Posts Tagged ‘rockford files

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!

29
Aug
13

ROCKFORD FILES cast and crew party 2013

Rockford Files Cast And Crew Party 2013

Rockford Files Cast And Crew Party 2013

Written by Jim Suva

Pictures by Joe Gunderson, AJ Palmgren, Rob Kleinle

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Logo By Darin James Bristow

This years Rockford Files Cast and Crew Party 2013 was held at Galpin Ford in North Hills, California on Saturday June 22nd.  We gathered in Community Room,on the second floor. The Party started at 8:30 am with a meet and greet.  Coffee and danish were available for those attending.  Sheri Aldrich was kind enough to man our registration table and greet everyone as they came in.  Special namestags with our logo on them, were given to each our guests and speakers.

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Some of those who attended this years party included our first real life Private Investigator, Chris Farmer from Arizona.  Chris became a PI because of The Rockford  Files.  Others came from New Jersey, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Minnesota, Alabama, Illinois, California and from Germany.   In fact, Patrick Schnurr and his father Albert from Germany, won the farthest distant traveledprize.  The prize was the 1/64th scale Rockford Files Hotbird, from Hot Wheels and two Rockford caps.

This year we did something different. We had guest speakers to talk about their experience working on The Rockford Files and with James Garner.  By the feedback I have received, it was a big success.  Everyone attending got to hear all the stories,  so that no one missed any.

Roydon Clark – Stuntman.  Roy is James Garner’s stunt double, since “Maverick” in the 1950’s through a number of TV shows and movies. On Rockford, Roy was the second unit director and stunt coordinator.  Roy told some great stories about working with Jim over the years.

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Robert Zilliox – Set Decorator 1975 through the Rockford Movies.  Bob told stories about how he started in the business and was promoted on The Rockford Files to Set Decorator.  He said Jim told him that he did not want anything used more than once on Rockford.

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Milt Kogan – Actor and a real medical Doctor.  Milt has appeared in numerous TV and movies, plus 3 different Rockford’s  “No Cut Contract”, “The Empty Frame” as Aaron Keel, Angel’s brother-in-law.

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Steve Reich and Steve Hofmann from Film Vehicle Services – Steve R. and his
partner Steve H. were in charge of finding and working on the Firebirds for the
Rockford Movies of the 1990’s.  They talked about the finding of the Firebirds and the help GM gave them in locating parts for their transformation into Rockford Firebirds.

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Dennis Burkley – Actor.  Dennis has been in many TV shows over the years.  He
mainly played Bikers, tuff guys and was also in Murphy’s Romance.  Dennis is
one of nicest guys you ever want to meet.  He also talked about working with Jim.

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Chester Grimes – Personnel friend of James Garner and Actor.  Chester worked on a couple of episodes of Rockford and appeared in a couple of the Rockford movies.  Chester was also Jim’s driver for a few years.  He brought his own unquie stories
to the party.

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Diane Adler- Film Editor.  Diane came and was suppose to answer questions.  Unfortunately, we ran out of time.  But Diane did take pictures and sign autographs for the fans.

Pat McKinney brought some of his Rockford Files Collection, along with his
Screen used 1978 Firebird Formula 400. Of course the Firebird (the star that it is) arrived a little late, but came in on a flat bed truck.  Pat did not want anything to happen to it on the way to and from Galpin Ford.

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Glenn Gamer and Michael Mundy brought their Firebirds to the party too.  Below are a few pictures of their cars.  Glenn’s Firebird is from Neveda and is a 1978.  Michael’s is the red 1979  Firebird.

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We took breaks between speakers, so that fans could meet, talk, get pictures and autographs.

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Of course, it was time for the Guess Speakers to catch up with their Rockford Family from the show.

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Before we left Galpin Ford,  everyone signed a banner for Pat McKinney.  Pat
had the banner made with his on money and will be proudly displayed in his
garage.

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Part of the party of course was held in the parking lot, because of one special Firebird.  Pat enjoys talking about his Firebirds with his fellow fans.

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Here are some of my favorite pictures of most of the guests by Pat’s Firebird.

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We broke for lunch around 1 pm.   Those interested in going to see Pat’s 76 andhis 77 Firebird sound car, were welcome to come back to Pat’s house at 3 pm.  In fact a number of people showed up.  Including a stunt man that Sue Kessler knew, Bob Herron.  Bob worked on Rockford in a few episodes.  He also work as a stunt double for Ross Martin on The Wild Wild West.  He was also the first stunt man to drive the original 1966 Batmobile on Batman.  He has some wonderful stories totell about working on the different movies and TV shows.

