The Mustang Cobra II Revisited
Get Behind the Wheel of Kris / Jill's '76 Muscle Car
It’s the sweetest set of wheels in the entire series, and one of television’s most recognizable vehicles – Jill and Kris’ ’76 Ford Mustang Cobra II.
Bad guys look out – you can spot those unmistakable blue racing stripes a mile away. And although it ain’t the real deal, there’s one collector who owns something that’s pretty darn close.
Look no further than The Star Cars classic automobile collection. Based in the Western New York and Southern Ontario area, The Star Cars are host to a recognizable and still growing collection of vintage vehicles instantly identifiable to movie and TV fans.
“The Star Cars group makes appearances wherever we’re asked to: Car Shows, Fundraisers, Block Parties, Festivals, Parades, Grand Openings, Weddings, any event,” Cobra owner and group promoter Todd Mitchell says.
Among the familiar grilles are The General Lee (The Dukes of Hazzard), Herbie (The Love Bug), the Striped Tomato (Starsky & Hutch’s Gran Torino), The Smokey & The Bandit Trans Am, and last but not least, the Munroe Cobra II.
Good Morning, Cobra
Ford produced just over 25,000 Cobra IIs in 1976, and Mitchell’s 1976 Ford Mustang II Cobra II – purchased in 1995 - is documented as the only one made with the option combination that it has. Besides having appeared several times on local television, Mitchell’s Cobra has won 49 car show awards, including a few Mustang Club of America National Awards. It was even pictured in an article about Farrah Fawcett the day after her passing in a South Carolina newspaper’s website (read the article here).
“When I first bought my Cobra, I really had no idea it was on Charlie’s Angels,” Mitchell says. “I grew up watching Dukes of Hazzard. When I started taking the Cobra to car shows about a year after I bought it, at every show someone would come up to me and say, ‘You have the Farrah Fawcett Car!’ or ‘You have the Charlie’s Angels Car!’ So when TNT, USA, or TVLand would re-run episodes, I taped them just to see shots of my car. Now, of course, I have all 4 seasons that were released on DVD. If I had known the Angels drove a Pinto, Mustang II and Cobra II, I would have been watching from day one! I’ve loved those cars since I was old enough to walk.”
After 35 years on the road, this Cobra has racked up 162,000 miles on the odometer. It gets about 16 MPG city / 22 MPG highway, which, Mitchell says, is decent for a 1970’s V8 car.
As most fans know, ABC made a leasing deal with Ford Motor Company in 1973 which guaranteed the on-screen appearance of Ford vehicles on many of Aaron Spelling's popular productions of the time, including Charlie's Angels. While Kelly landed a Mustang II and Sabrina was saddled with the infamous orange Pinto, Jill (and later Kris) scored big with the sporty Cobra II. During the show's first season, the Cobra was the hottest thing in the Ford showroom, having just been introduced in 1976, the model shot upwards in popularity, largely due to being featured on Charlie’s Angels and in publicity photos with Farrah Fawcett sprawled on the hood.
The Cobra II design was all appearances. It sported stripes racing down the length of the car and the lower body, a rear spoiler, "Cobra II" decals on the fenders and chrome snake emblems on the grille and rear window louvers. The original Cobra package was offered in only a small handful of color combinations: black with gold stripes, blue with white stripes or white with blue stripes.
So Similar, You'd Think It Was Really Rosemary . . .
The Star Cars’ attention to detail for Charlie’s Angels fans is uncanny. To the casual observer, Mitchell’s Cobra is identical to the vehicle used on the show.
Walk around the front and you’ll see his custom-made California license plate 861-BMG. The actual 861-BMG plate – as seen on the series – was a genuine California plate. In the second season episode “Game, Set, Death”, Mitchell hypothesizes that the front plate was knocked off in a previous take of a driving scene, as it’s suddenly missing. “After this episode, they used four different plate numbers, all cardboard prop plates, the most common of them were plate numbers 436-YEB and 590-VGG. The studio probably just used what was available and didn’t think anyone would notice a different license plate. They were wrong, of course. But they never dreamed people would own DVD copies of the show 35 years later.”
