were delivered to Canada, used for filming, and then set back to California. Carl hired Don Horn to pick the cars up in California and bring them to his shop in Lubbock Texas for storing. That way Carl could pick them up at a later date. Carl sent a driver out to pick up the “Hero” (Car #1), but the driver blew the motor, so Carl had Don Horn pulled the engine from the other Daytona. Once that was done the hero car was driven back to Carl’s garage. Carl made a deal with Don Horn that he would trade Don a Daytona body kit to cover the cost of the repairs. Don borrowed the money from Roger Pamperine to do the repairs. But Don never paid Roger Pamperine and Roger put a lien on the car. The lien was for $3,000, but Roberts refused to pay. In order to get a title, the car had to be put into a police auction and sold. Roger Pamperine bought the car from the auction, allowing him to get legal title, selling the car to regain his investments.

The car was then acquired by Jeff Allen from the TV show Car Chasers. He put it on eBay, where the Volo Auto Museum was the high bidder. Jeff represented the car as the original Daytona from Miami Vice, he had documentation, emails and letterhead copies that referred to this and the other Speed Zone car as Miami Vice Daytona’s. Brian Grams, not being a historian on Miami Vice, accepted the documents as proof of it being the original car.

        Volo Auto Museum did a partial restoration and presented the car in the museum. Shortly after being put on display, the Volo Museum was called out for representing a replica car as the original. Most of the time Brian ignored those comments, because usually they came from Miami Vice fans who were comparing the car to what they saw on-screen. In this case, it was not accurate, since Carl Roberts had modified the car for Speed Zone. Then, a person who had knowledge of the original VIN numbers approached Brian. He was friends with the owner of Car #4, and he had copies of the Universal documents that listed the two Daytona VIN numbers. He was able to confirm that Brian’s VIN number was neither of the VIN numbers listed. He knew a story of Carl Roberts scrapping the chassis and not knowing the whereabouts of Car #1’s body, and he suggested that maybe the Volo car was the body from Car #1. They went back and forth over many of the unique details of the body. There was a patch where the fiberglass was repaired, from when Michael Mann improperly placed the nose emblem, the passenger side of the car was shorter by 1.5 inches, and it was red under the black paint. There were holes cut in the doors where speakers were originally placed in the Miami Vice car. The auto museum determined that it was likely, but unprovable, that this was the body from Car #1. Brian left it at that, not happy, but satisfied it wasn’t a complete replica car. The problem was that even though there was evidence to support it, it cannot be proven this is the Car #1 body.

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This put a fire in Brian, he knew he was missing something. He went to the car and wanted it to talk to him. Brian just kept looking at it wondering what was missing, and then there it was! He was reading the VIN number and he noticed the rivets holding the VIN tag were not GM rivets, which immediately made him question the authenticity of the VIN tag. Brian immediately went searching for the frame number, which is located at the rear of the frame, near the rear tire, but there was no VIN, no stamping of any kind. Remember, Car #1 was wrecked before Tom McBurnie got it. The entire rear section of the frame was replaced with a new one. That was evident by the type of welds. Not knowing any additional location where he could check a VIN number, Brian was quite let down. One more piece of the puzzle, the frame replacement, supports it being Car #1 but without that VIN, the proof wasn’t there.

Brian called a Corvette restorer whom he knows and was told the VIN is also on top of the frame on the driver’s side. He told Brian you can’t see it without taking the body off. Brian knew taking the body off was not an option. The Corvette expert said, if you were to sit in the driver’s seat, place your hand down on the sill, that’s where it would be located on the frame. Brian got a hole saw and cut a hole there, and just like a bullseye, there was a VIN number. It was NOT the same VIN number listed on the tag. The VIN number on the tag was for an 81 Corvette, the frame was a 1976 frame. Brian called the original source who had knowledge of the VIN numbers, to see if it matched against the Universal paperwork. Unfortunately, he was on vacation. After about a week of nail biting, he did call Brian to congratulate him on finding the missing chassis, but the body still could not be confirmed. Then it occurred to Brian that perhaps the original trim tag was still in the door jamb, and sure enough, it was. The codes on the tag were for a 1976 Corvette, NOT a 1981 Corvette like the VIN tag would have implied. To further prove it, the date code on the Trim Tag matched up to be within three weeks from the date of the frame. Everything was finally tied together and proven! Volo had found, without doubt, the missing Daytona from Miami Vice and the #1 prototype Daytona replica. He was provided with copies of the Universal Documents once he was able to prove the car’s pedigree. Brian talked to Tom McBurnie about it and he mentioned it was originally a green Corvette, who said that the original car he used was white. Brian sanded down some of the paint in the door jamb, and it went from black, to red, to white, and finally green. The car must have been painted white after the collision. Mystery solved!

