Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

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.

General Don Ad

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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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!

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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.

 

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!

2021

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!

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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.

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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!

 

17
Jan
17

Then Came Bronson – build that bike!

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“Then Came Bronson” was a fun adventure TV series, about a guy on a Harley, driving from town to town and getting into conflicts, and helping out.  It was on the air in 1969-1970 and was great escapist TV.  If you know the show, and want the bike, I found a great website really doing all the work for you and handing you the recipe on a silver Harley!  Here’s an excerpt from the first page! If you want to build one, go to the site HERE and enjoy all the fun detail work that was done and shared!

“You will need to find a 1968 or 1969 XLH 883cc Harley Davidson Sportster. Your model must have a battery and points. (Not a magneto model)Since the Pilot aired in March of 1969 the bikes used in the pilot were probably 1968 XLH’s. The location schedules denote November 1968 for filming. The TV series episodes used possibly hold over 1968 models from the pilot and the 1969 XLH’s, pictured left, were purchased at the Salinas Harley-Davidson dealership. Any 1967, 68, 69 or 70 XLH will do. The kick start Bronson used was added later to give the bike a more mechanical touch and nostalgic attitude.

Note: Back then the bike was advertised as a 900cc, however this was a marketing technique used by Harley-Davidson when they rounded up the cc from 883 to 900, making the engine appear bigger than it really was. The bike above is the rare Boat-tail model. One of Peter’s many bikes.The 1970 Cycle Guide Magazine article gives evidence of what is required…. “A Harley-Davidson CH gas tank replaced the standard turtle tank. The front wheel was replaced with a 21” aluminum rim carrying a 3.00 x 21 ribbed Avon Speedmaster tire. The front fender was changed to a chromeplated, bobbed piece and the headlight nacelle, or housing, was removed and a chrome sports light replaced it. The oil tank and rear shock springs were chrome plated. A kickstart was added although the Sportster carries an electric starter. The seat was replaced with a custom leather unit and a short chrome hand-hold was mounted behind the passenger seat. (Folklore has it that the sissy bar was cobbled from a Schwinn banana seat bicycle – ed.) The chain guard cover and the voltage regulator cover were chrome plated. The rear fender was bobbed 5 inches and the tail light replaced with an old style English light. The motorcycle was repainted with a specially mixed formula which is called from this point on, Bronson Red. The final touch was the addition of the Bronson “Eye” insignia to the gas tank.”The 883’s pictured here below are a 1970 XLH and 1969, a kick starter was added later. A 1970 has a slightly different front fork because of the way the front fender mounts, but can be adapted by welding tabs on the forks for the Bronson front fender. A vintage XLH is hard to find now-a-days. Once you have your bike, move on to another step.”




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