“Yes,” says one insider, but his company is doing something about it!
From the July, 2011 issue of Popular Hot Rodding / By Johnny Hunkins / Photography by The Author
Ted Moser would never admit it, but he’s one of the most powerful men in Hollywood—at least to any car guy who likes watching movies or TV. Moser, owner of Picture Car Warehouse (headquartered in an old Cadillac dealership in Northridge, California), is responsible for selecting, building, maintaining—and sometimes destroying—fleets of automobiles that are used as props for movies, TV shows, music videos, and commercials. As part of that, Moser also builds high-profile “hero” cars, many of them muscle cars and hot rods. Technically, Moser is a “vehicle coordinator,” but that nebulous term really doesn’t do him justice. To illustrate what we mean, when we recently visited PCW, we found that Moser had been contracted to provide 50 cars in six weeks for the next Men In Black flick. What makes the job so remarkable is that unlike the prior films in the MIB franchise, this film will be set in the mid ’70s—meaning Moser will have to select, locate, repair, paint, and deliver tons of realistic vintage tin from the mid ’60s to the mid ’70s—and do it on an insane timetable. When it comes to delivering that quantity of Detroit iron, other Hollywood movie car suppliers are left flat-footed.
Moser is not your typical Prius-driving, granola-munching Hollywood elitist. He’s more like a one-man vehicular onslaught of nature. Even for a car guy, Moser’s passion for muscle machines runs extraordinarily deep. Not only is he a walking encyclopedia of automobilia, his desire to collect cars seems unmatched. Moser’s Picture Car Warehouse is home to over 700 running (or almost running) cars of every description. These run the gamut from turn-of-the-century classics to late-model muscle. Not being independently wealthy, and incapable of ignoring his burning desire to collect every cool car under the sun, Moser was quite literally forced into his current profession because it’s the only job consistent with the reality of providing a decent living while being able to collect obscenely massive numbers of rare old cars. Make no mistake: This is Ted Moser’s world, and we just live in it.
But all isn’t well in paradise. Hanging over Moser’s automotive utopia is a dark pall of destruction, one that eludes any acknowledgement by the film and TV establishment. Hollywood is killing our classic cars with wanton abandon at a precipitous pace. Take for example The Green Hornet movie, in which some 29 Chrysler Imperials were modified, cut in half, smashed, blown up, buried, and pocked with bullet holes. The vehicle coordinator on the film is reported to have said he hopes they don’t do a sequel because there aren’t any more good cars left. Likewise, fans of The Dukes Of Hazzard are well aware of the wholesale destruction of ’68-70 Dodge Chargers, both during the TV show and follow-on movies. The on-screen genocide of Dodge Chargers has simultaneously reduced the vehicle population while increasing their value beyond the reach of average enthusiasts. The same can be said of the ’70s TV series Starsky & Hutch, with its striped-tomato ’74-76 Ford Torinos. During the production of the 2004 comeback movie, prices of Torino parts and cars skyrocketed as the film’s two car suppliers went on an eBay binge that soaked up everything related to Limited Edition ’76 Torinos. (Only 1,000 were made.) We could go on for pages detailing the carnage, but you get the picture: Nothing increases a car’s desirability and value like not being able to get one.
Movers and shakers in the entertainment industry seem unfazed. In the quest for box office and ratings success, wrecking cool classics is considered a necessary evil. A car worth $50,000 is a drop in the bucket for a movie with a $100 million budget. And if smashing muscle cars just so happens to conveniently dovetail with Hollywood’s environmental and political agenda, then who cares?
Ted Moser sure as hell cares.
Unlike some of his Hollywood colleagues, Moser is clearly conflicted about his role in facilitating the destruction of muscle cars. Often to his detriment, Moser is a car guy first and a Hollywood insider second. Not afraid to stand toe-to-toe with a director, Moser is emboldened by his love of Detroit iron, and will usually suggest a less-expensive option that saves an irreplaceable car. When all else fails, Moser will restore the car himself on his own dime.
