A legendary muscle car made even more iconic, the Ford Gran Torino ‘striped tomato’ from the series can still fulfill your childhood dream.
Say Starsky & Hutch and most may think of the ‘70s TV series that starred David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser, as opposed to the more millennial-oriented 2004 movie starring Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller. Either way, the hero of the TV series or the movie remains the iconic classic car, the Ford Gran Torino in unmistakable red, bearing that giant, white-wedge-like stripe on the side, which gave it its ‘striped tomato’ nickname.
For anyone who has ever watched the series, more pertinent because that was the actual time of the Gran Torino as well, the “Zebra Three, come in” phrase is an instant throwback. This was perhaps the first time in the history of the car shows that a car became the actual hero, as recognizable as the Bond cars, or even the Enterprise from Star Trek. You get the gist.
UPDATED DECEMBER 2022: While finding a factory-built Ford Gran Torino Starsky & Hutch special edition is hard, it’s not impossible. Or even better, you can build one yourself. Either way, there are several options towards fulfilling your childhood dream of driving the ‘Striped Tomato’!
So here’s where the Starsky & Hutch Gran Torino landed up, and why it’s so very iconic…
Starsky & Hutch Stars Hated The Car
Technically, the Starsky & Hutch ride was supposed to be a Chevrolet Camaro of the time, which in hindsight is nearly unthinkable. Apparently, the producers put in a request for green Camaros from Chevrolet, and Chevy could not accommodate the same. Their loss became the Ford Gran Torino’s gain, especially since the Gran Torino was the cheaper option and sometimes, could offer more performance value than the Camaro.
Also, the Torino made far more sense as an LA cop car than a glamorous Camaro, much like the LAPD Crown Vic, right? However, neither of the original stars was in love with the Torino, at least not at first. Paul Glaser hated the heavy steering and dubbed the car “the striped tomato” while David Soul could not stay in the seat during rough driving.
But the car became such a big icon that the thought of replacing it for another never even entered the mind of the producers. That said, the stripes of the car changed during the various episodes but the most different visual detail is between the pilot episode and the rest of the show. In the former, the stripes were much further back on the fender than during the rest of the show.
Ford Followed Up With Special Editions
In 1968, Ford redesigned the aging Fairlane series and introduced the Torino. In 1972, the Gran Torino came to play, with a very different grille from the rest. Later, it was this very first year of Gran Torino that starred in the 2008 movie of the same name, starring Clint Eastwood.
Eventually, the Fairlane was retired while the Torino and the Gran Torino continued till 1976, succeeded by the Ford LTD II. Starsky & Hutch’s Gran Torino was so well-received by the audience, that the show’s producers, ABC Studios, and Ford motors began to get inquiries about the car.
Ever the market magnet, Ford decided to capitalize on the success of the Torino and introduced special Starsky & Hutch Edition Gran Torinos for normal people to get a feel of what it is to drive a hero car. In 1976, the very last year of the Torino and the Gran Torino, some 1,100 special-edition models were built, carrying a 5.7-liter V8 that jetted 200 horsepower and 353 ft-lb of torque.
The USP of this car was the red paint with the iconic wedge stripes, plus an eight-track stereo player with AM/FM radio. Needless to say, the car sold like hotcakes. Today, one of these special-ed models can set you back by a cool $10,000. And even further as seen by this 1976 Ford Gran Torino Starsky and Hutch Edition that sold last year for $39,995 via Streetside Classics.
The Original Ford Gran Torinos From Starsky & Hutch Today
One of them did show up at an auction in 2014 and ended up selling for $40,000. The provenance was an autographed visor by the lead actors. And yet, when they were making the movie starring Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller, not even one of the original cars could be made available, so the picture coordinator ended up buying one of Ford’s limited edition Gran Torinos.
Keeping that car in mind, the movie producers hired auto shops to build them custom car builds from stock Torinos. We aren’t sure what happened to these cars. One of the original TV series cars can also be found in Vegas, because after all, what cannot be found there, right? The car now belongs to The Auto Collections, a garage that hosts some 800 unique cars, at The Imperial Palace.
Of course, to further confuse the issue, people turned their Torinos into tribute cars, having their cars custom-built to look like the real deal. Recently, one of the 1,305 examples of the factory-built Ford Gran Torino “Starsky & Hutch” limited edition model was sold at an auction at RMSotheby’s for $60,500.
Many years have passed since the movie, let alone the TV series and yet the red and white Ford Gran Torino remains a head-turner to date… Reason enough why people keep an eye out for any of the original TV series cars; and why the celebrity status that this Ford attained is still alive and kicking!
Here’s Where The Lincoln Continental Convertible From Entourage Is Today
Find out about the Lincoln Continental Convertible featured in the HBO series Entourage, its current whereabouts, and how your gang can rent it out.
In 2004, HBO premiered a new series: Entourage. As the neon-splashed opening credits rolled, HBO introduced audiences to five Hollywood-ready stars. There was the fictional movie star, Vincent Chase. Cruising with Vince were his three childhood friends, now sharing in his Hollywood lifestyle. But for many, the real star of the show was their 1965 Lincoln Continental Convertible.
