Welcome to the inaugural Vehicle Patrol report! Like Tie Patrol, in this first report, we’ll cover Season 1 Episodes 1-8; later reports will vary in the number of episodes covered…
Now—sit back and enjoy a bit of a stroll through some of SMK’s vehicle moments.
In these first episodes, Amanda’s car is a cream and wood colour Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon with Virginia plate JR4-502. (Later in the series it morphs into an Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera station wagon, with the same plate, and—finally—Amanda gets a Jeep Grand Wagoneer with Virginia plate FS4-291; more on those changes when we get there.)
The first (distant) glimpse we have of Amanda’s car in the series is in a scene-setter in The First Time, when it’s parked in the driveway outside her house:
Not long after, we see Amanda and the boys (and a friend) in the Ford at Moby’s Dock… and as Amanda is escaping from pirate Scarecrow , we see a glimpse of the interior (those’re some pretty sweet seats! ):
The first time () we see Lee’s Porsche, it’s parked in the garage at the “dumb” (Amanda’s word) costume party:
Lee gets very worked up and explains to Amanda “We are in the garage! Do you think that I would let those valets park my car? A car that happens to be a classic 1963 Porsche 9… 350…” (pauses—to control himself) “I’m sorry.” Hmmm… a 1963 Porsche 9350 (or 950, or 350)? I don’t think so! Porsche had a 356 model—which this appears to be (Series 60 – denoted by the 60 on the rear engine cover)—but no 9350/950/350. Oopsie! (There’s a discussion about the car at the Internet Movie Cars Database.)
So—was this crazy model number a BB flub , or deliberate acting to show Scarecrow worked up about how much the car means to him? I went to check the script on Petra’s smk-land site (thanks, Petra—you rock! ) to see if it would shed some light on the mystery of the Porsche model, but in the script (third draft, 3 February 1983) the party takes place on a yacht at the marina –> no parking garage scene—their escape from the baddies was to be made on a launch!!! (However, the script does note that Lee’s Porsche is “a classic 1965 model” in the scene-setting notes for the post office break-in—not 1963.)
Unlike Amanda’s car, the license on Lee’s car is very elusive in these early episodes (the Porsche doesn’t have a front plate, and we rarely see [all of] the rear one, I guess ‘cos he’s a top agent—ROFL!)—but it turns out to be Washington DC plate 9S1-407.
Later in the series, the Porsche 356 morphs into a Porsche Targa. At the 30th reunion, BB referred to the Porsche (or Porsches, I guess) as a “bathtub with wheels… that constantly died”. ROFL! He seemed very happy that the Porsche was eventually replaced by the Corvette (Washington DC 3N6-105). More on the changes when Vehicle Patrol gets to those episodes…
License plate styles on SMK
So—just how did SMK go about making the vehicle license plates look realistic, but not too realistic?
The blue text on white “NATION’S CAPITAL” style Washington DC vehicle plate—used predominantly on SMK—was, in reality, only issued between 1978 and 1984. (However, this tag line had been previously used—between 1968 and 1974—but in black text on white, and with no graphic, or lines.) The immediately previous tag style (used 1974-1978) was “BICENTENNIAL”, and in 1984, the style switched to “A Capital City”—used until 1991.
Washington DC plate information source: http://www.dcplates.net
Washington DC passenger vehicle
The Washington DC passenger vehicle plates on SMK have the format dld-ddd where d indicates a digit 0-9 and l indicates a letter A-Z. In reality, Washington DC passenger plates from this era only had digits, i.e., ddd-ddd. (Currently, passenger plates have the format ll-dddd; the changeover occurred in 1997—ten years after SMK’s run.) Example—9S1-407—Lee’s Porsche.
Washington DC government vehicle
The Washington DC government vehicle plates on SMK have the format dddd-DC where, again, d indicates a digit 0-9. In reality, Washington DC government vehicle plates from this era had the format DC-dddd or GVT-dddd. Example—4328-DC—Agency sedan.
Washington DC commercial vehicle
The Washington DC commercial vehicle plates on SMK have the format C-dddld, where, as before, d indicates a digit 0-9 and l indicates a letter A-Z. In reality, Washington DC commercial plates from this era had the format C-ddddd. Example—C-648F9—baddie murder truck.
