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December 2015

1976 Ford Gran Torino “Starsky & Hutch” – 1/18 ERTL model car

History of the car

1976 Ford Gran Torino "Starsky & Hutch"
Front, 1976 Ford Gran Torino “Starsky & Hutch”

The “Starsky & Hutch” car was a third generation Ford Gran Torino. Although the third generation was built from 1972 to 1976, the cars used in the 70’s TV series and 2004 movie were ‘74 to ‘76 models. Due to US Government safety regulations their front and rear bumpers, as well as the front grille differed greatly from the early 70’s model years. In 1976, the success of the “Starsky & Hutch” TV show even made Ford make a limited edition of 1’000 units built and painted just like the TV star. The ’74 to ’76 Gran Torino’s were equipped with a range of different V8 engines; displacements of 302 cu in (4.9L), 351 cu in (5.8L), 400 cu in (6.6L) and 460 cu in (7.5L), all of them being coupled to a three or four speed automatic transmission.

Exterior

1976 Ford Gran Torino "Starsky & Hutch"
Front, 1976 Ford Gran Torino “Starsky & Hutch”
1976 Ford Gran Torino "Starsky & Hutch"
Front fender, 1976 Ford Gran Torino “Starsky & Hutch”

For starters, it comes in the correct Ford bright red paint livery with the white “vector” racing stripes all along the sides and over the roof. Furthermore, we can see that is has the correct body colored “sport” rear view mirrors, the yellow front marker lights, which are engraved into the body. The “Gran Torino” model lettering is correctly put on either front fender. However, ERTL used stickers for all letterings instead of actual plastic letters. Moreover, the car is equipped with the chrome US Mags 5 slot wheels. The tires do have actual profile on them but there are no markings on the tire walls. Like in many ERTL models, the chrome lines surrounding the wheel arches are painted on. They did a nice job though with the chrome side skirts from the front fender all the way back to the rear bumper.

1976 Ford Gran Torino "Starsky & Hutch"
Rear wheel, 1976 Ford Gran Torino “Starsky & Hutch”
1976 Ford Gran Torino "Starsky & Hutch"
Front grille, 1976 Ford Gran Torino “Starsky & Hutch”

In the front, the ’76 front grille with the eight vertical bars and the integrated parking lights is accurately replicated. There is even the Gran Torino emblem on it. Above the grille, we can see the Ford lettering. Gran Torino aficionados will notice that the letters are actually a little too far from the grille on the flat part, instead of being just close to the grille on the inclined part of the front. Further down we find the large bumper going all the way around both corners. It’s got the correct classic blue license plate “California 537 ONN” on the left side. They even put the two vertical bars in front of it with the black padding on it. The tip of the white “vector” stripes almost touch the headlights, which is too far. I believe the design of the stripes changed a little bit over the series but they never reached quite as far.

1976 Ford Gran Torino "Starsky & Hutch"
Interior, 1976 Ford Gran Torino “Starsky & Hutch”
1976 Ford Gran Torino "Starsky & Hutch"
Rear, 1976 Ford Gran Torino “Starsky & Hutch”

Going over to the passenger side of the car, we get a close look at the red flashing tear drop police light on the roof, which is attached to the police radio unit inside. But we’ll get to the interior in a few moments. Looking at the back of the car we can see that the taillights are wrapped around the corners. This eliminates the need for rear side marker lights. They are nicely done and clearly show the white reverse gear lights in the center. Obviously, the license plate is the same as in the front. Speaking of letterings, the “Torino” letters are accurately put on the center back. So are the “Ford” letters on the right side of the trunk lid. The trunk lock is only painted and to my big surprise, the trunk doesn’t open at all. The lid is clearly a separate piece of metal, but as I disassembled the car to check whether something was not put together correctly inside, I found out that there are no hinges at all at that the trunk lid is simply riveted to the body. That’s a very disappointing fact, considering that the doors and the hood do open.

1976 Ford Gran Torino "Starsky & Hutch"
Rear, 1976 Ford Gran Torino “Starsky & Hutch”

The single exhaust pipe indicates that this model is equipped with one of the lower powered V8’s, but a close look under the hood well be given in the next chapter. Anyway, looking around the upper part of the car it’s nice to see ERTL painted the chrome lines around all windows. However, it’s a bit odd that the color surrounding the main windows is not the same as the one following the little rear side window. The windshield wipers are hidden underneath the hood of the car, which is accurately done. The disappointing part of it, is the fact that they are actually part of the body and just painted black on the top. ERTL has proven to be able to do better than that. Last but not least, they added a slightly bent radio antenna, which gives the car a very realistic and used touch, as they rarely stay straight very long.