Many of you might not know, but there were two Lincoln Continentals used during the span of the hit show. The first Continental Convertible used for the earlier seasons belongs to car collector Greg Dupree and was a 1965 Lincoln Continental.
And the second was to an automotive enthusiast, Harold Tennen who was more than willing to give his identical Lincoln to get the show going after a setback. Also, most of the in-car scenes in the show were shot using Tennen’s car. Greg Dupree’s car can be used for photoshoots and is offered to visitors in L.A. As for the second car, Tennen’s keeping it clean and shiny!
Updated August 2022: We have updated this article with more information on where both the classic Lincoln Continental Convertibles from Entourage Is Today.
Find out about the actual cars featured in the HBO series, where they are now, and how you and your gang can rent one of them today.
Lincoln Continental Convertible: A Thorough Drama Car
With a powerful Ford V8 and three-speed automatic, this land yacht could easily transport Vinny Chase and company around L.A. at modern speeds. The luxurious, black-on-black symbol of Detroit allowed him to arrive everywhere in glamorous movie star style. This last of the four-door convertibles was an obvious choice for the four best friends.
The fourth-generation Lincoln Continental saw a return of the rear-hinged rear doors (suicide doors). The car’s layout enabled the memorable ending of the opening credits: an overhead camera catches the car stopping outside a club, then the four members of the entourage step out and close their doors simultaneously. See the Entourage opening credits on Youtube.
The early seasons of Entourage only featured the iconic Lincoln in the opening credits. During the episodes, the gang drives a new Escalade around Los Angeles. It emerges that Vinny doesn’t even have a driver’s license and is studying to take the exam. Viewers speculated that his good friend and personal driver, Salvatore “Turtle” Assante, might have the vintage vehicle stashed away in Vinny’s mansion-sized garage.
But then it emerges that Turtle once cashed out his savings to fund Vinny’s move to L.A. Many fans of the Lincoln began to suspect the car was an opening credits one-off. Then, at the end of Season 3, Vinny’s brother–Johnny “Drama” Chase–is an out-of-work C-list actor, down on his luck.
In one of the show’s saddest moments, Johnny drives the 1965 Lincoln to the Grand Canyon and stares into the abyss. Vinny calls his older brother with good news: Johnny has landed a new acting role. Johnny Drama falls to his knees in front of the Lincoln, thank God, then repeats his famous TV show Viking yell: “Victory!”
It would take a couple more seasons for the Lincoln Continental to appear again. Fans rejoiced when they spotted actor Kevin Dillon filming in the Lincoln for an upcoming episode. For the final few Entourage seasons, the gang rides around in Johnny Drama’s 1965 Lincoln Continental convertible in nearly every episode.
A Tale Of Two Lincoln Convertibles
When movies or TV shows feature a car, the producers often reserve multiple vehicles for different angles or shots. Films in which the star car sustains heavy abuse–such as James Bond or The Dukes of Hazzard–often require dozens of donor cars. But Entourage never featured car chases or dramatic stunts. The production team was able to complete eight seasons and one feature film with only two picture cars.
Executive Producer Mark Whalberg originally conceived of Entourage as a show about his friends but pivoted to a show about a fictional movie star. The production team shot the opening credits when they filmed the pilot. These credits feature a 1965 Lincoln Continental on loan from car collector Greg Dupree. HBO continued to rent Dupree’s car for all appearances until Season 4.
It has been said that during filming, the car sustained some damage to its chrome moldings. Whatever the reason, Dupree chose to stop renting his car to the production team.
Luckily, automotive enthusiast Harold Tennen not only owned an identical 1965 Lincoln, but he happened to take it in for service while the Entourage TV show was shooting right across the street. The crew approached Tennen to ask if they could feature his Continental on TV. Tennen agreed, and his beloved convertible appeared in the rest of the series.
The vast majority of in-episode scenes featuring the Continental were shot with Tennen’s car. He says the stars of the show even signed his glovebox. Collectors have reportedly offered over six figures for Harold Tennen’s movie star car, but he said he is keeping it.
One Of The Continental Convertibles Is Now A Show Car
If you are ever in L.A. with your Entourage, you can arrange a treat fit for Hollywood royalty. The Vanity car rental company lists Greg Dupree’s 1965 Lincoln–featured in the opening credits and first several seasons of Entourage–among its extensive collection.
This imposing Lincoln’s black paint and leather all look good as new. The car features the fuzzy dice from the show and vintage-style California black plates which read “Entourage.” Unfortunately, you and your gang can’t go cruising Hollywood boulevards like movie stars because the car is only available for photoshoots or events.
One of Vanity’s customers was the Ford Motor Company: Among other weird things that happen at auto shows, the entourage convertible was featured alongside other notable Lincolns at the 2011 North American International Auto Show.
Sources: Russo and Steele Auctions, Lincoln