The Black Beauty's Restoration
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After a few months of owning the car, it was apparent that through the years, there were
several additions to the car that were not part of the original Jeffries design. There were
several missing items, possibly the work of souvenir hunters. A plan was devised to
restore the car in the true sense of the word. RESTORE by definition means “to bring
back to new. The initial plan was to totally disassemble the car and then rebuild the car
from the ground up. In essence, reduce the car to its smallest components then clean,
paint, repair and replace everything – using the original 1966 parts whenever possible.
After a careful assessment of the car and, after consultations with many experts in the field, it was determined that a full restoration would compromise the unique styling of the original work Dean Jeffries and his crew had produced when creating this car. Removal of the Jeffries touch would not only decrease the value of the car but sever the history of its creation forever.
Unlike a regular restoration (of a Hemi Barracuda, for example), one must be fully aware throughout the entire process of the need to maintain the original creators intentions for the original design, as well as the need to maintain his customizing style. So it was decided that the car would undergo what is referred to as a “sensitive restoration.” This means that the replacement or modification of anything would be limited to situations where safety and reliability were paramount.
Locating original piece parts was another top priority. Finding original 1966 Imperial
Crown parts that were either still new or in good condition would prove to be a
considerable challenge - but the search for the key components required for the
customized features of Black Beauty #2 would be the most time-consuming. It’s hard
enough to find 40-year old Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts but to seek
out components for a customized car created from a number of items from the World
War II era, including aircraft parts, would be extremely difficult at best.
The process began with a careful overview of the car and complete photo
documentation of everything as it was. The next step was to begin the removal of the
interior of the car. This process could be referred to as the Discovery Phase. It was
during this time that the removal of the seats revealed many surprising secrets.
After the rear seat was removed, in the rear of the car directly under where the Hornet
Sting was stored in the “C” pillar area, two of the green jewels from the Hornet Sting
were discovered. There is a very strong possibility that the one of the green jewels
found was lost from the Hornet Sting shown in the following photo sequence:
Between the front seats on the carpet beneath where the front seat sat, a red jewel was
found that perfectly matches the gems used for the “eyes” of Kato’s throwing hornet
As both of these parts appear to be studio-authentic and not from any after-market replica, these discoveries have historical significance. The parts from the studio props provide physical proof that Black Beauty # 2 was on the set during the filming of the TV series in some capacity. It is well known that Black Beauty # 1 and # 2 were both used for filming the chase scenes in Corpse of the Year, and it is quite possible the car was used in the filming of other action scenes as well. To date, nothing has surfaced to prove that Black Beauty # 2 was not involved in other TV episodes.
Prior to the removal of the paint and bodywork, the engine and transmission was removed and taken to a local machinist to answer the question “Did it need to be rebuilt?” With only 11,000 miles on the odometer, the engine would not require a complete overhaul. To be on the safe side, the engine would be carefully dissembled to provide a more comprehensive assessment report.
The engine still had its original belts, plugs, plug wires, and even the original rotor cap
and rotor. The machinist verified that the engine showed only 11,000 miles of wear,
and that there were no major problems to address. The engine wear was typical of a
car that had sat and idled most of its life. Wear of this kind would occur between takes
on set, and / or when moving around the various car show locations.
The restoration of the disassembled engine involved cleaning, installing new bearings, seals, gaskets and rings. A special camshaft created by Hughes Engines was added to increase both power and torque for the 6000 pound behemoth.
The transmission was in perfect working order. All the other critical components (including pumps, starter, alternator, and AC compressor) were either replaced with new components, or rebuilt to original specifications, in order to make the drive line operate as a brand new car once more.
The front and rear suspension were in great shape. The brakes, however, required an extensive and costly overhaul because they were in such terrible condition.
Once the interior had been removed, the focus shifted to the exterior paint. The paint
surface was cracked, which is typical of what happens with older lacquer coatings.
Each layer of paint that was removed would reveal another chapter of the car’s history.
