The Cars of Miami Vice

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There was a TV show that I really couldn’t wait to see when I got home from school. I’ve seen it before when I was a little boy, but upon rediscovery, I couldn’t resist. It had a few years on it, but it was a classic, and that show was… The A-Team. I was aware of Miami Vice, being the show that came before The A-Team. It’s a police drama with a group of Miami’s Vice division as the main characters, usually taking place in 1980s Miami, Florida. But with the little scenes that I caught back then I could tell that it was too much for me at the time. Too real. Even if I were to watch it back then I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate it as I would now. It was only a matter of time, because if it wasn’t for the cars, it would’ve been the music. All of it. I wish there was a box set of all the tracks used; from Jan Hammer’s/John Petersen’s/Tim Truman’s most obscure background mood music track (except the Jack of All Trades episode, those sucked), to all other tracks ranging from Afrika Bambaataa to P Machinery to ZZ Top. Until then, let’s talk about the cars…

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Undoubtedly one of the coolest and most interesting cars in the entire series, or even North American television, is James “Sonny” Crockett’s car, the Ferrari 365 GTS/4, aka the Daytona. At least that’s what it appears to be because, Pilot episode aside, detailed C3 Chevrolet Corvette-based clones were used throughout the series. A standalone post could be written about the Daytonas and Day-clone-as used during filming (and there are a couple of articles out there). I’ve read in IMCDb that this car was an interesting choice, because while it’s definitely exotic, it’s not the latest sportscar fresh off the factory at the time like, say, a Lamborghini Jalpa and doesn’t grab your attention as, say, a red Ferrari 308 GTSi. Its understated nature helped Crockett blend in with the criminal underworld, whose members usually love the latest and greatest toys.

Crockett used it, sometimes hard. He took it to the trendiest clubs, to seedy neighborhoods, the docks and shipyards, even to the Glades. Of course it’s been involved in plenty of chases. He even betted it to get in a much-needed speedboat race. Unfortunately, the Daytona went to rest in pieces, being blown up. There was one later episode that Crockett drove it again.

Chevy Apache-(Ira) Stone: Where’s the Ferrari?

-Crockett: Get in. Beggars can’t be choosers.

We must never forget that Crockett was forced to drive a 1959 Chevrolet Task-Force Apache 31 stepside pick-up truck while being Ferrari-less. NEVER forget. Unfortunately, we don’t get any more scenes with it and barely get a good view of it. A closer look reveals that it’s been customized (aftermarket wheels, bed rails, pinstriping and smokestack).

bitmap19bt6.1662-Crockett: 340HP, a 180mph, new paint, new rubber.

-Tubbs: Absolutely essential for any type of serious police work, huh?

-Crockett: Got that right!

The Daytona was replaced by a 1986 Ferrari Testarossa, a wild, popular car at the time. Crockett pulled no punches with it either, from chasing to being chased, stakeouts and shootouts, even letting his son take the wheel and shift gears in rare father-and-son bonding moments. Popular Mechanics magazine, who did an excellent write-up about the cars in the show, said that due to the difficulty of filming the Testarossa in black at night -as it was originally delivered- the color was switched to white. Another story was that it was repainted after an accident. Also on the aforementioned magazine article is information on the extreme stunt car built and used on the series.

None of the cars he drove belonged to Crockett, as they’re confiscated vehicles given to him through Metro-Dade police dept. as part of his undercover persona. Same goes for his boats. Not even the shoes he wore were his.

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Crockett isn’t the only one with driving duties in the show. It may not be as sweet and tastefully accessorized as the C126 Mercedes-Benz 500 SEC or as sporty as the 1983 Aston Martin V8 Volante used in other undercover operations, and not as exotic as anything Crockett drives, but Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs’ ride is just as interesting: a 1964 Cadillac DeVille convertible.

i126259The picture fails to capture the intensity of the chase, so I recommend watching the episode.

It’s big, blue-ish, a convertible and has a “Cowboy Cadillac” decorative license plate. It’s been in everything from stake outs to shootouts, strong enough to take out a Ford Econoline and with enough horsepower to keep up with a Ford Bronco (only in Miami would you find a ‘64 Caddy vert in hot pursuit). It looks downright sexy in the dark, with only light reflections bouncing off its body lines and with its trademark taillights blazing. Both friend and foe have waxed lyrical over it. Now that’s a fanbase.