Engine Bay

Engine bay, 1976 Ford Gran Torino "Starsky & Hutch"
Engine bay, 1976 Ford Gran Torino “Starsky & Hutch”

Under the hood we get to admire the mighty V8: In the TV series, they used cars with different engines. This one, as we can see from its sticker on the air filter, is the 351 12V (5.8L) 152 hp unit. The attention to details is actually quite good: blue air filter and valve covers, the safety stickers on the ventilator cover, chrome painted alternator. Moreover, all of the auxiliaries are visible, although not moveable. Wires and hoses are all there and even the battery clamps are painted grey. Kudos to ERTL for that.

Undercarriage

The mechanical details are all quite good; the steering works smoothly and although it’s all made out of plastic it’s reasonably solid. For me, the nicest thing to see is the engine and the transmission; it really pays to have the different elements painted in different colors. It just gives the car a more upscale touch. Back in the rear we can read that it was made under Ford license and built by ERTL. There is however, no mention of a movie production studio or a Starsky & Hutch merchandising department.

Undercarriage, 1976 Ford Gran Torino "Starsky & Hutch"
Undercarriage, 1976 Ford Gran Torino “Starsky & Hutch”

Interior

Interior, 1976 Ford Gran Torino "Starsky & Hutch"
Interior, 1976 Ford Gran Torino “Starsky & Hutch”
Interior, 1976 Ford Gran Torino "Starsky & Hutch"
Interior, 1976 Ford Gran Torino “Starsky & Hutch”

Inside it’s all black, so that’s a good start. The steering wheel has the correct shape and the grey-ish accents. Even the ignition is there but the keys are missing. It’s nice to see that the gauges and everything on the dashboard does have the correct three dimensional shape and color, rather than just being put on a sticker. As mentioned before, the cable of the flash light is connected to the passenger side police radio unit. The microphone doesn’t come off, but it’s great to know that they built the whole thing. On the floor we can see three pedals. Being an automatic I suppose the left one is for the parking brake. The front seats tilt forward to get easy access to the rear. A lot of attention to details has been put into the door panels as well: visible lock pins on top, “Gran Torino” stitching in the middle, as well as some chrome elements contrast the all black door just as in the actual car. Looking up, we can spot the rear view mirror, the sunshades and even the inside light.

Packaging

The box comes in traditional ERTL / RC2 fashion with the big windows in the front and on top, coupled with some pictures of the main actors of the TV show. In the back, you get a brief description of the show and the car in both English and French. On the bottom, the ERTL, RC2 and Ford logos authenticate that this is an official product of the toy company and the car manufacturer.

Packaging, 1976 Ford Gran Torino "Starsky & Hutch"
Packaging, 1976 Ford Gran Torino “Starsky & Hutch”
Packaging, 1976 Ford Gran Torino "Starsky & Hutch"
Packaging, 1976 Ford Gran Torino “Starsky & Hutch”

Back on the road

This ERTL 1/18 “Starsky & Hutch” model car is quite good, although not as good as fellow movie car model this brand has made alongside this one. It does have all of the car’s components and TV elements, such as the radio and shows a very well made interior. The only downside is the fact that the trunk does not open and the windshield wipers are part of the body instead of being separate parts.

 

1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile” – 1/18 RC2 model car

History of the car

1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”

The third generation Dodge Monaco was sold from 1974 to 1976. It was a complete redesign compared to the previous generation with an all-new unibody platform and all-new sheet metal. It came with three different engines, all of them being V8s: a 360 cu in (5.9 L), a 400 cu in (6.6 L) and a a 440 cu in (7.2 L) V8. The latter of them was the one being used in the “Bluesmobile”.

Exterior

This metal example comes with the the classic, slightly tarnished Mount Prospect, Illinois police livery painting. It has the the black push-bar, standard for a US police car, the correct license plate “Illinois BDR 529” and the steel wheels without hubcabs. They did a nice job installing the left rear view mirror only, as well the police searchlight on the left A-pillar. However, there is no handle on the inside to operate it, but that would probably have been more difficult to make the searchlight stay at a fixed position.