Conclusion

Since the discovery, Volo Auto Museum has spent thousands of dollars reversing the modifications made to the car by Carl Roberts. Their goal was to bring it back to its screen accuracy as closely as possible to its Miami Vice days.

Here is link to a YouTube video Volo did with Tom McBurnie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRKxnCj5Gpk

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23
Oct
19

Dune Buggy Star Cars

Dune Buggies were a big hit in the 1960’s and TV noticed the interest, so naturally put them on TV! Dune buggies appeared in many shows and “beach” movies, but a few were customized to become unforgettable “Star Cars!” The main Star Cars that emerged were the “Bugaloos” buggy, Speed Buggy cartoon, and Wonderbug.

Bugaloos buggy and the original cast in the Macy’s Day parade

Here’s an excerpt from “Cars of the Stars” about the car:

1970s – A Barris Fun Buggy four-passenger fiberglass body was used as a base for the hockey stick silhouette design of the Bugaloos Buggy, featured on “The Bugaloos” television series. Since the concept of the show, starring Martha Raye and the four Bugaloos, showed the group with wings enabling them to fly, it was determined logical for the car to “fly” and to “ride” on water. The buggy was equipped with two large flapping butterfly wings, and twin screws installed under the rear body for high-powered water sporting. Oversized headlights looked like the eyes of a bug, while the taillights were tunneled portholes that illuminate at night. Wide oval Firestone tires were installed on Ansen one-piece sprint wheels. The interior was individualized for each Bugaloo – each star having his/her own telephone system and Muntz stereo tape system with individual earphones. The buggy was painted in a green, yellow and orange butterfly theme with orange and purple pinstripes. – Cars of the Stars, ©1974 . http://bugaloos.net/bugaloo-buggy.shtml

Speed Buggy was never a real car, just a cartoon inspired by the 1968 Walt Disney Pictures film The Love Bug and the Speed Racer anime franchise. Only 16 episodes, but there were in heavy rotation in re-runs!

The cast of Wonderbug in the transformed version of the car.

Wonderbug was a segment of the first and second season of the Americantelevision seriesThe Krofft Supershow, from 1976 to 1978. A live action group of kids found a “talking car” and it would transform int Wonderbug!

Even Spiderman got into the action, and a Spidermobile was featured in several comics during the Dune Buggy Craze! A “real” version was built of this in 2015!

Built by Jack Orell in Georgia

There are other lesser known Dune Buggies, and many films and shows featured a stock buggy at the beach, but this short list are the most famous on screen versions of the fun open air “Kit Car” craze known as “Dune Buggies”!

09
Oct
18

National Lampoon’s Family Vacation Wagon Queen Family Truckster

Hi Star Car fans!

I have a long list of star car blogs I still need to write, but sometimes I find a great blog on a star car and just ask to repost it!  Here’s a guy actually named GRISWOLD and he made an awesome Wagon Queen Family Truckster from “National Lampoon’s Family Vacation”

Just a taste of it here, click the link for photos to read his build story! Great job, Steve and family!

Nate Trumangriswoldvac-vacation-1

The Making of the Griswold Family Truckster
by Steve Griswold | Aug 27, 2013 | Uncategorized | 45 comments

The Griswold Family Story
We are the Griswolds, and, yes, we are heading on vacation. I have been hearing jokes all my life but love the National Lampoon Vacation movies. So we decided to create our own Griswold Truckster so we can take the kids on some awesome road trips. If you have seen the National Lampoon Vacation movie, you know the Griswolds purchase the Family Truckster in metallic pea; it’s not what they ordered at Lou Glutz Motors, but after their trade in is crushed into scrap metal they are happy to take home the Wagon Queen Family Truckster to start the family road trip to Walley World.

I am sure you want to know how our Truckster came to life. We took many photos along the way and have created a Griswold Family Truckster Photo Album here.

You can email Steve or Lisa Griswold at:
Pixie Vacations / Griswold Family Vacations
Email
Steve@PixieVacations.com
or
Lisa@PixieVacations.com
Phone: 678-815-1584
Website: http://www.PixieVacations.com / http://www.GriswoldFamilyVacations.com

The Griswold Family Truckster
Just so you know the Wagon Queen Family Truckster in the National Lampoon movie is a 1979 Ford LTD Country Squire that has been modified by Warner Brothers, not by George Barris who did the Batmobile and other famous movie cars. For some reason George Barris gets credit for the Truckster but Gary Schneider did extensive research before building a Truckster himself and found out George Barris did not build the Griswold Family Truckster.

 

10
May
18

Think you have seen all the star car movies?

