Miami Vice Daytona Found
By Jim Suva
When the TV show Miami Vice premiered, Don Johnson as James (Sonny) Crockett drove a black 1972 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spyder. That was his car for the first two seasons of the show. In real life, the Daytonas used on the show were replicas built by Tom McBurnie. “Real” Ferarri’s were very expensive and also quite rare, so replicas were used.
Speaking with Brian Gram from the Volo Auto Museum, he tells the story of how the first replica, known as “Car One” came to his family museum. This particular car was used primarily for the first two Miami Vice seasons, and was brought back for a few episodes in the third season.
Volo Auto Museum purchased this car many years ago from Jeff Allen of The Car Chasers, before Jeff had a TV show. It came with a lot of paperwork, and the car itself showed obvious signs of film use, as well as evidence that was unique to the Miami Vice car. When Volo bought it in very poor shape, basically they redid paint and interior. Please see pictures below:
Volo Auto Museum is planning to restore the car to the next level. They already removed the TPI motor and replaced it with a carburetored motor like it had in show, as well as the correct Momo steering wheel. Research is still being done on the interior. As in many TV productions, the interior of the car had some changes over the seasons.
At those earlier days, Brian was not nearly as knowledgeable about the background of the Miami Vice cars as he is today. So when Volo Auto Museum listed the car as the one from the TV series, Brian got an earful from folks saying that this wasn't the real car. There were a total of three Daytonas used, and there was a real Ferrari Daytona that was used briefly. The owner of the car didn't like the way the car was being taken care of, so he withdrew the car. Universal Studios bought two Daytonas that were built by Tom McBurnie. Car #1, the first Daytona replica ever built, and Car #4. Both were built on Corvette chassis. Car #1 was built on a 1976 chassis and Car #4 on a 1981 chassis.
Ferrari didn’t like the fact that replicas were being used on the show. Ferrari ended up suing McBurnie’s company to stop them from building the replicas. Ferrari offered to supply their newest model, the Testarossa for the show. As part of the deal with Ferrari, the Daytona was blown up in the third season. They wanted the Daytona removed from the show, in a way that would put it out of people’s minds permanently.
The Daytona was also part of a real life Miami Vice story. A mechanic that had access to the car was arrested in a police sting. The mechanic was caught trying to sell an illegal gun silencer. Guess which car he was driving when he was arrested?
When they discontinued the Daytonas use, both cars went to a man named Carl Roberts. In exchange for the cars, he was to build a Testarossa stunt car. Carl got the title to Car #4, but not to Car #1. When Carl was trying to make a business by producing and selling Daytonas, he sold Car #4. Later he was hired to provide two Daytonas to go to Canada for use in the movie Speed Zone. The Volo Auto Museum car, and one other were sent to Canada for that movie. You need titles to get cars into Canada. After the two cars came back, they were pretty much abandoned. The owner of the property where the cars were left was able to get titles back in 1992, and he has owned at least the Volo Auto Museum’s car, if not both since. Jeff Allen discovered the car and Volo bought it. Many people were interested in find out what happened to Car #1.
Carl Roberts said the car was dismantled, the frame was scrapped, and the body was put on another chassis, but he doesn't know which chassis it went on. So basically he was saying the car no longer exists. Then all these people started coming forward claiming “we have the car,” including Volo Auto Museum. But Brian felt strongly that theirs was the actual car because of the items on the body that were unique to the screen-used Miami Vice cars. For instance, the nose emblem, which was originally mounted in the wrong spot by the producers, and later relocated to the right spot. Volo Auto Museum’s body has the original emblem holes that were filled, from where the emblem was incorrectly placed. The body was 1-1/4 inches shorter on the passenger side than the driver’s side on Car #1 because of an accident. Volo Auto Museum’s car was 1-1/4 inches shorter. So it was determined and accepted that the Volo car may possibly be the #1 body but without a VIN there was no way to know for sure. Brian accepted this and left well enough alone.
Then Jeff Allen called up Brian and said, "Hey watch my show, lots of great McBurnie/Miami Vice information”. Brian watched the show and Jeff found the lost Car #1...which raised Brian’s eyebrows, because the car he bought from Jeff was thought to be Car #1. After talking to Jeff again he said no mine is the ‘81, Car #4, even though the ‘81 is accounted for. So that prompted Brian to start the investigation again. Brian wanted to research the VIN, which is a 1980 VIN number. Brian sent the number to GM Heritage, and got a window sticker back for a beige 1980 Corvette. But he then noticed the VIN tag was tampered with, which of course raised a flag. So Brian decided to investigate the frame numbers hoping to find a 1976 VIN. First he looked in the most likely spot, the rear frame rail on the driver’s side. Brian had the frame section cleaned to bare metal but found no numbers. Then he asked a Corvette buddy, who said the only other spot GM placed VIN numbers, was on top of the frame under the sill plate. Unfortunately, you have to remove the frame to see them. Brian was disappointed but determined. So he got a hole saw and cut through the sill. He cleaned the frame, found the numbers, and they were 1976 serial numbers! Then Brian noticed the original Corvette trim tag was still attached to the door jamb. He looked up the codes and it was a 1976 trim tag, green with black interior. That obviously didn't match the beige that the 1980’s VIN tag called for. Brian was able to cross reference the date code on the trim tag to the serial number on the frame, and both were built during the third week of March in 1976. The frame and VIN number went together. Another piece of the puzzle fell into place.