The paint would have to be very carefully removed in order to avoid damaging any of
the fine metal work underneath. This was accomplished by a process generally referred
to as media blasting. There are several options available, and soda blasting (the
application of bicarbonate of soda applied under high pressure) was selected. Soda will
not harm the metal (nor heat it up like sandblasting does), so it was the safest type of
media to use.
During this time we were able to confirm that the car was originally painted in
Sandstone Metallic (1966 Chrysler paint code 441). The car then received a layer of
black lacquer paint. Above that, a layer of a near-clear green pearl paint had been
applied to the hood and trunk lid, possibly when the car was being prepped for the
Chicago Historical Automotive museum around 1971.
It was a relief to note that only a tiny bit of surface rust was present. The surface rust
was found underneath an area of what appeared to be hastily-applied body putty. Black
Beauty # 2 had been involved in a collision. Either the car had side-swiped something
on the passenger side, or had been hit by a moving vehicle, causing the same kind of
damage. Although minor in nature, the dent (or crease) extends from the front fender to
the rear passenger door. The time the damage occurred could not be determined. The
damage might have been present before the car was first customized, or much later in
With the engine and drive train assessments underway, the restoration of the interior
ramped up. The next order of business was to carefully remove the rest of the interior,
including the rest of the upholstery, special effects, motors, and wiring. The work
progressed very slowly as everything had to be thoroughly documented. The notes,
photographs, and videos, for each and every part, would become instrumental to the
success of the project.
Although the work might be somewhat repetitious in nature to some, the discovery of several interesting items, and the opportunity to explore the inner workings of the cars construction, made the work anything but routine.
Nearly every car in existence would yield a collection of coins if a similar process
was performed. It was amusing to find that all of the coins found in Black Beauty # 2
were all dated prior to 1966. As well, there were a number of used rivets, hairpins, an
American Flag pin, and a Christmas tree bulb package, found under the carpet, inside
the doors, and throughout the dash.
There were a number of puzzling mysteries, including the unconnected wires that had no obvious purpose. To re-create the original wiring schematic, each of the remaining wires had to be carefully examined. A number of lights and switches were no longer present - the wiring that led to them proved those effects were fully functional at some time in the past.
Frequently referred to as the “working prop car”, the other customized car (Black Beauty #1) was thought to have been the only vehicle made with fully-functioning special effects. This theory was instantly dismissed as soon as Black Beauty # 2 revealed she had been built with an identical shipset of the required circuitry.
This was quite the surprise, as many, for years, had assumed that Black Beauty # 2’s only purpose was to participate in the car show circuit where there would be no need for any functioning special effects. The wiring schematics created during the discovery phase would come in very handy when the car was sent to the electrical shop for refit.
Once the paint layers were off, the auto body technicians stopped to marvel at the
welds and panel-shaping that Dean Jeffries had engineered back in 1966. Assessed as
top notch work, the techs could not fathom how both cars could be completed in such
a short period of time (bodywork and special effects took only three to four weeks per
Carefully, the auto body crew prepped the car by cleaning and sealing the metal to
prevent any corrosion. Armed with a set of very early photos for reference material,
the crew began the arduous task of straightening the body. Sanding and smoothing
can take months to get right. In 1966, the car was only required to look good from a
distance of 10-20 feet or so, and only a few seconds at a time, so it was not necessary
to deliver the vehicles with an award-winning finish. The majority of the episodes featured car sequences that appeared to take place at night, further masking any
imperfections the two cars might have had. In nearly every scene, regardless of what
time of day the previous scene took place minutes before, the Black Beauty is seen
driving through town immediately after a rainstorm under a darkened sky.
To cover the shiny paint and chrome, stage hands simply painted over the car with
shine dampener and a water soluble black paint. When they wanted the car to be shiny
again they simply washed it off. The amount of shine on the car varied from episode to
One of the achieved goals of this restoration was to produce the car with an absolutely
smooth skin. In one of the photos, you can see the technician using a long sanding
board, used to make the panels nice and straight. The tool is difficult to use but well
worth the effort in the end. Once everything is satisfactory and the many coats of
primer are sanded perfectly, the car is moved to the paint booth. Before applying the
base coat of black paint, the car was thoroughly cleaned to remove any dust residue.
