So my MotorScotti YouTube channel just reached 1’000 subscribers! What I started with a fairly modest short clip of my Yamaha XVS Drag Star 1100 motorcycles has gone through being a model car review channel to becoming a DIY how to repair and modification channel about cars in general and mores specifically the Peugeot RCZ. As mention in my channel update video, it’s time to move on to the next chapter with the Pontiac Firebird KITT project.
Over the years I have received a loads of constructive and positive feedback from all of the viewers and I am really greatful for your support! I enjoy documenting my little automotive and mechanical projects and share it with the world to help others who are looking for the information I provide and simply show that with a little bit of dedication you can do it, too! At you own risk, of course!! :-p
Anyway, this is just the beginning of a lot more to come. Thank you for your continuous support and stay tuned!! 🙂
It’s been almost half a year since my last Youtube video and there are several reasons for it. The main one being the fact that I started working on the restoration of my third generation Pontiac Firebird. Parallel to its restoration I intent to convert into a replica of the KITT, the Knight Industries Two Thousand of the 80’s TV show Knight Rider.
Moving from the RCZ to the Firebird will undoubtedly shift the focus of the channel. But it doesn’t mean there won’t be any further videos and articles on the RCZ. However, the MotorScotti website, YouTube channel and Facebook page have always been about my passion for cars and motorcycles. For the time being, the Pontiac is in pole position. Watch the video and you’ll know what’s to be expected over the next several months! 🙂
So guess what…? The Fast and The Furious will be back on the big screen on June 22 in a couple of movie theaters across the US. Noo, not Fast 8…that one we’re expecting to come in April 2017. This here is the first movie that started the globally successful franchise.
I can’t believe it’s been 15 years already. I was just about to get 16 when it came out. This means I’m almost 32 years old by now…scary. 😉 I suppose lots of guys who were in there late teens, early twenties were hooked back than to some extend ‘grew up’ with the Fast and Furious sage. It’s incredible how far the “Fast” saga has gone. They have already made 7 and there is an entire trilogy in the pipeline to finalize it all. Although each following iteration has so far been packed with more action and unrealistic stuff than the one it just followed, I quite liked how they made everybody come together from the fourth to the sixth and ending it as a reunited family *Iain’tgotfriendsIgotfamily* at the Toretto house. By the way, this is way I would have liked the saga to stop at six.
However, it is what it is and at the end of the day it’s business. Universal Studios is well aware of that and they are milking the cow. It’s a little too much, but I don’t blame them. They’re doing it because there’s a demand. Hence, it the end it’s down to the consumers to decide whether it’s worth it or not…and apparently it is!
ENJOY the trailer!
“I live my life a quarter mile at a time. Nothing else matters, not the mortgage, not the store, not my team and all that bullshit. For those ten seconds or less, I’m free.” – Dominic Toretto, 2001
This second part of the “K.I.T.T. & K.A.R.R.” ERTL model cars review – a focus on the 1/25 and 1/64 scale models. Contrary to the 1/18 models I’ve reviewed in part 1, these cars were actually produced in 1982 when the TV show started.
Let’s start with the exterior of the 1/25 car. Contrary to the 1/18 models, this one is much more basic. The only parts that do open are the doors. In fact let’s take a closer look at them: You can clearly see that the doors are not well aligned, the clearance on the front and the right side of the bottom is quite significant. If you turn the car to the side, you’ll notice that the doors don’t stay shut. It’s a relatively low standard of fit and finish. Anyway, at least ERTL made the door handles and locks visible.
Up front, ERTL didn’t bother putting the custom K.I.T.T. bumper on it. Instead, they went with the original Firebird front. As you can see they did however, put a red scanner light sticker on it. I must admit, it’s not totally wrong, as K.I.T.T. can be seen in several scenes of the pilot episode of Knight Rider (Knight of the Phoenix) with that stock bumper and the scanner mounted right on the front.
The front marker lights are molded into the fenders, but are obviously not painted yellow. As a matter of fact, the whole car is all black. The wheels are equipped with the turbine finned alloys and the “Bowling Ball” hubcaps. They even have a little Pontiac logo in the center. Moreover, the tires have “Goodyear” markings on the side and descent profile on them – very nice! Don’t try looking for stone deflectors or air extractors on this car, you won’t find them.