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Lt. Martin Castillo -the show’s undisputed badass and the man I want to be when I grow up- is a by-the-book, zero-nonsense-given commander of the Vice squad. His rides are low-key unmarked government vehicles, either a black 1985 Ford LTD or a couple of Plymouth Gran Furys, models similar to Miami’s law enforcement. Personally, I wish Castillo would’ve received something just as discreet, but more imposing, like a black, V-8 powered 9C1 Chevrolet Impala or Caprice. They should’ve given him one of those Panther-platform Ford LTDs that were beginning to appear. Still, it’s better than a K-car. The grey-market black Lamborghini Jalpa used in one undercover operation, as cool as Castillo was driving it, might be too much.

Gina Mercury Cougar

Gina Calabrese’s personal ride is this 1971 Mercury Cougar convertible, just as interesting a character-car pairing as Tubbs and his Cadillac. It shows some wear, but it gets the job done taking Gina and co. Aside from removing the rust along the driver’ door, she later had it repainted in silver. Gina and Trudy love their big convertibles, as they even use ‘em for undercover work.

Gina Chrysler

By the fifth season, Gina’s seen rolling in this 1987-89 Chrysler LeBaron. Regardless of what one thinks of any of the K-car family members and its derivatives, this is good-looking car fit for a good-looking woman.

Trudy Mustang

In the first season, Trudy’s car is a small, white, modern, wedgy, mid-engine Japanese sports car: an AW11 1985 Toyota MR2. It bucks the trend for love of vintage iron in the Vice squad. By the fifth season, probably after seeing the rest of the Vice squad in convertibles probably convinced Trudy to get one herself, a 1972 Ford Mustang.

Bug Van

Ah, the Bug Van. It’s Stan Switek and Larry Zito’s most famous stake-out vehicle, and trust me they’ve had plenty, most of them really tasty vans. No longer a white 1981 Dodge Ram Van , here it is in its more famous incarnation, complete with a huge animatronic bug on the roof, termite scheme and business call-out. This 1979 Dodge Tradesman is filled with all the eaves-dropping and surveillance hardware warrant-saddled Vice cops would need, as well as exterminator gear, juicy pickings for thieves Izzy and Manny, whom stole it and stripped it until they got busted and were forced to put it all back together. Later in the series, it loses the décor. It even takes its share of bullets.

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Switek probably likes things from the golden era of Rock ‘n Roll beyond his Elvis Presley idolization, given that he drives a sweet 1961 Ford Thunderbird with drool-worthy wire wheels. He’s not afraid to push it hard when the need arises, though he just about lost it when repo men tried (and failed) to tow it away as collateral for Switek’s own vice: gambling. Larry had a motorcycle, but it burned down along with most of his stuff.

Up until now, just about every character had a car that fitted their personality. This one bucks the trend. 5th season recurring character Joey Hardin was seen driving a 1974-75 Series 3 Jaguar XK-E Roadster, the one with the V12. While he once had to play the part of a preppy college drug dealer, his undercover persona is usually that of a rebellious punk, so a decent-looking, green sporty car with wire wheels seems at odds, even if said car has about 15 years since new.

httpmiamivice.wikia.com Tommys_garageI really like that mural.

When the petrolheads of Miami need their high-end automobiles worked on, they can count on Tommy, the spunky owner of Tommy’s Garage. Her prices are reasonable… depending on your profession. Her knowledge of all things automotive have helped Crockett and Tubbs on more than one occasion.  Case in point, besides Crockett’s Ferrari is a yellow Ferrari 365 GTS/4 belonged to a lawyer that Crockett hated. It, along with Tommy’s services, became a bit of a plot point for the episode.

Jalpa and Isidro

This is the Lamborghini Jalpa that was used by a guy who looks like Phil Collins (yes, it was Phil Collins). That’s Izzy over there; he likes the Jalpa so much that he blew it a kiss.

Conversely, this is what Izzy drives, a once-top-of-the-line 1969 Cadillac Series 75 limousine. It’s worn down in the first pic, but it actually looks respectable by the fourth season, though it sports a 1970 grille by then. Manny -Izzy’s space cadet assistant/whipping boy- is allowed to drive it.