Searchlight & rear view mirror, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
Searchlight & rear view mirror, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”
Searchlight & rear view mirror, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
Searchlight & rear view mirror, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”

The original police letterings and symbols, such as the “to serve and to protect” are visible on both front fenders and so is the star on either front doors, as well as the “P1” on the back doors – just as in the movie. RC2 did well adding all of these elements while still making the entire paint job look old. The big thing that caught my attention was the spray painted dirt cover all over the car – just like a car looks like after “106 miles to Chicago”. Like the front license plate, the rear one is obviously accurate as well, but in a very special way; although it has four holes to put screws in, it’s only attached by the lower two, which is equivalent to the movie version. Furthermore, RC2 deleted the middle “D” of the Dodge lettering on the back. I’m glad they did that despite the fact that it is a Dodge license product and that the car brand might have wanted its name to be branded properly on its merchandising article.

1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”
1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile

The windshield whipers are very subtle and hide just behind the hood and don’t stick out as much as the ones of the 1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee” I reviewed previously.

The running lights, doors handle and door locks clearly stick out and were not just painted on. They appear to be a part of the respective body panels and are not glued on them, which gives the entire car an even more solid appearance. They even put on the radio antenna. It was on the original car as well. However, that one was all twisted, whereas the one on the model is perfectly straight.

Windscreen whipers, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
Windscreen whipers & radio antenna, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”
Twisted radio antenna, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
Twisted radio antenna, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”

Elwood carried his handbag with him throughout the entire movie. This one is made out of slightly soft plastic and is attached to the floor of the trunk.

Elwood's handbag
Elwood’s handbag

I suppose the only way of disconnecting it would be to disassemble the car and to unbolt it from underneath. And then, looking at the dashboard you can’t miss all of the garbage imitations they replicated – cigarettes, pack of cigarettes, crushed coke cans and so on. The attention to details just shows how much respect RC2 had with regards to the Blues Brothers franchise.

Garbage on the dashboard, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
Garbage on the dashboard, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”

With all that praise given to this model car, there are still a few things that are not quite accurate to the actual movie car. First of all, the two bumpers. On the model, you’ll find two vertical bars on either bumper. Which are correct, when you look at it from a factory point of view. On the Bluesmobile however, for whatever reason, they were removed. If you look closely at the bumpers in the movie, you can spot the respective holes where those bars are supposed to be mounted.

1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”
1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”

By now, any true Blues Brothers fan will ask himself where they iconic loudspeaker is they carried on the roof of the car. Obviously, this model came complete with that loudspeaker on a wood imitation frame and four robes to attach it to the car.

Loudspeaker, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
Loudspeaker with frame, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”

Obviously, the loudspeaker and the frame are both made of plastic, but once again they put on a very nice paint job: It could have been painted in a slightly lighter grey to match better to the actual one of the movie, but it’s very well made, nevertheless. And so is the frame holding the loudspeaker. I especially like the slightly elastic ropes that attach the frame to the car.

1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile" - RC2 model car
1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile” – RC2 model car

Engine bay

Engine bay, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
Engine bay, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”

At first glance, I’m happy to announce that the dirt cover story continues in here. As mentioned in the introduction, this car is equipped with the 440 cui V8 and is producing a total of 280 hp. It’s just beautiful to see how much attention they’ve paid to details – every part of it is clearly visible and painted accordingly: air filter, the blue valve covers, power steering, alternator, and what appears to be the cooling fluid container – even the clamps of the battery plugs are visible.

Hood, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
Hood, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”

Moreover, the solid metal hood has been given the actual shape on the interior as well and it closes nicely and fits perfectly. I assume I can quote Elwood Blues to sum up the mechanical part of this car: “It’s got a cop motor, a 440-cubic-inch plant. It’s got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas”.

Undercarriage

Undercarriage, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
Undercarriage, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”

I’m pleased to note that the same attention to details has been carried on underneath the car. First off, the entire undercarriage is covered with the same coat of dirt as the rest of the car. The different elements of the engine, oilpan, steering, exhaust system and suspensions have been molded and painted with precision. We can see the screws that attach the chassis to the body: two in the front, four in the middle and two in the back. Evidently, the four big holes in the middle are the mountings for the stand in the box. Another valuable detail is the fact that this car is an official license product of the then Chrysler Corporation, Universal Studios and the Blues Brothers’ movie merchandising department.