In the rear, I’m unable to say whether there are rear marker lights or not, as the “Knight Rider” stickers cover that part of the body. They did however manage to put in the fuel filler cap on the left side. The back follows the same path as the front. You can clearly see the stock taillight cluster with the three parts, the horizontal lines, the Firebird logo, as well as the Pontiac lettering. Let me just add that there aren’t any side mirrors, but that’s probably due to the fact that this was built to be a children’s toy. Mirrors would have represented a safety hazard.
On the hood, we find the iconic Trans Am bulge on the left side including the separation line for the upper element. The roof has the T-top shape, but no actual glass or plastic covers to put in. Furthermore, the center bar is way too large for a third generation Firebird and reminds me of the previous generation model.
Overall regarding the exterior, ERTL didn’t bother applying any of the Knight Rider transformations and instead went for a bone stock Firebird Trans Am with some stickers. Bear in mind that this car was intended for children for ages 3 and over and not for adult collectors as it has become today.
Now, what about the 1/64 model? Due to the fact that it is even smaller than the 1/25, my expectations in terms of fit and finish were quite low. Interestingly, you can kind of see that it was made by the same manufacturer at the same period: the front bumper is the stock Firebird one with the scanner sticker and it does have the “Knight Rider” sticker on either rear fender, like on the 1/25 model. But I must say, it’s actually not a bad model. Contrary to the bigger one, this one does actually have air extractors in the front fenders.
It has a compact single piece body. As a result, none of the panels can be opened or removed. The doors do however have handles and locks. For obvious reasons, it doesn’t have rear view mirrors, but it does have garnish moldings which again, are not on its slightly bigger brother.
In the rear, the fuel filler cap is visible on the left side. As we get to the back, this is where it starts to get tricky: Look at the rear spoiler – it’s diagonal instead of flat and continuous along the sides, just like on the second generation Firebird. How weird is that? Maybe ERTL didn’t want to plug in the authentic spoiler just in case it gets loose and children would swallow it…who knows?
At least they put in transparent plastic roof panels on the T-top – good job. Nevertheless, I would have liked to see the Trans Am bulge on the hood. Wouldn’t have that been possible on that scale in 1982? Lastly, the wheels are simple black ones made out of solid plastic – most likely a standard issue part.
So much for the exterior. I’d love to open the hood and take a look at the engines of these cars, but unfortunately they don’t have any.
So let’s get underneath the cars straight ahead. The 1/25 model is reasonably accurate. It pretty much carries on the same attention to details as the exterior: You can recognize the shapes of the radiator and the steering, but of course, the whole undercarriage is just one single plate that imitates all of the elements, such as the oil pan, transmission, exhaust system and fuel tank. There is no functioning steering but the wheels mounted to their respective axle do turn. The undercarriage is clipped into place and bolted to the body with one screw only in the back. The traditional ERTL logo is branded in the middle. There is however no mention of Pontiac, General Motors, NBC or Universal Studios.
Let’s zoom in on the 1/64 K.I.T.T.: Obviously, the standard is lower on this model, but so are the expectations. It’s a one plate undercarriage as well. There are very few details visible, basically just the transmission and the exhaust pipes. The plate is riveted to the body with one rivet in the front and another one in the back. As on the 1/25 scale model, this one carries the ERTL branding in the middle.
Enough of the greasy stuff, let’s jump into the cars. As you know by now, only the 1/25 has access to the interior. If you want to get into the 1/64, you’re gonna have to do that ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ style, as the doors are just engraved.
The first instantly recognizable observations are the all black interior and the fact that it looks pretty stock Firebird inside. Neither the dashboard, nor the steering wheel is in Knight Rider fashion. However, I must give ERTL some credit, as they did a pretty good job at replicating the original Trans Am. The front seats don’t have the hole in the head-rest and the back seats are separated by a huge transmission shaft, but other than that it’s quite good. They even put in the center console and the hand brake lever. Furthermore, considering that the doors are made of a single metal piece, the interior trim is actually really good: most of the elements are visible and shaped accurately.
It’s a different story on the 1/64 model – it’s much more simplistic: A plane flat dashboard without any gauges, a standard steering wheel, front seats only and a gear lever.