Blue Mercedes

I have a confession to make: I like me some big luxury sedans, especially when they’re dressed up in tasty period accessories. While definitely not the only one shown in the series (S-Class cars were often used as the default bad-guy car of choice, whether coupe, sedan, formal or customized limo), you gotta love how the film crew incorporated as much screentime as possible on this particular W126 Mercedes-Benz S-Class. My favorite part is the wheel stopping for a view of a straight and readable BBS rim logo on the center cap. It appears just as much as the main villain, whose appearance is less intimidating than the car’s.

Koenig Specials SL

Another confession: I love me some 1980s wide-bodies and wild body kits. That’s why I’ve included this Koenig Specials Mercedes-Benz SL background vehicle. I’m sure that other companies ripped off their body kit designs. Koenig Specials were a European tuning company that did more than crazy cosmetics, they did crazy performance mods as well. If you were in the know about sports car exotica, then you may have heard about their tuned Ferrari Testarossas, extreme machines twin-turbocharged to around 1,000HP in the late 1980s!! As you can see, they did Mercedes-Benz as well, though I’ll admit that the body kit doesn’t flow as well as on a C126 Mercedes-Benz 500 SEC (which does appear in the series in a night scene, but the angles aren’t the best) or Ferrari 512BB, which they also did.

AMG SL

This is an AMG Mercedes-Benz SL, a rare beast. Judging by the headlights, I’m convinced that this might be a grey import. I really like those tasteful mods (wheels, deck-lid spoiler, blacked-out chrome, ground effects, etc.). The scene is when the guest character veers off road to a desolate spot to reflect on the bad decisions he’s made, something we might have all done at one point, hopefully not often.

Maserati vert

Maseratis were hot machines back in the ‘80s, with Quattroportes and Biturbos being the faces of the brand back then. A Spyder was used not only as the prominent ride of choice for a sadistic diplomat, but it was this rented machine whose make and registration was enough to get Vice on his tail… and a couple of silenced bullets into a couple of blackmailers before that.

Aston Martin Lagonda!

I gasped at the appearance of an Aston Martin Lagonda. This is as close as I’ve seen one next to actual people, as most pics that I’ve seen of ‘em have extreme close-ups that exaggerate their proportions, making them seem bigger than what they really are.

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If a Lagonda isn’t wild enough for you, than perhaps a Lagonda limousine might be!

1988 Acura Legend Coupe1988 Acura Legend Coupe. More info about these cars here.

In the latter seasons, Acuras and Mazda sedans started to appear, even when the show’s IMCDb page refuses to acknowledge them. A shame, because in the case of Acuras, while restrained in design, the early ones not only sold well, but they were really good cars with very neat design and engineering touches. That’s why I’m mentioning them. While mostly background vehicles, their designs look completely alien when paired with American iron of the same period. We’re talking about rebadged Hondas here, not Italian exotics, which is saying something. Speaking of which…

Countach 2

I’m pretty sure most of you’ve been waiting to mention the Lamborghini Countach; it wouldn’t be the ‘80s without it, especially since this is one of the most ‘80s shows ever. The first season featured one as the ride of a couple of cocky young men. As if a Countach wasn’t extravagant enough, they added an Asian-jingle novelty horn. Way to keep a low profile.

Two Countach were used for the famous Daytona vs. Countach chase, an LP 500 S and a 5000 QV. Maybe they were filmed on different occasions and production couldn’t get ahold of the same car. I would’ve enjoyed those precious seconds more if it wasn’t for the disconcerting fact in the back of my head reminding me that the driver is a shallow pretty-boy rapist hiding behind a curtain of daddy’s money, social position and so-called machismo.

Porsches get their love in the series as well, though I’ll admit that I find the lack of Porsche 944s and 928s in prominent roles disturbing.

Porsche 911-(Gordon) Wiggins: Man, that’s terrible about Tommy Lowe, huh?

-(Paul) Fremont: Yeah, heard his car overheated in Miami.

– Wiggins: Yeah, those imports really aren’t designed for that humidity.

911s of all flavors appear: Targas, convertibles, Turbos, a Kremer 935 slantnose conversion, etc. The black example shown above was used in a scene guaranteed to blow you away (hint, hint). As the dialogue above between shady characters mentions, it is an import; U.S. spec cars didn’t come with the red foglight, right?

There’s an episode were a bunch of Porsche 962 racecars and their rivals appear (The episode Florence Italy is a car nut’s dream. Aside from the chases and races racecar aficionados will notice several familiar liveries)! But the one that steals the show and totally took me by surprise was this 1966 Porsche 906 Carrera.

