Posts Tagged ‘ford

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!

GT40Volo1
23
Nov
11

Hawaii Five-O star car! Book em, Danno!

Every star car has it’s biggest fan, and they usually end up owning the car of their dreams.

On a rainy day television shoot, SCC member Dave Kunz turned me on to this story of the Hawaii 5-0’s Mercury.

If I am channel surfing and see Hawaii 5-0 (for the fiftieth state) I will watch to see if I can catch a chase scene with huge American cars tearing around the roads of Hawaii.   There is not much info on the cars from the TV series so I will simply let Michael Timothy tell the story of his car, his way!  Read on, Star Car fans!

Swishing Tahitian hips, flashing blue lights, boom-boom-boom giant combers crashing into shore, jerky camera shots and a black Mercury hardtop racing off into the Hawaiian night.

For twelve remarkable years, from September, 1968, to April, 1980, the U.S. television public was treated to a weekly viewing of CBS Television’s number one rated series, Hawaii Five-O. For at least six of those years, my Mercury was the automotive star of that show. A trip to Hawaii in March, 1986, and subsequent return with Steve McGarrett’s undercover car ended a burning desire to acquire this special Mercury and make it part of my collection. Here is as much of the story as I can disclose.

For many years I was impressed with the big, black hardtop — a 1968 Mercury Parklane Brougham 4-door. This car was used from the series premiere on September 26, 1968, to its partial destruction during the 1978 season. This car is perhaps the most photographed Mercury in existence, having appeared in approximately 130 Five-O episodes. Three black Mercurys were used by McGarrett during the life of the series; the least frequently seen was a ’67 Marquis, black, red interior. [A 2-door car.] This vehicle was used in filming the pilot and for stock footage. My Brougham took over once the series began and was in use by McGarrett through the 1973 season. In ’74, McGarrett got his last Mercury, a triple black ’74 Marquis Brougham 4-door hardtop. Someone go out and find this one. [This is the one owned by John Boley Nordium, Jack Lord’s stunt double.]

Eventually, my desire for this car led me to acquire a ’68 Parklane convertible which I still have, and which is currently undergoing restoration. The convertible was fun but did not satisfy my desire to get a Hawaii Five-O car. As the years passed, and as I learned more about the show, I became determined to track the car down and determine its fate.

Through a mutual acquaintance, I was put in touch with the show’s star and part owner, Jack Lord. At that time, March, 1986, he was essentially retired from public life. From studying each of the show’s episodes I knew that the car was partially destroyed in a 1978 episode entitled “Number One With a Bullet.” It was now eight years later and there was virtually no assurance that any trace of the car could be found. Regardless, I set off for Honolulu International Airport.

CBS had long shut down Five-O production. However, to amortize production costs, a new series, Magnum, P.I. took over. Magnum used most of the Five-O production facilities. I knew that CBS maintained a production warehouse at Fort Ruger, and that’s where I headed. If the car still existed, it likely was in that warehouse, broken and battered. Some small talk, a little quick thinking on my part, and a generous bribe got me into the warehouse. I told the security guard why I was there and what I was looking for. In his best pidgin English he told me I was crazy — what did I want with that old heap? But he took me directly to the remains of the once proud car — it still existed! But not by much, for it truly had become a sad sight. Every panel was dented or missing; moderate front end damage from the altercation with the Kumu (Hawaiian Mafia) in its last TV appearance; many trim parts were missing; interior ripped, partially burned and ravaged by a mongoose who made a home in the trunk. A few minutes later I left with only a record of what was left of the VIN number. Then the real work began.

Upon my return to Chicago, the untold story unfolded. Numerous phone calls to CBS-TV public relations and legal departments were made. CBS personnel disavowed all knowledge of ownership of the car. I also knew that Ford Motor Co. supplied many shows, including Five-O with cars to feature. Neither Ford Motor nor Lincoln-Mercury public relations departments had any records going back to 1968, though certain employees knew from “old-timers” that corporate-owned, or “program” cars, would frequently be donated to producers and the networks for production use only. Still, I knew the car existed but could not get anyone to claim ownership, much less desire to sell the hulk.

Needless to say, I eventually wore down CBS to the point that they were pleased to get that corner of the warehouse cleared out and me out of their hair. I did not get a bill of sale, but what legally amounted to a “quit-claim” of any interest that CBS, as a bailee of the car, might assert. A check with the Hawaii Department of Motor Vehicles showed no evidence of the car ever being titled or plated on the Island. Several months, countless long distance phone calls later, the hulk was crated up and transferred by Sea-Land Transport to Long Beach, California. From there, train or truck got the remains into Chicago.

Is this, in fact, the actual car used in the show? I do not know and cannot confirm with hard facts. But circumstances strongly suggest this is the car. When I got it, damage was consistent with the car’s last appearance in “Number One With a Bullet.” The roof was drilled for a dummy antenna, as seen on the car in the series. The car was in Hawaii in a warehouse owned, leased, or rented by the producers of Magnum, P.I. This series was part of the CBS Television Network in 1986. And, much to my delight, there was a series of 10 photos in an envelope which was tucked away in the glove compartment. The pictures showed several shots of the car interior, exterior, and many of Jack Lord entering his on-location motor home. The pictures were all taken in downtown Honolulu in mid 1972. From the location it appears that the episode “‘V’ For Vashon” was being filmed. With these pictures in hand (actually, in the glove compartment), I was reasonably satisfied that this was the car.

About the car itself: It’s a ’68 Parklane Brougham 4-door hardtop. The car is fairly well equipped, with a 428-4V(345 hp), C-6 automatic, power steering, power front disc brakes, power windows, power seat, A/C, AM/FM, and cruise control. The car is all black and must have been terrible to sit in for six years in the hot Hawaiian sun.

The restoration effort took three years, and involved approximately nine parts cars. Little is original from the car as it existed in Hawaii. I have made a few minor modifications from the car’s original configuration — a bumper trailer hitch was purposely left off and the antenna was moved from the front fender of the car to the rear quarter panel because that’s what my parts cars had at the time of assembling the restoration. However, the engine is untouched, unrebuilt, and at 75,000 miles is more than capable of pursuing criminals to swift justice. All exterior sheetmetal was replaced. The original Brougham interior was thrown out, as after the mongoose was through with it, it had become a health hazard. The vinyl top was replaced, most chrome redone, and the car treated to multiple coats of PPG two-stage urethane enamel. Now we were ready to cruise Diamond Head once again.

Where does Jack Lord fit into the story? Quite actually, nowhere. I did solicit his assistance to open doors at CBS corporate and was met with stony silence. He has a very chatty wife who thinks the project is a lot of fun, and won’t Jack be thrilled to see the finished result, and no, dear, I don’t think he wants to drive the car again, because you know he spent six years in that car in full makeup and his white dress shirts with that hot Hawaiian sun and if you’re reading this, you can book me, Jack, but I still won’t give your car back.

More photos and info at IMCDB

and for a look at many of the vehicles that appeared with Tim’s car, take a look at this page with lots of vintage photos of the vehicles that got Jack Lord and Danno around the islands!

This article originally appeared in Quicksilver, a publication of the International Mercury Owner’s Association.




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