Undercarriage, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
Undercarriage, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”
Undercarriage, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
Undercarriage, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”

Interior

Interior, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
Interior, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”

Although it looks very upscale to have a black & brown steering wheel and a black steering column in contrast to the rest of the dashboard, the actual car had a complete brown interior. As mentioned in the beginning, the handle of the search light mounted on the left side A-pillar is missing – only the insert place is visible from the inside. The seatbelts, however, are missing. Not that the Blues Brothers would ever have used them. Because remember their slogan: they were on a “Mission from God”.

Front seat bench, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
Front seat bench, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”
Sunshades, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
Sunshades, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”

If we look up, we can see the interior rear view mirror and the sunshades, but there is no headline. But it would have to be the absolute deluxe version for it to be in. Seats are correct as well; one seat bench including the head-rests in the front and one in the back.

Front door, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
Front door, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”
Rear door, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
Rear door, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”

The door trims match the one of the real size car: All beige with the chrome window handle. I like the fact that the windows are rolled down in the front – probably because the Blues Brothers always reach out their arms to indicate a turn, rather than switching on the turn signal.First of all, the quality of the steering wheel, instruments and dashboard is very good. Everything from the indicator and gear lever, to the gages and the police radio in the lower center is there. They integrated the accelerator and brake pedals, as well as the parking brake on the far left.

Dashboard, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
Dashboard, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”

Packaging

The packaging box comes a white brick imitation with of course, the Blues Brothers in the front and a detailed description in English and French in the back. In addition to the standard stand on which the car in mounted with four screws, there is an additional transparent container to put the loudspeaker & frame in.

In the box, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan "Bluesmobile"
In the box, 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile”

Back on the road

Overall, this metal model car of the 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan “Bluesmobile” is a very detailed example. It’s a real pleasure to see, touch and feel with how much respect RC2 made this car. Obviously, one can always to an even better job, but this one already is top notch.

1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee” – 1/18 ERTL model car

1969 Dodge Charger R/T "General Lee"
1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee” ERTL

With this article I’m starting a series of model car reviews, with a special focus on movie and TV show cars. What better way to start with the iconic 1969 Dodge Charger R/TGeneral Lee” of the Dukes of Hazzard TV show. Since I’m lucky to have two seemingly identical General Lees, they will also be compared and checked whether or not they are identical twins.

History of the car

The second generation Dodge Charger was launched in 1968 and was replaced after the 1970 model year. Nevertheless, to this date it is still a very famous and highly desirable American Muscle car. Partly because Muscle cars of the 1960’s and 70’s in general have always been symbols of the American way of life, and also because the second generation Dodge Charger has been the star of several TV shows and movies, such as Bullitt, The Dukes of Hazzard obviously, and more recently the Fast & Furious franchise.

1969 Dodge Charger R/T "General Lee"
1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee” ERTL

It came with a plethora of engines, from the 3.7L inline 6 cylinder, all the way to the 7.2L V8. The 1969 model showcased in the Dukes of Hazzard had the 380 hp, 383, four barrel, 6.3L V8. The model cars reviewed here were made by ERTL. They don’t have functioning engines, but that won’t stop me from having a look under the hood.

Exterior

1969 Dodge Charger R/T "General Lee"
1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee” ERTL

The Charger R/T comes complete with the signature orange paint, the black push-bar in the front and the American Racing Vector cast aluminum wheels. ERTL even put a sticker placement on the left side of the grill for the “Charger” and “R/T” (road & track) lettering. However, of the two cars reviewed here, only one has the “R/T” sticker on, but not the “Charger” one. The second car is missing both stickers. Speaking of missing stickers, the second car also lacks the front and rear license plate stickers, as well as the “R/T” badge on the back of the car. Funnily enough, the confederate flag depicted on the front license plate plaque of the first car to my knowledge was never present in the TV show.

1969 Dodge Charger R/T "General Lee"
1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee” ERTL

Moving on to the doors of the car, where we can clearly see the iconic “01” on either side painted in black with white contouring. A nice touch is the fact that the doors don’t open. Yes, any Dukes of Hazzard aficionado will be pleased about that, because that’s just the way it was on the show – the doors were welded shut, so that the main characters, Bo and Luke Duke had to jump into the car to get in. However, if you really want to open them, you can do so by disassembling the car and remove the little piece of black plastic that prevents the door mechanism from moving.

1969 Dodge Charger R/T "General Lee"
Inside the body, 1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee” ERTL

Look at the roof of the car, and you’ll see the “General Lee” decals on either side, as well as the confederate flag between the letterings, which is accurate as such. Nevertheless, the “General Lee” lettering of the real car of the TV show, as well as on the more recent remake movie of 2005, covered the length from the A-pillar to the beginning of the C-pillar. On these model cars it goes all the way back until the middle of the C-pillar.

