Ted Moser would never admit it, but he’s one of the most powerful men in Hollywood—at least to any car guy who likes watching movies or TV. Moser, owner of Picture Car Warehouse (headquartered in an old Cadillac dealership in Northridge, California), is responsible for selecting, building, maintaining—and sometimes destroying—fleets of automobiles that are used as props for movies, TV shows, music videos, and commercials. As part of that, Moser also builds high-profile “hero” cars, many of them muscle cars and hot rods. Technically, Moser is a “vehicle coordinator,” but that nebulous term really doesn’t do him justice. To illustrate what we mean, when we recently visited PCW, we found that Moser had been contracted to provide 50 cars in six weeks for the next Men In Black
flick. What makes the job so remarkable is that unlike the prior films in the MIB
franchise, this film will be set in the mid ’70s—meaning Moser will have to select, locate, repair, paint, and deliver tons of realistic vintage tin from the mid ’60s to the mid ’70s—and do it on an insane timetable. When it comes to delivering that quantity of Detroit iron, other Hollywood movie car suppliers are left flat-footed.
Moser is not your typical Prius-driving, granola-munching Hollywood elitist. He’s more like a one-man vehicular onslaught of nature. Even for a car guy, Moser’s passion for muscle machines runs extraordinarily deep. Not only is he a walking encyclopedia of automobilia, his desire to collect cars seems unmatched. Moser’s Picture Car Warehouse is home to over 700 running (or almost running) cars of every description. These run the gamut from turn-of-the-century classics to late-model muscle. Not being independently wealthy, and incapable of ignoring his burning desire to collect every cool car under the sun, Moser was quite literally forced into his current profession because it’s the only job consistent with the reality of providing a decent living while being able to collect obscenely massive numbers of rare old cars. Make no mistake: This is Ted Moser’s world, and we just live in it.
Picture Car Warehouse owner...
Picture Car Warehouse owner Ted Moser lives a unique life, with one foot solidly in Hollywood’s movie industry and the other in the die-hard hot rodding, car-loving world. Moser is one of the few people in Hollywood who “gets it,” choosing to preserve automotive history rather than destroy it. It’s a hard war to fight, however, as many directors and producers just don’t care. Often, Moser’s voice is the only one in the production meeting with reason.
But all isn’t well in paradise. Hanging over Moser’s automotive utopia is a dark pall of destruction, one that eludes any acknowledgement by the film and TV establishment. Hollywood is killing our classic cars with wanton abandon at a precipitous pace. Take for example The Green Hornet
movie, in which some 29 Chrysler Imperials were modified, cut in half, smashed, blown up, buried, and pocked with bullet holes. The vehicle coordinator on the film is reported to have said he hopes they don’t do a sequel because there aren’t any more good cars left. Likewise, fans of The Dukes Of Hazzard
are well aware of the wholesale destruction of ’68-70 Dodge Chargers, both during the TV show and follow-on movies. The on-screen genocide of Dodge Chargers has simultaneously reduced the vehicle population while increasing their value beyond the reach of average enthusiasts. The same can be said of the ’70s TV series Starsky & Hutch
, with its striped-tomato ’74-76 Ford Torinos. During the production of the 2004 comeback movie, prices of Torino parts and cars skyrocketed as the film’s two car suppliers went on an eBay binge that soaked up everything related to Limited Edition ’76 Torinos. (Only 1,000 were made.) We could go on for pages detailing the carnage, but you get the picture: Nothing increases a car’s desirability and value like not being able to get one.
Movers and shakers in the entertainment industry seem unfazed. In the quest for box office and ratings success, wrecking cool classics is considered a necessary evil. A car worth $50,000 is a drop in the bucket for a movie with a $100 million budget. And if smashing muscle cars just so happens to conveniently dovetail with Hollywood’s environmental and political agenda, then who cares?
Ted Moser sure as hell cares.