By Nate Truman

Since the 1970’s I’ve been an avid “star car” fan, builder, and collector.  I’ve spent way too much time researching, and enjoying movie and TV cars as my main hobby.  With a career in TV and films, I have had access to many of the screen used cars and spent many years on the backlots of studios looking under tarps and finding out little tidbits of info on these stars of the screens with wheels!   Today, with the advent of “Google search”, most everything you may have a passing interest in can be answered almost instantly but not everything comes up on some of the older or less “famous” movie and TV vehicles.

So today I’m just going to publish a small part of my “blog ideas” list, and see what you and other Star Car fans want to read about, and it can also be used as a check list if you want to see a film that also features a cool ride!  Leave a comment on which car you want to see a blog about, and I will dig though my files and share my “analog” info along with what I can gather from my star car pals!

 

 

 

In no particular order:

“HAROLD AND MAUDE”   JAGUAR HEARSE

“CHITTY CHITTY-BANG-BANG”

“BULLITT” STEVE McQUEEN – 1968 FORD MUSTANG 390 GT

“THE CAR”

“CHRISTINE”

“SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT”

“THUNDER ROAD”

“DAMNATION ALLEY”

“HERBIE THE LOVE BUG” 1963  BEETLE

“AUSTIN POWERS” BRITISH FLAG JAGUAR XKE and XK8

“UNDERCOVER BROTHER”

ROY ROGERS JEEP

“MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE CLOWN TRUCK

“BLUES BROTHERS” BLUES MOBILE – 1974 Dodge Monaco

“VANISHING POINT”

“MAD MAX”

“GHOSTBUSTERS” [1984]1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Ambulance

HERKIMER BATTLE JITNEY (Mystery Men)

ANTICHRIST LORRIE -(The Gods Must be Crazy).

1967 FORD SHELBY GT500 FASTBACK (Gone in 60 Seconds).

THELMA AND LOUISE – Thunderbird

FERRIS BUELLER’S 1961 FERRARI 250 GT SPYDER CALIFORNIA

CHEECH & CHONG’S SWEET N’ LOW DOPE VAN

STRAKER’S FUTURE CAR FROM UFO SERIES

MR. MAJESTYK YELLOW 1968 FORD PICK-UP

09
Feb
18

Building the “FALL GUY” Truck

In my continuing blogs about building star cars, here’s a fun one that not too many people attempt, “Colt Sever’s” aka Lee Major’s truck from the “Fall Guy” series. From the builder himself, here is his journey to get his own version of the famous stunt truck!

 

BUILDING THE “FALL GUY” TRUCK, by Bryan D. Conrad

Well, I’m not the kind to kiss and tell…………oh wait a second, yes I am! Here’s the story of how my Fall Guy replica truck came to be. I grew up in the era of 80’s car shows and while I enjoyed all of them, my very favorites were The Fall Guy, The Dukes of Hazzard, and Streethawk. In fact, on my 5th birthday I got the Fall Guy truck and General Lee on the same day!

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From that moment on I dreamed of having one of those two vehicles and I always leaned towards the General Lee. As I got older I realized that decent Chargers were hard to come by and I found that there were thousands of General Lee’s in the US; so that became less desirable to me. I started focusing my attention to The Fall Guy and collecting data over the years of what the specs were on the truck and I kept an eye out for a truck to start my build.

In 2005 I found a truck that I nearly bought, but through certain circumstances I couldn’t make it happen, so the search went on. I had no intention of putting the truck in a museum or just to pull it out on a nice weekend. I wanted the truck to be my truck, one that I drove every day and took on family vacations. Finally, in May 2016 I found the truck that would work. I wanted a decent body with no rust and I wanted a 2500. I found a 1987 Chevy V20 Camper Special.

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Before you begin building a vehicle from movies or television, there are many, many things to consider. In the case of The Fall Guy, I had to decide which version of the truck I wanted to build or a hybrid truck of several versions. In the pilot episode, a 1980 GMC High Sierra truck was used. It had a different roll bar, 6” round off-road lights for the grille guard and roll-bar, there was no hood decal, and the color scheme was slightly different.

 

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From the second episode of season 1 through season 2, they used 1981 GMC Sierra Grande trucks. The roll-bar had been changed, larger round off-road lights (8” instead of 6”) were added, the hood decal was added, and the brown and gold paint scheme was used.

From season 3 to the end of the show, they used different trucks depending on need and availability: 1981 GMC Sierra Grande’s, 1983-1984 GMC Sierra Classics, and for the jump trucks, most often used was a 1980 GMC High Sierra (from the pilot). Again, like all TV and movie cars, I had to determine what I wanted to focus on and in my case, since I had the most screen footage of season 1 and season 2 (because they were available on DVD), and I liked the look of those trucks the best, I chose to replicate as much as possible, the unit 1 truck from season 1.