1969 Dodge Charger R/T "General Lee"
1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee” ERTL
1969 Dodge Charger R/T "General Lee", The Dukes of Hazzard, 1976
1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee”, The Dukes of Hazzard TV show, 1976
1969 Dodge Charger R/T "General Lee", The Dukes of Hazzard, 2005
1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee”, The Dukes of Hazzard movie, 2005

As mentioned before, only one of the cars features the correct rear license plate sticker “Hazzard County CNH320” of 1976, as well as the “R/T” badge.

Another nice feature is the left rearview mirror only, as well as the chrome fuel filler cap with the “FUEL” lettering on it. Unfortunately, the trunk does not open. The shut lines are clearly visible, but they are fake – the trunk lid is a solid part of the car body. It has been molded to show the lines. Speaking of the trunk of the car, the Dukes of Hazzard’s original car had a radio antenna mounted between the rear window and the trunk. Furthermore, there were two little flags, one checkered and one confederate between the antenna and the rear window. These items are missing on the ERTL model cars.

1969 Dodge Charger R/T "General Lee"
1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee” ERTL

Oddly, the models have silver painted stripes around all wheel arches. There was never anything like that on the actual car. Funnily enough, where ERTL should have painted a chrome line was on the lower edge of the C-pillars, in order to imitate the ones shown in the TV series. Furthermore, the model cars feature a little Chrysler pentastar logo on either front right fender only. These were probably added due to the fact that the cars arre Chrysler licensed products. These logos were not on the actual show cars. Overall, they are very solid metal model cars. The shut-lines are generally very good and the trim finish, such as mirrors, door handles, bumbers and everything with an actual three dimensional shape are well built. The only significant negative thing I have to mention about the exterior of one of the cars, is the alignment of the hood and its shape at the front end. It doesn’t really align nicely with the fenders on the rear half part and it’s clearly a little too long on the front left side. It looks as though the factory didn’t shape and cut it correctly but passed quality control anyway.

1969 Dodge Charger R/T "General Lee"
1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee” ERTL
1969 Dodge Charger R/T "General Lee"
1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee” ERTL

Engine bay

Pop the hood and you’ll find a mighty V8 engine. The most important items like the engine block, headers, air filter, battery and radiator are there, but it’s a pretty simple finish. ERTL didn’t seem like they thought it would be important to build the car as accurate as possible in there. On the flip side, as I mentioned in the video review (see below), it comes down to the price of the vehicle; if they’d made it super expensive, I would have expected it to look like the actual car in every detail.

Engine bay, 1969 Dodge Charger R/T "General Lee"
Engine bay, 1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee” ERTL

Undercarriage

Undercarriage, 1969 Dodge Charger R/T "General Lee" ERTL
Undercarriage, 1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee” ERTL

A look underneath the car shows the continuation of what’s visible in the engine bay. ERTL did a nice job with the pear grey exhaust pipes and silencers all the way back to the chrome finished mufflers. However, the transmission is sort of cut in the middle: the visible grey part is attached to the red part, which appears to be a single unit with the engine block. The rest of the undecarriage is quite alright: Yes it’s all plastic, but the entire steering, control arms, etc. are all functioning and linked to the steering wheel. The push-bar is firmly attached to the car with two of the total six screws that bold the chassis to the body. The rear leaf spring suspension have no give at all but are nicely molded – even the shock absorbers are in place.

Interior

1969 Dodge Charger R/T "General Lee"
Engine and interior, 1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee” ERTL

The interior follows a similar quality philosophy as the exterior. It’s accurately painted in beige, there is a roll cage, although it’s missing a diagonal bar for increased stiffness, like in the TV show car. The seats are partly accurate, meaning that the front seats have the correct shape, including the head-rests. However, the back seats are completely missing, which is pretty odd. The General Lee used to jump over obstacles a lot, but it was still meant to be a race car, not a stunt car. Over the series, many people drove with the Duke cousins. Hence, it’s strange to have the seats missing.

1969 Dodge Charger R/T "General Lee"
Interior, 1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee” ERTL

On the plus side, the door trims are very detailed and elements such as the window lever are in chrome color. The dashboard dials are also all present. The main dials are meticulously replicated in black color and are contured  by a touch of grey.

