The Bluesmobiles

The original Blues Brothers was a landmark movie, with the leads driving a 1974 Dodge Monaco (ex-squad), and a mountain of St. Regis, Diplomat, and Monaco squads being driven (and many being destroyed) in the massive chase at the end.

1974 police calibrated speedometer

The car is introduced early, after establishing shots of the prison; Jake didn’t like the car much but his brother Elwood said, “"It's got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. It was a model made before catalytic converters so it'll run good on regular gas.” Then the stage for the rest of the movie is set with a spectacular (for the time) leap over a bridge as it was opening.

In the movie, the car was supposed to be from Mount Prospect, Illinois. The cars used for the movie may have been taken from any number of sourses; odds are against a Mount Propsect car having been used. The exterior markings were loosely based on the California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles police cars. The Monaco was still very popular as a police car in 1974.

Dodge Monaco squad car

The Chicago Sun-Times noted in 2005 that the movie used 13 Bluesmobiles with 40 stunt drivers; no less than five were used for regular filming. Three had one-gallon gas tanks for safer jumps; one was worked on for months to create the "falling apart" scene at the end. Overall, over 60 retired police cars were purchased, reinforced with safety cages, and were often patched up to be used again. The Chicago Police were used in some chase scenes, and actually helped by shutting down streets and highways for the movie.

The Lake Street drive (between the elevated subway supports) was actually filmed at over 100 mph, according to director John Landis (in the Sun-Times article). He said that he shot the film with stunt pedestrians so viewers could see that the cars were not simply speeded up. The Lake Street pileup was caused largely by specially designed pipe ramps installed in the street. The Route 176 pileup was similarly rigged so the normally stable police cars would flip over.

Don S. Weir wrote:

I am a close friend of Roy Dixon, Dan's brother in law, and I have a "Blue Mo" as it is called by Dan and Roy and other people that are associated with this car.

Inside the 1974 police car

According to Dan, this car was one of many actually used in filming and is one of three still known to exist. It was given to Dan by John Landis after completion of the filming of the movie. Dan claims that this car was the one that John Candy (Patrol Officer Burton Mercer) rode while penetrating the side of a semi-trailer in one of the scenes in the movie. At that time it was configured in Illinois State Police colors. Dan reportedly drove it in Manhattan for two years with all the markings, red light bar and fake police plates.

In 1986, he gave this car to Roy, who painted the body as a Bluesmobile; as it was Ellwood's personal car it was considered a "Bluesmobile."

I have tried to verify and document all of this but had no luck in doing so. I did obtain a title for the car but it would be nice to know more.

This car is a Dodge Monaco. I was also given a 1979 St. Regis which was also allegedly connected with the movie. This car was allegedly given to John Landis, (or someone in production), by Cam Benty, who was associated with Car Craft magazine or a similar magazine and was used in some form in promoting the movie. It was allegedly driven in the “cannonball run” or another cross country race from Boston to Santa Barbara but in my research I could not find it listed anywhere nor could I find anything on Cam Bently.

Roy claims that Cam Benty came to Virginia in the late 1980s and took pictures of both of these cars for a special article in his magazine to be titled "In Search of The Blues" but again, I have not been able to find any info at all to verify that so I do have doubts about some of these claims.

I also want to mention that the Dodge Monaco is not in great shape but I drove the car in the Apple Blossom Parade in Winchester, Virginia several years ago, and at least this piece of Mopar history has not been sent to the scrap yard!

In 1975, the influential California Highway Patrol started large-scale tests of the B-body Coronet, after having insisted on a 122" wheelbase. In 1977, the Monaco name was moved to the B-body; the only C-body Monaco was called Royal Monaco (while at Plymouth, Fury was a B-body and Gran Fury a C-body). The 1977-78 B-body Monacos were the last of an era, with a body that dated back to 1971 and available powerplants up to and including the 440.

1974 Dodge Monaco police radio

Former patrolman Curtis Redgap wrote:

I ordered several dozen of the same for my former department. 1974 was the new body style, as set apart from the string of re-styles from 1969 to 1973. It was also the year of the last of the lead gasoline 440s.

They were decent cars, but several came through with Plymouth nameplates on the Dodges, and vice-versa. We all laughed, but it shows the state of Chrysler's quality about then. They were running on reputation, and thankfully 1960s engineering for the engine, transmissions, brakes and axles.

Not much else could be said to recommend these vehicles very highly, except, for their time, they were the fastest, best handling four door sedans available in the police pack.

I know of the existence of three Mount Prospect ex-patrol vehicles. One is owned by the "House of Blues" at Walt Disney World, and two are owned by Universal Studios, which originated The Blues Brothers. Two are authentic, but one of the Universal cars is a replica, with a 360 two barrel and single exhaust... (horrors... I hate to think that this was an actual unit somewhere).

Oh, by the way, in the filming of the Blues Brothers movie, Universal managed to mangle 8, yes eight, magnificent ex-patrol cars. All destroyed beyond redemption. Sad.

In 1974, 4,874 Monaco Specials were made — that includes both police and taxi models — for the United States, in addition to 20,810 Monacos (coupes, sedans, and wagons). In 1976, 2,426 Monaco police cars were sold in the US, in addition to 3,686 civilian Monaco sedans. As a top of the line vehicle, Monaco’s production was always far lower than the Coronet; over 60,000 Coronets and Coronet Customs were made in 1974, and that was a bad year for the Coronet. In comparison, Dodge managed to sell nearly 90,000 Dart Swingers, nearly 80,000 Dart Customs, and nearly 60,000 Dart Sports.

Squad cars | Dodge Monaco | 1974-75 Chrysler cars | Dodge Monaco police cars

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