At the end of the day, all this Hollywood business is merely the means to an end. The assembly line process Moser uses to make movie magic means he has access to hundreds of cars, buildings full of parts, a huge staff of mechanics and bodyshop men, a state-of-the-art paint booth, and a garage most of us would die for. This has allowed Moser to develop his business as a car builder to the stars—and to anyone who wants to take the ride. The sheer size of PCW and the fact that Hollywood is already paying the “rent” means Moser can build hot rods and muscle cars for a reasonable price for regular dudes. Moser has even built cars from carcasses used up in film and TV production, meaning a regular guy can end up with both a cool car and a piece of history. (Interested parties can check out Picture Car Warehouse at www.PictureCarWarehouse.net.)
We met with Moser at his headquarters in Northridge for an interview and a tour of his facilities. Around every turn, inside every nook, and under every tarp there were incredible cars and amazing stories to go with them. Here are some of them!
PHR: How did you get into the Hollywood car business?
Moser: I started as a mechanic for the movie industry in Denver. It was Die Hard II. They were doing the one where the mother-in-law’s car gets towed from the airport. They bought a bunch of Caprices and told me to tune ’em up and get ’em ready. It was really cold, like in January, and the coordinator told me to fix them. I ordered a bunch of parts, and he told me he didn’t want them—take them back to the parts store. Then the car broke down and the producer was going to fire him on the spot. I hadn’t returned the parts, and fixed the car on the spot. I ended up getting into the Hollywood Teamsters union 399.
That was in 1990, so once I got into the union I started going up the ladder. I went from being a mechanic to being a transportation captain, to being a coordinator. The coordinator does the travelling carnival —the trailers, makeup, wardrobe, but I also do the picture cars.
PHR: Tell us about your “field of dreams” at the Agua Dulce film ranch?
Moser: My wife told me at one point I had to find a way to pay for my habit. After doing 2 Fast 2 Furious, I had 25 cars and was paying to store ’em. I was trying to figure out how to pay for them and wanted to recoup some of the storage costs by renting them out. A production company will contact me, or I’ll get a script and break it down to find out how many multiples of a vehicle will be required to shoot the movie. We may need 50 cars, and we can’t store them all at one facility. We also recycle, and we need a place to put ’em to use for future projects. The yard at Agua Dulce is a great place to do that.
PHR: People see one hero car on the screen, but there are often several. Why so many?
Moser: On a movie like 2 Fast 2 Furious, we might need two cars for the first unit, two cars for the second unit, and a buck, which is for interior shots with our actors. We shoot out of continuity—we may shoot the end of the movie on the first day. The average movie is 55 days long, and it’s dictated by location. We may go to a location and it may represent the beginning of the movie, the middle of the movie, and the end of the movie, but we’re there for just three days and we need to get all our shots. Several cars need to be in several different conditions for that.
PHR: What’s the most demanding movie you ever had to provide cars for?
Moser: All The Pretty Horses. It took place in 1952 in a rural Texas town. You had the war where they didn’t produce vehicles, so we were having to get trucks that were 15 years old for the period, so they had to be ’35 to ’41. And normally vehicles like that—especially in Texas—were run into the ground. They were work vehicles. Funny story: I was walking through this guy’s junkyard looking for some trucks and found this four-car hauler—a Budell from 1944. A tree was growing up through it. This guy named Shorty was about 90 years old, and he had to sell everything in the yard so he could raise money for an attorney for his grandson’s defense in a murder trial. I paid $1,000 for it. It was edited out of the movie. That’s one of the big disappointments. You work hard on something and then they cut it.
PHR: When you’re done with a movie car, what happens to it?
Moser: We’ll sell some of them—put them on eBay. Like the movie Faster, which we built ’67 GTOs for and one of them is on eBay. For The Bucket List we had the yellow Challengers. We built four of them, and I sold three of them. Normally what will happen is that we build them, they go on our website, movie companies rent them, music videos will rent them, we’ll repaint them, then commercials and television shows will use them over and over again.