From what I can make out, the “Virginia” (in blue) style of Virginia license plate was issued between 1979 and 1994. Prior to this—between 1973 and 1979 (and following—between 1994 and 2003—outside of SMK’s run) “VIRGINIA” (in blue) was used on issued plates.
Virginia passenger vehicle
The Virginia passenger vehicle plates on SMK mostly have the format lld-ddd, where, as before, d indicates a digit 0-9 and l indicates a letter A-Z. In reality, Virginia passenger vehicle license plates from this era (from 1971 to 1993) had the format lll-ddd. Example—JR4-502—Amanda’s Ford.
We also see a second style of Virginia passenger vehicle plates occurring on SMK—lld-dld—for example, an ice-cream truck: EN6-3K8.
Note: There are a handful of other state plates seen on SMK (e.g., Maryland), but I won’t discuss them here, since there are too few occurrences.
For the following license plate contributions, please keep in mind that many of the plates in an episode are unintelligible (hidden or partially hidden, not so great resolution, moving too fast, etc.)… However, please be sure to shout out if you spot any errors or omissions on my part!
Real license plates on SMK
Service Above And Beyond
I believe a real license plate—Washington DC plate 794-633—is seen in SAAB, outside of Victoria Greenwich’s house:
Lee uses a fake license plate
The ACM Kid
Lee uses a fake Texas license plate—C2B-942—in TACMK to help keep up his Ricky Joe cover (I guess he didn’t know at the time that Amanda would do such a stellar job of it “Frankly, Ricky Joe, …”)! It’s nice to know that the baddies pay attention, though:
So—that’s it for now, kiddies. Does anyone have any thoughts regarding how well Lee and Amanda’s cars suit their personalities and lifestyles? (It’s OK–it’s SMKland… practicalities don’t have to be involved!) Just off the top of my head, I think the cars do kind of suit them: Amanda’s station wagon is practical and reliable—just like her—although not one of a kind the way she is, and Lee’s Porsche is a showpiece—like Scarecrow (as opposed to the hidden Lee). I think it’s Lee that likes the the fact that it’s a classic… maybe likes the idea of having something with history since he missed out on so much with losing his parents (does that make sense?). It does crack me up, though, seeing them—or even just Lee—tooling around in the little car (though not quite as little as Cousin Itt from the Munsters car—a Messerschmitt KR200). Thoughts/comments, anyone?
I’ll return with the next part, which will include gems such as Amanda’s license plate goes AWOL, magical moving license plates, and crashed/wrecked vehicles, in a day or two… In the meantime, let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see Vehicle Patrol cover!
Well, this post was just brilliant! I had no idea what to expect and didn’t really expect to find it entertaining since I’m not a car person but that was fascinating and funny at the same time. I still can’t stop laughing about BB calling the Porsche a bathtub on wheels…
I always thought their cars fit them really well and that even their upgrades fit their character arcs quite nicely except for Amanda’s Jeep in season 4. I thought that was a terrible choice. She only has two kids so doesn’t need a boat (like I do for my five!) I always felt her season 4 choice would have been more professional, something that would still fit her family but also blend in well for spying activities.
I was a kid back when I first fell in love with this show so both the Porsche and the Corvette were and always will be the hottest cars around for me simply because Lee chose them. That was all I needed to know back then and I’ve found those little things stay with us.
So true. A classic Porsche will always make my heart beat a little faster.
Can I just say (and not get flamed) that I really loathe the wood effect trim of the station wagon. I mean it’s metal. Why fake it being made out of wood?! It’s not something we really see over here (thank goodness) 😉
Ah the Porsche. My fave. Bathtub with wheels…..tsk tsk BB don’t diss the Porsche 😉
How complicated are US licence plates?! Well done KC on going above and beyond in the pursuit of information on licence plates 🙂
I loved the Corvettes. I remember that as a kid my brother and I had a bet to see who would get one first. Not sure when we gave up on that fantasy. At one point we used to call it a Sting Ray. I think we were enamored of the late 60s and 70s versions of the ‘Vette. I wasn’t too much of a fan of Lee’s Porsche. I have a retired teacher friend (she’s 70) who always wanted a Corvette. She saved and saved and bought one many years ago. I have only seen it a few times as she only brings it out in the Summer. Winters here are deadly on cars. It is bright yellow. Not quite taxi cab, but yellow nonetheless.