While The Star Cars’ vehicle is a genuine Cobra II, just like Jill and Kris’ model, the only real differences are found in the wheels, the bumper guards (the TV model had guards, Mitchell removed his), the interior (the TV model had standard, Mitchell's has deluxe), and the transmission (the TV model, like most vehicles used on television, was an automatic; Mitchell's is manual.)
Wanna get behind the wheel and chase down a jewel thief? Go for it! The Star Cars offers fans the opportunity to take photos both standing next to their vehicles, as well as sitting behind the steering wheel.
The best part? Anyone who purchases a photo behind the wheel also gets the chance to “Call Charlie” from a customized replica of the Townsend Agency’s signature mobile phone unit designed by Mitchell himself. At the push of a button on the black retro handset, drivers hear Charlie speaking to them, using audio clips edited from the show and movies.
Filming the Car For Television
During the 1970’s, studio shops didn’t typically modify cars for filming standard driving scenes like the ones that are staples on Charlie's Angels. Brackets were mounted on the hoods and doors of the cars to stabilize camera tripods for interior scenes featuring dialogue, as well as camera trucks driving in front of the car they were filming. In some episodes, you can see marks on the top of the door and underneath the door where they mounted camera equipment on the Cobra II.
Although its bracket is still visible, the TV car's snake emblem is noticeably missing from its front grille until it reappears in Season 5, likely because at that point the model had been switched for a newer 1977 version. The TV car also had black-wall tires, Mitchell explains. "All Cobra IIs had Raised White Letter tires, but the studio didn’t want to have to pay royalties to a tire company so they turned the tires around so only the black sidewall was showing."
One of the Cobra’s shining on-screen moments came in Season 4’s Fallen Angel when Kris races behind Jill who is speeding along mountain curves in her borrowed Porsche. Kris and the Cobra trail behind the Porsche’s dust, finally catching up to the speed demon only when Jill pulls over to kiss guest-star Michael Delano.
“That episode is the most high-speed action the Cobra saw, unfortunately,” Mitchell explains. Could it really keep up? “In actuality, the Porsche is a faster car than the Cobra II, the Cobra II wasn’t really built for performance, just a fun visual package.”
Where is the real Charlie's Angels Cobra?
One of the single most frequently asked questions about the series is: What ever happened to the real Ford Mustang Cobra used on Charlie’s Angels?
The Townsend Agency website has done some research on the studio's fleet of vehicles and has only turned up dead leads, qualifying this as one of the show's enduring mysteries. The truth is, most studios hang onto vehicles used on their productions to re-use in the future, one way or another, whether as a crashable, burnable stunt vehicle or a repaint. There were - at very least - two Cobras used on the series (the original '76 was at some point swapped out for a '77), but thus far, there is no reliable information regarding their current wherabouts.
Some information states that as of 2010, one of the original Cobras was owned by a private party in Whittier, California; another rumor claims that one was eventually painted light blue and used as a crash vehicle in other productions.
“Details about the real cars are sketchy,” Mitchell explains, “I’ve been told there were four Cobras used for filming on the show. I’ve heard they were crushed from one source, but a couple of other sources state that some of them survived. I came across someone claiming they have one of them but never got a response when I asked to see some documentation.”
For more information about The Star Cars, be sure to check out the group’s website at StarCars1.com, and join them on Facebook (click here) for news, vehicle information and lots of photos. Stay tuned in 2012 when a YouTube Channel is slated to launch featuring exclusive videos of all the vehicles in the collection!
Do you have information about the whereabouts of the cars used on Charlie's Angels?
Please contact us with any information you may have about any of the vehicles used on the series!
(Photos of the Cobra II Courtesy of Todd Mitchell, The Star Cars)
BACKGROUND CHECKTownsend Agency original article by Holly November 19, 2011
"The Star Cars" interior.
The Cobra is carted away on a flatbed truck during on-location filming for Fallen Angel (1979).
The Star Cars Cobra. “It’s a blast to drive, everyone sees you coming! How a private detective could drive this car and not get noticed, I’ll never know. That’s the magic of TV, I guess.”
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