PHR: Destroying cars—sometimes classics—is commonplace in Hollywood. How do you get around it?
Moser: In The Defenders TV show, Jim Belushi’s character drives a ’66 Hemi Satellite convertible, and what they did was blow it up in the show. So I took a four-door Belvedere—an old rusty piece of crap—cut the top off of it, and rigged it to blow up so it looked like the real deal.
Another example is Seven Pounds with Will Smith. You know the ’64 Corvette? I made a mold of the body and put fake bodies on a couple of ’81 Corvette chassis. We wrecked those instead of real Corvettes. Sometimes you can’t prevent the wrecking of a numbers-matching car, like in the music video “What Comes Around Goes Around” with Justin Timberlake and Scarlett Johansson. They originally wanted two ’64 Corvettes, so I found one out of San Francisco, and a numbers-matching car in Big Bear. [Editor’s note: Ironically, the numbers-matching ’64 used in the video was disguised as a ’67 big-block car with a stinger hood and 427 badges.] In their usual swiftness in making a decision in three or four days, they decided they could only afford one car, so I had to buy the close one in Big Bear—the number’s matching car. It goes to special effects, and I never even saw the car. Then three days later, they call me and say we need another car. I told them “Stop! I’ll trade that one out for a non-numbers-matching car,” but it was already too late. They’d put the rollcage in it. They ended up flipping the numbers-matching car. I’m now fixing the car they flipped.
PHR: Are producers and directors receptive to your pro-hobby stance?
Moser: Usually, no. They don’t always recognize muscle cars and hot rods for their value and their art. So I’ve had many arguments about wrecking a car. Seventy-five percent of the time I can convince them to do something different. In 2 Fast 2 Furious, there was a ’69 Camaro they launched onto a boat. Knowing that I was totaling that car, I went out and looked for something that was not restorable. The Florida salt had eaten the car alive. There were so many holes in it; I just injected it with foam. The special effects guy says the car would never hold together, so he brought the producer in, and we debated it. I won, and it made it into the scene. Funny story: We sat in this big production meeting, and they had no end to the movie. I didn’t say anything. They adjourned the meeting. I went down to the second unit director and said, “I know I’m just a dumb transport guy, but I kind of see it as Tyrese looks at Paul Walker and Paul Walker looks back and says ‘Oh no, not this Dukes Of Hazzard shit!’ They race off through the brush and launch onto the boat. The second unit director says, ‘That’s brilliant,’ and that’s what they did.
PHR: Do some directors just not care? Or is it a matter of education?
Moser: Some directors just don’t care. Some do, but most don’t. It depends on if they’re a car guy or not. Sam Bayer cares [Nightmare On Elms Street, Green Day, Blink 182].
PHR: What movie stands out as one where you really made a difference saving a cool car?
Moser: The Defenders [TV show] would stand out the most. That’s the highest value car I’ve ever worked with. The ’66 Hemi Satellite convertible is only like one of 19. They didn’t want to spend the kind of money it would take to blow that up, and I didn’t want to destroy a convertible. We came up with a really acceptable compromise.
I don’t have any problem wrecking an Audi, a brand-new Cadillac, or a Rolls-Royce; it’s the muscle cars to me. We lost our art in the ’80s when we went to the smaller lightweight cars. When I’ve got a director saying we want a muscle car from the ’80s, what the f— would that be? I really feel like I’ve escaped having to destroy a really correct GTO, Mustang, GTX—any one of them. I haven’t been at that point yet.
PHR: What’s the one thing about your shop that you think would surprise people?
Moser: The multiple cars—that would be it. They think it’s just one car when we’ve got five or six. They have to be identical cars. And the time frame we have to build them in. Usually the most time we have is eight weeks, but normally it’s less than two. That’s the biggest thing.
PHR: Building movie cars is the most visible part of your business, but you also build hot rods and muscle cars. What are you working on now?
