March 2009
News Archive




3/27/09 - What happens in Vegas...

Mike Serrico sent me pics from the Knight Rider Festival, which took place on March 20 & 21 in Las Vegas.  Screen-used cars were on display as well as the stars and creators of both the old and new Knight Rider series.  Looks like the BTTF Delorean made an appearance, as well.  Thanks for the pics Mike.



UPDATE:  More pics from Vegas.  This time they come from Daniel Trujillo, Jr. who owns the KITT pictured above, center.  Looks like a great time.  Wish I could've been there.




3/22/09 - Star Car Sighting!

I began trying to track down the cars featured in the movie Gran Torino shortly after seeing the movie earlier this year.  A series of phone calls took me to an executive at Warner Bros. who told me he was looking at the Gran Torino through his window.  It was on display on the Warner Bros. studio lot in Los Angeles.  I continued searching for the Ford pickup truck featured prominently in the film.  I suspected it was still here in Michigan where the movie was filmed, but I wasn't having much luck finding it.  Then, a few days ago, I got an e-mail from Jason (AKA: Hollywood Star Car Detective) who gave me a link to an eBay auction he thought I might be interested in.  The Ford pickup was up for auction!  I contacted the seller who invited me to Maybee, Michigan to see the truck in person. 

Joe behind the wheel.


I headed out early Sunday morning and spotted the distinctive truck sitting in the middle of the lot at Country Auto Sales.  Don Ripple (pictured below, left) first began wrangling cars for Hollywood when the 1992 movie Hoffa was filmed in Detroit.  Don also spent some time in Chicago working on the short-lived TV series The Untouchables.  When Gran Torino was slated to film in the Detroit area in 2008, Don was recommended for the job of Picture Car Mechanic and set out to find cars for the movie.  With Clint Eastwood's approval, Don traveled to Utah to purchase the 1972 Ford Gran Torino seen in the film, after discovering it on the internet.  Don had also picked out a '95 Ford Pickup for Walt Kowalski's every day driver, but Clint wanted something with more character, more RUST.  Don found the '72 Ford pickup in Bowling Green and after restoring the interior to stock, provided the truck for filming.  Don worked on the film for over three months in 2008, moving vehicles into position and providing maintenance.  Once, during filming, the battery died in the pickup and Don was quick to replace it, having an extra on hand. 


Gran Torino pics Courtesy of Don Ripple


Clint's character was never seen driving the Gran Torino on film, but Don told us Clint did drive the car off camera.  He liked it enough to keep it.  Don sold the car to Warner Bros. and kept the pickup truck and other cars seen in the film.  He is now selling the truck and the gang-bangers' 1992 Honda Civic (pictured below) on eBay.  Ideally, he said he hopes the truck ends up in a museum.  With a budget of $33 million, Gran Torino has gone on to earn over $145 million domestically at the box office, with a worldwide gross of over $205 million!  My gratitude goes out to Don for allowing me to come out and see a piece of movie history up close.  I'm hoping to keep in touch with Don and possibly be there the next time he gets the call to wrangle vehicles for the next big Hollywood production to come to Michigan.





3/21/09 - "I taught him that.  Ka-Chow!"

I can't believe it's been ten days since my last post.  Things are a little slow in the world of cars in my area.  I did find a few new things, however.  While driving around on a lazy Saturday, I popped into Target to find some new Cars 3-Car Gift Sets.  I picked up the one that includes Mater and two HTB pitties.  One of the pitties is new, the other is Bruiser Bukowski, who I don't believe we've seen since the WalMart exclusive release in 2007.  The gift set depicts the moment when Mater brags to the pitties, "I taught him that. Ka-Chow!" as Lightning is driving backwards on the race track. 



I also found the WalMart exclusive Wally Hauler at an out-of-the-way store I don't normally visit.  I may have to visit it more often since I don't have much luck at the other WalMart stores in my area.  There were other haulers on the shelf, including Leak Less Hauler, but I don't think I'm going to collect the haulers. They're just too expensive and if they release one for every race car, I just don't have the space for them.




