Battle of the autos: Gran Torino vs. Camaro

Starsky and Hutch in car
Spelling-Goldberg Production/Columbia Pictures Television/ Sony Pictures Television via IMDb

Believe it or not, there was some debate about what kind of car Starsky and Hutch would operate. Muscle cars were overwhelmingly popular in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and producers were eyeing a green and white Camaro as a potential candidate. Rumor had it that producers ordered a line of Camaros for the show, but fate intervened.

Chevy was unable to accommodate the show’s producers, so, they looked elsewhere. Cue the iconic 1974 Gran Torino and the car made TV history. The car was so popular that Starsky and Hutch wouldn’t be complete without it. Let’s just say Ford was having an excellent year selling their Torinos, just sayin’. 

Starsky and Hutch might have been more than “just friends”

Starsky and Hutch bromance
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We live for bromances. Prime examples: Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World, Bill and Ted from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Shaun and Ed from Shaun of the Dead, but none compared to Starsky and Hutch. The two were considered the first to exemplify a “bromance.” Producer Aaron Spelling discussed he and other producers of the show said the protagonists were considerably close to the script.

The New York Post interviewed William Blinn, a producer of the show, 2004 and asked whether the characters had a thing on-screen. His response,”The way that read on paper, it was really bizarre,” Blinn told the New York Post. “[The writers] seemed to have been implying this gay thing had been there.”  

Paul Michael Glaser is an AIDS and HIV advocate

Paul Michael Glaser in court
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To say today’s political atmosphere is charged is an understatement. More celebrities are stepping up to the plate to discuss the importance of either climate change, pride, and/or universal healthcare. If we turn back the clock back to the early eighties, we’ll find that people like Paul Michael Glaser was on the forefront of such platforms.

After losing his wife and daughter to HIV, Glaser became an advocate for AIDS and HIV research. Before Glaser’s wife, Elizabeth, passed away in 1994, she established the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation in 1988. Glaser continues to be an advocate for HIV and AIDS medical research under his wife’s foundation. 

Starsky and Hutch are based on real cops

Starsky and Hutch cops
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Betcha didn’t know that the main characters of Starsky and Hutch were based on real-life cops. Did we win? Starsky and Hutch were based on two New York cops named Lou Telano and John Sepe. The duo was known for dressing unconventionally for investigations, such as dressing as women, Hasidic Jews, hippies, and even as a same-sex couple.  

Though their tactics were — albeit — a little weird, they were able to nab muggers, rapists, and murders. Telano and Sepe even drove around in a red car! When seeing the show for the first time, Telano and Sepe immediately recognized themselves on the screen. How? Aside from their car, the mannerisms and colloquial speech patterns were pretty darn similar. 

Telano and Sepe received little for their contribution

Starsky and Hutch side by side
Spelling-Goldberg Production/Columbia Pictures Television/ Sony Pictures Television via IMDb

Unfortunately, instead of being flattered for being represented on the screen, Telano and Sepe were not impressed and felt miffed. According to the Daily Mail, Telano and Sepe had a fall out with producers. The two parties argued over the exploitations about the cop’s trade secrets, mannerisms, eating habits, and even their hobbies portrayed in the show.

Despite their demand for any form of compensation, Telano and Sepe didn’t see a dime. Telano said: “’We hadn’t received a penny for our input, even though we had been taken to some nice restaurants. Once they took us to the 21 Club and we had to borrow jackets to get in. They used that in Starsky and Hutch.”

Glaser only wore his iconic cardigan three times 

Starsky wearing famed cardigan
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Starsky was known for many things, one of which, was his cardigan. Apparently, Starsky’s beige and black knit sweater was a popular accessory for viewers during the late seventies and early eighties. With that said, Glaser only wore his sweater three times during the show’s four-season run.

The episodes included were: “Pilot (1975),” “Starsky and Hutch: Terror on the Docks (1975),” and “Starsky and Hutch: Running (1976).” Although the cardigan wasn’t as popular as the Gran Torino, it did look rather dashing on Glaser, and we wouldn’t be surprised if cardigan sales went up after its appearance on the show. 