Porsche 906 1

Imagine how baller one has to be to drive a car of this ilk on the streets. Yes, it didn’t have license plates; the driver had other things in mind. This tubular spaceframe/fiberglass wonder was indeed a street legal racecar, with decent results at the track. I kept comparing the screenshots with pictures of other cars and I’m convinced that this is the real deal, one of only 50 produced. And I thought that Biarritz-level Cadillacs and full-power Pontiac GTOs were rare as far as factory production cars were concerned… There must be an interesting story in how the car ended up starring in the show… Man did it have a great chase scene!

Kawasaki Ninja 600c

The same episode also showcased some wicked motorcycle racing, with a father-and-son bonding/partying using a couple of Kawasaki Ninja 600Rs, bikes that gave the 600cc class looks and a chassis to match the engine’s performance, making a combination that would give a scare to bigger sportsbikes without breaking the bank. Because of this, the 600R is credited for creating the modern day Supersport 600 class.

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If you must know, the two Rolls-Royce that appear in the season 1-2 opening credits are Silver Clouds II and III, respectively. The full shot actually shows two more Rolls-Royce, a Camargue and what I think is another Silver Cloud III. Like the intro, these two also appear as part of a musical/scenery montage. There was another Rolls-Royce in one of the intros, a Phantom V limo.

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Usually, Corvettes, particularly C3s, are used by scumbags. Scumbag lawyers, scumbag family members, scumbag friends, etc. Scumbag henchmen as well. It and a Plymouth Barracuda ‘Cuda clone tried and failed to catch the Testarossa.

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I expected more of this ‘80s-style hot-rod 1969 Chevrolet Camaro. Even a stock blue 1980 Chevrolet Corvette driven by an old lady in the same episode got more action that this one. The Camaro was used as a “ram car” –whatever that means- in a series of brutal house burglaries.

This modified 1982 Chevrolet Camaro belonged to a well-heeled young man whose substance abuse problems would soon become the least of his worries. Every fiber of my being wants to say that this is one of the few Motion Performance Camaros with the company’s catalog thrown at it. Motion Performance was a New York-based tuning company that tuned cars as diverse as Corvettes, Cobras, Hurst/Olds, Volkswagen Beetles, etc. This company put the Motion in Baldwin-Motion, the legendary dealership/tuner duo that worked their magic on then-new Chevrolet Corvettes, Camaros, Chevelles, Novas, Vegas, Firebird Trans Ams, and rivals to names like Yenko, Shelby and Grand Spaulding Dodge. There’s a book about ‘em. Motion Performance returned as Baldwin-Motion some years ago with their extreme resto-mod ’69 Camaros as well as garish tuned 5th-gen Camaros.  During the ‘80s, they were focusing on selling fiberglass goodies as well as some performance mods, but since there’s almost nothing specific about their catalog, I can’t confirm; the hood could be from another company, the notchback could be a Carrera Designs International unit, the wing, who knows? Mecham Racing? I wish I could make out the sticker on the windshield. It could’ve helped…

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Someone please tell me why there aren’t more Buick Grand National-based car chases. I mean, if the producers go through all the trouble making exotic car chases, I don’t see why they couldn’t have made a Grand National do more than just the personal ride of a manipulated U.S. Customs agent or grieving mobster. The only other times I’ve seen GNs are as background vehicles. Pity.

Shelby Mustang

This one was a surprise: a 1967 Shelby Mustang. Even with the 1980s musclecar boom, sought-after models like this one could still be found in rough, but running condition. This was before the whole “survivor” thing went mainstream in the vintage car world. Then again, cars can be made to look aged.

Nothin Fancy resize

It’s with a heavy heart that I say that this bodacious 1980 Ford F-150 XLT Lariat 4×4 was the getaway truck for a bunch of cop-killing punks. Its bed reads “Nuttin’ Fancy”. Which begs the question, how the heck does a lifted, customized truck go unnoticed by the police?! They must’ve ditched it. It’s not the only truck to garner my attention, but out of a sweet Toyota truck and what has got to be the then-last un-hot-rodded 1955 Ford F-100 pick-up truck, it’s this one that really stood out, even in this night scene.

