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"The Beverly Hillbillies" and their Truck

Beverly Hillbillies 12 27 001 Jed Clampett may have once said, "Wellllll, doggies! Done looks like Jethro is gone to bein' a double naught spy. He's commenced to puttin' a pair of Granny's shotguns on the back o' the truck with a pull string fer reemote control, thowed a spring under my seat so's he can eeject them bad guys off'n the truck, and went and sprung-loaded a warsh tub over the driver's place so's he can ricochet off any o' them furrin' agents' bullets. He went and got him the pot bellied stove from the cabin out back to make up a big smoke screen, and done used some jugs filled with possum oil to make a slick spot to spin off them cars when he's being chased. Now he's fixin' to use the seement pond to test some sort of undeewater submarine shenanigans. Ya know, one o' these days, I gotta have a loooong talk with that boy."

Jethro's days as a secret agent may have been limited, but the appeal for "The Beverly Hillbillies" is not. Premiering on Sept. 26, 1962, the first episode was seen by few but advertised by many. The fortunate ones that saw the premiere could not wait to tell their friends what they had just seen, and the show became an overnight phenomenon, eventually capturing 8 of the 20 most-watched TV episodes of all time, eclipsed only by the final episode of M*A*S*H, "Dallas" (Who shot J.R.), the final episode of "The Fugitive", and "The Ed Sullivan Show" when he had on some long-haired quartet from Liverpool. Over 36 million people saw the second show; no other program has reached number one as fast (This is older information; the last episode of "Seinfeld" and others may have topped some of these). The show was number one all of 1963, and was in the top 20 ratings all nine years of its run. English teachers across the country literally pulled their hair out when people started talking like the Clampetts, though I'm not sure how many of Granny's "vittles" recipes caught on.

A 1 001 Jed and kin moved from a tiny cabin in The Ozarks to the massive Kirkeby mansion in Bel Air, Californy, not Beverly Hills. Located at 750 Bel Air Road, the house was only available for filming during the first three years, all in black & white; the impact of tourists and fans prevented any further on-location filming. No color shots were made. I took this picture of the house at night in 1984 during the Olympics. Sorry it's not better, but at least they won't sue me for it. This view of the front of the house from the street is gone forever; today, a high wall and trees stand where the pull-off gates, and driveway once existed. I guess fame has its price - fans actually came to the door and thought Granny lived there. Today, Nancy Reagan resides directly behind the mansion's grounds. But even though the Clampetts lived there in the lap of luxury, they never gave up the rickety old pickup truck that brought them from the mountains of Missouri to the hills of Beverly. 

Beverly Hillbillies 12 27 002 Originally a 1921 Oldsmobile Model 46 Roadster, famed car customizer George Barris (The Batmobile, Munster Koach, A-Team van, etc.) did such an amazing job preparing the truck for the series that many people think he did nothing at all to the truck. Actually, he combined a touring car body with the frame of a flatbed truck. After building a 1:25 scale model of the vehicle, I feel a connection to it. The truck seemed to change a bit through the series (since five examples were actually used), such as windshield post heights, areas of shading on the body, and bulb horn position, so compromises had to be made on the model. In one interview, Jethro (Max Baer Jr.) said the truck did not drive very well, and in fact, you can see it wobbling down Sunset Boulevard in the opening titles of the show with the beautiful Elly Mae and Granny enjoying the view.

One episode tells that Jethro sees James Bond in Goldfinger and decides to become a secret agent. He adds a hard metal hat, car coat, and shoe with a transistor radio in the heel to his wardrobe. Somehow he modifies the truck on his 50-cent-a-week allowance, then Granny tells him to take her to the market. She jumps into the right front seat and sees what she thinks is an assist handle, then pulls on it. Granny gets ejected and lands on a tree limb high above the front of the mansion. Other episodes allow Jethro to turn the truck into a helicopter to avoid LA freeway traffic, after which he crash-lands it in front of the mansion. He also builds a 15-second car wash by dipping the truck into the seement pond. The truck goes in just fine, but Jethro can't figure a way to hoist it out. We see bubbles as the truck runs while submerged. And in one of the final episodes, Jethro defeats the truck's smog effect by changing it into first a stem-powered vehicle, then electric. But then he has a problem finding a 3,000-mile-long extension cord and abandons the idea. 

Beverly Hillbillies 12 27 003 In another great episode, Jethro decides the family is not "with It", and decides to soup up the truck. In reality, Barris found an additional 1921 Oldsmobile Roadster and went to work. After stripping the classic truck to the frame, he added a 1969 Olds 442 engine, automatic transmission, Cragar mag wheels, Firestone Indy Super Sport tires, painted it Fire Red Metalflake with yellow rocker panel racing stripes, installed four bucket seats with chrome roll bars over each pair, and put two parachutes on the rear for added braking capability. For a connection to the old truck, he fitted a brass still-type horn in the same place. The model kit I built (AMT ERTL 31753) offered the ability to build either version.

