Building a collection of movie and TV cars from the ground up
About five years ago, I decided it might be fun to build a replica TV car. I set my sights on recreating Drag-U-La, Grandpa’s car from the 1960s series The Munsters. I call it Reaper’s Ride, and it’s built from a 1972 Chevy Nova. I used the entire drivetrain, electrical system, steering wheel, and front subframe. From there back, I built a custom frame. I mounted two coffins nose to tail on the frame. The front one houses the driver’s seat plus all the electronics and braking system components, and the rear has the passenger seat plus the fuel cell. It is fully street legal, although I had to jump through plenty of hoops to make it so. Around Halloween 2014, Reaper’s Ride and I made the local Channel 6 news in Lansing, Michigan..
A couple years later, I met my good friend Jerry Jodloski because of that car. He’d started an annual How-To Halloween event, which gives people tips for creating their own props on the cheap. He convinced me to transform my Cadillac hearse into a replica of Ecto-1 from the movie Ghostbusters.
Jerry did all the graphics by hand and then wrapped the top of the car in red vinyl. I gathered all the parts for the roof rack from the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, the Michigan State University Surplus Store, and eBay. Most of the stuff was free. Once Jerry finished his work, I put all that stuff together and mounted it. It took us three weeks to do that car.
Our Ecto-1 has been a huge hit here in Lansing. It’s popular with children of all ages, and we made the front page of the Lansing State Journal. At Halloween, Channel 6 returned to do another story.
Jerry and I partnered again in 2017 to build a replica of the Mystery Machine from Scooby-Doo. We drove to Wisconsin to purchase a 1970 Dodge A100 that had been sitting in a field for 30 years. It had no engine or transmission, no interior, no doghouse to cover the engine. It was destined for the scrap yard when we rescued it.
We stripped everything usable from my old Chevy truck and swapped it over to the Mystery Machine. Another friend donated a Suburban to the cause, and we used the interior of that to finish the build. As with the other tributes, I took liberties on the Mystery Machine. That Chevy drivetrain, for one. But we also fabricated our own doghouse, and I fitted a 50-inch TV to play Scooby-Doo cartoons when we display it.
My latest build was a K.I.T.T. replica from the show Knight Rider. That one took me six months and more money than I like to think about. Sadly, the night before we shot photos of my collection, I was driving it when a dog ran into the street. I missed the dog but not the tree next to it. I’ll get it rebuilt, though, and it will be better than ever.
Jerry and I regularly use these cars to raise money for various charitable organizations. That, along with the smiles they put on people’s faces everywhere we go, makes all the work that went into building them so worth it.