One of the barriers from the very beginning was to take a Chevy and retrofit it to be a GMC. While the body, engine, and many other parts are exactly the same, the issue was going to be that GMC changed the Sierra Grande trim package in 1982 to High Sierra. That means, that the Sierra Grande fender emblems changed in 1981 and were only available for one year! Making a 1981 Sierra Grande fender emblem virtually impossible to find. In fact, to this day I’ve never seen a 1981 GMC Sierra Grande truck in the flesh. But more about my Chevy to GMC conversion later.

The other consideration I had to quickly decide if I was going to do or not, was the secret compartment in the side of the truck. Almost every car from the 80’s needed something to make it “cool” and not just a stock vehicle. For The Fall Guy, it was the secret compartment (see below). After much consideration, I didn’t have the time, money, or know someone that could do that level of customization; so I left it on my “maybe someday” list.

I began watching every season 1 episode with the truck and taking screen shots of the truck. I studied those pictures to try and determine every aspect of the truck. Just three weeks after purchasing it, I started tearing it down to take it to the body shop to get it painted.  The paint color was one of the most difficult to determine, because depending on the lighting, the lens of the camera, and multiple other factors the color looked different in various shots. There was no “real” Fall Guy truck in a museum to go and compare it with, so I was on my own to try and determine the color. And because of the paint used and process with clear-coating it also makes the color look different. I spent hours and hours trying to find the combination I thought was most like the truck. The body shop would spray a couple of test pieces and I would quickly decline it, but eventually I found the combination I liked. The actual show truck is the front half and my truck is the back half (see below):

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It took 9 weeks to have the truck painted, during that time I continued to research the show and buy things I needed. I had a room in our basement that I quickly dubbed, “the parts room.”

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My next big hurdle was to get the hood decal made. I didn’t have a hi-res logo to use, so I hired a logo design company to recreate The Fall Guy logo. It took about three weeks and several corrections for me to be happy with the logo. I then sent it to a custom vinyl decal company to have them print it.

 

1112I used the above picture to determine the size I was going to need and measured it out on the hood of my truck. While waiting for my truck to be painted, I purchased all new exterior parts. I had to buy a new front bumper that had the turn signals in the bumper like they did in 1981. I bought a 1981 GMC grille and headlight bezels, I bought new mirrors, new side marker lights, new rear bumper, new windshield, a 102” whip antenna and ball mount, a chrome roll bar, and red double pinstripe tape.

13141516171819Finally, my truck was painted and I was ready to start putting it together. Once I had it put back together I started to focus on turning it into The Fall Guy truck. I first had to find some 1981 Sierra Grande 2500 fender emblems. I after several weeks I found a pair on eBay, but they were Sierra Grand 3500 emblems instead of 2500, but they would have to do for now (it was certainly better than nothing!) However, something that was “close” was never going to be good enough for me. It was driving me crazy, not having the right fender emblems. After a few more months of searching every day, I found a pair of Sierra Grande 2500 emblems! That was an exciting day for me, in fact, I had not seen any before nor since and consider it a blessing from the Lord!

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Everyone has their own idea of what a Fall Guy truck should look like and each person has their own set of things that make it a Fall Guy truck. For me, it was the grille guard. As I added the roll bar and hood decal, I had many people say, “That made the truck right there, that looks awesome.” But I had seen a handful of Fall Guy replica trucks on the internet and most didn’t have the grille guard and if they did, it looked nothing like the one from the show. For me, it just wasn’t a Fall Guy truck without the grille guard. I knew I had my work cut out for me. Before I had purchased the truck, I had already done hours of research trying to figure out how in the world I was going to custom make it. I had no dimensions, nothing I could physically go look at, it was going to have to be all by pictures. Finally, after weeks of research I devised my plan.

 

I took this picture: I then projected the image onto a wall with a piece of poster board taped to it, measured the front of my truck and then blew the image up until it was the size I wanted. I then traced out the design and put it onto a piece of plywood. I cut the plywood out and got some PVC tubing to make a mock of the grille guard. I then took it to a steel fabricator and had it made. Unfortunately, this was not the end of it, I would still have more obstacles to overcome before it looked the way I wanted it. So I put on the double pinstripe, roll bar, hood decal, and antenna and ball mount; it had come a long way, but there was a still a long way to go.

 

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I had purchased four 8” round off-road lights and I was able to find two Cibie square lights for the light bar. I got the grille guard back after about four weeks and I mounted the lights on the light bar and grille guard. While the average person thought the truck looked wonderful, I was not satisfied with some of the results. 1) the light bar was on top of the roll bar (it was behind the roll bar on the show) 2) the hoops on the grille guard were just off, it was too wide and too long 3) I wanted the tops lights to be spaced more like the show 4) I wanted the light covers changed from saying Pro Comp to saying Super Off-Roader 5) I still needed bigger tires 6) I needed to find a Warn 8274 winch.