The results of the semi-flat paint were quite remarkable and for a moment I was
tempted to leave it that way. Even unassembled, the car looked quite sinister.
Black has a tendency to have a shift towards brown or blue. Black is not just black - if you were to walk into a paint shop and ask for “Black” the paint mixer might ask “Which black?” Manufactures all have a slight different color or tint to their black, and their paint might be different between Ford and GM and different from year to year. As the Black Beauty had to have the darkest and purest black available, a special black color mixture was created and used for the base coat. After all the base coats were applied, the clear coats began. The clear coats are the layers that are carefully sanded and polished to a brilliant shine. Once the paint work was completed and carefully polished, the car was brought back from the paint shop for drive train installation and engine break in.
Determining the correct engine color involved a considerable amount of painstaking research. In 1966, the correct color would have been a specific shade of turquoise. Some turquoise paints are too blue and others are far too green - there seemed to be no consistency in the turquoise colors available in the mid sixties. To identify the correct one, a number of different sources all over the country were solicited for their opinions. The results were compared to uninstalled painted New-Old Stock (NOS) parts. Once the correct color was identified, the entire engine was painted in true 1966 turquoise color.
The engine was slid into place, bolted down, and then everything was hooked up to get
the car ready for the engine’s first run.
After any type of rebuild, start up is a very critical time in an engines life. A number
of critical checks have to be made throughout the entire break- in period. Special
oil additives had to be used to ensure the new special camshaft was getting enough
lubrication. The engine is subjected to a variety of RPM settings followed by cooling
cycles. Throughout the break-in period, the engine performed flawlessly.
Before all of the rubber moldings for each door and window could be replaced with new
parts, each had to be sourced. Next, the entire dash had to be removed to check that
all of the electrical wires were still serviceable. The clock was repaired and each of the
gauges were cleaned.
During the 1966 customization, a simple vinyl covering of simulated wood grain was
placed over the hole of the dash where the factory radio once was. To strengthen
the vinyl, the radio hole was plugged from behind with a wooden block. The vinyl had
shifted colors so the vinyl for the entire dash had to be removed and replaced with the
correct 100-year old Claro walnut wood veneer. Each piece was individually cut, hand
stained, coated with polyurethane, then installed in the dash.
When the car arrived, there were a number of missing dash parts (buttons, etc) that
had been in the car back in 1966. Only one of the speaker buttons still remained - but it
served well as a template for replacing the second button.
Removing all of the wiring for the special effects was necessary to upgrade the wire and
to repair any breaks and patches in the existing lines. The original wire insulation had
become brittle in some areas. Whenever corrosion was found, there was no choice but
to replace the wire and any associated connectors. All of the new replacement wire
was audiophile quality. The end result was a substantial increase in current flow, which
in turn improved the deployment response of the special effects. Re-establishing an
acceptable baseline of electrical safety was a necessary and desirable side benefit. By
the time the car was re-wired to 1966 configuration, 17.96 lbs of excess wire had been removed.
Obviously, the location of the battery cut off switch under the front seat would be an
important feature to know. What was not known was that there was a wiring harness
under the carpet that was put there for the operation of Kato’s console. The wire bundle
under the carpet ran exactly to where Kato’s console (at the drivers’ right side) would
be. As Black Beauty #2 had arrived with the original floor carpeting, this hidden wire
bundle had not been seen by anyone in over 40 years.
The next discovery, on the inside of the passenger seat under the carpet, was the
mounting holes that indicated where Kato’s console once stood. Guided by a series of
color photographs, Kato’s console was recreated, and then equipped with vintage lights
and switches. The 1966 configuration required only green indicator lights, conflicting
with what was observed during one of the episodes. Beside the console, a new feature
was added to facilitate the displaying of Kato’s throwing darts, headset, PA system, and
In the TV episode Invasion from Outer Space, a combination of red and green indicator
lights were seen in the center bench armrest. As neither Black Beauty # 1 nor Black
Beauty # 2 have center bench armrest controls, the filming of Invasion from Outer
Space (part 2) had to involve the “cut-away (pull-apart) prop car”. In that episode, the
Green Hornet fires the rear rockets by using the center bench armrest controls while
sitting in the drivers’ seat.
