The Black Beauty #2 (hereinafter referred to as "BB #2") was created out of necessity, primarily to avoid the problems Dozier and company had encountered on the set of "Batman". With just one Batmobile available, they found that if the car was unable to perform (e.g. due to breakdowns, etc.) then the entire production, in some cases, was brought to a standstill. Delays of this sort were very costly, so Greenway felt that by having two cars on hand for "Hornet", it would prevent unnecessary downtime. If one Black Beauty failed for any reason, the backup car could then be used to finish the scene.
Furthermore, with the smash success of "Batman", there had been an avalanche of requests for The Batmobile to make special appearances nationwide. Since public interest was so overwhelming, the studio anticipated a similar response to "The Green Hornet". Thus Greenway & Fox commissioned two Black Beauty vehicles -- a move producers of "The Monkees" would later adopt when they asked Dean Jeffries to provide the two GTO’s for that TV series.The Job Begins...
While speaking with Mr. Jeffries, he relayed that the Chrysler Corporation had provided both Imperials as "used". In fact, BB #2 carries the designation of an “executive supplied vehicle.” This means that an executive in the Chrysler Corporation had driven the automobile for quality assessment and personal use prior to its delivery to Fox.
Mr. Jeffries further indicated that although BB #2 was built shortly after BB #1, he recalled both Imperials being at his shop at roughly the same time. Mr. Jeffries also said that once BB #1 had been delivered to the studio, it allowed him and his crew extra time to create a more detailed second Black Beauty. Jeffries indicates that at any given time there may have been 20 people working on the cars construction, all valuable contributors to the end product.
"Beauty" is Not Skin Deep...
BB #2 differs in numerous ways from BB #1. Most notably, in the front grille. Behind the horizontal grille slats, the vertical support rods are clearly visible — something which is unique to BB #2. During the restoration, it was revealed that these support rods had been painted black for use on set... perhaps to make the car look more like its sister.
BB #2 also has a non-tilt steering wheel, whereas BB #1 has the Tilt-A-Scope version (both types were available on the '66 Imperial Crown models.) Furthermore, some of the angles on the car differ slightly from BB #1. But this is to be expected since both cars were custom-built by hand, making each one of a kind.
When watching "Hornet" episodes, one ponders which of the two cars is on screen at a given moment. Unfortunately, the evidence is not easy to spot. The production crew used a technique called ‘day for night’ filming. This meant that they could achieve the look and feel of dusk, twilight or nighttime, while shooting during daylight hours. Camera-darkening filters were used to bring about this effect, making the viewer's ability to differentiate between the two vehicles all that more difficult, if not impossible.
To further complicate the issue, “stock footage” was often inserted for many of the scenes. Both an expense and a time-saving measure, stock footage allowed a story to be told without having to re-shoot similar scenes for each and every episode. Subsequently, this pre-shot footage of The Black Beauty was used over and over again during the run of the series. Stock footage aside, it can be confirmed that BB #1 and BB #2 appeared together in the two-part episode, “Corpse of the Year”. Whether BB #2 appeared in any other episodes, however, remains inconclusive to date.
Life After "The Green Hornet"…
At the conclusion of the TV series in 1967, both cars were returned to the production company, and ultimately, back to the studio. Despite cancellation of "The Green Hornet", it was evident to Dozier and Fox that a huge fan following remained... for The Black Beauty in particular. Realizing this, they contacted Dean Jeffries once again. Dean was asked if he would like to tour both vehicles on the car show circuit with organizations like ISCA (International Show Car Association). Jeffries was interested and a deal was agreed upon.
Through the remainder of 1967 and 1968, Dean Jeffries toured both cars at various auto shows across the country. When Jeffries’ business commitments prevented him from keeping up with the show schedule, he called upon his family to take up the slack. Mr. Jeffries' parents would often tow the trailer to each scheduled appearance. Dean also asked a friend and colleague, Steve Tansy, to tour one of the cars. Mr. Tansy, who created several show vehicles himself, concentrated mainly on East Coast and Midwest appearances for The Black Beauty. Mr. Tansy even took the vehicle to contracted events like the Kokomo Indiana Transmission Plant for display.
Once the '67-'68 show car season was completed, Dean Jeffries returned the vehicles to 20th Century-Fox. It was at this time the studio asked if Dean was interested in buying both cars back (they were offered to him for $1,500 each.) Jeffries declined, citing that if he wanted one, he could just as easily build another from scratch.
Both cars apparently sat until 1969 when Jack Button, President of Shipman Ward Typewriter Company, contacted William Dozier through George Barris. Mr. Button, a business associate of Mr. Barris, had previously purchased several one-of-a-kind show cars from him. Now Button was keen to investigate the availability of the The Black Beauty. Surviving documents indicate a correspondence with Mr. Dozier took place. George Barris acted as a liaison between the two men, and also provided storage and transportation for BB #2 after Mr. Button had purchased it.
Until recently, it was unclear as to what Jack Button’s intentions for the car were. In private correspondence with Mr. Button, he indicated that he was building up a collection of vehicles for display in a museum in the Orlando, FL area. This was a joint project with Disney to benefit handicapped children. The auto museum was to have been established at the newly-opened Walt Disney World. Unfortunately, their plans never materialized. Mr. Button held on to BB #2 until 1971 when it was sold.
The Black Beauty No.2 "re-Born"...
The evidence is not totally clear here, but it is theorized that Jack Button opted to sell BB #2 around the same time Chicago Historical Antique Automotive Museum owner, J.J. Born, began to stock his new museum in Highland Park, Illinois. Like Mr. Button, J.J. (Jerry) Born too was a business associate of Mr. Barris. Born had decided to purchase several vehicles from him for display in the museum, among them: Batmobile #4 and The Black Beauty #2 (George Barris would again broker the deal for Jack Button.)
It is assumed that at this time BB #2 was repainted, door artwork and pinstripes added, and the wheels replaced… all done in an effort to make the car look fresh and in keeping with the style of the ‘70s.
This makeover by Barris is often a point of confusion for some seeking information on The Black Beauty. Mr. Barris, seeing the potential to market such a vehicle on the car show circuit, built in the summer of 1974 what is believed to be the first clone of The Black Beauty. This copy came to be known as the infamous "sunroof" car (see full details in the "Replicas" section of our website.) We know this because Mr. Barris requested of Mr. Born specific measurements of BB #2, in written correspondence of July 2, 1974. J.J. Born indicated in private conversation that he kept the car on display from 1971 to 1985, when his museum ultimately closed.