Thursday, February 10, 2011

See famous movie mobiles at Universal Studios Hollywood

In case you couldn’t tell, I kind of like cars. I’m also a TV and movie junkie. So TV and movie cars have always been of particular interest.

While a blizzard hammered Kansas City during the week of February 1, I was in Los Angeles taking in some sun. And my favorite stop was Universal Studios. Sure, the fake floods, King Kong attacks, and earthquakes were cool, and the Jurassic Park water ride was OK, but the things that held my attention the most were the authentic movie and TV cars that were on display around the theme park.

If you haven’t been to Universal Studios Hollywood, let me give you an idea what it’s like. First of all, it isn’t Disneyland. Nothing is quite as polished, the kids they have running the concession stands don’t dazzle you with their friendly personalities. Rides and walls are unpolished, unpainted, and generally skuzzy looking.

The primary function of Universal Studios is not that of an amusement park. If you really want roller coasters and thrill rides, Worlds of Fun is a better choice.

But what Universal Studios has that not many places can touch is a rich connection to the silver screen. The studio tour is the prime attraction here, and once you get on that tram, the curtain is pulled back on many of your favorite movies. You see sets from films from over the past 80 years. And when they start telling you some of the movies that were filmed there, you can’t help but think, “oh yeah—I remember that!” It’s pretty cool.

Everyone talks about the famous cars they have there, and they do have some recognizable rides. A DeLorean and Biff’s ’46 Ford from Back to the Future are there. A reasonable facsimile of a Ferrari 308 that represents Magnum P.I. is a popular attraction. The Deathmobile from Animal House, and several other well-known cars and trucks are scattered through the tour.

Near the entrance, a pretty bad copy of the Bluesmobile sits in front of the theatre where a Blues Brothers show takes place. There’s an ‘80s checker cab that looks to be one of the nicest cars on the lot. And several cars from The Fast and the Furious are parked here and there.

Actually, The Fast and the Furious is the most represented movie as far as the cars go. There’s the ’70 Charger with a fake blower that people seem to enjoy getting their picture by. As a side note, some of the black paint was flaked off the door, revealing orange underneath. BHo and I suspect that maybe some General Lees were harmed in the making of that movie. There was a 1980s Buick “Grand National” that was a very badly warmed-over Regal with fake looking Grand National badges. It did have a full fuel cell and roll cage, so it was obviously built to do some real stunt work. And a Nissan Skyline headed up a collection of Japanese cars, all of which were rough, rough.

Really, all of the cars around there were in pretty bad shape. It looks like most of them were pretty tough when they were parked there, and most of them have been basically neglected ever since. Movie provenance or not, that warm California sun and lack of care takes its toll on old cars.

There were some cars that were supposed to look messed up in the War of the Worlds set. They tore apart a jumbo jet and flipped some cars over to build an authentic-looking disaster scene. There was a first-generation Monte Carlo that I recognized from The Fast and the Furious, now buried under a pile of rubble when the world was coming to an end.

You also drive through the Desperate Housewives neighborhood, and there are all kinds of BMWs and Mercedes and things along in there. What’s interesting about that to me is that there are several Volvos and other cars that have their name badges taped over. Evidently the studio didn’t want to pay the licensing fees to display those logos. You see that sometimes on TV; it was just funny to see it in person.

A couple of other notable displays on the tour included some "dancing" stunt Volkswagens that bopped around on hydraulic arms, and a Norman Bates actor who was evidentally stuffing a body into the trunk of a '59 Ford in front of the Bates Motel.

They also had “stars” driving cars along the streets occasionally. Marilyn Monroe was cruising around in a pink ’56 Pontiac convertible.  Actually, it might have been a coupe with the top hacked off. The Scooby Doo gang was spotted in a ’69 Chevy Van Mystery Machine. And Lucille Ball came back from the beyond to pose in front of the Checker cab.

If you’re headed to Universal Studios because you want to see a great car show, you may be disappointed. But if you love movie history, and want to get close to some famous cars and famous locations, this is a great place to spend the day.

I’ve included a few pictures in the slideshow below. Most of them were from the middle seat of a moving tram, so don’t be too hard on me. It should tide you over until you get to Hollywood to check them out yourself.


  1. What kind of engine does the MagnumP.I. 308 stunt car have? and is it rear engine or midengine setup?

  2. Old vehicles but very awasome in performance,sure with expensive prices..