In Black Beauty # 2, these controls are in Kato’s console instead. All of the console effects are fully operational once again, just as they were in 1966. The front seat under carpet wiring bundle provides Kato with the same spectrum of weapon controls as the Green Hornet has in the rear seat.
In addition to that, Kato has a number of extra features available to him, including the
front phone, the ashtray TV, and the front dash speaker. The front dash phone on the
dash was intact and only required cleaning. The ashtray TV screen panel was wired
but missing when Black Beauty # 2 arrived. Careful examination of vintage photos and
TV series screen captures provided two possible options. The decision to go with the
original configuration was chosen. Oddly, the ashtray TV produces a blue-green glow-in-the-dark effect similar to what a cathode ray tube will produced when exposed to
ambient light. The ashtray TV is incapable of producing a proper TV image.
The front dash speaker grill was missing. All that was left was the glue marks that
showed where it was once located on the vinyl wood grain appliqué. The original
manufacturer of the speaker grill was located - the purchase that followed may have
involved the purchase of the very last remaining stock in existence. Once a frame was
created for the mesh, the new speaker grill was installed.
Attached to the outside of the glove compartment is a one-of-a-kind emblem created
especially for the Black Beauty # 2. It was made in the original design of the Imperial
emblem but now reads “Black Beauty – Dean Jeffries” to honor the cars creator.
In creating the two Black Beauty vehicles, Dean Jeffries moved the rear bench seat
towards the rear bumper and extended the roof aft as well. This generated the space
he required for the divider - a narrow wooden structure that extends the width of the car.
The divider is placed just behind and below the top of the front seat, beneath the glass
partition that separates the front and rear seats. On the hidden side of the divider are a
number of notes left by Dean Jeffries and his crew including some whimsy.
The main control panel, located on the drivers’ side of the divider, is an exact replica
of the one seen on TV. Even the switch indicators (“On-Off” plates) are series correct.
The main control panel was very worn and needed extensive work. A few of the panel
switches and indicator lights had to be replaced with vintage units once replacements
could be identified. When the main control panel in Black Beauty # 2 is operated, the
entire switch panel lights up green with each hole showing an ascending number. As
illuminated green lights are difficult to film, the cut-away prop car with its white indicator
lights was a better choice for the film crew. The cut-away prop car (used occasionally
for the Batman TV series as well) had one white indicator light per switch.
The remainder of the divider contains a number of other stage props including a number
of vintage knobs and the rear TV screen, which is also similar to the one in the front of
the car – both TV screens were utilized in blue screen filming.
The closet door contains a bar for hanging a change of clothes. On the face of the door
there is the police/military band speaker and the oscilloscope mentioned in Invasion
from Outer Space (part 2). Under the lower hinge, thin wires ran towards the speaker
and oscilloscope. Although these wires were not connected to any power source, the
small wire diameter suggests the switches would supply power to the associated lights
and nothing else. These components were included in the filming of many of the TV
Behind the seat on either side in the ‘C” pillar, is the weapons closet. On the back shelf
is the authentic seen-on-TV telephone. The electrical wiring under the package tray
proves the phone was hooked up in 1966.
All of the door panels and seats were thoroughly cleaned then re-dyed to restore the
required uniform appearance. All of the upholstery was in great shape. The only
panel that had to be replaced was the passenger front seat top leather panel that had
been damaged while on display at the Chicago museum. As the carpet had collected
40-years worth of dirt, it was replaced as well. The headliner material was replaced
after original material was located. At the same time the inside “C” pillar material was
replaced. In this area, Dean Jeffries had created the Green Hornet weapon storage
compartments. The weapon storage doors were badly bent but were repaired. During
this process, the pictured hand-written notes were discovered to indicate which side
of the door was to face “out.” (Insert photo) Black Beauty # 2’s weapon storage doors
have a parallelogram shape to them while Black Beauty # 1 features square doors.
Locating the “original” vinyl top material was difficult and costly, but a source was finally located and nearly 10 yards of material were purchased.
