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Pontiac Firebird Trans Am – Knight Rider KITT – Full restoration

This is a video I’ve been wanting to do since I first drove KITT home. I’m compressing the entire (almost) restoration and conversion of my Pontiac Firebird Trans Am KITT in one video. I say almost because this isn’t the of it. I’m still working on mechanic and appearance improvements. This way, it will give you an idea of the extent of work and the amount of video footage that’s gone into restoring this car and transforming it into my own KITT.

After this video, I plan on continuing publishing the countless videos on the restoration process, as well as including visits to car shows, driving sequences and just fun stuff. Hope you enjoy it! 🙂

Update on KITT & My advice on project cars

Originally I had in mind to dive into all the restoration videos around Christmas. Even though I have made significant progress in KITT since, I was too busy to edit a significant amount of videos. Meanwhile, I opened an Instagram account and started showing the current progress on KITT, which created a bit of a gap between the original presentation of the Firebird and the current status of the car.

Long story short, here is the March 2019 update of KITT. Enjoy the video!

Channel Update

Big change ahead

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! 🙂

The Fast and The Rerun

Milking the cow

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.

Volkswagen Jetta, Jesse, The Fast and The Furious
Volkswagen Jetta, Jesse, The Fast and The Furious

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.

Dodge Charger R/T, Dominic Toretto, The Fast and The Furious
Dodge Charger R/T, Dominic Toretto, The Fast and The Furious

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

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.

 

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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