But in my favorite "Beverly Hillbillies" episode, Jethro decides he needs a playboy pad and something called "qwizeen" after cleaning out girlie magazines from Mr. Drysdale's garage. He finds a small travel trailer at the city dump, packs it full of furniture and a stereo, then pulls it behind the truck down to the Commerce Bank and the "Kit Kat Klub" and waits for female company. Luckily, a house cat comes by and laps up milk with Jethro while he cyphers to it. At the end of the show, after being towed down to the beach, his trailer is lifted by the outgoing tide and Jethro proclaims, "Yee-Ha! I got me a yacht!"

In July 1967, show creator Paul Henning decided to film several episodes in England, so they loaded up the truck for quick overseas shipment by dismantling it. While shooting in London in costume and with the truck, the cast and crew were mobbed. Seems they were just as popular across the big pond as they were here, so the production company returned the next year and filmed again at the castle Jed had supposedly inherited. "Fabersham" to you, too!

Beverly Hillbillies 12 27 004 Luckily, one of the old trucks still exists and is available for public viewing. On May 6 1976, Henning donated the truck to the Ralph Foster Museum at the College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo., just two miles from Branson. Our family friend Lottie was kind enough to take this picture of the truck just for me when she was there.

In 1993 The Beverly Hillbillies movie hit the big screen. With an all-new cast, an all-new old truck was built, and an all-new mansion was used. Buddy Ebsen (Jed) reprised his TV role of Barnaby Jones in one scene, a nice reference to the original series. But we viewers still flock to our sets to see the Clampetts on reruns, their innocent humor timeless, watching the decorated truck carry Granny in the Possum Day parade or totin' the humiliated Margaret Drysdale and Claude (her poodle) to see Milburn down at the bank. 

So until next time ... "Set a spell ... take your shoes off ... Ya'll come back now, ya hear?"

--That Car Guy (Chuck)

Barris Kustom Industries (Barris.com), and "The Beverly Hillbillies" by Stephen Cox, are credited for the facts of this post. The black & white photo of The Clampetts and their souped-up truck is from "The Beverly Hillbillies" by Stephen Cox. The TV show is credited for the laugh lines on my face.

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The Clampett truck wasn't the only interesting vehicle in the series. Don't forget Mr. Drysdale's Imperials or Miss Hathaway's drop-top Sport Fury--not particularly special back then, but either one would make a great cruise-in vehicle today.

Nor can we forget the "Bugtussle O'fishal Car", an 1920s jalopy driven by the great character actor James Westerfield. As Miss Hathaway said about his "Mayor" character, "He doesn't come up with great lines... he steals them!"

Missouri? I thought Bugtussel was in Tennessee. Am I all wet here?

A great question, Jeffersonian!

The origins of the Clampett Family have long been a topic of discussion. My understanding is that Granny came from Tennessee, but the rest are from the Ozarks. Except for Jethro, they lived together in the cabin that opens the show, which was later moved behind the seement pond so Granny could feel more at home and make her "rhumatiz medicine."

My favorite parody of the show comes from watching "Green Acres", which was produced by the same people as "The Beverly Hillbillies." Initially on "Green Acres", "The Beverly Hillbillies" was a TV show; they even did a play in Hooterville about the Clampetts, with Oliver portraying Jethro and Lisa playing Granny, quite convincingly.

Later in the series, cast members from "Green Acres", "The Beverly Hillbillies", and "Petticoat Junction" all sat down together for a Thanksgiving dinner. Granny had even taken a shine to Sam Drucker. Somehow, the Clampetts went from TV characters to real-life people. Oh, the magic of Hollywood!

Praise Wiki, from whom all blessings flow...you're right, TCG. I had always thought the Clampetts were from Eastern Tennessee and here they are from my home state. Thanks for that. I've always love The Beverly Hillbillies and its spinoffs like Green Acres, now I can take some satisfaction that they're tied into the Show Me state.

The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, and Petticoat Junction were set in a shared fictional universe. Thanks to crossovers between these three shows and a few others, we can also say with authority that the Clampetts live in the same fictional world as Batman, Gomez and Morticia Addams, Cousin It, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, the Green Hornet, USAAF Colonel Robert E. Hogan, and Oberfeldwebel Hans Georg Schultz of the Wehrmacht.

Go figure.

Click here for the raw data: http://www.poobala.com/crossoverlistb.html#G15

Even "Star Trek" tried to launch a spin-off. I believe the episode was called "Gary 7", and featured a young Teri Garr! Then there was some guy and a cat, and old NASA footage. The spin-off did not go any farther than that, luckily.

Well,the Ozarks were never mentioned in the show as I recall....and given that Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs were guests on the show,they had to be from Tennessee..."Flatt & Scruggs" was a regular show on Nashville's WSM-TV on Saturday evenings for years even predating the Hillbillies

The Beverly Hillbillies show only had current Chrysler products in it. Nearly all the old TV shows had a similar agreement with an American car company. Here are a few that I remember.