Enthusiasts and hot rodders know that the rims on a car are one of the most critically
unique features parts of any car. Unfortunately, the original wheels on Black Beauty
# 2 were removed some time prior the arrival at the Chicago Museum. The car would
ride on Ansen Sprint 2 wheels for years. As they were not the original “as seen on TV”
design, they had to be replaced. Locating a set of the original wheels was not easy as
the rims were produced in limited numbers forty years ago. To complicate matters, the
Appliance Plating Company is no longer in operation.
Back in 1966, Dean Jeffries selected their “Apache” design. The cast aluminum rims were a new style and readily available in the Los Angeles area back then. Dean Jeffries added accents to them to further customize their appearance. Jeffries, a master pin- stripper, added black paint accents to each of the five wheel spokes, feathering the lines out towards the center cap. The Jeffries touch dramatically altered the appearance of the wheels, further increasing their unique appearance.
At swap meets and car shows, on occasion, one or more of the Appliance “Apache” rims can still be found. One must be careful not to pick up the wrong wheel type – there is a similar rim design but the length of the five spokes is not correct.
In order to ensure the “Apache” wheels were still in serviceable condition, the rims need to be subjected to a series of checks including non-destructive testing. The rims for Black Beauty # 2 were taken to a wheel shop that specializes in the restoration of custom wheels. Each rim was carefully inspected to check for hairline cracks, warping, and any other flaws. Next, the wheel surfaces were re-worked to produce the appearance of freshly-machined aluminum. Once each rim was finished, the new center caps were added - these feature a black and chrome hornet. As the original Goodyear tires are no longer available, Black Beauty #2 has received a fresh set of 15- inch radials.
Black Beauty # 2 arrived with a ridiculous set of solid green lens covers on the
headlights. After an exhaustive search, the covers and lamps were replaced with the
series-correct LUCAS lights obtained at tremendous cost from a source in England. To
ensure the green color was perfectly color-matched to the original specifications, the
assistance of Dean Jeffries was required.
Black Beauty # 2 is currently the only rolling arsenal that can produce the authentic half- lit “cats-eye” headlamp effect - a totally unique feature that has never been duplicated by any other star car in the world. Unfortunately, the green headlights on Black Beauty #1 are no longer the original type and cannot produce the same visual effects.
Re-plating the surrounding four pieces of trim with top-quality chrome cost about $600
USD. Luckily, the unique mesh seen behind the headlights was still intact and only
The white single headlights were removed and replaced with the correct non-halogen
bulbs. The clear acrylic protective lenses covering the white lights were also replaced
because the old ones had become fogged and scratched. These lens covers
incorporate fine horizontal lines, which suggests inspiration from the 1965 Imperial
Crown style coverings were added to the 1966 Imperial Crown used to create Black
Beauty # 2.
The front gas gun door had been missing for quite some time so a new one had to be
fabricated out of the same aluminum as the surrounding grill work, and then welded
together at the center to achieve the correct angle. This weld, however, is not visible
on Black Beauty # 1. To refurbish the front gas gun and to make it series-correct, the
gun was stripped and recoated. The circular black holes along the fins are a clever
illusion produced by paint. The gas gun contains a center hole where the hornet gas
is deployed. This is different than what appeared on screen and different than Black
The rear gas gun or oil spreader is unique in that the recessed end has a threaded
brass compression fitting which can be connected to pressurized water, oil, or a volatile
fuel supply within the trunk. Due to the proximity of the gas tank, sending a flame out
the rear gas gun was considered unwise and a water/oil spreading unit was hooked
up instead. Although these effects were not featured during any of the Green Hornet
episodes, both the front and rear gas guns are fully functional on Black Beauty # 2.
The front rocket doors were missing the correct white horizontal lenses. When Black Beauty # 2 arrived, the lenses were had been replaced with green-painted metal. Locating the correct material proved a formidable challenge, as most of the traditional automotive lenses available were all incorrectly-prismed on the reverse side. To achieve the correct pixilation, the original authentic parts had to be found then shaped with the aid of a water jet cutter.
