We are counting down the Top 50 hot rods and street cars of all time that have made an appearance in a television series, or a memorable television episode. Starting from #50, and counting down to our #1 pick, follow along with our memories, and see where your favorite show lands.
No. 11, The Green Hornet’s 1966 Chrysler Imperial Crown
The familiar phrase spoke by the Green Hornet character to his partner, Kato — “Let’s roll, Kato!” – could only mean one thing: the duo was out for justice in their customized super cruiser known as The Black Beauty. The 1966-‘67 series starred Van Williams in dual roles as media mogul and newspaper publisher Britt Reid and The Green Hornet, and Bruce Lee as Kato, his chauffeur and martial arts and sidekick.
The original 1966 Chrysler Imperial Crown featured on the television series, from 1966-1967 was designed and built by legendary car customizer Dean Jeffries, who also is credited with “The Monkees” GTO. Two cars were built for the television series, which was short lived at just one season with 26 episodes. Black Beauty, however, has lived on in car stardom, and on the silver screen as a 2011 movie. More on that car later.
Black Beauty featured a Hornet’s Sting — a telescoping device that could emit ultrasonic soundwaves to open locked doors, set things ablaze, and to intimidate criminals to retrieve information. A knock-out gas gun also was part of the armory.
Behind the V194 license plate, two rockets could be deployed from retractable panels behind its headlights and a small flying video/audio surveillance device (referred to as the scanner) could be activated under a hidden panel on the truck lid, where there also gas nozzles and warheads ready to fire.
Where are the two cars today? Apparently, Black Beauty 1 is located in the Petersen Automotive Museum collection collectors vault, and Black Beauty 2, which has been completely restored, belongs to a private collector in South Carolina.
What’s Old Is New Again
In 2011, Seth Rogen reprised the roles of the Green Hornet/Britt Reid, while Kato was portrayed by Jay Chou, in a big screen adaptation of “The Green Hornet.” However, unlike the television series in the ‘60s that only had two cars, the movie used 29 production-modified Imperial Crown’s with parts interchanged using models from 1964 to 1966. Of those 29 automobiles, 26 were destroyed during filming; only three survived to tell the tale, appearing at SEMA and at press junkets around the globe.
Customized by Dennis McCarthy of Vehicle Effects, the movie cars were based on the 1965 model and were equipped with a 413 cubic-inch V8 motor; flamethrower, beanbag launchers, and dual machine guns mounted in the front; green headlights, and a rotating rear license plate. New to the movie car were rear suicide doors, custom 20-inch wheels, and many more gadgets and features for use in stunts and interior shots.