1969 Dodge Charger R/T "General Lee"
Dashboard, 1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee” ERTL

The steering wheel with the beige center and circle, as well as the three metal spokes is a precise replica of the real one. On the flip side, the gear lever is L-shaped and comes out of what appears to be a black soft cloth cover. In the TV show, the gear lever came out straight and there was no additional cover to the existing housing.

1969 Dodge Charger R/T "General Lee"
Interior, 1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee” ERTL

Back on the road

Even though these ERTL version of the famous 1969 Dodge Charger R/T “General Lee” is not perfect in every detail, it is a very pleasant example of one of the most iconic TV show cars ever. Any fan who can name one of these it’s own should simply keep it.

2000 Yamaha XVS 1100 Drag Star Classic Bobber Conversion – Presentation

What’s what

Fuel tank, 2000 Yamaha XVS 1100 Drag Star Classic Bobber conversion
Fuel tank, 2000 Yamaha XVS 1100 Drag Star Classic Bobber conversion

Today is the day I’m gonna give you a close and detailed tour of my 2000 Yamaha 1100 Drag Star Classic or V-Star, for the Americans. For those of you who know the stock model, you can see it doesn’t look anything like it anymore. Those of you who have been following my channel, have probably watched the three videos that document the conversion from the stock, all the way to the current bobber look. I had been looking to get a bike on which I could work on a little, and I’ve always liked choppers. So I decided to stay with the Japanese ones, because I then already owned a Yamaha FZ6 N. They are easy to work on and super reliable. Let’s start with the beginning: I bought this bike in July 2014 from its second owner and it had always been well looked after. It only had around 24’000 km on the clock when I got. And since then, I have put a massive, wait for it, 3’000 km on it. Mostly because I spend the first summer converting it to a bobber, and then in 2015 I spend a good time of the summer abroad.

Tour around the bike

Anyway, as you can see, it is now a one seater only motorcycle. While it has stayed completely stock regarding the technical components (yes, even the exhaust pipes…), I changed the seat, both fenders, the handle bar, the handle grips, the rear lights and the turn signals. Oh and yes, I had it resprayed from its original black to this pearl red. A lot of people who do a bobber conversion take off one of the front disk brakes, to make it look even more vintage, but that’s not me – I want solid brakes. Besides, there is no way I would be able to register the bike like that here in Switzerland.

Handle bar

Handle bar, 2000 Yamaha XVS 1100 Drag Star Classic Bobber conversion
Handle bar, 2000 Yamaha XVS 1100 Drag Star Classic Bobber conversion

The handle bar is a pretty short drag style bar made by “Highway Hawk”. I also had to install the corresponding risers in order for the handle bar to be high enough and not to touch the fuel tank when turning. I got them at Cycle-Tech.ch, which is where I also got the new handle grips. Those are “Highway Hawk” as well. The rest of the instruments, switches and mirrors are all stock.

Front indicators

Front indicators, 2000 Yamaha XVS 1100 Drag Star Classic Bobber conversion
Front indicators, 2000 Yamaha XVS 1100 Drag Star Classic Bobber conversion

The original front indicators were massive lollipop style ones. I got the new bullet style ones, as well as most of the bobber conversion parts, from Blue Collar Bobbers in Utah, USA. They make outstanding complete conversion kits for Japanese motorcycles. Although these indicators have the same shape as the ones that came from Blue Collar Bobbers, they are actually different ones, because they have to meet the European regulations. So what I essentially wanted from Blue Collar Bobbers, was the steel mounting bracket, but I couldn’t get it separately, so I had to buy the indicators as well.

Front fender

Front fender, 2000 Yamaha XVS 1100 Drag Star Classic Bobber conversion
Front fender, 2000 Yamaha XVS 1100 Drag Star Classic Bobber conversion

The front fender is an all-aluminum part. It came primed with the black powder coated steel mounting brackets. Hence, all I had to do, is to get it painted. Many bobber conversions skip the front fender altogether, but I prefer having one. To me, it just looks more balanced with it.

Seat & seat pan

Now let’s go over and have a look at the seat and the seat pan. They too are from Blue Collar Bobbers and come as a set. You can get it in different sizes and leathers. I got the 11” spring seat kit with the tarnished brown black pleats. Although it looks very basic, it is actually very comfortable, even on longer rides of over two hours. Fitting the seat pan is the part of the conversion where you have to be the most accurate and careful, because you have to saw the rear part of the frame off. And once it’s off, it’s gone forever, so pay attention to it and cut straight. Once that’s done it’s pretty much just a bold on procedure.

