PART IV - Television Cars: Shows I-Z
by Wood Smythe

Millionaire industrialist William Knight financed the development of the crime fighting super-computer mastermind car "Knight Industries Two Thousand," or K.I.T.T., a highly modified Pontiac Firebird Trans Am capable of 0-60mph in 0.2 seconds with a top speed of 300 mph. In his search for KITT's human counterpart, Knight restructured Michael Long, a veteran soldier of the Vietnam War and policeman who had sustained severe injuries in the line of duty. Together, with the aid of a new identity, rocket launchers, tear gas, x-ray viewers, medical analyzers, and surveillance scanners, Long and KITT set out to rid the world of crime.

And with that we have the premise behind the K.I.T.T. car from "The Knight Rider" television series starring David Hasselhoff and Edward Mulhare. This is the fourth installment in a series of five articles about movie and television diecast replicas in 1/64 scale. Alphabetically by show title, here are the last of the diecasts featured on television programs over the years:

Did Detective Robert T. Ironside own a van whose lift-gate opened to reveal a hydraulic wheelchair platform? I do not recall seeing that in operation on reruns but according to Corgi Juniors' little diecast that's what transported Raymond Burr around on "Ironside" (1967-1975). I quite doubt its accuracy because the truck I saw in a low-res picture was definitely of a British-made vehicle. Could it be that this show was immensely popular in England, too!?

Ertl was not alone in replicating the 1980's Pontiac Firebird Trans Am also known as K.I.T.T. discussed at the top of this article. Both Buby in 1982 and, more recently, Matchbox (MBX) with its 'STAR CAR COLLECTION' have offered their versions of Hasselhoff's super-intelligent ride from "The Knight Rider" (1982-1986). Another version, "el auto fantastico," made by Buby of Argentina, found its way along with other Buby offerings to Latin community and secondary markets here in USA.

"The Knight Rider" Pontiac Firebird Trans Am - K.I.T.T. by Ertl

In 1977, Corgi Juniors mimicked Telly Savalas' 1975 Buick Century Regal police car from "Kojak" (1973-1978, 1989-1990). That casting was used to represent, also, a police cruiser in "Starski & Hutch," mentioned later in this article.

"Kojak" 1975 Buick Century Regal by Corgi Junior

"Man From U.N.C.L.E." Corgi Junior

Still earlier, in 1966, Corgi Juniors replicated a light blue custom vehicle from "Man From U.N.C.L.E." (1964-1968). I could not authenticate that vehicle, but it's so strange-looking that it must have appeared on the show with Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. I plan to study independently this extraordinary vehicle, which is currently at the top of my personal "want list." Playart produced a delightful 1961 Oldsmobile Super 88 4-door hardtop, otherwise known as the 'Thrush-buster,' whose duty was to aid in the fight against evil forces for United Network Command for Law Enforcement, otherwise known as U.N.C.L.E.

"Man From U.N.C.L.E." 1961 Oldsmobile Super 88 by Playart

"Magnum P.I." Ferrari 308GTB by Matchbox

"Magnum P.I." Ferrari 308GTS by KIDCO

"Magnum P.I." 1978 Chrysler Cordoba Police by KIDCO

KIDCO, also, like Playart, was an Asian toymaker. KIDCO produced in its 'TOUGH WHEELS' blister pack a pull-back version of Tom Selleck's Ferrari 308 GTB from "Magnum P.I." (1980-1988). Moreover, KIDCO modified its 1978 or 1979 Chrysler Cordoba 'Lock-Ups' casting to make the 2-door police cruiser which may or may not have been featured in the series. MBX recently included a reasonable likeness of the Ferrari in its 'STAR CAR COLLECTION.' The MBX casting had been around since 1981 and, subsequently, it does not have the top panel removed as was so customary when the dashing Selleck spun it around town. Moreover, I doubt if Penny Marshall or Cindy Williams would give a hoot but the Holden delivery van made in Australia and enlisted to represent the American-made vehicle in their show "Laverne & Shirley" (1976-1983) indicates how far MBX will go to reincarnate castings for its notoriously inaccurate 'STAR CAR COLLECTION.'