Moser: Having the picture car company has enabled me to live my real passion of building nice cars. We’re doing a ’69 Corvette for director Sam Bayer, a ’72 Charger for Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and a couple of secret projects for Hot Wheels that will be released later in the summer. We’re doing an SS 396 ’67 Chevelle for a colleague of mine [vehicle coordinator Joel Marrow]. One of the numbers-matching ’67 Corvettes I bought for Seven Pounds that we were going to destroy, I saved instead by making a mold of the car. Now I’m restoring the car.
PHR: You ever take a used-up movie car and build it into a hot rod?
Moser: Yes! The Bucket List Challengers. One was a six-cylinder car that I put the late-model Hemi and the Magnum Force frontend in. GM had teamed up with the Transformers movie with the new Camaro, and Chrysler wanted to get involved with The Bucket List and the launch of the Challenger. The deal I made with them is that they would give me two new Hemis to put in these Challengers, but the engines didn’t show up until four days after we shot the movie—so I got to use them myself afterward.
PHR: Has a movie producer ever asked you to make the hero car from their movie a personal hot rod for them?That’s got to be gratifying.
Moser: Yes. The ’69 Camaro from 2 Fast 2 Furious we did for Neil Moritz was a Yenko clone with the correct date-coded engine.
PHR: How do you find your cars? Some of them are quite old.
Moser: Word of mouth, eBay, Craigslist. For example, the cars in the teens are from a movie called The Great Debaters, which we filmed in Shreveport, Louisiana. I got on a plane and flew to South Carolina, rented a car, looked at the guy’s stuff, got on a plane, and called a car hauler out. The guy there had a picture car company and had rented cars to the movies. He had about 25 cars.
PHR: You ever walk through your aisles of junk cars and just say, I gotta build that one into a hot rod?
Moser: Of course. I walk through all the aisles of cars and say I gotta do this. My goal is to have a car in the Optima Ultimate Street Car Challenge, have it go to SEMA, and race it in the Challenge. I’ve got a couple picked out. One is a ’70 Cuda that we’ve had going for about 10 years. I’m going to put this ’Cuda body on a Viper chassis—an old rust bucket from the Viper TV series.
PHR: Some shows and movies are infamous for their car destruction. The Dukes Of Hazzard for instance. What could other movie companies be doing to save those cars?
Moser: CGI has helped. Computer graphic imaging. Things like the Dynacorn bodies. Also making fiberglass molds of bodies.
PHR: In recent years, some movie producers have wiped out almost the entire cherry fleet of some car models. For instance Torinos for Starsky & Hutch, or Chrysler Imperials for The Green Hornet. At the very least, it’s run up the price of good cars and parts cars for the average guy. Do you think this is right?
Moser: It’s very conflicting for me, because you know there’s a finite amount. The moral judgment I question is that is there any difference between a hot rodder stealing parts off a four-door and putting them on a two-door, and a producer wrecking a car? [Editor’s note: Much of what PCW does is supply ordinary four-door cars for set dressing, some of which are hard to find because they’ve been destroyed for parts cars.] Grindhouse is a perfect example. I built four or five Chargers and four or five Challengers for the movie, but I didn’t know what they were doing with them. When I saw that movie I just went “Oh no!”
By David Murray, October 12, 2015
How Hollywood’s old-school stunt- and prop-car provider Ted Moser outthinks, outworks and usually outperforms the most sophisticated computer-generated imagery.
Computers have made it possible for filmmakers to do the impossible: take audiences into the past, make us eyewitnesses to fantastical events, put us in the middle of situations that we have no business seeing.
No one disputes that – not even Ted Moser, who makes his living providing real cars for live-action stunts and props for movies, TV productions and commercials. Moser, after all, provided vehicles for Into the Storm, the 2014 thriller about storm chasers. It never rained once during the filming. All the weather was provided by computer-generated imagery.
