Palm trees, surfing, and tough cops! That’s exactly what viewers saw as they tuned in to CBS on Thursday, September, 26, 1968 and watched the premiere of a show that would become a classic, Hawaii Five-O. Starring Jack Lord, James MacArthur, Kam Fong, and Zulu, the show, filmed entirely on location, followed an elite state police unit that took a no-nonsense approach to the toughest crimes that occurred in the paradise that is Hawaii. But most importantly, there were the cars, Ford Motor Company cars, to be specific.
Splashed all over the small screen, were some of Ford’s best, but the real star of the show was a 1968 Mercury Parklane Brougham 4-door hardtop that belonged to the main character, tough guy Steve McGarrett, the head of Five-O. It was big, black, and beautiful. Wearing Hawaii license plate F6-3958, it did its duty chasing the bad guys all around Honolulu for six of the twelve seasons the show was on the air. It starred in approximately 130 episodes, making it perhaps the most recognizable Mercury on the planet. Then, at the start of the 1974 season, it was replaced by a black ’74 Mercury Marquis Brougham 4-door hardtop. Occasionally, you would see it again on the show as a stunt car, getting the crap beat out of it. Then there came that fateful 1978 episode, “Number One with a Bullet”, where the beautiful Parklane was partially blown up at the beginning of the show.
But that’s not the end of the story. Today, the car exists in the collection of Mike Timothy of Chicago. The story is a bit complex, but here is a short version. Mike was fascinated with the big Mercury. His desire to own it became so intense that in 1986 he set out for Honolulu to see if it still existed. Through some contacts, he learned that CBS still maintained a production warehouse at Fort Ruger and that if it did still exist, it would most likely be there, or what was left of it anyway. A well placed bribe got him inside and a security guard took him directly to the remains of the once proud star car. It did exist, but just barely. It had suffered moderate damage from its swan song appearance on the show. Nearly every body panel was dented or missing, trim was missing, and a torn and partially burnt interior was trashed by a mongoose that lived in the trunk. Heart broken, but optimistic, Mike recorded the VIN and headed for home.
Now the hard part began. Numerous calls to CBS were made, but they avowed any ownership to the car. Ford, too, had no record of the car. How could he find someone to admit ownership, let alone sell the hulk? Eventually he wore CBS down and they gave him what amounted to a “quit claim”, terminating any interest CBS might have in the remains. Besides, they were probably glad to clean out that corner of the warehouse anyway. Several months later, the hulk was crated up and shipped to Long Beach, CA. From there, it made its way to Chicago by train and truck.
Three years and nine parts cars later, the restoration was complete, though little of what left Hawaii remained. The big block 428 cubic inch V-8 is original and with over 75,000 miles on it, is still capable of chasing down criminals, even on the mainland. However, all body panels, trim, interior, and vinyl top had to be replaced. Keep in mind that this is a car that has little in reproduction parts available. You have to have good parts cars, hunt down as many new parts as you can, and sometimes make do with what you have.
The Mercury actually served double duty. In addition to being a prop on the show, it was Jack Lord’s ride. Every morning, a studio employee would pick Jack up at his apartment and take him to the studio or location of that day’s filming. At the end of the day, it would drop him off at his home. In the glove box, Mike found an envelope with an interesting surprise. It contained ten candid photos, shot on location during filming. Six of them are of the car; four of them are of Lord. It appears they were taken in downtown Honolulu during the 1972 taping of the “V for Vashon” episodes. Once used and abused, this star of the small screen now lives a pampered life and is a lasting testament to one of the longest running shows in television history.