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A few people went down to Paradise Cove on Sunday morning, to see whereRockford lived.  This was organized by Sheri Aldrich and included Richard Piet, Tim Koch, Glenn and  Kathy Gamer.

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We would like to thank our speakers for giving up their time, to share their stories with the fans of a great TV show and it’s star James Garner.  None of these peoplewere paid to participate.  All funds raised were used toward the cost of this event. We do not make any money, in fact we usually do not even cover the cost.

Plans are all ready in the works for next years 40th Anniversary of The Rockford Files.

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This article is dedicated to Dennis Burkley.  Even though Dennis was not feeling well the day of our Rockford Files Party,  he still attended, spoke, took pictures with and autographed items for the fans.  He was truly a wonderful guy!  We will miss you very much Dennis!!!

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27
Aug
11

Rockford Files shooting locations, then and now!

I have to admit I am a sucker for fan stuff like this!  Being able to stand in the very place where movies or shows that I loved actually shot is just a fun “touchstone” to bring me closer to the action that I remember seeing on the big and little screen!  Below is super Rockford fan Jim Suva’s write up on his trip to Rockford Files locations!  The Herbie owners are planning a three day event to do pretty much the same thing for their Sothern California locations next month, so any group of fans can pull this sort of thing off, and if you do, well tell me about it with great info and photos like Jim does!  Enjoy! 
Nate Truman

Rockford Files Locations

 

Written by Jim Suva

In July 2011, Pat McKinney and I went to find the locations that were used on The Rockford Files.  Below are some of the locations we found.

Here is the original location of Jim Rockford’s trailer in the parking lot by the Malibu Pier on Pacific Coast Highway.

The first two pictures are from the show.  Last two are 2011.

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First picture below is Lankershim Blvd. in 2011.  A number of scenes of Jim driving down this street have been used. The second picture is St Charles Boromeo.  The inside of the church was used while filming “Find Me If You Can”.  The church is located on the corner of Moorpark and Lankershim Blvd.

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“The Real Easy Red Dog”  First picture is from the episode.  It shows the Services entrance to Ruehmanm Pontiac in 1975. The next picture is of the dealership today.  It now sells BMW’s.  The third picture is the house where Stefanie Powers character lived in 1975 and the fourth is 2011.

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Jim entering the house and the side view of 4265 Denny Ave. North Hollywood.

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“The Trees, the Bees, and T.T. Flowers”  The church is located on the corner of Cahuenga and Whipple in Toluca Lake.  The first two picture are from 1976.  The third picture was taken 2011.

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“Beamers Last Case”  This is Tony’s Body Shop located at 4730 Blix Street in North Hollywood.  First picture is from 1977 and the next two are 2011.

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Here is Jack Kelly’s characters home at 4365 Forman, Toluca Lake.  First picture is the gate to the property in 1977.  The next picture is the gate 2011.  Third picture is the driveway 1977.  Fourth is the driveway 2011.

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“Hotel of Fear”  Here is the Mob Bosses Nova’s house located at 4256 Navajo, Toluca Lake.  First two pictures are from 1977 and the last two are 2011.

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“Rosendahl and Gilda Stern are Dead”  The intersection is at Cahuenaga and Riverside Drive in Toluca Lake.  This is where Abe Vigoda and Robert Loggia’s characters met.  The first two pictures are from 1978 and the last two are from 2011.

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This is Rocky’s House located at 3654 Lankershim Blvd., Studio City.  The house has had an addition built on the front of house.  It now has a row of trees in front.

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This is Bob Morse’s Beach Cafe, Paradise Cove.  It use to be called the Sandcastle.  It has changed quite a bit over the last few years.  Jim Rockford’s trailer use to be parked in the parking lot.    That part of the  parking lot is now a sandy beach with tables.  Below are pictures of Paradise Cove, July 13, 2011.

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I hope you enjoyed these pictures.  It is always nice to see what the locations look like today.

26
Jan
11

Rockford Files car on display in South Dakota!

Museum’s Screen Used Rockford Files Firebird

Nelson Garage’s Rockford Files Firebird

Written by Jim Suva

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Nelson’s Garage is a museum located at 629 Main Street, Deadwood, South Dakota. This museum is on the main floor of the Celebrity Casino Hotel.  Nelson’s Garage is owned by brothers Don and Robert Nelson.  In November 2003, Don Nelson informed me that they were putting a screen-used Rockford Files Firebird on display in their museum.

