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STARSKY AND HUTCH

The Red Tomato
As ubiquitous on the original show as the main characters, the Torino, dubbed "The Red Tomato” on the television series, added an essential dose of authenticity to the film.

The film's production required a total of nine Torinos to handle the chase sequences, peel-outs, and all-around snazziness called for in the script, but picture car coordinator Craig Lietzke quickly discovered that none of the original Torinos from the classic television show were available. Luckily, in 1976, Ford produced 1,000 limited edition red and white Starsky & Hutch Gran Torinos.

Lietzke and Transportation Coordinator Jonathan Rosenfeld found two companies, Premiere Studio Rentals and Cinema Vehicle Services, to customize the nine picture cars using tapes of episodes, old photos and model cars as guidelines.

Each car had its specific role while shooting. The stars of the group, used in close-ups, are the two picture-perfect suped-up "hero” cars (#1 and #2) with classic 430 horsepower 351 Windsor engines. Then there were two stunt Torinos (#3 and #4), equipped with stock 351 Cleveland engines, that handled the jumps and action-oriented sequences. Another two cars (#5 and #6) were designated "tow cars,” used specifically for sequences in which it was necessary to tow the Torino alongside the camera.

Car # 7 was a custom-made "Mic-Rig” car, essentially an insert car with the body of a Torino placed on the frame. The Mic-Rig combines a tow vehicle and insert car into an apparatus that allows filmmakers to shoot fast-moving, complicated stunt driving with the actors in the car. A stunt driver piloting the Mic Rig can take corners, back up, stop and turn at full speed, making it possible to believe that Ben Stiller is actually burning rubber and driving the Torino at breakneck speeds throughout the movie.

Cars #8 and #9 were engineered for a few of the more elaborate stunts – including a scene in which Starsky expertly pilots the Torino straight into the ocean. Launching a vehicle into the ocean requires extensive alterations to address ecological concerns. "You cannot have any type of fluids in the car,” explains Premiere Studio Rentals head Mike Walsh. "So preparation consisted of completely removing the brake systems, brake fluid, the engine, transmission, radiator – any type of hazardous material.”

Since the tightly-wound Detective Starsky never allows anyone else behind the wheel of his precious Torino, Stiller was required to do much of the driving in the film. He worked long hours with veteran professional stunt driver Corey Eubanks and became very comfortable performing reverse 180s, peel outs and skid stops.

In developing the cars that Stiller would be driving, Walsh followed a very simple rule: "Don't make it too much of a handful. I didn't want to go overboard with the amount of horsepower.”

As partner to the obsessively possessive Starsky, Wilson was onboard as passenger during almost every scene in which Stiller drove – but he doesn't seem to have a high level of confidence in his friend's abilities. "He didn't get good at driving the Torino,” the actor explains. "I'm not kidding when I say this…he loves driving the car but he is not a good driver, so it was really scary for me to have to ride shotgun.” 

Stiller is of a different mind. "I'm trying to figure out what the problem is, because I feel like I'm a competent, good driver,” he puzzles. "But other people seem to be frightened. We shot a scene where I rounded a corner and did a skid stop, and I looked over at Owen and he had this skeleton-face look. And Owen's not that good an actor that he could do a look like that and make it convincing, so I knew it was real. And everybody applauded and said, ‘Wow.' And I said, ‘Look, Owen, they said ‘Wow,'' and he's like, ‘That wasn't a ‘Wow, cool,' that was a ‘Wow, thank God we're all still alive

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