Alan Alda, Loretta Swit, Jamie Farr, and others were surrounded by military vehicles of all types on the popular "M*A*S*H" (1972-1983) television show. Zeetoys made several replicas, one of which is pertinent to this article: a 1954 Chevrolet Army ambulance. It was painted military green and sported a red cross in a white circle on each side, as did KIDCO's 'TOUGH WHEELS' 4077th Division ambulance, also, associated with the show. Other replicas include an assortment of tanks, halftracks, trucks and jeeps by both Zee and Zylmex.

More recently, Johnny Lightning (JL) offered a 'DIRECT EXCLUSIVE' military bus available only through the mail that bears the "Mobile Army Surgical Hospital" moniker and includes a bonus military patch. It is actually a redecorated "Partridge Family" bus casting and may not be associated with the actual TV show since it is packaged, I believe, as a 'LIGHTNING BRIGADE.' However, MBX's 'STAR CAR COLLECTION' markets its Jeep with canopy top as a "M*A*S*H" vehicle.

"M*A*S*H" 1954 Chevrolet Army Ambulance by Zylmex

Kenner-Parker Toys, Inc., was the only maker to cast the Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, a car that would transform into combat objects on the short-lived 'Mask' (1985). It is actually a 1980's Camaro and was called 'Thunder Hawk' on the television show starring Doug Stone.

Ertl marketed in 1982 four castings from "Matt Houston" (1982-1985), a TV show I have never seen. Three of the castings are recycled from other Ertl releases, but the fourth one looks, from its picture in the Ertl catalog, like a spectacular example of an all-white Excalibur Series III Phaeton custom sports car. Lee Horsley and Pamela Hensley must have been tickled white to be seated in such an outstanding vehicle - and the Ertl replica is second on my "want list." It should be extremely hard to find, unlike the Maserati Quattroporte, 1969 Cadillac de Ville convertible, and GMC pickup truck in the same release. The last three castings were used, also, respectively in "Rocky," "Dukes of Hazzard," and "Simon and Simon" as mentioned in my series of articles beginning in September of this year.

In 1998, MBX's new 'STAR CAR COLLECTION' included the Ferrari Testarossa from "Miami Vice" (1984-1989) starring Don Johnson and a Mercedes Benz surveillance van from "Mission Impossible" (1966-1973, 1988-1990). The Ferrari seems about right but that van is a recycling of the MBX TV news truck from 1989 and, hence, I do not believe Peter Graves did much reconnoitering in it - even in the later series between 1988 and 1990. In addition, Robin Williams was hilarious as Pam Dawber's roommate in "Mork 'n' Mindy" (1978-1982). MBX's 'STAR CAR COLLECTION' Jeep Wrangler is equally as hilarious since a vehicle was seldom, if at all, associated with the show.

"Miami Vice" Ferrari Testarossa by Matchbox

"The Monkees" Pontiac GTO 'Monkeemobile by Johnny Lightning

"The Monkees" Pontiac GTO 'Monkeemobile by Corgi Junior

"Nash Bridges"1971 Plymouth Hemi 'Cuda' Convertible by Johnny Lightning

A four-man singing group copied the mop-hair style of the Beatles, scored a few billboard hit singles, and starred in their own TV show entitled "The Monkees" (1966-1968). Corgi Juniors made a diecast version of the red show vehicle, a heavily-modified Pontiac GTO convertible. More recently, JL produced the same custom vehicle in its "HOLLYWOOD ON WHEELS.'

Luckily, years ago I had seen a magazine picture of the Fred Gwynne and Yvonne DeCarlo's Koach from "The Munsters" (1964-1966). As I recall, JL's 'FRIGHTNING LIGHTNING' does a great job of replicating that hot rod, which was designed by George Barris from a lengthened 1923 Ford Model T chassis and fitted with a Ford Cobra engine.

