Where are they now? Automotive Stars from TV and Movies

Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters (2016)

Just out, the new Ghostbusters franchise has an all-new Ectomobile with which to bust ghosts. It’s still a Cadillac hearse, but this time a 1980s version. The purists are angry, of course, spewing ectoplasmic rage all over the internet, but given how collectible the original car would be now, maybe the move is not so bad.

And hey, whatever happened to the original Ectomobile? And the DeLorean from Back to the Future, now celebrating its thirtieth anniversary? Where have all the movie and TV star cars of our youth gone?

We went looking.

The Ectomobile

Ectomobile

The original Ectomobile is an unusual car for several reasons. It’s quite rare, being a single-year example built by custom coachbuilders as a combination ambulance/hearse. Working Cadillac chassis like these were common in small towns, but not many survived.

Also unusual is that there was only a single movie car – it’s far more common to have several to make production easier. Instead, Universal Studios only rented the black-primered car you see first in the film, and then had this one built up by the prop department.

It is, as far as can be ascertained, currently sitting in a back lot on the Universal Studios lot. It’s been neglected and restored before, the latter being done by CVS, and should be getting put back together for the premiere of the rebooted film. Really, this thing should go in a museum.

Magnum PI’s Ferrari 308

Magnum PI's Ferrari 308

Hawaiian shirts. Big moustaches. Alarmingly short shorts. Magnum, PI had it all, from the gorgeous backdrop of Oahu to thrilling mysteries to some pretty decent comedy. Oh, and one thing we all loved was Magnum’s borrowed red Ferrari 308.

Remember when Ferraris were beautiful? They’ve mostly come back to a classic design, but before the wind tunnel came along to wedgify everything, Ferrari’s were all swoops and curves. The 308 wasn’t really a performance powerhouse – it looked faster than it was – but it captured the imagination anyway.

Tom Selleck was much too tall for the svelte 308, so the seat rails were removed and the seat bolted right to the floor. The crew used several cars, and most can be identified by this modification. One can be found in the basement of the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles, and it’s often out on display.

The Back to The Future DeLorean

Back to the Future Delorean

DeLorean DMC-12s are actually relatively common by classic car standards. Something like 6,000 of them are still floating around out there. If you want to have a version like Marty McFly, you’ll need to start with a 5-speed version with the gray interior. And then add flux capacitor, obviously.

Something like five DeLoreans were used in production, and three survived. The main one, car A, survives at Universal Studios’ lot, and the other two are there as well, reportedly in pieces. Bits of them were used to make other replica and promotional machines, but at least the hero car survived.

Mad Max Falcon Pursuit Interceptor

Mad Max Falcon Pursuit Interceptor

Most of the Australian Fords used in the filming of the original Mad Max movie got sent to the crusher. Too bad. They weren’t valuable back then, but recently prices have been driven through the roof by collectors.

The black, menacing Pursuit Special escaped the crushers and was converted to road-spec for promotional events. It toured around Australia for a bit, and was then put up for sale.

Nobody wanted it. Thus, it ended up sticking around for the sequel, and was converted with a gutted interior and big auxiliary fuel tanks out back. When filming was over, it got sent to the scrapyard.

But again the Interceptor escaped death, getting shunted around from owner to owner in progressively worse condition. Eventually, it was partially restored and repainted a shiny black, and now resides in the Miami Auto Museum.

Miami Vice Ferrari Testarossa

Miami Vice Ferrari Testarossa

Speaking of Miami, is there anything more 1980s than a white Testarossa and a pastel suit? At first, Miami Vice used a Corvette-based Ferrari Daytona replica, but when Enzo Ferrari got wind of this, he sent them two real black Testarossas to use. They blew the replica up in spectacular fashion, painted the two Testarossas white, and never looked back.

One of them just popped up for auction actually – when a car’s this valuable, they tend to get preserved. Hopefully, it too will end up in a museum on display, rather than hidden away in some kingpin’s collection.