Station wagons were big family cars for a while. Several high school friends of mine, along with myself all attended the same college. We would share rides back and forth to school. Nothing like riding backwards in the rear of a station wagon Then along came mini vans!
Yeah, I personally didn’t care for the porsche. It seemed so small for such a tall man I expected clowns to jump out of it or something. Now the vette, I liked. Sexy car for a sexy man.
I often think of the tall man in the little car on The Simpsons… 😀
Ahhh there is something for everyone!
oh and thanks KC, I knew you’d know about Benson’s showy red sports car! I’ll look forward to hearing more about it!
OMG–funny that you mentioned the Stingray… I saw one today! A red one. 🙂
SoCal is a good area for classic cars… warm and dry–bad for fading paint and yellowing headlight lenses, but very little body rust–just surface. 🙂
So true! California is a great for car lovers. Now the latest that you see up and down the state are Teslas, the all electric gorgeous auto that is definitely big enough for Lee. I vote for Lee in a Tesla, dark grey or blue. He’d need a time machine, but heck this is SMKland! Oh my gosh, I am sitting at my computer looking at a bunch of Porsches in the driveway across the street and I just connected the dots. Duuhhh! The go-to Porsche guy for restoration of classic Porsches lives and works just across the street. We wake up most days to the hum of motors revving and check out the latest arrival from all over the state and country. My hubbie’s in heaven!
My husband is off on a ramble about Lee’s car. He owned the same year coupe in the 60s. Lee’s car was called a cabriolet in Europe and a convertible in the US (and a bathtub on wheels in a derogatory way by people who didn’t get aerodynamic design. His words. 😉 ) It had a soft top that was unique in that it was made of waterproof canvas and reinforced with sound deadening material. This made it a superior convertible for the time, well beyond anything made in the United States at that time, ie back in the dark ages when my hubbie was young, single, a stud and a total car guy (this is according to him). Now he’s still a total car guy. *laughing hysterically and trying to post this before he can stop me*
Yay Jule and Jule’s hubby! 🙂
So, ah, what year would that be? 1963–as stated by Lee–or 1965–as mentioned in the draft script? 😀
Hubbie thinks it was a “64 but is not 100% sure. ROFL! His memory yah know…. Oh, he’s gonna get me for this….*can’t stop laughing because he’s still rambling about cars, “Well Lee thought it was a 350 but what does he know blah blah blah….” Oh no, he’s back looking over my shoulder! heeeeelp me!
Stay strong! We’re here for you!
Oh my gosh, jule! That is hysterical! ROFL! My husband just leaves the room (or won’t come in) when I’ve got SMK on or am on the blog or working on a post. I keep trying to lure him in, but he’s not budging!
Yay for Jule’s fast fingers!
It gets even funnier. Last night as I crawled into bed my husband was still going on about the car and said “BB must be thinking of the Porsche 911 and that’s why he started to say 9, who knows maybe he owned one yada yada yada….” ROFLMBO!! Thanks for the encouragement ladies 😉 Bjo, we have a deal I don’t make too much fun of his programming and he tries to restrain himself. KC, this is a really entertaining post. Thanks!
Awwhhh… you’re welcome. I’m glad that you–and your hubby–were able to be entertained by it.
BTW–I had read an article at Ned’s where BB mentions what vehicles he owns… it’s one of the ones posted by Iwsod (“Think Lee Stetson’s Great? …”) and where the A-Team comments stemmed from, if you want to go and look at it. Anyways… it’s a 1984 article, because of the comments about the Olympics, and in response to a question about what car he drives, BB states: “I have several. A black Mercedes, a black Ford Bronco and a silver 280ZX. I usually drive the Ford.” Hmmm… a black Ford Bronco, huh? That’s one of baddie Bo Johnson’s vehicles (from ALAGHITM). 😀 BTW, the 280ZX is the Datsun 280ZX (Nissan S130)
So–he may have had a Porsche 911 previously, but not at that point in 1984. 🙂
KC, you’ve made my head spin trying to figure out how you kept that all straight!