Real guns were used on-set 

Starsky in a white suit
Spelling-Goldberg Production/Columbia Pictures Television/ Sony Pictures Television via IMDb

Plenty has changed in Hollywood since the seventies, and no, we’re not talking about the traffic, we’re talking about something more specific. We’re talking props. If there’s one thing we learned, using real guns as props are risky (has anyone seen The Crow?).

Not for Starsky and Hutch! Throughout the show’s four-season run, the duo had used various guns as props, such as a Beretta, a Smith & Wesson, and a Colt. What hasn’t changed was Hutch’s handgun, which was also used in the 1973 film Magnum Force. Sure, it sounds cool to use heavy artillery on set, but we think it best to leave a gun under lock and key in dad’s bedside table. 

David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser hated the car 

Starsky and Hutch Gran Torino
Dave Hogan via Getty Images

Let’s talk shop. The 1974 Gran Torino was a thing of envy to anyone who watched the show. Even those who hadn’t watched the show knew about the “Striped Tomato.” Although the car was a fan favorite, David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser did not have fond memories in the front seat.

The steering was off and hard to maneuver; the upholstery was too slick, causing the cop duo to lurch from their seats during stunts. To some, the news is a stab to the heart. Similar to discovering that Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in The X-Files disliked each other (cue X-Files theme). 

France made the Starsky and Hutch popular

Starsky and Hutch staring out into the water
Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

The show was making waves in the US, but what producers didn’t expect was it’s growing popularity in Europe, particularly France. Why’s that? It was thanks to the voice over actors who translated the show. Though Starsky and Hutch were meant to be a cop drama(ish) with comedic highlights, the French voice actors made the duo campy and comedic.

Unfortunately, the French voice actors weren’t the ones who rose to fame. Like most working behind the scenes, they were outshined by the faces on the silver screen. So, the French audience fell in love with Starsky and Hutch, and not the French voices behind them.  

David soul is both musician and actor and speaks three languages 

David Soul in blue
Silver Screen Collection via Getty Images

David Soul was known as Hutch, but he was more than just an actor. He’s also a musician. From 1977-1982, Soul recorded four albums, one of which hit number one called Don’t Give Up On Us Baby. If that doesn’t impress you, Soul also speaks three languages, German, Spanish, and English. Wouldn’t any of us want to learn a new language or two?

Soul spent much time abroad, and with his love for Europe came a passion for speaking multiple languages. After the show ended, Soul left Los Angeles and moved to London. Today, Soul claims he doesn’t miss Los Angeles and returns solely to visit his kids and grandchildren. 

Huggy Bear almost had his own spin-off show 

Huggy Bear in black and white
ABC via Getty Images

Though Starsky and Hutch were the most popular characters on the show (It has their namesake, after all), Huggy Bear was showing serious potential. He was not only a cool ally, but he was also the show’s informant. The character proved so popular that producers considered giving him his own spin-off.

Unfortunately for the producers, the pilot wasn’t as successful as they hoped. Producers showed the pilot to selected audience members only to find that Huggy wasn’t as popular as they thought, and scrapped the show. Sorry, Huggy. Though Huggy Bear didn’t get his own show, he continued being a popular character in the series. 

Dolly Parton had an indirect cameo on the show

Dolly Parton head shot
Ed Caraeff via Getty Images

What if we told you that Starsky and Hutch had a secret cameo in their second season? We bet your scanning through the file cabinet of your memory to find out who, and we’ll tell you now, you’re not going to figure it out. The show’s episode Long Walk Down a Dirt Road was based on a real-life incident involving Dolly Parton and a stalker.

The case was investigated between Starsky and Hutch, but, instead of Dolly playing herself, she was portrayed by Lynn Anderson. So, in a way, Dolly was indirectly involved with the show. Whether or not she was actually present behind the scenes, is beyond us. 