But as for the cars themselves, Moser prefers real wheels – and all the wrenching, welding, painting and repainting they require. Though he happily provided cars for the 2003 CGI-enhanced street racing action film, 2Fast 2Furious, Moser believes the best car movie ever made was Bullitt, filmed in 1968. “No CGI, all raw cameras hanging out of cars, everything’s on the edge,” he says. (How much does he like Bullitt? He named his dog Steve McQueen.)
Moser knows, and his work shows, that there are things that computers aren’t nearly inventive, efficient, culturally literate, passionate – or car-crazy – enough to do.
Reinventing the wheels
On location in New Orleans shooting Quarry, the upcoming Cinemax/HBO TV series, Moser uses his fingernails to peel a stubborn decal off a late-1960s taxicab as he describes to ARC the scope and nature of his strange line of work.
Moser provides “picture cars” in whatever numbers, at whatever price, in whatever condition and with whatever modifications a show’s producers require whether they know what they need or not.
He owns 700 cars in a dizzying variety of makes and models, and either brings them to productions he’s working on or rents them out to others via his company, Picture Car Warehouse. You’ve seen many of these cars yourself, in TV shows (like Mad Men), commercials (like the celebrated Autotrader Dukes of Hazzard reunion spot) and films, like All the Pretty Horses, The Town and Little Miss Sunshine.
Moser and his crew of expert mechanics, body people, painters, upholsterers, fabricators, graphic designers, transportation and logistics people and number crunchers work minor miracles, to order.
Remember that scene at the end of the film Argo, where the plane carrying the hostages was trying to escape Iran, and being chased down the runway by police cars and an army truck? Here’s the story…
The truck, a 1962 Mercedes Unimog (see photo, at left), topped out at 45 miles an hour, a rate of speed that Moser, who provided the vehicle for the production – because who doesn’t have a 1962 Mercedes Unimog truck at his elbow? – had been assured would be fast enough for the scene. A week before the scene was to be shot, director Ben Affleck told Moser the truck needed to go 70. After furiously considering and discarding options involving a new engine and new gearing, Moser put the truck’s body on a Ram Charger chassis, completing the job only minutes before the cameras rolled.
What if Moser had blown it, and held up the production?
“Well,” Moser says, “you don’t blow it.”
That’s one of a thousand stories Moser can tell about reinventing sets of wheels on the fly to make cars go the right speed, fit through tight spaces and perform the required stunts.
But Moser’s most singular contribution starts long before the lights, camera or action. It starts when he reads the script and begins to imagine the world that his cars will help bring to life, and mentally races through 700 cars of every conceivable type, in infinitely varying and changeable conditions. He needs “hero cars,” which the lead characters will drive, and “nondescript cars,” or “NDs,” to serve as realistic traffic or parked props.
The Quarry script originally specified the makes, models and colors of the cars in the scenes. Moser asked a production manager whether those orders were literal, or was there room for his own creative interpretation. The response: Do as you’re told. Finally, he got a meeting with the two young co-writers/producers, and asked them the same question. “Please!” they said, begging him to use his judgment and make the cars fit the place and the time they were trying to create – in this case Memphis, in 1972. “We weren’t alive in 1972,” one of the writers told ARC. “We need Ted’s sensibility, because cars are such a part of creating that world.”
And what judgment, what a sensibility Moser has. Among the 75 cars he had brought from L.A. to the Quarry filming location in New Orleans were some vehicles that didn’t seem to belong. A 1949 Chrysler Royal, for instance. In 1972? “Well, some of the scenes will be shot in a poor neighborhood,” Moser points out, “where lots of the cars would be older.”
Lots of movies get these details wrong. The atmospheric integrity of the recent 2011 movie The Help, Moser believes, was partly spoiled by illogically shiny, brightly-painted cars in a world of dusty gravel roads.
Not that Moser is a historical purist. Not only is he not above choosing or repainting a car to pleasingly match a house it is parked in front of, he considers himself responsible for doing that, too.
How to become a Hollywood picture-car provider when you grow up
It dawns on you early on that, more than most people, Moser is precisely where he belongs in life. And it’s interesting to consider the combination of
destiny and luck that led him to this place.
