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Mannix’s puller: Barris-built Oldsmobile Toronado roadster heads to auction

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Photos courtesy Dragone Auctions.

Most TV shows get at most one chance to introduce a cool hero car: the A-Team van, KITT, and the Batmobile all pulled solo duty on their respective shows. Not so with the Mike Connors detective show “Mannix,” which included a pair of custom cars for the title character, the first of which will head to auction next month.

While Joe Mannix drove a series of stock FoMoCo products through the first few episodes of the first season, show producers decided partway through the season to ask George Barris to come up with a flashier car. While the logic of putting a private investigator behind the wheel of a flashy car has always escaped critics, the Batmobile at the time appeared on television every week, making Barris a hot Hollywood commodity. Besides, both Mannix the character and Connors the actor billed themselves as car guys, and the latter was looking for “a sharper, cool appearance” for the former, according to Barris’s book, “Barris Cars of the Stars.”

After choosing a 1967 Oldsmobile Toronado (perhaps inspired by Barris’s previous experience building the 70-X Toronados for Esso for Expo 67), Barris cut off the roof and installed a semi-permanent tonneau cover behind the front seats, thus converting the coupe into a two-seat roadster (the top apparently did go up, as seen in one episode, but remained down for pretty much the entire run of the car on the show). A more prominent grille, full-time exposed headlamps, and hood reshaping redefined the front end while a subtle spoiler lip and full-width red translucent taillamp cover added some flair to the rear. While the V-8 and front-wheel-drive package remained stock, Barris did add side pipes and fake knockoffs.

In initial appearances of the Toronado on the show, it featured sealed-beam headlamps in oval surrounds and silver over black paint, but Barris would later refresh the car with European-style oval headlamps and silver over red paint. According to the Dragone Auctions description of the car, Barris also added ventilated heated seats to the interior at that time. A second Toronado, used for stunt work, received similar modifications.

The Toronado didn’t get much screen time, if any, in that latter configuration. Instead, the producers threw another car to Barris to customize – a 1968 Dodge Dart GTS convertible – and eventually sold the Toronado to Upstate New York developer Charley Wood. Wood, inspired by Knotts Berry Farm, built Gaslight Village near Lake George in 1959 and in search of new attractions bought and displayed a number of TV and movie cars, but when  Gaslight Village closed in 1988, his collection dispersed at auction.

According to Dragone, the current owner of the Toronado bought the car at that auction and has since displayed it in a private museum in Tennessee along with a couple other Barris creations: the 1928 Porter from “My Mother the Car” and the “Rickshaw Taxi” that Barris displayed at the 1970 Tokyo World’s Fair.

All three will cross the block as part of Dragone’s Lime Rock Auction, scheduled for September 3. The Toronado is expected to sell for $125,000 to $175,000.

For more information about the Dragone Lime Rock auction, visit