Glades DeLorean resize

Picture this: you’re going to the Glades, which isn’t exactly Ocean Drive. Upon arrival you find the snazziest trucks and 4x4s, Maserati Biturbos, and not one, not two, but three DeLoreans!! It’d be natural to feel suspicious of your surroundings. Here we have ‘em subliminally supporting their tragic stereotype involving a certain white powdered narcotic. Thankfully, it’s an image that the decades have almost eradicated. Almost.

DeLorean vs Jalpa2

It may seem almost unfathomable now but there was a time where the DMC-12 was just a toy for those with the cash to pay twice the sum of its original intended price and had little to do with science fiction. Never forget.

Trans Am Frank Stallone

Late second-gen Pontiac Firebirds do appear for their 15 seconds of fame. Crockett even commandeered one. But when you see this type of car in front of a beautiful mansion, with Frank Stallone beside it, you get the feeling that this isn’t exactly a hero car.

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The rare Lamborghini LM002 -the Countach of off-road vehicles- came out to play. This is the rig’s best shot, because it had gaudy -even by Lamborghini standards- white ‘Lamborghini’ call-outs on its doors. Just like the DMC-12s mentioned earlier, the LM-002 is also shown here reinforcing its tragic stereotype of being associated with cold-blooded killers.

Cement Truck

What do two informants use to convince a major stolen goods supplier to do business with them? Offer him a Mack DMM-600 cement mixer of course! What’s more off the wall than this idea was the fact that the supplier actually has a thing for trucks and heavy equipment! I swear they could make a movie about Izzy and Noogie…

Montanas Soup Kitchen

There’s more than meets the eye with this rolling kitchen, But you’re gonna have to watch the episode to understand the sacrifices made in order for the rig to be there. Aside from that, I wish I could identify it. Any clues?

httpvhs-ninja.tumblr.com tumblr_nx8r6p87Hx1tbcweeo1_400 I wanted to end this post with something special. Here, a GIF of the windsurfer babe on the intro. You’re welcome.

 

–Tigerstrypes

 

References:

Opening and closing gif: Tumblr

Bug Van: http://miamivice.wikia.com

Rolls-Royce GIF: made by me, powered by GIPHY

Apache, Tubbs’ Caddy, Gran Fury, the Bug Van, Gina’s cars, Clydesdale Mustang, Jag pics, Countach, Jalpa, Manny’s Caddy, blue Mercedes, Koenig Specials SL, AMG SL, Maserati, Lagonda, Acura, Motion Performance Camaro, Nuttin’ Fancy truck, DMCs, 906, 911, Trans Am, soup kitchen, cement mixer: Printscreen

Daytona, Testarossa, Caddy vs. Van, Lagonda limo, ’69 Camaro, ‘Vette, GN: IMCDb.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “The Cars of Miami Vice

  1. About the Daytona…If I remember car values in the 80s correctly, a Daytona convertible would have been a lot more expensive than the alternatives you mention. In a few years, it…if it was one of the 120-something factory drop tops…would be a million dollar car (or almost a million if it was one of the coupes with an aftermarket cut top). Of course, that was before the big Ferrari crash of the early 90s. My point is, a Daytona would have made Crockett stand out even in the opulent Miami of the 80s.

    Trivia….
    How can you tell a C3 look-alike from the real deal?
    Easy…
    The high-priced Italian has old fashioned vent windows while the relatively inexpensive Chevy has modern ventless side glass.
    One would think it would be the other way around.

    Like

    • Here:

      From here: http://imcdb.org/vehicle_21079-Chevrolet-Camaro-1982.html

      In case you’re wondering why it and many other vehicles were excluded:
      As brilliant as that chase was and as handsomely painted as it was, I decided against including it due to space in the write-up.
      I felt that I should’ve dedicated the space for main/recurring character rides, plot-specific machines, period machinery, and metal that doesn’t get recognition.
      It’s a 3rd-gen Camaro, nowhere near as rare as a Lamborghini LM002. While handsome, it’s only a slightly-modified example, unlike the alleged Motion Performance Camaro.
      Yes, main characters use it, but so did other vehicles like Crockett’s Harley and the commandeered Firebird, vehicles that would just end up taking space in the post, with little explanation.
      Yes, it got some proper action, but it wasn’t as related to the plot as the mystery rolling kitchen at the end of the post.
      Everyone will remember this Camaro, but not Tommy Lowe’s understated black 911, with that sweet slow-mo interior explosion.

      Like

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