It made my head spin, too, but I think it helps that I’m a smidge, uhhh… persnickety (that’s the polite term, anyway)…
Yes I was very sad that the Porsche was replaced in season 2. I loved that car (well, maybe was attached to it.) 🙂
It was certainly more unique than the Corvette… 🙂 Though that in itself, I think, is a big minus for super secret spy activities where you want to remain undetected. Good thing he could borrow from the Agency motor pool when needed… like when the Porsche was in the shop yet again. 😀
too funny Cindy! Yes, you don’t LOVE a car 😉 good one!
Is it naughty of me if I say that – Umm.. well I love Lee and his character and the corvette is so over the top macho that it fits the story well and everything – but I find it a bit umm.. well.. showy and ummm.. I think it makes Lee look like an older man trying to reclaim his youth or something..by season 4 I found myself thinking- really? maybe it’s time to move on Lee!
Don’t mind me- maybe this is just my aussie eyes talkin here because we rarely see corvettes.. *iwsod hides behind sofa*
So what car would you have him drive in S4, iwsod? Back to a newer model of Porsche?
A Corvette is definitely a most American muscle car. I would not be surprised if the only purchasers of this car were Americans. And I do get to see a lot of Corvettes where I live and they are mostly driven by older men – so you are hitting a bit of a stereotype for me.
When I started my first real job there was another new hire who just happened to be veeery good looking who bought Lee’s model Corvette but in red. I used to salivate over that guy and the car. Then I found out he was kind of a jerk and he lost a bit of his luster. But I still coveted his car!
Oh LOL! I have no idea! I liked the idea of Lee driving a classic older car (but not a stuffy car).. quality, history.. and style.. but the corvette? well.. I enjoy it because it is Lee’s car only really. Wasn’t there a line Phillip says about how corvettes are great with the ladies? David Benson had a car that looked similar.. says it all to me.. ahem.. They have that reputation for me that they are a car for a player- and by season 4- Lee is happily no longer a player. eek- sorry it’s probably just me! And sorry to corvette lovers!
I don’t know I’m not a car fan anyway… it doesn’t matter.. we never got to see beyond season four anyway.. I can imagine Lee moves on to another car- and we can discuss this more when we get to season four.. maybe people can suggest then what Lee’s next car would have been..bye!
David Benson’s car is actually a rare special edition… but I’ll cover that in the next round of Vehicle Patrol (episodes 9-15). (Yeah, I’m a tease.)
Or… maybe… I’ll do a special Vehicle Patrol report covering some of the interesting (?) vehicles on SMK. Yeah–I think I like that idea.
I think there cars fit their characters at the beginning as well. I love it when we see them driving the others car or even sitting in the passenger seat. It is a great visual to how they are affecting each other by spending time together.. Do you think Lee had ever seen the inside of a station wagon before he had met Amanda?
There is a fanfic somewhere that tells the story of how Amanda ended up with the Jeep between seasons 3&4. I forget the name at the moment. Maybe I can find it somewhere. It is a believable one as far as I am concerned.
Oh and car phones. I wonder if not all agents even had them back then. I remember when my husband got a car phone in (1992?), It was as his briefcase. and its battery life was minimal. I could see Amanda getting a pager first. Did they even have pagers back then? Those were the old days, huh? How did we live without our cell phones, how did parents let their children out of the house before cell phones?
Morley, yes… one moment that comes to mind is in The Long Christmas Eve when they’re driving out to the hiking to the cabin spot. 🙂 Of course, that doesn’t stop me from giggling when I see Lee get out of the Porsche… he almost looks like the tall guy in the small car in The Simpsons (tall people need cars, too, or whatever the quote is).
No, I really don’t think Lee would have seen inside a station wagon before Amanda… let alone had to sit in one or be driven around in one. 😀 Culture shock!
Great, KC! Thanks for all the interesting info!