3/11/09 - Chasing Cars

Today I added a few new characters to my Cars collection.  I caved and got N2O Cola on eBay at a pretty good price.  It arrived in the mail today and it is a great-looking car.  Also, I popped into WalMart at lunchtime and was surprised to find Chuck Manifold.  I searched for Nitroade Pitty and Impound Wingo, but had no luck.  And there's still no sign of Elvis RV in my area.  The hunt continues.


3/12 UPDATE:  A day after finding Chuck Manifold at WalMart, I found his counterparts at Target.  I scored Nitroade Pitty and Impound Wingo.  I'm caught up on singles for now, at least until the next case ships.





3/11/09 - Seinfeld - Season 4 - The Trip

Okay, this is a weird coincidence.  I caught a classic episode of Seinfeld the other night, the one where Kramer moves to Los Angeles and Jerry and George take a trip out west, as well.  All my favorite episodes come from Season 4.  In the episode The Trip, I noticed Kramer is seen tooling around town in a blue Karmann Ghia convertible.  In one scene, he crashes through the studio gate on his way out.  I remember thinking, "That would be a cool car to do in die-cast." 


Well, get this.  I'm making my usual toy rounds today and a Matchbox car catches my eye:  a blue Karmann Ghia convertible (left.)  I bought it and when I got home I popped in the DVD of the episode to compare cars.  Sure enough they're almost identical.  Even the interior is black in both cars.  I know it's a little obscure, but I'm going to add this to the "unofficial" TV car category.  Now if I can only find the Cadillac:  "D'you think you're such a big shot now because you got a Cadillac?"






3/6/09 - Detroit Autorama 2009

I got to visit Detroit Autorama early this morning before it opened its doors to the public.  I always enjoy seeing the spectacular custom cars on display.  The legendary George Barris was in attendance once again and it was good to see him again.  The man still has plenty of gas left in the tank.  This year, instead of having his movie or TV cars on display, Barris was surrounded by several very special cars that many of his fans instantly recognize.  Pictured above, from left, is the Hirohata Merc, built by George and Sam in 1951, next is Sam's 1949 Merc, followed by the instantly-recognizable Ala Kart.  I interviewed George and I'll post the video next week.



Of course, the Autorama isn't the Autorama without a few Star Cars on display.  Pictured above is the Mach 5.  It was great to see this car up close.  It ranks among the coolest cars ever designed and ranks as one of my all-time favorites.  I'm told the car on display was built for the 2008 Speed Racer movie.



Also on display were the old and new KITT from Knight Rider.  On the left is the iconic 1982 Pontiac Trans-Am we all know and love.  On the right, is the Shelby GT500 KR from the modern series.  As cool as the new car is, I'll always prefer the original. 


And finally, a loving and faithful "clone" of the Edd "Kookie" Burns' T-Bucket from 77 Sunset Strip was proudly on display.  I'm told this replica matches the original in every detail.  The original is in a private collection and has been altered beyond recognition.  Although I've never seen an episode of the 1958 TV series, the car is pretty great to see in person.  The Detroit Autorama continues through Sunday.




3/6/09 - "Hey Kowalski, you out there?"

One of the things I look forward to most whenever I visit Detroit Autorama is Toy-A-Rama, a huge area set aside for die-cast car vendors.  A lot of things caught my eye, but I settled on one thing in particular.  I nabbed Highway 61's 1:18 scale 1970 Dodge Challenger for a great price.  What's so special about this car?  Well, it's an exact replica of the car featured in the classic 1971 movie Vanishing Point.  Nowhere on the packaging does it say Vanishing Point, but check out the license plate (right.)  That is the plate shown on Kowalski's car in the film.  Recently, this exact car sold for over $120 on eBay.  I paid less than HALF of that.  I've been wanting to add this to my 1:18 scale collection for quite some time and now I finally have it.