Both of the rear rocket doors were missing. There were indications that one of the
doors had been ripped off the car, possibly when backing with the rocket doors open.
Both the front and rear rocket tube banks were removed, stripped of paint with the use
of the glass bead blaster, and then repainted. A small hole had been added in 1966 to
the bottom of each rocket tube for channeling the wire or fuse that was required to set
off the pyrotechnics. This was in interesting discovery for sure.
Each side door required new push button openers. Three of the doors still operate with
the same powerful door lock actuators that Dean Jeffries installed back in 1966. The
fourth unit was defective. As it could not be repaired or replaced with an authentic part,
a more modern equivalent was installed.
The tail lights, like the front rocket door white lenses, also had to be sourced because one was cracked.
Unlike Black Beauty # 1 which currently has an incorrectly fabricated 6-blade scanner,
Black Beauty # 2 has the studio-authentic 4-blade propeller scanner deployed during
the various TV episodes. When the car arrived, the light bulb on the top of the scanner
was missing as was its two side arms. To further improve the authenticity of the
scanner, the proper light bulb had to be identified. Once the correct part number was
known, the bulb was sourced – it would be another expensive purchase. Correct 3/4
green top was added just like it was in 1966. To refurbish the remainder of the scanner,
a different type of media blaster was used. This time, a fine stream of fine glass beads
were used to clean the delicate outer features before the scanner was repainted.
Protected from the elements, the internal parts of the scanner and the trunk wiring for
the scanner were still intact.
The Hornet Mortar was also used from the scanner hole in the trunk. The Mortar was
only used in one episode when the front rockets proved ineffective against a marauding
Power to the scanner and all other circuits was provided by the massive glass fuse
panel inside the trunk. After a thorough cleaning, the fuse panel was refilled with a
fresh set of 1966-era glass fuses.
The last two major components within the trunk are the canister of Hornet Gas (deployed through the front gas gun door), and the container for the oil slick (deployed through the rear gas gun or oil spreader). The front gun is currently capable of shooting out green-colored gas while the rear gun can deploy an “oil slick.”
Unlike Black Beauty # 1, Black Beauty # 2 has a stainless trim stripe all along the top of both top fenders, running the full length of the car. This fender trim is visible in all of the vintage photos of Black Beauty # 2. During the restoration, Dean Jeffries commented that he wanted to remove the trim but neglected to get it done when the car was in his care. The restoration provided another opportunity to remove the trim and Dean Jeffries asked to have it done. Unfortunately, at that stage of the restoration, it was already too late to do so. However, it was still possible to alter the appearance of all of the other bright features of the car, by powder-coating them with matte black. This process brought the car closer to the format the car was in when it appeared on Corpse of the Year. This was done at Mr. Jeffries request.
There were several more interesting features of the car were never shown nor utilized
on the TV show. One of them was the revolving rear license plate. It was capable of
switching from between two separate plates although the standard “V194” plate was
the one most often seen on screen. The Black Beauty #2 would have had either the
California transport tag (X62994), the“V194” or the Dean Jeffries plate showing at any
Secondly, operated by the main control panel, were the rear tire brooms intended to
erase or sweep away the Black Beauty's tire tracks when travelling on sand or dirt
roads. The brooms themselves were in poor shape and were replaced; however, their
holders were in perfect condition.
There was even a rear desk that folded out of the back seat. The desk in Black Beauty
#2 is signed by Van Williams (the Green Hornet), Wende Wagner, (The Green Hornet
secretary and also by Dean Jeffries, the builder of the car.
Lastly, the passenger rear armrest contains an array of buttons, switches and indicator
lights. Presumably they were to be used in the future for additional effects on an as-
needed basis. The door hinge area is too small to accommodate functionally of these
switches or buttons so this area was undeniably just for show."
Every car can only be original once. Black Beauty # 2 was first modified from its original Chrysler configuration by Dean Jeffries, then by George Barris. Other modifications followed, driving the car further and further away from the original design. The primary goal of the restoration was to return the car to the format that Dean Jeffries had created.
In order to do so, careful and exhaustive research yielded the correct components required to make this car as TV- accurate as it could possibly be.