Wilmer Valderrama, 41, an actor living in Los Angeles, on his 1969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser and 1951 Mercury, as told to A.J. Baime.
When I was growing up, I gravitated to any TV show or movie that had iconic cars in it. “Knight Rider,” the motorcycles in “CHiPs,” James Bond with the Aston Martins, “Batman” with the Batmobile, “The Dukes of Hazzard.” I loved the way cars actually played characters in these movies and shows.
I was really young when I first saw the movie “Cobra.” Sylvester Stallone plays this cop who gets assigned to protect the leading lady. He drove this 1950 Mercury, and there were some amazing stunts. In one, he’s speeding from a bad guy and he pulls a 180, throws the car in reverse, and keeps going while firing a gun out the window. I saw that movie and said: Someday I am going to have that car.
Photos: No Longer a Prop
Wilmer Valderrama shows off his 1969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser.
Fans of ‘That ’70s Show’ will recognize Wilmer Valderrama and his 1969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser. The car was featured in the show’s opening sequence, with Mr. Valderrama (18 at the time) at the wheel.
Emily Berl for The Wall Street Journal
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One day, when I was about five years into working on “That ’70s Show,” I was driving through Laurel Canyon on the way to Ventura Boulevard, where we were shooting the show. I saw this electric blue Mercury on the side of the road with a “for sale” sign. I couldn’t believe it. I talked to the guy, and he said he had to unload it. It was a 1951, not a 1950; it’s pretty hard to find a ’50, so I settled for a ’51. I bought it on the spot for, I think, $19,000, and I later put another $30,000 of goodness into it. It has a Corvette engine, an incredible stereo, and air shocks that raise it up and down. The back bench seat is like a couch.
To me, it is now invaluable. It’s like a Hot Wheels toy car, only it’s life-size. I take it out on Sundays, or on date nights with my fiancée. It is incredibly loud, so the neighbors don’t appreciate it as much as I do.
Another car I have I love, even though it doesn’t even have an engine in it. One day back in 2006, we found out that we were going to be shooting the last episode of “That ’70s Show.” I went straight to the props department and said, “The show is ending. Everyone’s going to want something from the show. I’m taking the Vista Cruiser.” They were, like, what? That car doesn’t even run! I said, “I need that car. How much?”
I convinced the guys to sell it to me for $500, and this 1969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser has been with me ever since. I keep it in show condition—not car show condition, but what it looked like when it was on set. Inside there are Velcro stickers from where they put the in-car lighting for when we were shooting a scene, and black tape from where they taped in microphones.
Every time I see it, I am 18 again, embarking on this adventure with my best friends, my brothers and sisters, and we’re shooting the opening sequence. It may not run, but this car changed my life.
Write to A.J. Baime at email@example.com
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