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Misunderstood Classics – 1983 Cody Coyote

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…

  • Jeff

    I’m currently building a Coyote myself. Can’t find the steering wheel but I’ll be close. Mine has a VW pan like the original but mine has a custom a-arm front suspension and instead of the VW engine and tranny, I’m running a Porsche 915 5-speed transmission hooked to a Subaru EJ25 engine. I’ll be getting close to 190HP out of it. Check out the website and the forum.

  • Highway

    I have the original stunt car chassis and am rebodying it with my montage body. it will be true to the original stunt car when complete. I’d love to see photos of your car and progress and I’ll share mine.

  • Jim

    Actually, those aren’t kit car tail lamps. They were actually pulled from a production car……the Chevrolet Monza notchback coupe. They flipped them upside down and swapped left to right, but they are Monza tail lamps.

  • Sodbuster

    Hey Highway I worked for the shop and on the crew that built the two stunt cars for season one. which one do you have the two seat frame or the single seat frame? Both cars had specific uses. the two seat car was for chase sequences and filming with two stuntmen on board. the second car was built on a single seat configuration and used strictly for the big jumps. It had a full off road type long travel suspension of the time.

    It would be nice to see some pictures of it after all these years. if you have any questions about what went into them I’be happy to answer any questions you might have. It would be cool to see that puppy a runner again.

  • Sodbuster

    I forgot to mention that we only built the running chassis for these two cars. they were then sent to another shop to have the bodies put on them. That shop also built the principal car built on a stock VW floor pan. once the bodies were installed on the stunt cars we maintained them for the production company.

  • http://codycoyotecar david morgan

    I love that car as well as the general lee how much would it cost to buy a kit car (coyote)

  • Jonathan

    My wife got the 3-season DVD collection for me for my birthday this year. In the episode where they are re-evaluating a murder on the campus of Hardcastle’s college, there is a shot of the single-seat body that had long travel suspension. The single seat is set up in the middle of the car and the shocks can be seen sticking up through the hood. I guess this was an “oops” shot since it was a regular street shot.

  • eddie

    well for those who says they have the original coyote there are full of it cause i have it with the original ownership to prove it the car was in cali and was ship to florida were i took possession of it it was in bad shape it came with a 911 in it so for the ones that says they have it well your all full of it the car is located now in quebec canada and the original ownership in the name of universal studio

  • Rich

    any pictures of the coyote in Quebec?

  • david glen sartison

    love this car.

  • Mike Boatman

    Rear end styling and back passenger compartment glass taken from Corvette, radically sharp nose and grotesque dried scabs covering the headlights. Typical kit car over dramatic styling gives it a very cheap appearance . Bradley GT anyone?

  • Its Me

    Anyone than can compare the Coyote to the Manta Montage will notice they are not exactly the same. The wheel wells and wheel arches are different, so are the rocker panels. The Montage does not have the open vent in the nose like the Coyote, not does it have the same style headlight buckets. A lot of work went into turning that Montage body into a McLaren M6GT. The Coyote looks more like the McLaren than the Montage actually. I always wondered if they used one of the Trojan bodies that was made for the M6GT and modified that. Anyway, the Coyote has always been my favorite TV car and I had the chance to get one of the cars from Code One 15 years ago when it went up for sale.