Now this is something special: Having the original packaging of a model car that is over 30 years old, that alone makes it a collector’s item. So here it is: The box of the 1/25 model has a longer back plate with the ERTL and Knight Rider letterings on the front, as well as a drawing of K.I.T.T.. Notice that even on the picture they used a stock Firebird Trans Am with a scanner at the very front. The main part of the box comes in a yellow and blue color combination with an open window upfront all the way over the top. With “Durable Die-Cast 2000“ on the front and “Durable Die Cast Replica – Constructed to Last a Lifetime!“ on the top, ERTL emphasizes on the solidity and ruggedness of its product.
In the back, you’ll find a brief description of the car and another picture of KITT as well as Michael Knight. Funnily enough, on this picture, K.I.T.T. is shown with the actual front bumper of the TV show. On the bottom is where you can see the ERTL and, finally, the Universal City Studios brandings, trademarked in 1982. On the right side you’ll find a kind of an application form to fill out and cut out in order to become a member of the ERTL Collector’s Club. A very special and rare thing to have. I guess I’m going to have to find out want that has become!
Onwards to the packaging of the smaller car. You can instantly recognize that the two cars come from the same brand and are made in the same period. The car was originally hold in place by a transparent box. The cardboard comes in the same yellow and blue color scheme with the ERTL and Knight Rider letterings. On this particular example, there is an additional French sticker on it, indicating that it was originally sold in France. In the back, we get the same Collector’s Club application form as on the bigger model on top, as well as the ERTL and Universal City Studios brandings below.
Back on the road
These two model cars are definitely not the most accurate TV show car replicas, but they were meant for children to play with. Moreover, the fact that they were made at the time the show aired now makes them collectors items anyway and for that reason they have earned their tickets into the fan collection.
In this article I’m presenting a series of four ERTL model cars of the 1982 PontiacFirebird Trans Am “K.I.T.T.” and his evil twin “K.A.R.R.”. The iconic automobiles of the 80’s TV series “Knight Rider”. I’ll start with the more recent 1/18 K.I.T.T. and K.A.R.R., compare them to the original Firebird Trans Am they are based on, and continue with the 1/25 and 1/64 scale models in part 2.
History of the car
In 1982, Pontiac launched the completely redesigned third generation of the Firebird model. It was a drastic change in terms of technology and styling: electronically controlled retractable headlamps flush-mounted side glass, a glass rear hatchback, just to name a few. This generation was designed in the wind tunnel. Every exterior element of this car was designed to be sleek and aerodynamically efficient. The Trans Am, which was the top model of the range, was the perfect car to choose for a TV series that was about the car of the future, the “Knight Industries Two Thousand”, commonly known as “K.I.T.T.”.
Engine wise, the third generation Firebird came with a plethora of inline 4, V6 and V8 engines, going from 151 cu in (2.5 L) all the way up to 350 cu in (5.7 L). In the TV show, K.I.T.T. got its power from a turbine, but the actual engine was the Crossfire-injected LU5 305 cu in (5.0 L) V8 with a whopping 165 hp, coupled to the TH-200c automatic 3-speed transmission, that came with the Trans Am only – A rather modest power output for today’s standards, but then it was in 1982.
K.I.T.T. and K.A.R.R. were based on the Recaro Edition Trans Am with the PMD (Pontiac Motor Division) seats. On the exterior, the changes to the production model were surprisingly small, but all the more iconic. The front bumper with the integrated red scanner light has the correct shape. The scanner light even works and is powered by four coin cells located in the fuel tank. Press the small black button on the left side just in front of the rear wheel and the scanner light will stay on for 20 seconds. Press the big blue button on the opposite side and it’ll stay on till you press it again.
This K.I.T.T. has two fog lamps per side plus additional turn signals. In the TV show, K.I.T.T. never had turn signals in the front bumper. There were three fog lamps per side in the first two seasons and only two fog lamps per side in the final two seasons. According to the dashboard, this is supposed to replicate the car of the first two seasons. Back then, K.I.T.T. had a slightly different front bumper than in the following seasons: the fog lamp part was covered with black laths, making the fog lamps visible only when switched on. The original parking lights were covered by tinted plastic, letting the light shine through when switched on. This is the later bumper that completely covers the original parking lights of the Firebird. K.A.R.R. had two appearances on the TV show; one in the first season when the exterior was identical to K.I.T.T.’s and one in the third season, when the scanner light had faded from red to yellow, due to a two years in salt water. He had also repainted the lower part of the body in grey.
