R.I.P. Bert Schneider, the Godfather of the Monkeemobile

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Hollywood producer Bert Schneider passed away earlier this week at the age of 78. He produced some artistically and culturally notable films like “Easy Rider,” “Five Easy Pieces” and “The Last Picture Show.” He also produced tv shows that were a bit more lowbrow, including The Monkees. Now the Monkees may have been a packaged rock and roll band, the so-called “pre-fab four”, but the fact remains that Schneider hired great talent. Besides the four undeniably charismatic actors & musicians they hired to play the band, Schneider and his partner Bob Rafelson engaged the cream of Hollywood’s pop songwriters, producers and session players to back up the “band” (after the first two albums, the members of the Monkees rebelled, insisting on being allowed to do more than vocals – Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork were experienced musicians before they auditioned for the show). When it came to providing the tv series’ fictional band with wheels, Schneider turned to custom car virtuoso Dean Jeffries to create what would become the Monkeemobile, one of the most identifiable movie or tv cars that there is.

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Jeffries at the time had a deal going with Model Products Corp. (MPC) to sell scale models of his designs. Jeffries told MPC CEO George Toteff about the proposed tv show. Toteff in turn told Jim Wangers, the legendary Pontiac marketing maven, who saw an opportunity for endless free advertising for  his employer, and at Wanger’s direction two 1966 GTOs were shipped to Jeffries’ shop. Jeffries did a good job making it a distinctive custom car while stile retaining enough original styling to be seen as a GTO. Just to be safe the customizer left intact the GTO badging in the car’s grille. It worked out pretty well for all involved. Schneider ended up with a hit show that aired for three years, MPC went on to sell over 7 million model kits of the Monkeemobile, making Jeffries some money, and George Barris would go on to buy one of the Monkeemobiles, revise it and, self-promoter that he is, try to horn in on the credit for the car. That particular car, pictured here, currently is owned by a collector in Michgian. The Monkeemobile ended up appearing in 18 episodes of the tv show.

This video is the Monkeemobile’s final appearance in the series, in an episode called The Monkees Race Again. The clip is of a race (on Mulholland?) between the Monkeemobile, driven by Davy Jones, I believe, and in a nice surprise, what looks like one of the six genuine Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupes driven by a villain. Improbably (well, in real life, at least) the Monkeemobile wins the race. It’s funny to watch the custom GTO pitch, yaw and roll while the Daytona Coupe corners with considerable composure. But hey, this is Hollywood. Rest in peace Mr. Schneider. In addition to your achievements in the entertainment industry you have a place in automotive history.

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One Response to R.I.P. Bert Schneider, the Godfather of the Monkeemobile

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