The son of a gas station owner in Littleton, Colorado, Moser was a born automobile savant. “My mom says that by the time I was three years old, I could name the make and model of every car on the road,” he says.
He played drums in high school and majored in music in college until he got bored during a course about 18th century music theory. He thought he wanted to be an accountant. He worked for a lawyer, and considered becoming one. He skied fanatically and rode horses competitively. But “no matter what, what I did was always about cars.”
Eventually, he found himself owning and operating an auto repair shop near Denver.
He got his first taste of the movie business when the crew of Die Hard II came to Colorado in 1990 to shoot some airport scenes at the old Stapleton Field. Hired as a mechanic for the picture cars, Moser performed well, at one point saving the production from a delay by a small but smart act of civil disobedience.
He’d bought $6,000 worth of parts to fix cars in case they broke down, but the film’s transportation coordinator told him they were unneeded and he should return them. “Then the hero police car takes a crap right in the middle of the set,” he recalls, and as the crews, the actors and 400 extras sat idle, the producer was getting ready to fire the transportation coordinator on the spot. But Moser hadn’t returned the car parts, and he used them to fix the vehicle. The grateful transportation coordinator took him to other locations around the country.
He loved the experience. He joined the Teamsters, sold his shop and began rising up the pecking order from picture car mechanic to transportation coordinator. He moved to Los Angeles in 1999.
One-man traffic jam
Even living in the cradle of Hollywood production, Moser had to scramble to find and rent historically appropriate and mechanically sound cars for props and stunts. Meanwhile, he had begun acquiring cars for fun and for pleasure, and when he bought a mess of 25, his wife insisted he find a way to make his hobby pay. So he started Picture Car Warehouse in 2003. Between supplying cars for the productions Moser works on and renting them to other projects, PCW has grown into a 45-employee, $4-million business.
Which comes with serious complications.
On the Quarry set in New Orleans, Moser finds himself fighting the usual battles unique to his business: “I’ve gotta find a bulldozer to crash a car into!”
He’s trying to describe to the executive producer his plan to save some budget money by installing a Lincoln Continental interior into an old Pontiac he had on-hand. The producer is having a hard time getting his mind around that.
In between, Moser is texting and talking – and not always peacefully – with his son and others who are trying to manage the Picture Car Warehouse back in L.A. without his omniscient grasp of the business.
And in the middle of the afternoon, his first grandson is born to his daughter in Texas.
And as if the 61-year-old Moser isn’t spread thin enough, he’s telling a reporter about various business schemes, from sponsorship and promotion ideas to reality TV shows. He has bought the rights to a movie about a legendary 1960s African-American drag racer he got to know in recent years, and he’s looking for a producer. “The movie isn’t about racing,” Moser says. “It’s about race relations.”
Moser struggles to balance his big plans with his bumper-to-bumper schedule. He wants to cut his car collection, which once numbered at 800, down to 400.
“I’ve been trying to get away from cars my whole life,” he says.
Fortunately for movie lovers and car buffs everywhere, he’s not doing a very good job.
By Mark Madler, 04/11/2011
Having moved all its operations to Northridge from downtown Los Angeles, Picture Car Warehouse is all revved up and ready for the cameras.
After five years at L.A. Center Studios, founder and owner Ted Moser relocated his collection of some 700 vehicles to a former Cadillac dealership on Reseda Boulevard where there was more space to store the cars, trucks and motorcycles and for the staff to work their magic on transforming the vehicles for use in television shows, feature films, commercials and still photo shoots.
Within the maintenance bays, vehicles get modified by addition or subtraction. That could be a new color, a different kind of engine, or a second pedal to operate the rear brakes.
“We undo what the computer tries to do,” Moser said.
Recent projects that Moser has supplied vehicles for are “The Lincoln Lawyer,” “The Town,” “The Runaways,” and the upcoming “Fast 5.”