This Firebird is a 1978 Pontiac Firebird Formula. It has a 350 cubic inch engine with a 4 barrel carburetor, automatic transmission, AM/FM radio, power steering, power brakes, power windows and air conditioning.

The Firebird was purchased through a prop house that has a relationship with Cinema Vehicle Services. According to Robert Nelson the Firebird has patched holes in the trunk lid and fenders. These holes were filled in after the standard rear spoiler was removed. This car also has two letters of authenticity from Cinema Vehicle Services. One letter states that this car was used in the filming of the “Rockford Files”, the second states that the car was used in the television shows “Rockford Files” starring James Garner. Both letters contain the VIN number of the Firebird and are signed by the President of Cinema Vehicle Services.

The Firebird has been on displayed for a number of years now. Robert said, “People who appreciate and know the car best are typically the people who used to watch the TV series. They love the car!” In fact, a lot of people who visit their property are retired, and that is why they felt the car would be such a good fit.

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The Rockford car has been well taken care of. It is rotated with other cars on display and is serviced regularly. When the car is not on display, it is serviced and stored in a heated warehouse. I believe this one of the last Firebirds that James Garner drove as Jim Rockford. This is a nice piece of TV history and it is in very good condition.

12
Jan
11

Original Screen Used Rockford File’s Truck

Original Screen Used Rockford File’s Truck

written by Jim Suva

I had the pleasure to talk with Robert, who lives in Florida. Robert is my age and is another dedicated Rockford Files fan. Robert is the proud owner of an original screen-used Rockford Files pickup truck. During the last season of The Rockford Files, James Garner appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Jim told Johnny that this was going to be the last season for the TV series. Upon hearing that, Robert asked his wife to write a letter to NBC telling them that he wanted to buy Rocky’s pickup truck. Some time passed and Robert asked his wife if she ever received an answer. She hadn’t. So he asked her write another letter. This time, Mary Ann Rhea, Jim’s personal assistant called Robert. She said they lost the original letter while moving their office, but they had Rocky’s truck if he was still interested in purchasing it. Needless to say Robert and his wife flew to Los Angeles in May 1980. They were picked up at the airport by a man named Chuck … in Rocky’s pickup truck! Chuck worked for the Vista Group, the organization that helped supply the vehicles to the TV series. They were driven to the body shop where the truck was originally painted, and had a scratch touched up as they waited. Robert heard that the owner of the body shop wanted to buy all the Firebirds and trucks from The Rockford Files, but could not afford to buy them all. That is why Robert could buy this truck. After the scratch was repaired, they were driven to a nearby community called Toluca Lake, where James Garner’s new office was located. The office was right across the street from Bob Hope’s home. Once at Mr. Garner’s office they saw that he had a 1980 Trans Am and one of the Rockford Firebirds there. Robert and his wife met and talked with Mr. Garner for over two hours. He told them all about the pickup and how everything worked. He even autographed two posters for them, which featured the vehicles from The Rockford Files. Robert said Mr. Garner was just like a regular guy. Robert and his wife stayed a few days in Los Angeles. Mr. Garner got Lakers tickets for them, and they also drove out to Paradise Cove to check out the Sandcastle Restaurant. Robert then drove his prize pickup back home to Florida. This particular pickup truck is a 1979 GMC 4X4 Sierra ½ ton. It has a 400 cubic inch engine with a four-barrel carburetor. It also boasts full-time four-wheel drive with a turbo 400 transmission. Each wheel has two shock absorbers. It still has all the Vic Hickey Enterprise equipment, such as two additional gas tanks, winch, steering wheel, roll bar and fog lights. The pickup also has two original GM gas tanks that came with the truck from the factory. Robert remembers that the GMC trucks originally came only in silver, and with basic equipment. The Vic Hickey equipment and the maroon paint were added at a local body shop. The maroon color is actually a 1976 GM color called Rosedale Red with orange pinstripes. The pinstripes are about 1/8 inch in width. The rear of truck has the names Jim & Jerry written on it in pin striping. According to Robert, his truck can be seen in two episodes, “The Big Cheese” and “Paradise Cove.” Robert’s truck has Vic Hickey center hubs on the front wheels and the standard GM center hubs on the rear wheels. BigCheeseRFT2 Robert has not driven his truck much over the years. It only has 11,910 miles on it. He currently has the truck in his garage under a tarp. It is in need of restoration. His dream is to restore Rocky’s pickup truck and show it to James Garner in person!