I do like Amanda’s station wagon. We had a similar one, which was the first car I drove as a teenager (off-white with “wood” trim). In central and northern Virginia, station wagons have a bit of the “rich-people-with-a-horse-farm” aura. [That wasn’t us, by the way.] Today, they’re more likely to be Volvos.
Looking forward to future Vehicle Patrol installments!
Thanks for the response. 🙂 Vehicle Patrol was fun to do… although I did have a pretty bad patch of writers block at one point. LOL!
Look at those arm rests in Amanda’s front seats! They are huge! We had a station wagon growing up – and it was just a bench seat across the whole front. This is luxury, huh? What are those black rectangles though? Anybody know? What happened to her rear view mirror?
Love the pic of Lee and his car in the background! Which episode were you able to get a pic of his Porsche license plate?
I can’t believe there is a website out there devoted to all the D.C. license plates! I bet the person who created it though can’t believe there is website out there devoted to this show 😉
I always just figured the license plates on their cars were real – just no longer registered to a car anymore. My bubble has been burst! 😀
I said earlier that I do think the cars are a pretty good match to the personalities of their respective characters. It’s even fitting that Lee’s Porsche is a showpiece but underneath is a bit broken 🙂
Great post, KC! That was a lot of in-depth work! I’m looking forward to the next one 🙂
Oh, and great use of emoticons! Love the little ‘spy guy’.
“It’s even fitting that Lee’s Porsche is a showpiece but underneath is a bit broken.” Ooo. Good point!
Oh, I like that too.
Yeah–the front seats were pretty awesome, hence the “sweet seats” comment. 😀 I’m completely pulling this out of thin air, or somewhere else less sweet, but maybe the black rectangles are control panels for moving the seats backward and forward???
I’m guessing the rear-view mirror was removed for better Scarecrow viewing at Moby’s Dock? 😀 (It’s OK… it’s back in place when Amanda turns up at Mrs. Welch’s house… but then mysteriously gone again when Mrs. Welch and fellow baddie are using the wagon to chase L&A who’re in the helicopter. Maybe that was an LTD option? Removable rear-view mirror? ROFL!)
Ha hah, yes… I was excited–but kind of flabbergasted–to find the DC plates website… it proved invaluable. (Sorry for bursting your bubble. I actually don’t know what made me start researching the plate formats–but it turned out to be a good rabbit hole trip!)
I like the spy guy emotie too! And the rant one… LOL! I think my favourite, though, is the excited kind of bouncy one (called “jumpy”, if you know the one I mean)–it always makes me smile to see it. 🙂
“I’m completely pulling this out of thin air, or somewhere else less sweet” – ROFL!! Somewhere else less sweet…now just where would that be? 😉 Thank you for keeping it PG – LOL.
I think you could be right about them being the controls for seat movement. What about cup holders? Or something similar? I don’t even remember when cup holder first started appearing in cars.
LTD option – ha! yes, it could be. Anything to give me better Scarecrow viewing doesn’t need a reason though! And I think that is the right answer! Or maybe what would have been reflected in the rear view mirror needed to not be seen?
No worries about bursting my bubble 🙂 The license plate bubble is a very small bubble. The Lee Isn’t Real bubble was the only bursting one that truly made me sad.
Oh, and I forgot to say that I *love* your comment about Lee’s Porsche: “a showpiece but underneath is a bit broken”, just like our favourite spy guy. 🙂
And… the pic of Lee’s licence plate is actually from Double Agent… which is the Porsche Targa episode… but more on that in a future Vehicle Patrol Report! (The Porsche 356 doesn’t have Porsche written just above the licence plate like the Targa does… On the 356 it’s in a smaller, and different, font and located higher up.) I’ll show more Targa vs. 356 pics when Vehicle Patrol gets to the Double Agent episodes…
BJo wrote: “It’s even fitting that Lee’s Porsche is a showpiece but underneath is a bit broken 🙂 ”
Shiver me timbers BJo! that’s a very insightful observation! 🙂
Personally, I always thought that as Amanda’s character grew and she became a more professional and exciting woman her car should have changed to reflect that. After all there are cars that still have room for kids and groceries that are much sleeker. But I don’t like station wagons so maybe I am biased.(The jeep Looked just like the station wagon to me). After awhile you think Amanda would have gotten a car fitting for both hauling kids around and a high speed chase. That station wagon was always so conspicuous when someone was following her, and hard to weave in and out of traffic in that thing.
