Green with Envy: The Beautiful Car of The Green Hornet

The Green Hornet is far from the typical superhero. Introduced to the world in 1936 at Radio WXYZ in Detroit, Michigan, the stories of Britt Reid and his partner Kato were born. As the series expanded into comic books and a TV show starring Van Williams and Bruce Lee, The Green Hornet reached the peak of its popularity in the late 1960s. Even when the series lost momentum, The Green Hornet remained in the hearts of fans for over 70 years. Just in time for the 75th anniversary of the original radio show, quirky French director Michel Gondry brought a new vision of The Green Hornet starring Seth Rogan, Jay Chou, and Cameron Diaz. It’s a star-packed feature film, but let’s not forget the secret hero of The Green Hornet.

The car, of course.

Meet the one and only Black Beauty. It’s fitting that The Green Hornet was born in Detroit because as capable as Britt Reid and Kato are at fighting crime, they would be in a pretty pathetic state without this beast of a machine. Referred to with generic car sounds on the radio program, The Green Hornet Black Beauty was finally seen on the ’60s television show.

A gorgeous 1966 Crown Imperial Chrysler sedan, this beauty was more of a beast, a car that exemplifies pure masculinity. Decked out with more weapons and gadgets than a James Bond Aston, the Black Beauty remains one of the most iconic vehicles in television. On par with the Batmobile and KITT for memorable television vehicles, the Black Beauty certainly deserved its popularity.

The ’66 Imperial is definitely a unique car. The last of the so-called “Elwood Egle designed” sedans (after the man who designed the body), this machine is long and powerful, coming in at a off-the-construction-line weight of 4,965 lbs. Only 8,977 of these cars were manufactured, making it already worthy of some attention before the Green Hornet branding was applied. The producers of the show spent $50,000 to morph the standard Imperial into the iconic car we know today. The first change they made? Try thirty coats of metal flake with a black-green pearl of essence lacquer, making the Black Beauty technically green.

Black Beauty is most definitely not street legal, and that’s how we like it

Fully-loaded, the original Black Beauty not only was a gorgeous example of vehicular design, but also inverted the standard of “defensive driving.” When Britt Reid inverts his garage to reveal Black Beauty, a car unlike any other, he knows the machine will give him the fire power he’s missing. On the hood sits two cartridge-head .30 caliber M1919 Browning machine guns, and situated over the bumper, loaded FIM-92 Stinger missiles. If the front end sounds overloaded, check out the M2 Flamethrower situated in the grill and the Benali M2 20-gauge shotguns hiding in the headlamps.

The 12-gauge door guns are also built into the front suicide doors, while in the back are four AIM-92A Stinger missiles, positioned to take out any pursuing bad guys. A tripod-mounted .30 caliber M1919 Browning machine gun in the rear, wheel spikes, and six AR-15 carbines round out a car that is more tank than Sunday driving machine.

When Columbia Pictures and the studio Original Film developed the modern version of The Green Hornet, the Black Beauty was necessary to keeping up appearances. Instead of finding a modern equivalent to the ’66 original, audiences found that the Black Beauty in Gondry’s film is very much and the same to the original car. Since comparatively few ’66 Imperial sedans were made, the studio had to use vehicles ranging from 1964 to 1966. It took a whopping 29 Imperials to make the film, and only three of those came out alive. These classics were buried under a ton of dirt, crushed, sliced in half, and generally man-handled throughout the film.

One perfectly built Imperial was rolled out to promote the film, but according to The New York Times, seven of the cars had a modified Chevrolet V-8 chassis and roll-cages to survive stunts. A single Imperial was designed to poke up from the ground, while others needed to survive a side-collision. Others were designed to show off bullet damage, while some modifications focused on camera orientation while the car was moving. Many of the cars were left non-running so they could donate parts or even just sit pretty for non-driving scenes. One had to be designed as drivable, with only the front half of the car still intact! For classic car lovers, The Green Hornet film was a massacre.

But that’s how it is. The Green Hornet would be a rather lame hero without his car, and like the bruises and beatings Britt Reid and Kato receive in the film, Black Beauty would see her fair share. She’s the unspoken third hero of the franchise, and it’d be poor sport to forget this kick-ass vehicle. If you’re ready to see more of The Green Hornet, Britt and Kano, and the Black Beauty, get your copy of The Green Hornet on May 3 for Blu-ray and DVD.