The only differences to K.I.T.T. are: the grey paint on the lower part of the car, the yellow scanner and the yellow voice modulator. The grey paint job just misses one detail, the line along the wheel arches. It does have the front stone deflectors like on K.I.T.T.. K.A.R.R. has three fog lamps per side as well, instead of two. However, they are all white.
Further down the front, you can see the grappling hook. Although it was only visible up close on the show when used, ERTL managed to install a permanent one with a spring that rolls it back in when you release the rope. Whereas it works still quite good on this K.A.R.R. model, it’s a little stuck on K.I.T.T. and I have to roll it back in manually. Nevertheless, it’s really impressive to see that they thought of it and made a working unit!
Back on top, the hood has its signature left side Trans Am bulge. The headlights do not pop up on this models, nor do any of the other lights work, which is a little sad, since they already have batteries for the scanner lights. Anyway, the marker lights are correctly painted orange in front and red in the rear. Fortunately, the windshield wipers are accurately replicated separate items that have been installed hidden behind the hood – just as they should. The air extractors on the front fenders are also there. ERTL even painted them in a different matt black as opposed to the shiny black on the rest of the car. The garnish moldings on the doors have been installed correctly. On K.A.R.R., they also mark the limit between the two paint colors. The radio antenna is missing, just as in the show.
The wheels are fitted with the turbine finned alloy imitation rims with the black “Bowling Ball” hubcaps. The tires don’t show any brand markings on the side like in the show, but they have actual profile on them. The stone deflectors, standard on the Trans Am, were mounted in front of either wheel. Contrary to this model and many replicas, the front ones were never mounted on the actual K.I.T.T.. Even this one has got them. Finally, the fuel filler cap with the opening bulge on the left side is very accurate. The back window is tinted and opens just as in real one. Contrary to the life size one it has a thick frame, but then I suppose it would have to hold everything together. In the rear, K.I.T.T.’s black single piece taillight cover is on, as opposed to the Firebird’s original three piece cover. The bumper follows the exact embayment in the lower part and is completed with the classic blue “California KNIGHT” license plate sticker, bold on by four painted screws. However, ERTL just made yet another mistake with the paint job on K.A.R.R.: On the model the entire bumper is grey. On the real car, the separation is on the edge of the bumper, meaning that the upper surface is black. Please note: There was no license plate on K.A.R.R. when I got it. The one on this one is a self-made replica.
Looking further down we can see the tips of the two exhaust pipes, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Let’s get up to the roof. As a matter of fact, the T-Top was a crucial part of K.I.T.T.. If you have watched to show you’ll know that K.I.T.T. used his ejector seats frequently, but we’ll get to that as we’ll get inside the car. The two sections are made out of tinted plastic, follow the original’s slightly curbed shape and are retractable. They are simply put on the car and cannot be attached. So be careful when turning the car upside down. That said, they fit perfectly, just as in the real world. 😉
Now let’s check out if there is actually a turbine under K.I.T.T.’s and K.A.R.R.’s hood. On the one hand the result is very disappointing, because ERTL put the conventional original 5.0 L V8 in it, in lieu of the turbine. On the other hand, the turbine was never visible in the show; every time they opened the hood, the stock V8 engine was in there. In that perspective, it’s a spot on job: Gold painted engine block, chrome valve covers, grey headers and alternator – all the different elements are painted in their respective color. The air filter, the cables on the engine bay and the hose connecting the radiator and the engine are on, even all of the auxiliaries and the v-belts are installed, even though they cannot turn. They even thought of replicating the exact shape of the cover plate between the headlights – well done.
The only letdowns are the battery and the headlights. While the battery is installed, no cable or connectors are visible. ERTL did a better job on the “Bluesmobile” I reviewed previously. And I assume it would have been feasible to install retractable headlights on this kind of model – Some less expensive model cars have that. Overall though, a very nice job. The hoods of both cars close nicely, they are well adjusted and the shut lines are very clean.