Also on a side note it also bothered me that Amanda was never provided with a car phone by the agency. She was always getting yelled at for having no back up, yet she had no way to call for any. The vette had one, but Amanda doesn’t get one. No fair. I always thought even if the agency didn’t provide one maybe Lee would buy one for her as he was always the first to yell at her for having no back up. My husband said it was probably because Amanda would have had a hard time explaining to her family why she needed a car phone, but I am sure she could have come up with some cockamania explanation as to why IFF wanted her to have one. It’s not like all her stories of what she was doing for IFF were all so believable, and I would think she would be more comfortable with the idea of telling yet another fib to her family, then she would be with the idea that she might not get to come home to them because she had no back up.
Yeah, the Jeep looked kind of like the station wagon(s) on steroids, didn’t it?
Well, the station wagon was conspicuous–yes–but there were a bazillion station wagons around, and many with similar colours, so actually not so conspicuous as Mr Super Spy Scarecrow’s Porsche. 🙂 The Ford LTD wagon did handle the off-roading in TFT pretty well–see my comment in the third of these three Vehicle Patrol sections when it gets published. 😉
Yes, a car phone for Amanda would’ve been nice, but yes–the explanations to the family… especially Dotty… would be crazy.
My first thought exactly – nothing is more conspicuous than Lee in a silver corvette – Show stopper!!
I don’t remember Amanda’s car in season 4.. I’ll look forward to seeing it when we get there – I’m not gonna look! I’m not!
Your part 2 vehicle patrol post will get published tomorrow (my time) KC 🙂
then, there is one more.. and then on to a little Murder Between Friends..
Hooray!! what a lovely change of pace from all that intensity and analysis of Burn Out- I was at risk of a burn out 😉 Thanks so much for sharing all the goodies you’ve found with us KC!
Okay.. I’m sitting back.. I’m enjoying!
Wow.. Amanda gets three cars? I didn’t know that!
‘Pirate Scarecrow’.. LOL! Is that Peter Pan and the wizard of oz or something?!
Yes pretty seats! and suddenly empty seats when she reverses out! But who could notice that when Captain Lee is lookin so mighty fine! I certainly didn’t until I could freeze frame things and let my brain recover!
It’s interesting we see both their first cars in the credits..
Wow.. Porsche dramas! who knew?! I bet all the Porsche fans were furious!!! [but begrudgingly still enjoyed Lee and his car 😉 )
Love the bathtub description!
Being an Australian I don’t get the finer details of US number plates.. so this is cool and all new to me! Me? spot licence plate errors? rofl! as if!! I think you’ll need to remain vigilante here KC, you are our last line of defence here in licence plate and car bloopers! 🙂
OH LOL I am sure there’ll be lots of suggestions about the choice of car for the characters and what it says about them! I’ll leave this for someone else to unpack for now.. you guys get to hear me jabber on all the time.. you guys go for it! Also interesting to explore: not just what character has what car, but also – what the contrasts between the cars say! 🙂
whooo can’t wait for the bloopers! Thanks again KC, a really fun read!
The whole bit about license plates was new to me too, and I live in the USA. You learns something new every day, huh?
I’ve always said SMK makes me smartererer 😉
Yes, I loved the Porsche bathtub description. 🙂 I actually tried to find a bathtub-on-wheels emotie, but didn’t spend much time on it–I’m sure I could make one, though. Hmmmm… 😀
Last line of defence in licence plate and car bloopers? Do I really want to be that, or should I quit now while the going’s good?
Don’t get too excited about the bloopers for S1E1-8…
You are totally up for the job of Vehicle patrol KC! You done good girl!
You can make your own emoticons??? And I was already impressed with your posts!
OMG, love this, KC! I do not have time to really get into it, but I did a quick read and am amazed at the job you’ve done here! Who knew this was all there for the taking? I do think the cars do fit the characters very well – station wagon and Porsche – but I’ll come back tomorrow morning to comment again. 🙂