 

272829The first step, was to take the grille guard back off my truck and take it the steel fab shop. I explained what I wanted and asked if they could fix it for me. They assured me they could. And just over 5 months later and numerous visits; they called to let me know it was done. So, for about 5 months the truck got put on hold and I had to be satisfied with working on a few minor fixes here and there. Once I got the grille guard back and was pleased with how it looked, it was full steam ahead on the build. The same week I got the grille guard back, I was able to find a Warn 8274 winch from 1985, and it was perfect for what I wanted. I gave the winch a fresh paint job and then put the grille guard and winch on my truck.

In my eyes, it was finally starting to take shape, there were just a few glaring problems left. The truck is a true 2500 and was a Camper Special; which meant without any weight in the back it was a VERY stiff ride. So I wanted to address ride quality, while also addressing raising the truck and putting on bigger tires. The show truck had an approximate 4” lift. I wanted to stay around that same height, but in the end I put on a 6” lift to ensure that the tires could clear. There were a couple of articles done during the mid-point of the show on The Fall Guy truck in a couple of off-road magazines. One of the articles stated that the trucks used Dick Cepek Fun Country tires, size: 36x15x16.5. Mickey Thompson bought Dick Cepek and while they still make an updated version of the Dick Cepek Fun Country tire, they are nowhere close to being that big anymore. So once again, I had to decide which “authenticity” I wanted to go with. Did I want my tires to be Dick Cepek Fun Country’s or did I want them to be a different brand, but closer to the correct size? I chose with having them closer to the correct size, I loved the look of the big tires. I found some Mickey Thompson mud-terrain tires that were 36x15x16.

 

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The next problem were the wheels. On the show they had chrome 8-spoke wagon style wheels, but I wasn’t able to find any wheels that would actually fit my tires, so I opted for a polished 16×10 wheel. With the lift and tires on, it was really starting to take shape: Like all star car lovers, the fun is in the details. Details that no one else would ever even look at or think about.

One of big quests for the “little details”, was finding a Warn sticker for the cross bar of the grille guard and putting the GMC grille emblem on the front of the grille guard. Both of those items in the show were used purely for advertising, but I had to have them! Now that I was getting close to being done (well, not really done……but ya know…..shhhh don’t tell my wife!) I wanted to turn my attention to the light bar. It bugged me that the lights were on top of the roll bar, so I went and had a 3 foot piece of square aluminum tubing cut so that I could place it behind the light bar and I wanted the lights spaced more like they were in the show. Since I was focused on the first season truck, I wanted the top round lights to have black soft light covers and the two on the grille guard to have hard plastic Super Off-Roader light covers. 8” lights are nearly unheard of now, so it took some research to find some soft light covers. In season 2, they changed to have all the round off-road lights have the white Super Off-Roader covers. I found some KC vinyl light covers and it took me about 10 coats of black paint to finally get the big KC logo covered on them. Sadly, the lights still weren’t quite right; now they sat too low. Back to drilling out my roll bar! I then started working on the Super Off-Roader light covers. Super Off-Roader products aren’t made any more so I went back to the logo company and had them recreate the Super OffRoader logo. It wasn’t exact, but it was good enough for me……..kinda….. I then had the task of sanding off the Pro Comp embossed logo on the front so I could smooth it down and paint it. That process alone was hours of work and I had given up on it at one point, but came back to it a few weeks later and finished the job. I then had to wet sand them, paint them, wet sand them again, and then finally put the final coat of paint on them so that they would look how I wanted.

323334So here’s the mostly…..somewhat…..almost……maybe someday be finished…..result: I am still working on re-doing the Super Off-Roader light covers. While they are very close……just a little off for my taste. I found an original light cover and am trying to get that duplicated. I am also getting ready to lower the truck just a little bit, so that I can have it closer in height to the show truck. Also, the truck on the show had a specific Dick Cepek truck step; one that is virtually impossible to find. I have made a mock of one and have taken it to the steel fab shop that did my grille guard and am having them make the truck step for me. So, with any luck, in 6 months to 6 years, I’ll finally have it! This truck build has been a labor of love and joy for me and I hope you’ve enjoyed going on the journey with me.

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This is a great example of the detail work that Star Car owners and builders go to in an effort to be able to drive their dream screen cars!  Thanks Bryan for a great build, and sharing the photos!  Post your comments or questions here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17
Nov
17

1940 Batmobile Build part Part 5

(PART ONE IS FOUND HERE!)

A LOT has happened since July 2016 which was my last update. My timeline to finish this car was hijacked by a couple of new star cars that jumped the line!

First I got a great deal on a few “Viva Las Vegas/Speed Racer Mach 5” fiberglass body parts, (tossed them in my son’s garage for the future) and then a 1966 batcycle body kit popped up that I was planning on tossing behind the hot tub so I could get back to my 1940’s N8mobile!  But life happens and both managed to jump the build line! Blogs on those at another time!

