The Beverly Hillbillies Family Truck
“Let me tell you a story about a man named Jed, poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed.” For millions of Americans, those words were a welcome notice that it was time for another episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, which ran from September 26, 1962 to March 23, 1971. While it focused on the misadventures of Jed, Elly, Jethro, and Granny, one of the most popular “characters” was the truck that the family rode in during most episodes. As I grew up watching the program, I often wondered if it was an old production model or something custom-built for the show. Many other fans have wondered the same thing over the years. A little research turned up the truth. The Clampett truck was actually a modified 1921 Oldsmobile Model 46 Roadster that was customized by none other than the brilliant George Barris. He created other legendary TV vehicles like the Batmobile, the car from The Munsters series, and the van from The A-Team. He combined the touring car’s body with the frame of a flatbed truck. The result was an open-air vehicle that wobbled down the streets of Beverly Hills, CA, where the show was filmed.
The truck was a huge part of the show’s appeal, especially when Jethro would modify it to suit whichever career aspiration he had at the moment. One of the funniest episodes is the one where he sent to see Goldfinger at the theater and decided he too would become a “double-naught spy.” He rigged the truck up with crude copies of the gadgets in Bond’s Aston Martin from the movie. These included remote-control weapons (a shotgun fired by pulling a string), an oil slick maker (a barrel of lubricant that poured out into the streets), and a passenger ejector seat powered by a huge spring. If you’re ever in Branson, Missouri you can see one of the trucks used in the show (Barris built five versions). It’s on display at the Ralph Foster Museum. I would say to tell ‘em Jed sent you, but they’ve probably heard that one before. Photo Credit: Ralph Foster Museum, The Beverly Hillbillies