The additional space at the new location opened up opportunities for filming on site. In late March for instance, filming took place for a commercial and Picture Car Warehouse is also where nine episodes of “Car Warriors” were filmed in November for broadcast on the Speed channel. Each episode tracks two teams in a competition to build a car in 72 hours.
The rentals, however, remain the core of the business.
Duke Foster considers what Moser and Picture Car Warehouse offers as indispensable to his position as transportation coordinator for the AMC series “Mad Men.”
Creator Matthew Weiner is a stickler for authenticity and accuracy and Moser meets the challenge even for the vehicle interiors and materials that may not make it on camera, Foster said.
“The Emmys we have won is indicative of the help he has been giving us.” Foster said.
Maybe Moser knows what transportation coordinators need is because he was one once himself. His background in the industry is what makes Picture Car Warehouse different from the few other vehicle vendors located in the Valley.
Ray Claridge was operating an auto repair shop in the mid-1970s when he got into supplying picture cars that grew into Cinema Vehicle Services in North Hollywood, the largest of the vehicle vendors. (GhostLight Industries in the City of San Fernando rounds out the trio of such businesses.)
Moser’s personal collection of 25 cars was the original inventory when he started out in 2002 to compete against Cinema Vehicle Services, which had long been the main provider for film and TV work.
Having been part of a filming crew, Moser took that knowledge and operated his business on the premise that he could prevent costly and time-consuming errors when it came to the vehicles.
Moser also took the wise course of surrounding himself with industry veterans.
Phil Fiori has been around movie making for some 30 years and knew Moser from a project they both worked on. He joined Picture Car Warehouse two and a half years ago and is responsible for commercial work and building up the inventory of third-party vehicles from bicycles to airplanes whose owners will make available for filming.
“If we cannot create the car here we will find it from an outside source,” Fiori said.
Protective of cars
That is another way that Moser & Co. proves indispensable to the transportation coordinators like Foster. There is one point person making arrangements with the private owners.
The value is evident when doing a period piece like “Mad Men” because the collectors treat their cars like a baby and are protective, Foster said.
The crew at Picture Car Warehouse treats the vehicles they create and modify like performers because that is what they are to them. These are characters with two or four wheels, a snazzy paint job, and a powerful engine.
“The cars for us are the actors,” said Billy Hammon, a partner with Moser. “They are the soul of everything we do.”
Hammon is another long-time industry veteran, one whose connections helped bring PCW to Northridge. Hammon had worked with the Rydell dealership chain in the past and used that connection to land the deal to take over the former Cadillac store.
Since moving to Northridge, the inventory has proven to be so large that two satellite sites were procured for storage.
By Richard Verrier, 05/03/2011
It looks just like any other car lot in the Valley, with its own showroom, parts department and body shop.
But this business, on the site of a former Cadillac dealership in Northridge, isn’t open to the public. Picture Car Warehouse is a kind of one-stop car shop for Hollywood filmmakers where the vehicles themselves are the stars.
There’s the iconic yellow Volkswagen bus from “Little Miss Sunshine,” the gold Pontiac that actor Dwayne Johnson powered in the thriller “Faster,” and the classic 1966 Plymouth driven by Jerry O’Connell in the current CBS series “The Defenders,” today valued at $175,000.
Picture Car leases hundreds of police cars, firetrucks and school buses, period autos and custom-built vehicles to producers of commercials, TV shows such as “Mad Men” and “Castle,” and movies, including the upcoming “X-Men: First Class” and “Men in Black III.”
Despite the slowdown in production that has squeezed many local service companies as work has migrated out of state, the company has emerged as one of the leading players in the so-called picture car business. Hollywood has long been the center of cutting-edge designs for cars used in films and TV, including the George Barris-designed Batmobile depicted in the 1960s TV series “Batman” and the modified DeLorean in “Back to the Future.”
“We opened up in 2003 and we’ve gone crazy ever since,”‘ said Picture Car founder Ted Moser, a veteran transportation coordinator for such movies as “The Town” and “2 Fast 2 Furious.”