Childhood Obsession Becomes an Adult Possession of 1971 Plymouth Satellite “Pursuit Special”
By Jeff Barnes
Remember “Adam-12” and Officers Malloy and Reed? George Houts does.
He fell in love with the 1960s and ‘70s cop drama, along with other police and firefighter shows of the era. “Anything with lights and sirens,” said Houts, 44. “I grew up next to a fire station, and every time I heard the sirens, I’d take off after them.”
Houts grew up in a Shrine family, and when he joined the Tangier Shrine in Omaha he decided to join a vintage iron group. In finding a car to drive in parades, however, he didn’t want just an antique car – he wanted a 1971 Plymouth Satellite “Pursuit Special,” just like Malloy and Reed drove on “Adam-12.”
After looking for months, he found a car in Omaha about five years ago on Craigslist. It was a copper color with a white vinyl top, but would work well for a conversion. “The man was selling it for his parents,” Houts said, “but then he changed his mind.”
Houts kept looking and finally found and bought another in Memphis, that wasn’t in nearly as nice of shape. He had yet to start work on it when – three years ago – the first seller called Houts back and said he was now willing to sell. Houts got a loan from his credit union, unloaded the first car, and began his journey.
It was a journey across sand, as in lots of sandpaper. The car was in great shape and the vast majority of body work was in removing the original coat and preparing it for the new black-and-white color scheme. “I didn’t tell the guy I bought it from what I planned to do, and I drove it for a year without doing anything to it,” Houts said. “I started to hate the idea of doing anything to it.”
An Omaha friend with a body shop who gave Houts instruction on body work, decided to jump start the project for him. “I was at his shop with the car,” he recalled. “He grabbed a piece of sandpaper, did a couple quick rubs on the hood, and said ‘There – now you’re started’.”
Through the fall and winter of 2009, you’d find Houts in his garage, sanding down the Satellite while watching reruns of “Adam-12”. Once he had gone through a couple of seasons and completed the sanding, the friend helped with the painting and the decals which replicate those on the TV show’s car.
Houts didn’t have exact plans on where to place the lights, siren, decals and other accoutrements on the car, but that’s where having the show on DVD came in handy. “I was constantly looking for reference points, stopping and studying it any time they had a shot of it on screen.”
Houts worked to make it as authentic as he could. Like the LAPD of the time period, he uses radiator hose, bolted into the driver’s door, as the holder for the officer’s baton (which is glued into the hose). “They did it cheap back then, and if radiator hose worked, that’s what they used.”
He got a metal fabricator in town to make the car’s “hot sheet” desk, which displays an old list of license plate numbers. Another friend made some realistic-looking shotguns out of wood to bolt into the car, and Houts has found other items to finish the unit, including cones, police tape, a radio, helmets, and even a tray of plastic drive-in food for when he goes “Code 7” (on break).
Houts, who owns the Northwest Animal Hospital with his veterinarian wife Jodi, now shows the car in parades as part of his Shriner activities, and occasional car shows. He won first place in his category of Plymouths at the annual World of Wheels show.
“The real reward, however, is in seeing kids’ faces when you drive by with it,” he said. “It’s what inspired me as a kid, so it’s worth it if it does the same for them.”
(Originally published in the Omaha World-Herald, May 14, 2011)