 

05
Dec
10

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE OR TV CAR?

Since the first starcarcentral Television shoot, the question has been asked, what is the all time favorite movie or TV star car?

Many people have posted their top ten or top fifty favorite movie and TV cars.  Some lists are just muscle cars, some crazy hollywood customs, but the question still remains, which car featured on screen, either in a movie or TV show, is the world’s all time favorite vehicle?

Well finally NATE TRUMAN, long time movie car fan and expert and founder of StarCarCentral.com is taking on the challenge to find out who has the bragging rights to the title “Favorite Movie/TV starcar of all time!”

For you to cast your vote, check out the new poll, and vote for or add your favorite! Only one vote per person, and the poll will stay open for ONE YEAR.  Spread the word to other fans of your favorite car and get them to vote or else your favorite may not even make the top twenty!

The poll will be posted all over the net, and you can help! Either send them to the StarCarCentral blog to vote and read about the latest happenings, and news in the world of movie and TV cars, or share the poll yourself on Twitter, Facebook or your own website or blog!

On Face Book it’s http://poll.fm/f/2hyxl

Twitter it’s http://poll.fm/2hyxl

 

Or add the poll to your page with java script

<script type="text/javascript" language="javascript"
  src="http://static.polldaddy.com/p/4197657.js"></script>
<noscript>
 <a href="http://polldaddy.com/poll/4197657/">What is your favorite Movie or TV car?</a><br/>
 <span style="font:9px;">(<a href="http://www.polldaddy.com">polls</a>)</span>
</noscript>

Scroll down on the right and vote for your favorite movie or TV vehicle!  Let the battle begin for the most beloved 4 wheeled movie star! Since Nate Truman started the  SCC aka StarCarCentral in Hollywood,  groups have organized around the USA and the world. Our last big gathering was at CBS studios, where we had 27 different star cars in one place (only 25 in the photo below!)

27 movie and star cars met at our biggest to date gathering, how many can you name?

Share this, tweet this, facebook it, or direct your fan friends back here to vote only once!  The poll will stay active for ONE YEAR! Then the final answer to which movie or TV car is the worlds favorite movie car will finally be known!  Bragging rights are on the line, so get your fellow fans to vote! If our favorite car isn’t on the list, then add it! Stay tuned, and spread the word!  Only ONE starcar can come out on top!

Can you name all of these TV cars?   Three are not in the poll yet, can you name them?

Anyone know what the PINTO or Porsche is from? Add it to the poll! Don’t split the vote on your favorite car, make sure it hasn’t been listed all ready!

Not all of these cars are in the poll yet, but  you only get one vote, so use it wisely!

Share this, tweet this, facebook it, or direct your fan friends back here to vote only once!  The poll will stay active for ONE YEAR! Then the final answer to which movie or TV car is the worlds favorite movie car will finally be known!  Bragging rights are on the line, so get your fellow fans to vote! If our favorite car isn’t on the list, then add it! Stay tuned, and spread the word!  Only ONE starcar can come out on top!

26
Aug
10

Chicago has A Rockford Files 1977 Firebird that needs some starcar pals!


Jim Suva is a star car fan and pal who has devoted his spare change and time to the gold firebird from the Rockford Files show.

Jim is ready to “show and shine” with other star cars in Chicago, so where are all the movie and TV cars near by? The family Truckster was close but was sold to a company in Texas. I know there is a Batmobile that goes to the Chicago Comic cons, (AHEM!) so let’s get a chapter started in the Windy City!!!

The Rockford Files sarring Jim Garner, a down on his luck private detective was a fan favorite, as was just about anything Jim Garner was in!
If you want to learn more about the car, check out Jim’s blog on his car with lots of photos and info!
http://jimsuva.vox.com/
NBC doesn’t want clips on youtube, but here’s the theme song. Each show started with someone leaving a funny or urgent message on his answering machine.

Another article about Jim and his car is HERE.

Here in Los Angeles SCC member Pat McKinney is restoring his 1977 Firebird screen used car in Simi Valley. We look forward to adding Pat and his Rockford Firebird to our Los Angeles Chapter of StarCarCentral. So who has a famous TV or movie car that can hang out with Jim at special events? Please reply if you have seen a starcar in the greater Chicago area!




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nate truman starcarcentral.com

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