The man who owns the other Miami Vice Daytona has the documentation that shows the original VIN numbers to the two cars. He keeps the documents and VIN numbers confidential to keep anyone from committing fraud and producing a replica. Brian sent him an email with the VIN number from the frame, asking if we have a match. After several days of nail biting, hoping he would hear from him, Brian got a phone call and ... it was a match! The lost Daytona that was said to no longer exist had been found.
Volo Auto Museum is open 7 days a week 10 AM – 5 PM. Check the events calendar for Holiday Hours and Special Events. They are located at 27582 Volo Village Road, Volo Il. 60073
I have seen this car in person. It is beautiful. I would love to have it in my garage.
Here is a new Firebird poster available. Designed by the Pontiac Vintage Press and available exclusively through the Pontiac-Oakland Museum this poster highlights Firebird history from the beginning in 1967 to the end in 2002. It features many limited production models and has production figures for each year. It is available now at the museum gift shop and will soon be available on the museum's web site and at major Pontiac events this year. Only $10.00!
The Paradise Cove Beach Cafe posted on Facebook their new sign. This sign honors James Garner and The Rockford Files. What is nice is today would have been James Garner's 87th Birthday.
Here is what Paradise Cove Beach Cafe posted: Check out our other commemorative sign, beautifully made out of granite, in honor of #JamesGarner and #TheRockfordFiles which was filmed here between 1974-1980!
We would like to thank them for this wonderful tribute, to a great actor and a wonderful show.
Lost & Found, Grandpa's 1964 Buick
Written by Jim Suva
This is a story about a 1964 Buick Electra 225. On October 28, 1963 my Grandfather, James F. Suva, took our family to Dvorak Buick Company, located at 5312-29 Cermak Road in Cicero, Illinois. Grandpa wanted to buy the beautiful white 1964 Buick in the show room. Of course, since I was 7 years old, I wanted the red Buick Wildcat 2 door that was also in the showroom. Needless to say, more sensible minds prevailed. So on November 2, 1963, my grandpa took delivery of his brand new 1964 Buick Elctra 225. That was just 20 days before John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Below are images of the original paper work on the sale:
The Buick came with a Nailhead 401 V8 engine, 3-speed TH-400 transmission, power steering/brakes, tinted glass and an AM radio. It also had cornering lamps on the front fenders with brocade cloth interior. My grandpa had clear plastic seat covers installed to protect the fancy cloth seats. Total cost of the Buick was $3,945.00.
I have some great memories of this car. I remember taking trips to St Adelbert's cemetery in Niles, Illinois to plant flowers and maintain the gravesites of my great-grandparents. We always took a push lawn mower and brought flowers. Afterwards we always picnicked at Oxhead Lake on Touhy Avenue.
My grandpa always took great care of his car. He never drove it in the rain or snow. In fact, my grandma had to wait for nice days to go to the grocery store! One of my grandpa's favorite things was to always keep the engine compartment clean. Something, I hate to admit, I never did. Below is a picture of my Grandfather, James F. Suva.
In 1973 and 1974 I was in Auto Shop classes at Proviso West High School. I remember driving the Buick to school to work on it in shop class. Even at 10 years old the car was in great shape. Then in the summer of 1974 my grandpa's sister was in the hospital and he drove the Buick and parked it on the street in Chicago. There it was hit by driver that did not leave a note. The damage included a broken left tail light, and the bumper and chrome tail section was dented. The Buick had two special chrome bars running up and the down in of the front area of the tail lights. We could not find a matching tail light to match. So my Grandpa made his own chrome pieces which we glued to the lens. Not perfect, but it looked like it matched. I have never seen these on any other Electra 225 model. The bumper was replaced along with the chrome tail section. At this time, the Buick had only 9,000 original miles on it.
In the spring of 1979, my grandpa was driving my grandma to the grocery store. The car was hit while making a left turn. The right front fender and right front passenger door were damaged. This was the time my grandfather gave me the Buick. I had it repaired, but I had to buy another '64 Electra for parts, so I could replace the chrome that was damaged in the accident.
I also had the Buick rust proofed to help protect the car for the future. I installed air shocks on the rear to bring the back end up higher, to avoid step driveways.
In May of 1987, I was moving to Los Angeles, California. I sold the Buick so that I could afford the move. I sold it to a younger guy whose father loved these types of cars. I do not remember his name. I sold the Buick for $3,600. The car had around 19,000 original miles on it. I think this kid got a great deal! I kept all the original paper work. Below are pictures of the Buick the day I sold it.