My last blog on the 40’s Bat build ended with a list of what was next:

“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!” At least I was right about it taking some time! Sheesh!

So let’s start with the dash!  I filled in the WW2 panel with lots of lights and switches from my shrinking magic box of bat gadget leftovers and it looked like this photo.

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It got test mounted in the center, and after rewiring and installing the gauges and turn signal and highbeam lights, I had to figure out what to add to that center open area.

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There isn’t a lot of room to work in the dash, and it’s surrounded by 1940’s metal, so lots of scrapes and a bit of frustration to get everything to light up and reconnected!IMG_20160724_210946152.jpg

Thanks to a fellow star car owner Mike Carey, who just happened to work in a fabrication shop, I gave him a small gauge and he mounted it perfectly in the middle, so  I reinstalled it, hooked up a few lights for future gadget triggers and the dash was done!IMG_20160724_225525852.jpgIMG_20160724_225553260.jpgIMG_20160724_225511152.jpg

The AC was “future tech” in 1940, so Bruce Wayne had it way before everyone else! That’s my story and I am “cool” with it! So with that done, that left making custom side panels, sourcing and making side pipes and figuring out the giant bat-face, with light up eye headlights!  I had one side panel from the previous owner, but he had misplaced the other one.  IMG_20160520_200538977.jpgHey Mike! He punched out two fresh metal panels, based on the original, but then moved jobs and didn’t have the same access to the metal shop after that. So the side panels are by the washing machine, waiting!

IMG_20160826_104613662.jpgDuring this time I had to find the side pipes that could make the bend I wanted and look like massive exhaust ports, as well as figure out how they would attach to the fenders and the side panels.  To make up my mind, I had to do some mock ups!  I used various round items to figure out how big each tube should be, and then laid them out on the fender to see how they should be spaced out.  I had decided on 4 tubes, so I just started taping and moving stuff around.

IMG_20160722_155643933.jpgYes, that is old school sprocket fed printer paper! I don’t have the printer anymore, but now and then it comes in handy for a banner or paper side panels for a batmobile!  I just cut out circles and moved them around until I had a clear idea of how they were going to be spaced, and where they hit on the panel and the fender.

So I searched for Duesenberg side exhausts, and replica old cars with the side pipes and it was a frustrating search. Everything I found was either too small, hard to find, and most importantly wouldn’t bend hard enough for my project.  I bought and returned a few pipes and nothing was right, but then I was walking through Home Depot and spotted something that might work, vent tubes!

IMG_20170622_221959673.jpg

THE CORVETTE BASED SPEED RACER CAR STOPPED PROGRESS ON THE 40’S BAT, AND PARTS BLOCKED IT FROM EVERY SIDE!

So here’s a rare shot of when I just balanced them on the side fenders (without cutting them, so I could still return them if I didn’t like it) The right size, the right bend, but after working with them, they were too easily dented and I knew I needed something more rugged as I would be bombing around in this eventually.  Good enough for a museum display, I could have cut them and they would be fine, but eventually I had to take them back.

IMG_20160922_230712827.jpg

SET ON SO THE TUBES WOULD BALANCE IN PLACE, BUT THIS WOULD BE TOTALLY WICKED!

So I didn’t get very far on the side panels and pipes, but I did get a clear idea on what I wanted and how it should look.  They will be just for show, as I don’t want them to discolor or have to try and reroute the exhaust for no reason.

Lastly, the BAT FACE!  The face is obviously very important, and choosing the right face meant going back and looking at all the different expressions, angles and ways it was mounted on all the drawings and toys.

Mike Carey stepped up again, and wanted a shot at building the bat face!  He was juggling a lot and it wasn’t a rush job as I was being distracted by the “Mach N8” and a few other projects.  Time passed and finding spare time for Mike to work on silly things like this is hard to do in a busy schedule.  Then I helped him get his dream star car, and I knew he should focus on that… oh, and his family and work and stuff too! 🙂 . But big thank you to Mike for being willing, he now has ghosts that are counting on him for a ride!  So back to the drawing board!

The next chapter all started when I got a notice that a infamous “batcar” was lurking near my house for sale…   STAY TUNED for the GRX that triggered a tidal wave in the Star Car World!

 

27
May
17

The Return of Xander Cage’s xXx GTO Flame Car!