3/5/09 - A Personal Best?

March 5th, 2009, just may be remembered as the day I posted more news items in a single day then any other day in the six years this site has been online!  Wow!  Hold all calls, clear your schedule and read on ...




3/5/09 - The Egg Hunt is On!

At lunchtime, I stopped into several Target stores today knowing they are in the process of setting up their Easter displays.  I heard Mattel is once again offering Cars characters in exclusive Easter Egg packaging and I hoped to hunt them down.  The first store I visited had just set up their Easter display this morning, however, someone already beat me to the Cars eggs.  I found Lightning McQueen and Charlie Checker, but Chief Shiny Wax  and Chief Spare O Mint were gone.  I quickly headed over to another Target store and BAM, found a freshly-stocked display.  There were three Lightning McQueens and only one each of the other three, so these things are going to be TOUGH to find until more shipments arrive.  The third Target store I visited told me the Easter items are expected to arrive tonight, so I may pick up some duplicates for trade tomorrow.  Chief Shiny Wax is known as Senior Trax in the Team Shiny Wax Gift Pack.  Chief Spare O Mint is known by Ernest B. Raykes in the Team Sparemint Gift Set, which, as far as I know, hasn't come to the US yet.  You may remember that Mattel offered Target-Exclusive Cars Easter Eggs back in 2007: 



In a related story, the bin right next to the Cars Eggs was full of Speed Racer Easter Eggsclusives, er, Exclusives from Jada Toys.  There were several different 3-pack combinations featuring the Mach 5 and Shooting Star in both regular and open-wheel versions, as well as other race cars.  I happened to pick up the 3-pack that included the Mach 5, Shooting Star and Snake Oiler cars (pictured at right.)  If you click on the thumbnail, you'll see the packaging features unique Easter graphics.  This was an unexpected find and will make a nice piece that I can display in packaging. 



3/5/09 - Shipping in May!

I stopped into my local comic book store to pick up the March edition of Previews.  I was stunned at all the cars and die-cast stuff shipping this Spring/Summer through Diamond Distributors.


- First, we have the 1:15 scale DeLorean Time Machine from Diamond Select Toys (left.)  It measures 14 inches long and features working lights and sound effects as seen in Back to the Future II.  The car will ship in June at a SRP of $39.99.  (Scroll down to see a video review from Toy Fair.)


- Diamond is also soliciting orders for the next wave of 1:50 scale Bat-Vehicles from Mattel.  Shipping in May, this wave should include the Superfriends Batmobile, 1989 Batmobile, Bat-Pod, Batwing and others.  It seems Mattel is also re-offering the 1:18 scale Tumbler from The Dark Knight and the original 1:18 scale 1966 Batmobile. 


- Mattel's eagerly-anticipated attempt at the Star Trek franchise will be shipping in May, as well.  Five ships will ship under the Hot Wheels brand (pictured below.)  If these do well, expect more from the 11 feature films and 6 TV series that make up the Star Trek universe. 





3/5/09 - Sting Like A Bumblebee

My apologies go out to Casey Johnson (no relation) who last summer sent me an e-mail alerting me to the similarities between Jada's '81 Chevy Camaro and Bumblebee from the Transformers movie.  For whatever reason, I neglected to post his findings on my site.  Well, fast-forward to today and while bouncing around from store to store, I found Jada's '81 Camaro at K-Mart for the very first time.  Remembering Casey's e-mail I decided to buy it and check it out myself.  Sure enough, the similarities are uncanny enough to suspect that Jada deliberately set out to make this car look like Bumblebee, despite using the wrong year Camaro.  Bumblebee was a '77 Camaro while this die-cast version is an '81 Camaro.  But check out the paint flaws on both cars above. They're almost identical.  Even the wheels are similar.  Great eye Casey.  We'll file this one under UNOFFICIAL die-cast movie cars along with Jada's '06 Camaro Concept:





3/5/09 - Movie Cars Galore!