I moved back to Westchester, Illinois in June of 1997. As time went on, I started wondering if the Buick was still around. So in January 2008, I found a web site call The Lost Car Registry. I posted an ad looking for the car, which included the VIN number. I also posted pictures on my Pinterest account with the VIN number.
Fast forward to March 2014. Marcin Chomicki found my ad and Pinterest pictures while searching the vin number. He took ownership of the Buick 6 months ago. He was trying to find out the history of the car. He left me a message here on my blog. Needless to say we connected and I went and met him and saw the Buick for the first time in 28 years. The car still only has 23,984 original miles.
Here are some pictures of the Buick taken on 3/21/15.
Unfortunately the day before I saw Marcin and the Buick, the car was rear-ended by a drunk driver.
As a tribute to my grandpa, there is a picture of his hat on the driver's seat and the back package shelf. Here is a picture of the Saint Christopher that my grandpa mounted on the glove box back in 1964.
Martin is currently trying to find the complete owners' history of the Buick. This is what he knows so far.
His friend George owned the car from 1997 until he passed away 6 months ago.
George received the Buick as a partial payment for work he had done on the then-owner's home. George loved the Buick and kept it at his shop. He hardly ever drove it. Unfortunately, the Buick was kept outside. This is the reason the exterior is in its present condition. The interior is in near mint condition. Pretty much the way it left me in 1987, except the plastic seat covers have been removed.
Marcin is going to be restoring the Buick over the next few months. I will be posting updates on the car as it is being worked on.
Fall of 2014 - Marcin picked up the Buick and it was not running. Due to squirrels chewing on the fuel line, he had to replace a good portion from the front seat forward. He replaced the radiator core while keeping the bottom and top of the original radiator. He installed a new alternator to resolve a electric issue, as well as buying a new air cleaner that was missing.
Winter and Spring 2015 - The carburetor was worked on and reset. A new distributor with electronic ignition was installed. A new fuel pump installed. Marcin let me drive the Buick and it runs smoothly. He has a new exhaust system on order and recently purchased another 6 window 1964 Electra 225 as a parts car. The air shocks air line needs to be repaired or replaced, as the rear of the car sits low right now.
4/20/15: Marcin and his daughter Oliwia removed all the chrome, windshield and windows. the pictures below were taken by Marcin.
Marcin has taken the Buick to the body shop.
6/12/15: Here is a great picture of the Buick being prepped for paint.
More pictures to come later.
I know I would love to own this Buick again someday. You never know what can happen in the future.
Please check back, as this story continues!
James Garner's Last Rides
Written by Jim Suva
I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to see the last two cars owned by James Garner. The very last car he owned was this 2009 Cadillac CTC.
Mr. Garner loaned this car to the Rockford Fest in 2011 at Paradise Cove. The Cadillac has a custom black cherry paint job, shaved Cadillac emblems, custom grills, custom wheels and tires, and sports MAVROCK license plates. Of course the final touch is his initials on the driver's door.
In 2012, the first Rockford Files Cast and Crew Party was held at Pat McKinney's house. This time Garner's 2002 Mini Cooper made an appearance.
The Mini also sports a custom paint job, with Mighty Mouse painted on the rear of the car. It also has custom wheels, tires and his initials on the driver's door. The feature I think is cool are the license plates: ROKFISH. Isaac Hays' character called Jim, Rockfish in two episodes of The Rockford Files.
Here are some nice pictures of the interior.
These two cars are examples of Garner's great taste in cars. I'm willing to bet there are more than a few fans that would love to own these cars. I know I would!
Rockford/Rockfish Facebook Page
I started my own Facebook page to celebrate The Rockford Files, tv show and movies. It is for the actors, producers, writers and fans of the show. Also, we can not forget about the vehicles used on Rockford too.
Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/jim.suva#!/RockfordRockfish?pnref=story
Please feel free to post stories and pictures. I hope everyone will enjoy it.
Rockford Files Firebird Tribute Car
Written by Tim Woolford
This was my Rockford tribute car that I restored around 2000. The car is a 1978 Esprit equipped with the Buick V6, automatic and power windows. The original color was Laredo Brown (RPO 63).
The car was originally ordered by someone in the services, based in Germany as this is where the car was originally shipped.
I bought the car in 1999 and rebuilt the engine and transmission. It needed quite a bit of body work to remove rust before being painted bronze.
At some point, the original Doeskin vinyl custom seats had been replaced with “non Firebird” black seats. I replaced these with custom velour “Hobnail” seats of the 1979 to 1980 style.
The car was my daily drive and over the next few years we attended quite a few shows around the UK.
Unfortunately, the V6 never seemed to run right. A combination of low power and loads of emissions equipment, meant that the car looked good, but it never really drove well. Instead of replacing the engine with something bigger I made the decision to sell the car.
I ended up buying the 1990 Grand Prix that is shown below. Coincidentally this car had a V6 (3.1), but it drove how I thought the Firebird should (although the suspension was softer). The Grand Prix was a good car, but I really regret selling the Firebird.
Thank you Tim for sharing your story with us.