The Return of Xander Cage’s xXx GTO Flame Car!
xXxGTO15_SunsetRGB~LR
Fans of the ‘xXx’ movie series were pleasantly surprised earlier this
year when, fifteen years after we were first introduced to Vin
Diesel’s “Xander Cage” and his high-tech, color-shifting secret agent
gadget car, we got to see this very same 1967 Pontiac GTO make a
brief cameo appearance in the latest installment, ‘xXx: Return of
Xander Cage.’
Pontiac owner and historian Thom Sherwood was on hand in Toronto,
Ontario this past April for filming with the GTO Flame Car and got to
hang out with the cast and crew.
“It was yet another amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Thom
revealed. “It was so fun to observe the whole big-budget movie making
process. This time it was shot digitally, in IMAX 3-D, with a new
director, new technology…”
But this was actually the second time his Flame Car has been filmed
internationally.
“The original film was done in the Czech Republic back in 2002,
during a whole different lifetime, it seems. The GTO got lots of
screen time back then, flogging the back roads through small villages
just south of Prague.”
“It was quite an unusual sight for the locals. None of them spoke
English, and they certainly had never seen a big, purple American
muscle car like this roaring through their narrow streets. I’ve since
gone back to the little village of Drhovy — where that crazy potato
cart explosion scene was filmed — looking for locals to share their
memories. There was only a lot of nodding and smiles.”
xXxGTOFlameSide_Weir~LR
“In that movie’s finale atop the famous Charles Bridge in the middle
of Prague, the GTO got what I, for many years, thought would be its
last few seconds of screen time. So, when the production company in
Canada called last year to ask if they could use my car again for the
newest ‘xXx,’ I couldn’t say yes fast enough!”
Fortunately, he had kept the now forever-roofless car in the exact
same condition and appearance as when it appeared in the closing
frames of the first film, even keeping the exact same set of
BFGoodrich tires mounted along with most of the special effects
hardware originally installed by the studio.
This proved advantageous for everyone in 2016 when the script for the
new ‘Return’ film required the car to appear exactly the same —
unchanged, as if it had been in hibernation — since the original Vin
Diesel spy adventure in Europe.
“The only thing we discussed that would be different was a change in
the license plates since the newest film sees the GTO being reunited
with Xander Cage in Detroit,” Thom shared.
xxx rockets
“In retrospect, I would have preferred if they (the Canadian
production crew) had kept the iconic “KY 29-0” Euro license plates on
the car, but they really insisted it should have Michigan plates to
help explain the car’s current location after fifteen years. In the
end, however, they filmed the car just from a front and side angle
without any license plate mounted up front at all! Oh, well…”
“First thing I did when I got the car home to Tucson was to put the
European plates back on. Then, a long-overdue set of fresh (and
safer!) BFGs was finally installed prior to a photo session that led
up to the red carpet event in Hollywood earlier this year.”
Today, Thom actively shows the car at various venues, and with all
the commotion from the release of the newest ‘xXx’ film and DVD, he’s
been quite busy.
xXxGTOFlameIntOverhd~LR
One big date on his summer calendar includes a fun gig in Texas. The
Pontiac-Oakland Club, International (POCI) will be having their
annual convention and car show in Fort Worth at the Texas Motor
Speedway in July and, as a special promotion with co-sponsor Ames
Performance Engineering, Thom will be giving some lucky ‘xXx’ fan a
ride around the banked oval NASCAR track in the Flame Car. (This
contest, which is open only to members of the club, is  also a
prelude to his multi-media “Secret Agent GTO: The Pontiacs of ‘xXx'”
presentation there on July 13, 2017. For more information, visit
http://www.poci.org.) If you go, stop by and give Tom a “HI!” from StarCarcentral.com!
———
Here’s a transcript of an interview Thom did about his GTO:
ThomSherwoodxXxPromo17a~LR
2017 marks the  50th anniversary of Pontiac’s legendary 1967 lineup
of Wide-Trackers. It also marks the 15th anniversary of Vin Diesel’s
blockbuster hit film ‘xXx’ which first introduced us to “Xander Cage”
and his high-tech, flame-throwing, color-shifting GTO Flame Car.
This car, with its crazy, hypnotic cache of instruments, spy gadgets
and weapons, has dazzled millions of fans worldwide, but we suspect
that not everyone may be familiar with its legend. For the
uninitiated, here’s an interview with Flame Car owner Thom Sherwood.
Q: What exactly is ‘xXx’ and just what does it mean?
A: When you say “Triple-X,” you’re actually referring to a franchise
of spy-action films (of which three have been made thus far) and the
main characters within those stories. Just as James Bond is referred
to as one of the “Double-O” agents in Ian Fleming’s British spy
novels and films, here we’ve got an American equivalent with a kick-
ass attitude and some street smarts!
Q: When did this franchise start?
A: The very first ‘xXx’ film debuted fifteen years ago (August 2002)
with Vin Diesel in the starring role. It actually did very well at
the box office, but was followed-up three years later with a related