I've heard from several sources, including sponsor Movie Car Mania, that Mattel is planning to release several movie cars in 1:18 scale die-cast.  Here is the initial list sent to me from Rodney at Movie Car Mania:


- Bad Boys II: Ferrari 575M Maranello 
- The Italian Job 2:  360 Spider
- Steve McQueen:  250 Berlinetta Lusso
- Vanilla Sky:  Ferrari 250 GTO
- Ferris Bueller's Day Off: 250 GT California Spider (above)


This is great news for movie car collectors, although most of the cars on the list are a little too obscure for my taste.  However, I'm pretty excited about adding the car from Ferris Bueller's Day Off to my collection. 



3/5/09 - Cars:  What to Expect in 2009!

I finally found the Cars 2009 Collectors Guide (with exclusive Night Vision McQueen) in my area.  Even though I already received one as a gift, I wanted to pick up a second one to open.  As I flipped through the guide, my jaw hung open at all the new releases we can expect in 2009.  Among the yet-to-be-released offerings listed are Milton Caliper, Blowing Bubbles Mater, Saluting Sarge, Muddy Lightning McQueen, racers with Piston Cup trophies, Timothy Twostroke, Chuck Manifold (out now), Andrea, Chuki (chase), Todd (Pizza Planet Truck), Patti, Mario Andretti (chase), Costanzo Della Corsa, Skip Ricter, Polly Puddlejumper, Nitroade Pitty (out now), N2O Cola Pitty, Vitoline Pitty, Mood Springs Pitty, and Mini.  In the Mega Size line, we can expect Elvis RV (out now), Hummer Sven, RPM Semi, Frank (woo hoo!) No Stall Semi, High N Low Ramone and Octane Gain Semi.  Haulers will include Jerry Recycled Batteries (out now), Gil, Nitroade Hauler, Trunk Fresh Hauler, No Stall Hauler, RPM Hauler and Shiny Wax Hauler. And FINALLY, we can expect a line of Cars Toon vehicles, including Rescue Squad Mater, Burnt Lightning McQueen, Dr. Mater, Nurse Mia and Nurse Tia.  WHEW!  We're all going to be shelling out some serious cash in 2009. 




3/5/09 - Eastbound and Down!

Matt Webb of Australia was browsing my website when he saw a photo of a rare item in the Smokey & The Bandit Gallery.  It caught his attention because he OWNS ONE and wanted to get some info from me.  Unfortunately, I have absolutely no info to give him because I don't own this interesting piece.  He told me he purchased it on eBay in the US and took it with him to Australia (Eastbound and Down Under?)  He sent me the above pics that have me green with envy!  If anyone can provide info on this awesome promo, please contact me and I'll pass along your info to Matt.




3/3/09 - Pit Stop

I stopped into WalMart at lunchtime not really expecting to find anything new, but was pleasantly surprised to find three new Cars Pit Race-Off characters:  Vitoline #61, Tank Coat #36 and Shifty Drug #35.  I've heard these have been showing up at smaller convenience stores over the past month or so, but it looks like they've finally hit the major retailers.  I now own 24 of the 36 cars originally offered in the Speedway of the South set.  I haven't sent away for the Toys R Us exclusives.  I'm hoping they'll be released at retail later.  The above pics have been added to the Cars Gallery.




3/2/09 - Bond, James Bond

Coming all the way from Malaysia, I'm finally able to add this fantastic set of James Bond cars to my collection.  Licensed from EON Productions and available only at Shell Roadshow venues in Malaysia, these 1:64 scale vehicles represent decades of Bond films, including (from above, left) the Sunbeam Alpine 5 from Dr. No, the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger, the Lotus Esprit sub from The Spy Who Loved Me, the BMW Z3 Roadster from Goldeneye and (for the first time) the Aston Martin DBS from Quantum of Solace.  Originally, the set came in a nice acrylic briefcase (right) but I opted to go without.  The above photos have been added to the James Bond Galleries.