Paul Michael Glaser wanted out of his contract 

Starsky and Hutch
Frank Edwards/Fotos International via Getty Images

We stated before that the show was the first to create the on-camera “bromance,” however, not everything was rainbows and Bud Light. The actors had their ups and downs on set. One of which was Michael Glaser wanting out on Starsky and Hutch all together. The actor had a season contract with the show’s producer and was reluctant to shoot a second season.

The only reason Glaser stuck around for season two and beyond was through studio pressure to appease high ratings. Glaser bit his tongue and continued working with David Soul, but he put his foot down when they pushed him for a third season. Glaser had to sue producers to get out of his contract. 

Paul Michael Glaser’s exit forced producers to end the show after four seasons 

Starsky and Hutch shooting and episode
Frank Edwards/Fotos International via Getty Images

Because Glaser wanted out of Starsky and Hutch the producers had no choice but to end the show after four seasons. There were whispers of there being a fifth season, but the ratings were never the same since one of their protagonists went on hiatus. Even if Glaser returned to play as Starsky, producers were unsure how reliable he’d be.

Their indecision to continue the show left Starsky and Hutch to slowly die and fizzle out. It wasn’t only Glaser who wanted out of the celebrated TV show. Soul eventually sought an escape from Hollywood. Although he had fond memories in the television show, Soul was happy to leave when he did, eventually moving to London shortly after the show concluded. 

The Dukes of Hazzard mocked Starsky and Hutch

The Dukes of Hazzard
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Sure, Starsky and Hutch were not the only TV show ruling cable, and the producers knew it, too. The Dukes of Hazzard clan was making noise on television. CBS had a rivalry against ABC and thought it would be hilarious to mock Starsky and Hutch’s Gran Torino in their first episode.

Not a lot of people know about cars (yours truly) but what producers did know was that Starsky and Hutch car was — considerably — famous. What better way to make a big splash than to make fun of your rival? Though, Dukes of Hazzard Dodge didn’t come close to the Gran Torino. 

The show was set in Los Angeles

Los Angeles metro
Ken Levine via Getty Images

Although the show was set in the fictional Bay City Police Department, the real setting for Starsky and Hutch was — you guessed it — Los Angeles. Like most movies and television shows, Starsky and Hutch was shot in sunny California. What most people don’t know is that there are actual cities with its namesake all over the United States including Michigan and Texas.

Unfortunately, it was Los Angeles that became a problem for David Soul and Michael Glaser. According to Soul, Los Angeles was all about sunshine and the beach, however, over time, it became who you were and who you knew. Another reason why the show bounced after four seasons. 

The writer used real names for the script 

Screenwriter William Blinn
Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage via Getty Images

Real people are the best reference for any writer. Ask any of them, chances are, your most beloved character is based on someone they knew. Take William Blinn for example. He used real names to bring Starsky and Hutch to life. How? Starsky was the name of Blinn’s high school friend, while Huggy Bear got the name from a disc Jockey he knew in his earlier years.

Here’s a fun fact, characters like Alice from Alice in Wonderland and Ursula from Disney’s animated The Little Mermaid, were inspired by real people. Lewis Caroll emulated a family friend’s daughter, Alice Liddel, as Alice, while the iconic drag performer Divine was the face and personality behind the sea witch, Ursula. 

Violence became a big issue in the late ’70s

Starsky and Hutch violence
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Violence on TV isn’t a novelty concept. We have age ratings because of the growing violence and drama constantly shown on television. For the 1970s, the topic of violence was becoming problematic. Car chases and gunfights are all fine and dandy, but the child and teen psyche were fragile for a conservative time like the late ’70s (though we beg to differ).

So, what did the producers on Starsky and Hutch do? Simple, cut back on action scenes and decided to focus on social interaction and — gasp — character development. Thus the bromance was solidified. Producers also opted to add a splash of romance just to spice things up for our cop bachelors. Nice, sentiment, right? 