Rear lights & 11" spring seat, 2000 Yamaha XVS 1100 Drag Star Classic Bobber conversion
Rear lights & 11″ spring seat, 2000 Yamaha XVS 1100 Drag Star Classic Bobber conversion

Rear lights & indicators

Moving on to the rear lights. I got these on Amazon.com. These are the ShinYo Colorado LED lights and match the front ShinYo Bullet indicators. I just love the steel housing. Because they are LED, you either have to change the corresponding relay or just integrate some resistance into the system, in order not to get the LED lights burnt out – Evidently, they need far less energy than the original light bulbs. The cool thing about the Colorado is that it’s an all in one package: tail and brake light in the outer circle, yellow indicator light in the center. It doesn’t show that good in the video, but the indicator light actually is yellow.

License plate bracket

License plate bracket, 2000 Yamaha XVS 1100 Drag Star Classic Bobber conversion
License plate bracket, 2000 Yamaha XVS 1100 Drag Star Classic Bobber conversion

Let’s get a quick look at the license plate bracket. This is actually the one and only part I made myself. I was looking at a couple of license plate brackets online, but I found them to be really overpriced, especially if you want one that fits Swiss plates. So I figured, why not make one myself? How hard can it be? And it really wasn’t that hard; an LED light, some metal plates I bended and cut, a prefabricated frame, some paint and voilà. It does look self-made, but that’s what it’s supposed to, isn’t it?!

Rear fender

Rear fender, 2000 Yamaha XVS 1100 Drag Star Classic Bobber conversion
Rear fender, 2000 Yamaha XVS 1100 Drag Star Classic Bobber conversion

Just like the front fender, the rear one is from Blue Collar Bobbers. Contrary to the stock one that was bolted on the part of the frame that has now been sawn off, this new bobber style one is entirely bolted to the swing arm. In the rear, it’s bolted to existing holes on either side, so there is really nothing that can go wrong there. It is a pretty straightforward process, just be sure to use a cloth or something similar, and wrap it around the various parts as you are tightening the bolts – just so you don’t scratch anything. In any case, I strongly recommend to bolt it on once before getting the fender painted. This way if you do scratch it, you’ll know how to handle it once it is painted. To attach it to the front part of the swing arm, you get a custom metal plate, which you put around the swing arm and on which you then bolt the fender.

Engine & oil filler cap replacement

V2 engine, 2000 Yamaha XVS 1100 Drag Star Classic Bobber conversion
V2 engine, 2000 Yamaha XVS 1100 Drag Star Classic Bobber conversion

Although I didn’t change anything on the mechanical side, I still want to give you a look of the engine. It’s got 1100 cm3 unit, obviously, 62 hp and a five speed gearbox, which transmits the power to the rear wheel via a cardan-shaft; a comfortable, reliable and really maintenance friendly concept. The only thing I changed here is the oil filler cap. I removed the plastic one and put this RR metal one with integrated temperature gage. Obviously, I can’t see it while riding. I just think it looks good on it. And if you ask me, replacing some dull plastic parts with shiny metal ones is always a good choice.

Exhaust and fuel tank

Exhaust pipes, 2000 Yamaha XVS 1100 Drag Star Classic Bobber conversion
Exhaust pipes, 2000 Yamaha XVS 1100 Drag Star Classic Bobber conversion

Now, moving over to the exhaust. This is where I usually get nice comments for the looks, but surprised looks for the sound of it. Yes, I mentioned before, it’s stock as well. Hence, you can barely here any noise. But at least it’s got exhaust wrap on it. J I might change the exhaust eventually, but I haven’t yet found a legal one that looks and sounds nice. You might have noticed the decals on the tank – I made them myself out of some film you’d usually use to decorate your windows at home. It’s not entirely waterproof, but then I only ride it on dry weather.

Click on the following YouTube video if you want to see it in action:

Paul Walker – A Tribute

Ride or die

Paul Walker, The Fast and the Furious, 2001
Paul Walker, The Fast and the Furious, 2001

The late Paul Walker has been gone for exactly two years now – can’t believe how fast time goes. Of course, many of the fans will always remember him as his most noticeable character – Brian O’Conner – of the Fast and Furious franchise. Ironically, ride or die always was and still is the motto of the team. By the way, this is actually the reason why I’m writing an article about an actor on my motoring blog. But back to the subject. I was just about 17 when The Fast and the Furious came to the big screens and started it all. I had seen Paul in previous movies, such as Varsity Blues and Pleasantville. However, The Fast and the Furious started was about cars, and I am a car guy. So was Paul, which made him connect even more with his character and his fans. A total of seven movies have come out by 2015 and Paul was in six of them. The Fast and Furious franchise practically rode with me for the last 15 years. Unsurpringly, it was pretty disturbing when I heard that he had gone.

