Some Cool P.I. Model Car Kits
At the tender young age of nine or so, my favourite TV show was Mannix. It was on Saturday nights, and I was allowed to stay up because it wasn't a school night.
By that time I was already something of a car nut -- my shelves were already filled with Corgis, Matchboxes, and Hot Wheels. And then a wrong turn down an aisle in the toy section of Miracle Mart in Greenfield Park brought me face to face with destiny.
It was an MPC model car kit of Joe Mannix's Oldsmobile convertible. I didn't care if it was the car from an earlier season, or that Joe no longer drove such an upscale set of wheels, now that he'd left Intertect and was running his own one-man agency.
No, what sold me was the description on side, the list of the accessories. A car phone! A gun (with REAL chrome plating!), hidden in the upholstery! I had to have it!
I purchased it with my own carefully hoarded birthday money -- my very first car model. I didn't do a very good job -- I didn't know anything about spray paint or masking, there was an embarrassing glue smear on the windshield, and the instructions were ambivalent enough that my scant knowledge of automobiles led to more than a few assembly errors -- but I was so proud when I completed it. It marked the start of -- or confirmations of -- two important obsessions in my life. My love of cars, and my love of private eyes. Over the next few years, I must have built thirty or so model kits, and I'd probably still be building them if I hadn't discovered girls.
The P.I. jones? That seems to be taking a little longer to get over.
- Kookie's Kookiemobile
From 77 Sunset Strip
Kookie, the out-of-left-field teen idol went from bit-part car hop to teenage sensation, and took his customized Model A/Model T hot rod hybrid wirth him.in the early sixties. There was allegedly a model kit of it, although confirmation is a little hard to find. The empty box pictured above may have been faked -- according to the dealer selling it several years ago, "The box is 9"x 4.5"x 3" and has printing on all sides except the bottom. It is shrink wrapped and MINT.. It says 'Made by Revell'.. but I am pretty sure they did not make it, allthough THEY SHOULD HAVE!!!" But even if the box was bogus, there must have been about a zillion scratch-built version of what some have called "the most famous hot rod of all time."
- Joe Mannix's Convertible
"In the first year of the show, when he worked for Intertech, Mannix, Joe drove a George Barris-customized (silver-and-dark-gray) convertible Oldsmobile Toranado. MPC made a model of it, in fact (this is true! I had one- ed. ) When he quit Intertech, he went downhill and drove various (dark green) Dodge Challengers and Darts and Barracudas for the rest of the series," says noted car nut John Boyle. Maybe so, but they were still pretty cool cars, and they each had something really special for back then: car phones."
- Hardcastle and McCormick's Coyote
Built from Manta Montage, on a base chassis is from a VW and the engine from a VW-Porsche 914, made this light-weight car very, very fast indeed. There was a second version of the Coyote, used in the secondd anfd third seasons, which was based on a DeLorean.
- Hank Brackett and Johnny Reach's Stutz Bearcat
From the short-lived CBC series, Bearcats! Came with optional, fender-mounted Gatling guns. No radio or CD player, though. Like Lou Reed says, "Man, those were different times."
- Dan Tanna's 1957 T-Bird
Not only was this annoyingly-smug Vegas P.I. surrounded by beautiful women, but he got to tool around in this cherry classic automobile. Pretty soon, half the TV eyes were tailing suspects in mint condition collector's cars..
"Hey, isn't that the same spiffy, immaculate candy apple red 1957 T-Bird's been on our tail for eight blocks, already?"
"Relax, it's probably another one."
The kit was a "faithfully reproduced in the 1/25 scale model which includes opening hood, V-8 engine, soft-vinyl tires, chrome plated parts, removable hardtop and distinctive 'Continental' spare tire," and the box boasted that it was "Molded in Color.".
- The Charlie's Anglels Van
Okay, this van never appeared on the TV show, although it did regularly tour car shows. Revell (the car model guys) commissioned Rod Powell of Salinas, California, to retool a Chevy van to their specifications, which included hidden compartments for guns and handcuffs , a mini-wine cellar and lots and lots of plush pink upholstery. Once completed, the van toured car shows across the U.S. and Canada, for years, and Revell sold a ton of model kits.
- Dan Tanna's 1957 T-Bird
Not only was this annoyingly-smug Vegas P.I. surrounded by beautiful women, but he got to tool around in this cherry classic automobile. Pretty soon, half the TV eyes were tailing suspects in mint condition collector's cars. The kit was a "faithfully reproduced in the 1/25 scale model which includes opening hood, V-8 engine, soft-vinyl tires, chrome plated parts, removable hardtop and distinctive 'Continental' spare tire," and the box boasted that it was "Molded in Color.".
- Thomas Magnum's Ferrari 308 GTS
Well, actually, it's Robin Masters' Ferrari. And it's bright red. Just the thing for tooling around Hawaii, incognito. The kit promised an "opening rear hatch with a highly detailed engine,"pop up headlights," "steerable wfront wheels," and "Michelin rubber tires," and came molded in red and black plastic."
CAR THAT SHOULD HAVE KITS
These cars really should have had kits. But I'd be willing to settle for photos of some really good scratch-built versions.
- Travis McGee's Miss Agnes
The most preposterous of P.I. vehicles is thisbastardized 1936 Rolls Royce, converted into a pickup truck, of all things, painted an ungodly blue, and named after McGee's fourth grade teacher who apparently had hair the same colour.
- Kinsey Millhone's VW
A battered Volkswagen Bug that's been around the block a few times, but somehow the spunky little thing just keeps on chuggin'. Sorta like Kinsey.
- Harry O's Austin-Healey Sprite
Seldom seen (because it was rarely running) beat-up old Austin-Healey Sprite was as much a part of this most contrary of P.I. shows as the girls he didn't get, the cases he didn't solve, and the answers he never found. The car frequently wouldn't even start, and when it did it had a nasty habit of breaking down at inopportune times.
- Jim Rockford's Pontiac Firebid
Originally a gold-coloured 1974 (although it was frequently updated) Pontiac Firebird, license number 853OKG. Jimbo's chief investigative tool, it seemed, regularly crashed, trashed and involved in high speed chases. some shows, it deserved bigger billing than the "guest stars."
- Shell Scott's 1941 Caddy Convertible
Just in case people didn't notice him already, it's painted a painfully bright canary yellow.
- "Big Blue": Stephanie Plum's 1953 Buick Roadmaster
Well, actually Uncle Sandor's 1953 Buick, but Stephanie's mother insists on her using this obnoxious, bloated, conspicuous behemoth. Suffice it to say it's never Stephanie's first choice.
- J.J. Starbuck's Limo
JJ's flashy limo comes equipped with steer horns on the hood and a horn that plays "The Eyes of Texas." The perfect vehicle for melting into the crowd.
- Ray's Stingray
Ray's classic black 1965 Corvette Stingray, which co-starred with Nick Mancuso in NBC's short-lived Stingray. Arguably the coolest car of all 80's television (sorry "KITT"...)