Movie Cars, Fantasy Living in Reality
They say you should never meet your heroes, but they never said anything about building them.
Brian Scanlon was only 6 years old the first time he saw a screening of the Blues Brothers as a rerun on cable in the 1980’s. He grew up as a car-guy collecting Hot Wheels and watching shows and movies like The Dukes of Hazzard and Cannonball Run. (How many of us can relate to that?) Seeing Elwood and Jake Blues evade police in a 1974 Dodge Monaco left an impact on young Brian, only he wouldn’t realize it until decades later.
The Blues Brothers (1980)
If you’ve never heard of Jake and Elwood Blues then you are missing out on a truly unique film. A comedy musical with stunts that rival Fast n the Furious. Born out of an SNL sketch, two jailbird brothers are on a mission from god to save the orphanage they grew up. They need to raise $5,000 in eleven days. The only way they know how is to get the band back together while outrunning Chicago PD, Jake’s ex, state police, angry country singers, and the “F***ing Nazi party.”
Besides having a band “powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline” Jake and Elwood’s only weapon is their car. A 1974 Dodge Monaco ex-Mt. Prospect police car that in the hands of Elwood is capable of always staying one step ahead of Johnny Law.
The Blues Brothers Band included music legends like Donald Dunn, Steve Cropper and Matt Murphy. The film also has musical appearances by James Brown, Cap Calloway, Aretha Franklin, and Ray Charles.
My Kingdom for a Monaco
The story of Chicago’s Bluesmobile starts in 2016. Brian had decided to quit the rat-in-a-maze race of his corporate job to go into business for himself. The move left him feeling stressed beyond the usual standards. Lucky for Brian he has a very supportive wife who suggested he get a hobby to keep his mind busy while blowing-off steam. Building a childhood dream car seemed like a good idea.
Much like second generation Dodge Chargers, finding a 1974 Dodge Monaco is tough. You either find them too rusty to save or too expensive to own, and sometimes both. He ended up finding a 1976 Dodge Royal Monaco that was a two-owner survivor with only 66k miles. What drew Brian to the car was that it had a tan interior which is a rare option on this particular model. Not to mention it was a big block car.
The original asking price for the ’76 was too high, but it later turned out to be a bluff to keep demolition derby builders away from this pristine full-size Mopar. After convincing the owner they he wasn’t going to gut-it and smash-it like an automotive gladiator the car was his.
It’s important to note that he did not tell the owner what he was planning on doing with the car. All he said was that the car was going to be looked after, kept dry, and loved – which is true. Brian worried that letting the owner know that he was going to turn it into a battered police car replica from some movie in the 80’s would be a deal breaker.
Is It the New Bluesmobile or What?
All you Mopar people already know that a 1976 and 1974 Dodge Monaco don’t look the same. The frontends are different, but the rest of the car are pretty much interchangeable. However, parts for these cars are expensive and hard to find. Brian wasn’t about to pay outrageous prices for a set of rusty Dodge fenders.
In order to make the frontend look like a ’74 Brian created fender caps using fiberglass.
It took him 6 months to complete the car in his garage. He used original ’74 parts to finish the look of the frontend and modified the bumper to make it look like a ’74. He fabricated the push-bars to look as they did in the film and found a spotlight for the driver side. The only added feature that wasn’t in the movie is a passenger side-mirror for safety.
The paint job is acrylic chassis black gloss with spinnaker white gloss. Police graphics were done using handmade stencils and various spray can and sheens to make it look authentic to the film. The interior includes a Craig 8-track fitted into a cut dash (like the movie), screen accurate steering wheel, radio delete panel, and missing cigarette lighter.
Brian’s Bluesmobile is one of the best replicas I’ve ever seen. The details are spot on!
On a Mission
At first, the car was just a therapeutic way of getting away from work related stress. He would take the Bluesmobile to local car shows and meets. I was surprised when he told me that whenever he arrived at an event he would get mixed results from people.
Some people simply didn’t know what the car was. All they saw was a worn retired police car parked amongst muscle cars with diamond finish wax jobs. Others mistook the car as a star-car from the Andy Griffith Show (Seriously!) But of course living in Chicago there were always people who knew what the car was, what he was doing, and showed their appreciation.
Brian’s wife suggested that he create a blog showing the Bluesmobile creation and showing it out on the streets of Chicago. That led to social media accounts about the car, and a cult following started to blossom. He started to get messages from people who wanted to see the car, take rides in it, and go on tours around the windy city in the infamous Bluesmobile.
Currently, people can hire the car for their corporate events, parties, tribute bands, etc.
The Chicago Bluesmobile is the only known tribute movie car that actually lives in the city of Chicago. Others may try to claim the same but often live somewhere in the mid-west. Having this car in the heart of the city only adds to its celebrity.
This year Brian plans on taking the car on tour to several Wizard World comic conventions in the mid-west.
Driving the Dream
I would like to thank Brian and his family for letting me write the story on their Bluesmobile. I would also like to applaud Brian for his hard work in bringing this vehicle to life from the big screen.
If you grew up with a passion for cars chances are you had one or two vehicles that stayed in your dreams. From Herbie to the A-Team van, whatever it may be. Being able to see them in the sheet metal is only possible because of people like Brian who set out to build them and show them to the world.
The Bluesmobile is one of my personal favorite movie cars. It created my fascination with police cars and the mystical powers we place on them. If I’m ever in Chicago I’ll definitely ask Brian for a spin down lower whacker drive in his black and white 1974 Dodge sedan.
Find the Bluesmobile
Check out Brian and his Bluesmobile on his website. Or follow him on his various social media accounts where he posts daily photos of the car out and about in the windy city and at various film locations.
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