sequel entitled ‘xXx: State of the Union’ (2005) where actor/rapper
Ice Cube becomes the next Triple-X agent.
Then, after many years and a couple of false starts, the ‘xXx’
franchise was re-booted just this past year with Vin Diesel returning
in the lead role for the highly-anticipated ‘xXx: Return of Xander
Cage.’ That film was released in theaters worldwide at the beginning
of this year (January 2017) and, by the time you read this, it will
have just been released on DVD to rent (RedBox, iTunes, OnDemand,
etc.) or to purchase at the big-box stores (BestBuy, Target, WalMart,
etc.)
Q: Just how similar is this to a James Bond film?
A: Very similar, actually, but the whole spy film genre has become
very formulaic ever since the success of Bond’s Goldfinger back in
1964. The original ‘xXx’ film’s tagline (“It’s Time for a New Breed
of Secret Agent”) was obviously a direct poke at the apparent aging
and stiff manners of James Bond’s character, but the expected girls,
guns, and global domination ethos remains very evident. What is
different in ‘xXx’ is that the secret agents here are supposed to be
more a bit more hip and edgy, well-versed in extreme sports action,
and have a penchant for a particular split-grilled American muscle car.
Q: Oh, so that’s how your GTO got involved! Does your Pontiac appear
in all three of the ‘xXx’ films?
A: No, it is introduced in the first film from 2002 as Vin Diesel’s
“hero car” to help his character ultimately save the world from the
evil villain’s twisted plans.
In the second film from 2005, Ice Cube’s Triple-X character also
drives a ‘67 GTO, but it is intended to be (and most certainly is) a
completely different Goat — totally blinged-out!
Then, in the newest film which debuted earlier this year, my car
returns for a brief but important cameo role, appearing exactly as it
did in the closing frames of the first ‘xXx’ fifteen years ago while
helping tie-together the seemingly disconnected plotlines of the two
earlier films.
Q: What makes this car so unique and why is it called the “Flame Car”?
A: Well, when  you talk about spy cars, you know there are going to
be all sorts of gadgets and weapons on board. The GTO that you’ll see
in Fort Worth is the actual car from the film that made all those fun
special effects — or “gags” — really happen on screen. None of that
stuff was computer-generated. This car really did shoot flames from
its custom hood scoop and fire rockets from the upper headlights!
Then there’s the crazy gauges and dashboard…
Q: Is the car street legal? I imagine you’ve gotten some interesting
looks!
A: Yes, it is fully street legal, and I do occasionally drive it to
local Pontiac club functions or cruise nights. But, I’ve got to be
extra careful… Once, when I was driving on a busy multi-lane road,
a person pulled alongside my car in the adjacent lane and became so
transfixed — just staring at the GTO and all its lights and gauges —
that he began drifting off into another lane of traffic. He came
within inches of sideswiping some hapless guy in a BMW!
Q: Is it a real 1967 GTO convertible, or maybe a Pontiac LeMans “clone”?
A: That’s actually the most frequent question I hear. Yes, it is a
real “code 242” GTO with its original 335hp 400-cubic-inch Pontiac
V8. But, it is not a convertible; it began life as a genuine GTO
hardtop built at the Fremont, California plant.
One of the gags seen at the end of the first ‘xXx’ requires Vin
Diesel’s character to eject himself from the car with a parachute.
But, to do that, his GTO has to first shed its hardtop roof. And as
you might know, the quarter panels on a Pontiac A-body convertible
look completely different. So, in order to maintain proper continuity
throughout the film, the production crew knew that they had to
utilize a hardtop model to accomplish this gag. What all this boils
down to is that the Flame Car is now best described as a roofless
hardtop.
Q: What can the folks expect when they attend your “Secret Agent GTO”
seminar on Thursday, July 13, 2017 in Fort Worth?
A: I’ve done countless hours of research on the xXx GTO legacy and
have collected all sorts of fascinating behind-the-scenes stories,
photography and trivia that I’ll share with the audience there. I
certainly hope my enthusiasm for all this will prove to be
entertaining while providing some unique insights to the whole big-
budget filmmaking process. I’ve got lots of fun and fresh material to
reveal in Fort Worth — especially since the release of the newest
‘xXx-3.’ Plus, it’s always fun to do a “show and tell” with all the
cool spy gadgets. The best part of this is that it all focuses on
your favorite brand of automobile — Pontiac!
Q: For anyone who hasn’t yet seen any of the ‘xXx’ trilogy, what
would you suggest?
A:  Back when the first ‘xXx’ was originally released on DVD, about a
gazillion copies of that disc were sold to the public, so today, you
can easily find a used copy of it on eBay for less than $5.00
including shipping.
After you’ve watched the film, go back to that DVD’s Home Menu and
peck around there to watch some of the fun “extras” that accompany
the film — especially the 10-minute featurette called “The Vehicles
of ‘xXx.'” What’s highlighted there is the very same Flame Car that
you’ll see in the flesh — minus Vin Diesel, of course — in Fort Worth
from July 12-15, 2017!
xXxDVDcoverGTO~LR



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