Nevertheless, I was fortunate enough to take some time off this year to travel across the United States this summer. Upon my arrival in Los Angeles, I checked out the neighborhood of Echo Park, where the Dominic and Mia Toretto’s house is standing and the saga started. Yes, it is a real house, a real neighborhood. And the cool is that it’s just like in the movie; Toretto’s Market (Bob’s Market) is just down the street of the house – which in real life doesn’t sell Mia’s tuna sandwich, but groceries. 😉 Here’s a little montage of Echo Park edited with some of the movie scenes:

The Fast and the Furious filming locations:

Paul the marine biologist and human activist

According to Paul, acting was never his biggest passion. He started acting because his mom was in the showbusiness and he had the opportunity to act in order to pay for school and go back to marine biology. He got the opportunity to start in Pleasantville and what happened after that is a successfull acting career.  Even though Paul was very busy shooting one movie after another, he still took time to start his own non-profit organization Reach Out Worldwide (ROWW), which “is a network of committed professionals with first responder skill-set (including project management, logistics, heavy equipment operation, EMT, paramedic, firefighting, and healthcare, etc)”.

The irony of life

Isn’t it ironic how his life ended? He left in a car accident – in a Porsche, one of his favorite car brand. After all of those crashes he had gone through in the movies (and who knows if he every crashed a car in real life), he just had to die in a car crash. One can always say that he achieved quite a lot in his life and affected a lot of people. But still, it was very sad to see him go.

Porsche 356 Speedster, Fast and Furious 7, 2015
Porsche 356 Speedster, Fast and Furious 7, 2015

And yet, I still find it very ironic how everything came about. Paul allegedly had shot about 80% of his part of Fast and Furious 7 before he died. In the first half of the movie, there is one scene where he stays at a friend’s house in the Domincan Republic with Mia. He is in a room / garage, where you can clearly see a Porsche 356 Speedster. I assume that it was actually him playing this scene and not one of his brothers and some CGI. But how ironic is it to show him with that classic Porsche. Okay, it isn’t a 550 Spyder, the car in which James Dean had his fatal crash in 1955, but it’s from the same decade. Both were young, successful and had a passion for cars.

His own collection

Paul Walker, Fast Five, 2011
Paul Walker, Fast Five, 2011

Paul Walker and Roger Rodas, Paul’s friend drove the Porsche Carrera GT into their fatal accident, shared ownership of a tuning garage called “AE Performance” – AE meaning “Always Evolving”. Paul was even wearing AE t-shirts in the Fast and Furious movies, most notably in Fast 5. Paul and Roger shared a great collection of cars, most of them obviously being performance cars. The garage is shown on Matt Farrah‘s YouTube channel “The Smoking Tire” on a video he posted in 2012. Back then Paul and Roger asked not to tell who owned the cars, but after both passed Matt edited the description box and added the info. You can watch it hear:

Paul Walker's 1995 Toyota Supra & Nissan Skyline R34, AE Performance, Santa Clarita, California
Paul Walker’s 1995 Toyota Supra & Nissan Skyline R34, AE Performance, Santa Clarita, California

Speaking of Paul’s collection, Matt Farah mentions the Nissan Skyline GTR R34 and the Toyota Supra A80, both of which he drove in the the Fast and Furious franchise. Not these exact cars, but the models. Actually, the white Toyota Supra can be seen in the ending scene of Fast and Furious Seven, when Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Conner meet for the last time at an intersection in their Dodge Charger and Toyota Supra – not to say goodbye, but see you again:

Here’s the actual music clip of Wiz Khalifa – See You Again ft. Charlie Puth:

People come, people go – everyone has to leave this planet one day. Whether Paul Walker left at the height of his life is not up to me to judge, but he certainly left at the height of his fame and popularity. In addition to that, there was never any celebrity drama around him, he didn’t seem to care about the Hollywood glamor that much and by building his own non-profit organization ROWW he seemed to be a very down to earth, authentic person. This is way I think he will be missed by a large number of people for many years to come.

Paul Walker, Fast and Furious 6, 2013
Paul Walker, Fast and Furious 6, 2013

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