I still have a copy of the Hardcastle and McCormick pilot on VHS. The quality is poor and I have to fast forward through the commercials, but I don’t mind. It’s a UHF time capsule that I unearth once in a while — okay, more than once in a while. Like the Bricklin, the focal point of this TV series is a guilty pleasure I keep coming back to. Yes, it’s a kit car, and the revving engine was a sound effect. So?
The Cody Coyote was actually a modified Manta Montage — a kit car based on the McLaren M6GT. Bruce McLaren had big plans for this car, plans that came to a halt with his untimely death in 1970. But thanks to Manta, this classic shape did not go quietly into the night. Contrary to popular belief, the Montage is a pretty faithful representation of McLaren’s original design. It shares many cues with Porsche racing cars like the 917 and 908. But the Montage seems much leaner, especially in a profile shot. The Coyote takes this a step further, removing the rear glass and emphasizing an open-air feel.
Of course, everyone always points out the kit car taillamps. Admittedly, these lamps clash with the overall feel of the car. But it’s the only serious deviation from the original theme — one that I can forgive. Many dislike the pin-striping and side decals, but don’t all TV cars need a little icing on the cake? (Think of the A-Team van or Face’s Corvette) The smoked headlamp lenses make a stronger impression than the clear McLaren lenses. The deep dish rims are an excellent choice, meshing well with the car’s signature sound. We never see much of the Coyote’s cockpit, and this is probably for the best. Cars of this type are not known for their, uh… interior accouterments, shall we say.
Like most of our Misunderstood Classics, this one has an unhappy ending. After season 1 of the show, the original Coyote was replaced with a DeLorean-based car (my brother and I used to refer to this version as the “boxy Coyote”). Brian Keith, who played Hardcastle, had difficulty climbing in and out of the first car, and the new gull-winged configuration solved this problem. But the boxy Coyote was so ill-proportioned and thrown together; even a twelve-year-old could tell something looked seriously wrong. After three seasons, the series was canceled, and the Cody Coyote was parked for good.
Several versions of the TV car, boxy and original, still survive. Some die-hards have even built their own replicas from Manta kits. As for the series, it’s available on DVD — albeit at outrageous prices. Personally, I think I’ll make do with my grainy old VHS tape — at least as long as it holds together…