A female cop was going to replace Starsky 

Starsky and Hutch lounging on car
Frank Edwards/Fotos International via Getty Images

Glaser was out for the count. Walking out on the show meant that ratings would most likely take a nosedive without one of their leading men. So, they considered different actors to take his place, including a female cast. Since Starsky didn’t come back for season three, producers sought out Roz Kelly to play Officer Linda Baylor to fill in the gap.

New scripts were written in the hopes that the show would take on a different light. For fans, however, we’ll never know if producers would have changed the name of the show if a female officer took Starsky’s place. Interesting concept, right? 

Producers were going to kill Starsky 

Starsky and Hutch at the water cooler
Frank Edwards/Fotos International

What would be a more dramatic exit than to kill one of the main characters of your favorite show? It would be no different for Starsky and Hutch. The producers were wrapping up the final episode and many thought up the idea of killing off Starsky. Nowadays it would be no surprise, but back in the ‘70s that would shock viewers.

As said before, Glaser wanted out of Starsky and Hutch, of course, the easy way out would be to kill him (creative, we know). Producers thought it fitting if Starsky was gunned down, giving him a death befitting his character. Thankfully, producers thought against it just in case they wanted to use Starsky’s character for later use. 

Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul had a role in the 2004 film 

Original Starsky and Hutch
Red Hour Production/Warner Bros/ Dimension Films/ AR-TZ/ Weed Road via IMDb

For those of you who don’t know, the duo returned in the form of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson in the 2004 film Starsky and Hutch. The film was meant to be campy and comedic, blowing up the undercover cops’ shenanigans to a whole new level.

What we bet you didn’t know was that David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser made cameos in the movie as their cherished characters. One last hurrah for the duo before their time in the sun dimmed. The film tipped their hat to a generation who still remembered the show for what it was. Two dudes fighting crime in a red Gran Torino. 

Paul Michael Glaser continues to act to this day 

Older Galser and Soul
Albert L. Ortega via Getty Images

Some people are just immortalized in that one memorable role? Like Courtney Cox from Friends or William Shatner in Star Trek, well the same could be said for Soul and Glaser. But, unlike Soul, Glaser continues to act to this day. His most recent role being Grace and Frankie (2015-2019).

But, like those actors, Glaser will forever simply be known as Starsky. That’s the trouble with making it big in your first role. The audience will always remember Glaser as that iconic character. At least Soul and Glaser weren’t typecasted and spent a lifetime acting in the same character. 

Hutch contracted Botulism

Starsky and Hutch on a bike
Spelling-Goldberg Production/Columbia Pictures Television/ Sony Pictures Television via IMDb

Although it’s rare, Botulism affects 1,000 people a year. It’s a serious illness that causes paralysis starting from the face and spreads throughout the body. A pretty terrible ailment, we think. So, it’s a little strange that such a rare illness happened to one of the characters on the show…but as part of the story. 

In a tense episode, Hutch was infected with Botulism and went into hiding. Starsky was tasked to finding a cure by the end of the show. If that wasn’t whacky, Hutch went into hiding, making the race against time that much more tense. Strange or creative? We’ll let the viewers decide. 

Some things in the show would not fly today

Starsky with woman
Spelling-Goldberg Production/Columbia Pictures Television/ Sony Pictures Television via IMDb

Though Starsky and Hutch was a decent show for Boomers, the TV show itself would never fly today. The behavior between Starsky and Hutch would be deemed unacceptable. For example, pinching female police officers, firing their weapons in public, busting down doors, unrealistic car chases, would be a huge no-no for this time and age.

Not to mention Starsky was a hothead and an unsympathetic character. Acting as Mr. Hotshot was a show for macho male bravado. Maybe it was good that the show ended where it did? The only acceptable version of Starsky and Hutch was most likely the 2004 movie. 