The A-Team GMC Vandura

06--A-Team GMC Vandura

I pity the fool who decided to let the A-Team’s stunt van rot on the back lot of Universal Studios. That’s right, just like the Ecto-1 and the DeLorean, these props simply fell into disrepair. However, of the two original A-Team vans out there, one survives.

Just like the Mad Max Falcon, it’s in the Miami Automotive Museum’s collection. Once part of a large UK collection called Cars Of The Stars, it was bought up and transferred to America’s retirement capital. It sounds like it was lucky to survive.

Knight Rider’s KITT

07-Universal-Knight Rider KITT

Don’t hassle the Hoff’, or you’ll have to deal with his car. Years before autonomous driving was a thing, the Knight Industries Two Thousand smooth-talked its way into our hearts. An interesting side note: the scanning lightbar used up front is a carryover from those found on the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica.

Twenty-three cars were used in filming, and it looks like all of them made it through, even with all the stunts they were used in. Unfortunately, when the shop wrapped, it was junk pile time. Only five survived the cull, and they’re scattered in private collections around the globe, from Australia to the UK.

Dukes of Hazzard General Lee

Dukes of Hazzard General Lee

Bridge out! Is there any better sign? Time for them Duke boys to learn how to fly – or start flappin’ their arms.

The trail of destruction wrought by the stunts performed on the TV show Dukes of Hazzard is legendary, with hundreds of cars wrecked and destroyed. But as for the original hero car seen in the pilot – somehow, it still survives.

Currently, it belongs to PGA golfer Bubba Watson – and if any car deserved to be owned by a Bubba, it’s this one. But there’s a controversy a-brewin’.

The General Lee, as you will no doubt remember, isn’t just painted orange, it’s got a giant Confederate Flag on the roof. The flag’s been at the centre of a firestorm of controversy, to the point where Dukes of Hazzard toys are getting pulled off the shelves. Watson plans to paint over the roof of his General Lee with a full-sized American flag.

Rockford Files Pontiac Firebird Esprit

Rockford Files Pontiac Firebird Esprit

There’s a lot to like about rumpled Jim Rockford: the way he can roll with a punch, his dogged determination and sense of humour, oh, and the way he always manages to pull a J-turn in every episode.

Actor James Garner did most of his own stunts on the show, and they went through about three Pontiacs per season. The brown Esprit wasn’t a top-of-the-line car, but something accessible to a down-on-his-luck private investigator. Happily, many of the cars have survived, and are in the hands of collectors.

Smokey and the Bandit Trans-Am

Smokey and the Bandit Trans-Am

“Never meet your heroes” might have been written about this car. With just 200 hp from an emissions-strangled 6.6L V8 lump, the Bandit car was Smokey and mirrors. Happily, there was nothing to prevent backyard mechanics from turning up the wick and running from the Bear in the Air.

The original cars used in production are still floating around out there, but more interesting is Burt Reynold’s personal Trans-Am, used during promotions for the film. It recently sold at auction for a whopping $450,000, letting Burt make out like a Bandit, one last time.

Hawaii 5-0 Mercury Marquis

Hawaii 5-0 Mercury Marquis

Once, Jack Lord ruled the island with it. Now, Detective McGarrett has a new ride. But he’s still got the old one too!

Still on screen after forty years, the dusty black splendour of the Hawaii 5-0 Mercury can be seen in the rebooted show, making frequent cameos. It hasn’t just survived, it’s still in show business.

It currently belongs to Jack Lord’s stunt double, who has lent it to the current production crew of Five-0. The hope is that it’ll some day be restored and kept for posterity.

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Brendan McAleer

Brendan McAleer

Brendan McAleer is a Vancouver-based automotive writer, a member of AJAC and a ginger.
Brendan McAleer

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  • Doug

    well, i can tell you for certain that the mad max car pictured above is sitting in my garage