Don Johnson drives a garish 1971 Hemi Barracuda on his current TV series "Nash Bridges" (1996-present). JL captured splendidly this yellow convertible in 'HOLLYWOOD ON WHEELS II' and many collectors consider it to be one of the best JL castings to date.

Many believe JL did almost as good a job in their copy of the multi-colored bus used to transport Shirley Jones, David Cassidy, Susan Dey, and others in the clan on "The Partridge Family" (1970-1974) in the first release of that JL series.

"Riptide" (1984-1986), a formulaic crime show starring Joe Penny and Perry King, featured a 1960 Corvette convertible. Given Ertl's reputation I would not doubt it replica's authenticity. Ertl, also, produced the only vehicle replicated from "Simon & Simon" (1981-1988) with Gerald McRaney and Jameson Parker. The red 1981 Camaro appears genuine enough.

What the famous James bond movie "Goldfinger" (1964) did for the Ford Mustang, "The Saint" (1962-1969) may have done for the Volvo P1800 2-seater sports car. In fact, the television show is reputed to have helped make the Swedish auto manufacturer a household name. Whereas the Mustang went on to break sales records, Volvo achieved precious marketability by readily supplying vehicles to the show for free, a shrewd gesture that Jaguar had declined to do. Having the handsome Roger Moore, who later held the role of James Bond, drive the first Jensen-built Volvo on the popular series helped catapult interest in Volvo automobiles across America. Corgi Juniors made a replica of both Moore's P1800 and the Jaguar XJS, also seen on the show, though apparently at considerable expense to ITC, producer of the TV show.

Corgi Juniors was the first to copy the Ford Torino driven by David Soul and Michael Glaser on "Starski & Hutch" (1975-1979). I discovered that Corgi also repackaged and repainted its 1975 Buick casting from "Kojak" as a "Starski & Hutch" police cruiser. More recently, JL released in its 'HOLLYWOOD ON WHEELS' series its rendering of the famous red Ford Torino with the bold white stripe. Pilen, making toys in Spain from the late seventies to early nineties, cast its version of this Torino and it should be very difficult to find here in America.

Until I researched this article, I knew there was a Special Weapons and Tactics unit but I had never seen it. After a few emails back and forth, a collector surprised me with a slightly out-of-focus picture. It was of a blue van made by LJN Road Stars in 1979 and used by Steve Forrest, Rod Perry, and others on "S.W.A.T." (1975-1976).

Danny DeVito, Tony Danza, Marilu Henner and others were very entertaining in the comedy "Taxi" (1978-1983). In 1998 MBX released its 1980 Ford LTD taxi as one of the taxis from the half-hour show.

On the other hand, It was very long ago when Elliot Ness was seen getting in or out of a car on "The Untouchables" (1959-1963) - so long ago that whether or not Robert Stack was exiting from a car like MBX's gray Model A Ford 'STAR CAR' seems moot. That casting, reissued in the 1998 series, had been in the MBX regular lineup since 1979. To be sure, MBX's television cars have questionable acting credits as a whole and I do not think their validity will improve in the future.

This fall will see the third release of JL's 'HOLLYWOOD ON WHEELS' and it should include the Ford Mustang, Jaguar XK8 and Mazda Miata seen on Pamela Anderson's TV show "V.I.P." (1998-present). I hope they hurry up and get them on the shelves soon because I have seen the show, and, huh, well, it's horrible. Interest in promotional items may wane quickly if Pam is canceled. JL's second release already included a knockout version of Chuck Norris' Dodge Ram truck from "Walker, Texas Ranger" (1993-present), so we can look forward to some excellent new castings.

Finally, Robert Urich played a private detective in "Vega$" (1978-1981) and Corgi Juniors duplicated in 1980 (and recycled it plenty since) the 1957 Ford Thunderbird convertible with opening hood. That wraps up my coverage of thirty-eight television shows spanning four decades of diecast model car making.

Next month's article should be a lot of fun. I will comment on some of the new promotional pieces, give advice on pricing, list some items from television and movies shows that many of us would like to see appear on our local shelves, and add new findings. It's not too late to email your questions or submissions to me at before Christmas. Hope you will join us in January.