TV Mopars

Tales of Midland Avenue

1951-64 Plymouth Savoy

The Bluesmobiles

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

1974 police calibrated speedometer

The car is shown early, right after establishing shots of the prison; as 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.” That sets the stage for a spectacular (at the time) leap over a bridge as it was opening.

The car was claimed to be from Mount Prospect, Illinois; in real life, the cars may have been taken from any number of sourses, though odds are against an actual Mount Prospect car being used. The markings were loosely based on the California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles police cars; and the Monaco was, indeed, popular as a police car in 1974.

Dodge Monaco squad car

The Chicago Sun-Times wrote in 2005 that there were 13 Bluesmobiles with 40 stunt drivers; 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. Over 60 retired police cars were purchased, reinforced with safety cages, and, often, patched up to be used again. The Chicago Police participated in some chase scenes, and shut 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 aided by 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

Dan said that this car was used in filming, one of three still known to exist. It was given to him by John Landis after filming; it was apparently the one that John Candy (Patrol Officer Burton Mercer) rode into the side of a semi-trailer in the movie (while wearing in Illinois State Police colors).

In 1986, Dan gave this car to Roy, who painted it as a Bluesmobile, as it was Ellwood’s personal car.

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.

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 a 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.

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 Dodge Coronet. In 1977, the Monaco name was moved to what had been the Coronet; the “real” Monaco was now called Royal Monaco. 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 for my former department. 1974 was the new body style, 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.

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.

Dodge made 4,874 of the 1974 Monaco Specials — both police and taxi models — for the United States, in addition to 20,810 Monacos (coupes, sedans, and wagons). As a top of the line vehicle, Monaco’s production was always far lower than the Coronet — there were over 60,000 1974 Coronets and Coronet Customs, and that was a bad year for the Coronet.

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

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TV Mopars Tales of Midland Avenue 1951-64 Plymouth Savoy