Time to look under the car. The mechanical details are all very accurate. The differently painted colors like in the engine bay continue their way down here. The wheels turn and the steering is connected to K.I.T.T. & K.A.R.R.’s futuristic steering wheel. From underneath we get a close look at the grappling hook and it’s actually quite sophisticated: A mini hook attached to a rope, which is attached to a winch that has been fitted with a spring. Just pull it out and it’ll rewind as you let it go. Although it still works quite good on this K.A.R.R., the one of K.I.T.T. appears to be a little stuck, probably because he got to use it more often than his evil twin.
The rest of the undercarriage is as detailed as we can expect it from ERTL: the exhaust pipes even integrate the catalytic converter. The tail pipes have the original angular ending – very nice. The transmission and propulsion shaft are painted grey and even show the correct articulations. Another nice touch is the fact that ERTL put in four real springs. Unfortunately, they are just for show and the suspension is solid. As usual for ERTL 1/18s, the undercarriage is screwed to the body with six bolts; two in the front, two in the middle and two in the back.
As mentioned before, the buttons in front of the back wheels are here to action the scanner light. The fuel tank is obviously the ideal place to store the coin cells. Funnily enough, the fuel tank is painted grey on K.I.T.T. and black on K.A.R.R.. Since I purchased K.A.R.R. a couple of years later, it just looks like ERTL made some improvements over the years – so far regarding the fuel tank and the fog lights, but also within the interior, as we shall see next.
Inside K.I.T.T. and K.A.R.R. is where the future begins – or at least used to begin during the 80’s. As soon as we hop in the cabin, the iconic dashboard of the 1st two seasons of Knight Rider greats us: The main dashboard, dash switchpod, steering wheel, upper & lower console – everything has the correct shape and sticker on it. Fortunately, ERTL even thought of the “Knight Industries” logo on the steering wheel.
The eight single diodes arranged vertically around the voice modulator are accurately painted on K.I.T.T.: the upper four are yellow, the lower four are red. However, the voice modulator itself is not painted at all. On K.A.R.R., the upper four diodes are orange, instead of yellow, but the voice modulator is painted as a square, like K.I.T.T. had in red in the very first few episodes. It would have been perfect, had they painted K.A.R.R.’s voice modulator with three yellow stripes. Nice job, even the gear lever is the one of the 1982 Firebird so often seen as a close-up when K.I.T.T. changed gears himself.
The rest of the cabin is all beige as it should. The front seats are just like in the actual K.I.T.T.: today’s very rare PMD units. All seats come with the accurate striped upholstery, but remain plastic of course. Tilt the front seat forward and you can access to the rear bench. The coolest thing of the whole interior is without a doubt the passenger ejector seat. Push the black button on the right side of the seat and off it goes! Don’t forget to remove the top first. 😉
The box comes in traditional ERTL / RC2 fashion with the big windows in the front and on top, a picture of K.I.T.T. or K.A.R.R. in the front and in the back. Moreover, there is an open spot up front to try the car’s scanner light. Interestingly, on K.I.T.T.’s box, the acronym is written out just underneath it – “Knight Industries Two Thousand”. On K.A.R.R.’s box, they left that out, whereas they should have added “Knight Automated Roving Robot”. David Hasselhoff aka Michael Knight is depicted on top and in the back for both models. 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, General Motors and Universal Studios logos authenticate that this is an official product of the toy company, the car manufacturer and the movie production studio.
Back on the road
Overall, ERTL did a fine job building these 1/18 K.I.T.T. & K.A.R.R. replicas. There are a couple of minor flaws regarding the front of the cars and it would have been nice to have actual retractable headlights, but the rest of the car is very accurate. Furthermore, the functioning scanner light, the grappling hook and the ejector seat make you want to immerse into the Knight Rider world.
While you’re at it, you might want to check out David Hasselhoff’s trailer of the next Knight Rider iteration:
The “Starsky & Hutch” car was a third generation FordGran 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/T “General 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.
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.
The Charger R/T comes complete with the signature orange paint, the black push-bar in the front and the American RacingVector 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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:
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.