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How Chrysler Became the Car Star of The Green Hornet

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author photo by Autotrader January 2011

Where would Batman be without the Batmobile or Superwoman without her invisible jet? Looking for a ride and not fighting villains, that’s where. Likewise, the Green Hornet wouldn’t be nearly as effective if he were without his car, Black Beauty and his chauffeur/sidekick, Kato. In the latest version of The Green Hornet (in theaters now), the role of Black Beauty is played by a 1965 Chrysler Imperial.

Fans of the Green Hornet series know that it began as a radio play, followed by a movie in 1940, where Britt Reid, a.k.a. the Green Hornet, drove a 1937 Lincoln Zephyr. “The Zephyr would’ve been cost prohibitive and there aren’t many out there,” explains Dennis McCarthy, The Green Hornet’s production car coordinator, of why the Zephyr didn't win the role, although it does have a cameo when Britt is seeing Black Beauty for the first time. The Imperial in the current movie is a nod to the car used in the short-lived TV series from the ‘60s. But it wasn’t the first choice for the movie. “Originally Sony was working with one of the big American car manufacturers when production started, but then it was just bad timing with the industry. A few other new cars were brought up as options, but in the middle of the decision making process, we brought out a ‘65 Imperial with lowered wheels and green headlights to show the director and it was an instant hit,” says McCartney.

There were 29 Imperials used in the movie, with three left in pristine condition. (One is currently hanging on a building outside L.A.’s Petersen Automotive Museum.) The rest were broken down for various stunts and shots. The suped-up Black Beauty features serious instruments to help the vigilante Green Hornet fight bad guys in L.A.: bullet proof glass, tires that re-inflate if they’re shot out, spikes that come out of the wheels to shred cars on the sides of it, suicide doors with machine guns, missiles, guns on the hood and a flame thrower.

Even without the superhero gadgets, the Imperial is a vehicle not to be messed with: it has more than 500 horsepower, superior suspension and “is one of the most durable cars from the ‘60s ever built,” says McCarthy. “They’re actually outlawed in demolition derbies.”

Car enthusiasts will spot some other beauties in the film belonging in Britt Reid’s father’s collection. “That’s a great part of the film,” notes McCarthy, who was tasked with finding 15 cars for the collection. “We filled the garage with the most impressive cars possible. There was a Ferrari 250, a Bugatti, an SLR Mercedes, a gullwing Mercedes, a ‘66 Maserati, some incredible muscle cars...it was just a nice variety of cars. But the Black Beauty was still the most interesting car out of all of them.”

The Green Hornet opened nationwide on January 14 and stars Seth Rogen and Jay Chou.

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How Chrysler Became the Car Star of The Green Hornet - Autotrader