Glaser wanted to be the hottie 

Paul Michael Glaser
Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

In conjunction with the previous slide, Starsky wasn’t exactly a “loveable” character. It didn’t help that Paul Glaser pushed producers to portray Starsky in a more “flattering” light. In other words, Glaser wanted to give Starsky an ego boost. Some sources allegedly say that Glaser wanted his character to be the “hottie” in the show.

Glaser wanted it so that in every episode all the pretty girls would want to flirt or be around him. A power move that promoted masculine energy as the head honcho. With all that energy, wouldn’t it have been better to put all that energy in better character development? Okay, not fair, Starsky had his good points. He was loyal to his partner and to his work, and to most viewers, that’s what counted. 

It was hard to film in the vehicle

Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller
Red Hour Production/Warner Bros/ Dimension Films/ AR-TZ/ Weed Road via IMDb

So, the “Striped Tomato” wasn’t exactly the cast’s favorite car. As explained, the car steering was terrible and the slippery interior made it difficult to hang tight during car chases. Not only was it difficult for the actors, but it was just as difficult for the production crew, too. Cameras were placed inside and outside the vehicle. an uncommon practice during that time.

It was a foreign concept considering the show was the first of many to try this new angle approach. Another reason why the show might have been so popular was the inside perspective of the car during a high-speed car chase. The audience loved it, it was like they were riding along catching the bad guys in tow with their favorite characters. 

Over a thousand look-alike Gran Torinos were made for the show

Gran Torino
Lawrence Lucier/FilmMagic via Getty Images

It’s no secret that Gran Torino’s popularity blew up since the show’s conception. Because it was so popular, Ford built 1,000 Starsky and Hutch replica vehicles of the famed Gran Torino in the US, 100 in Canada. Ford kept a tight record of the sales of Torino equipment, while ABC tried to push all types of merchandise relating to the show.

It was a unique partnership that led to a prosperous growth between both companies. When has there ever been an opportunity for both an automotive company and a studio to join forces based on a singular TV show? The only show we can think of is CW’s Supernatural with its showcase black Chevy Impala.  

10 identical cars were used during the show 

Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson
Red Hour Production/Warner Bros/ Dimension Films/ AR-TZ/ Weed Road via IMDb

So, the show didn’t just use one car during the production of Starsky and Hutch. According to ABC, there were 10. Each car was used for various scenes such as stunts involving stunts, jumps, and high-speed chases. After some wear and tear, and considerable abuse, the stunt cars are still active. For a price.

In an auction, the Gran Torino look-alikes fetch a pretty penny. If the owner of such a car were to prove the car was an original, they could expect anywhere between $40,000-$50,000 at auction. How much would you pay for TV show memorabilia? Most of us are satisfied with a Cracker Jack prize, much less a car. 

The movie stayed true to the show 

Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller 2004 movie
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As we said, the show was later adapted into a film with the comic duo, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson and it stuck to the show’s roots. The 1975 Gran Torino tore the silver screen while Wilson and Stiller evoked Starsky and Hutch. Snoop Dogg also made it into the movie as the smooth-talking Huggy Bear.

The movie hit all the right key points, giving a nod to the ‘70s fashion and music. Sure, the movie was campy and comedic, but so was the show (and you know that’s true). What was interesting about the release of Starsky and Hutch (2004) was that their TV rival show, The Dukes of Hazzard (2005) film was released shortly after. 

Starsky and Hutch lives in the hearts of America

Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller with David Soul and Paul Glaser
Red Hour Production/Warner Bros/ Dimension Films/ AR-TZ/ Weed Road via IMDb

Whether you are a fan of The Dukes of Hazzard or Starsky and Hutch it’s clear that you enjoy a specific theme. Funny shenanigans and car chases, specifically. The ‘70s, for better or worse was one the golden ages of television (if not the first). It was no longer about Howdy Doody or the five o’clock news, but it was about drama, celebrity, and comedy.

Television became a significant cultural icon that helped shape the way we saw the world. And for Starsky and Hutch, they changed the way we see car chases and the back of a Gran Torino. Did we get you feeling nostalgic, yet?