Bewitched-Chevy
Andy Griffith-Ford
I Dream of Jeannie-Pontiac

"...and Oberfeldwebel Hans Georg Schultz of the Wehrmacht."

Luftwaffe, actually, but that's just a quibble.

Interestingly, the reason the show went off the air wasn't that the ratings had dropped. It was still quite popular, but the demographics of the audience (apparently too rural and too old) weren't what the advertisers wanted.

I had the opportunity to work with George Barris on several projects in the 90s. He was a genuinely nice guy who was passionate about his work. And he was a great source of stories of old hollywood. You can (could?) drop by his shop in the valley any time and check out the batmobile and others if you liked.

Fond memories.

Yes, the Clampetts were from the Ozarks. They did several episodes in and around Silver Dollar City, near Branson. When Springfield, MO built a new police station, they proudly displayed a large portrait of Irene Ryan (Granny) behind the front desk. Must've been a jarring sight to many a drunk... I have no idea if it's still on display.

No no no no a million times no!

The Clampett's were from Tennessee...though not exactly east, midddle or west and sure as heck not from Missouri regardless where the actors who portrayed them made have been born. The Beverly Hillbillies movie starring Jim Varney as Jed came up with a revisionist storyline that they were from Arkansas in order to work an invitation to the President who, at the time, was Bill Clinton to see his 'kin' Jed get married to a golddigger.

That's what made it so interesting to my family and friends. Granny claims to be a Confederate sympathizer, so that made it unlikely they were from east Tennessee. They talk about living in the hills and that leaves out west Tennessee. They mentioned swamps and that leaves out a whole lot of the state. It was a composite of rural characters that would have been home anywhere in the south, but without a doubt they were portrayed as being from Tennessee on the show.

According to Wikipedia:

"While Granny frequently mentioned that she was from Tennessee, the series never specified the state from which the Clampetts moved to California. However, they often referred to nearby towns such as Joplin, Branson, Springfield, and Silver Dollar City, all of which are in southwest Missouri. Early episodes also contained several references to Eureka Springs, which is in northwest Arkansas. All of the communities are in the Ozark Mountains. The show's producer, Paul Henning, is from Independence, Missouri, and donated 1,534 acres for the Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area near Branson."

I looked at the highest rated TV shows a few years back. Of the top 50 shows (I think by number of households) all were specials or one time events (Super Bowls, last episodes like MASH, etc).

The only exception was a regular episode of the Beverly Hillbillies from the second season, The Giant Jackrabbit. It's the only half hour show in the top 50. When the show was canceled something like 15 of the top 50 rated shows were BH episodes.

Granny explicitly said on one episode that she was from Limestone, TN, which is in northeastern Tennessee. This was a very big thing in Limestone, which is where I'm proud to be from as well. The likely reason Limestone was chosen as Granny's birthplace was because it is also the birthplace of Davy Crockett. I think Granny refers to her kinship to Davy in several episodes.

The Beverly Hillbillies was Gene Roddenberry's favorite TV show.

I shall never forget Ellie May's double barreled slingshot!

To That Car Guy...
At the risk of sounding like a Star Trek guy...
Gary in "Gary 7" was played by Robert Lansing....who had just finished the first season of "12 O'Clock High" His character was killed off at the start of the second season to bring a more sympathetic character in.
In the 80s, he was in "The Equalizer".


And for more weird "characters become real-life people"...the same thing happened on Emergency. In one episode they watch "Adam-12" in another they meet the officers at the hospital. Only in this case, I think they met Reed & Malloy first, then saw them on TV.

BTW: There, we have two more car-based TV shows...:)
Along with Rat Patrol, Route 66, My Mother the Car...

To John B: Hey, I think we're all Star Trek folks here!

Thanks for the info... I liked that episode, but it looked like they didn't put much effort or money into it. I'm glad they did not do a spin-off with those low production values. Seems they had enough on their hands, just trying to keep Star Trek going, what with all those nasty aliens, I mean network executives, after them all the time!

I remember "The Equalizer"... it was a great show! I would have never guessed that those two characters were one and the same person! Thanks for the Adam-12 info, too!

Nice! I remember the episode where Jethro decided that what the truck needed was... a car phone! And it worked, too -- until he reached the end of the mile-long coil of phone wire. Much merriment ensued.

with reference to the 1921 Oldmobile Model 46 ad on our site, that you linked to, we've got a bunch of other old-time car related ads online that people might enjoy looking at.

--Mike

Hello! I just wanted to reiterate what "Mike" above said--please be aware that the reference to the 1921 Oldsmobile Model 46 is from his terrific site and I submitted that particular Oldsmobile ad. Thanks!

Thank you so much, Mariangela! If you look close, you can see the signature round grille on both the Olds and the truck. Amazing!

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