The Blues Brothers is a musical comedy that has achieved cult status with movie fans. Directed by John Landis and released in 1980, it did well at the box office and to this day remains a regular staple for cable television and late night movie showings. The movie starred the late John Belushi and Dan Akyroyd as Jake and Elwood Blues of The Blue Brothers, a real life blues and soul band that first appeared on the television program Saturday Night Live in 1978. Set in the Chicago area, the plot of the movie centered on Jake and Elwood’s efforts to re-unite their old band and raise $5,000 to prevent the foreclosure of the orphanage in which they were raised. They sought to do this while being pursued by a motley collection of assorted law enforcement officials and enemies.
Although The Blues Brothers was billed as a musical comedy, it also featured plenty of action. The movie was renowned for its automotive mayhem, which appeared in the form of spectacular car chases and stunts. In this film, Jake and Elwood spent much of their time driving around Chicagoland and wreaking havoc in a seemingly indestructible ex-Mount Prospect, Illinois police car that became legendary in Hollywood lore: The Bluesmobile.
The Bluesmobile was a 1974 Dodge Monaco Police Pursuit sedan. The car was powered by Dodge’s Magnum 440 V-8 engine, which was mated to a Torqueflite automatic transmission. It was equipped with components from Dodge’s Police Duty package, which included heavy duty brakes, shocks, and steering. The Monaco Police Pursuit was a very popular patrol car in its day and was used by numerous law enforcement agencies throughout the United States, including the Los Angeles Police Department and California Highway Patrol. It was also noted for its high performance and durability. According to Dan Akyroyd (who co-wrote the screenplay of The Blues Brothers), the Monaco Police Pursuit was chosen for the movie because he considered it to be “the hottest car used by police during the 1970s.”
A total of thirteen Dodge Monaco Police Pursuit sedans portrayed The Bluesmobile in The Blues Brothers. These cars were obtained from the California Highway Patrol and mocked up to look like ex-Mount Prospect, Illinois police cruisers. In the course of the film’s production, they performed a number of spectacular stunts, including, but not limited to, jumping over an opening drawbridge, driving through a crowded indoor shopping mall, and driving down the streets of downtown Chicago at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. Individual cars were specifically set up to perform different kinds of stunts, depending upon the scene. The film’s producers maintained a twenty-four hour repair shop to keep the cars serviceable during shooting.
Due to the abuse heaped on them, few of the Bluesmobiles survived the shooting of the movie. It is believed that one to three of the original thirteen Bluemobiles remain in existence.
“The Blues Brothers”
“The Dodge Monaco Police Cars”
Dodge Police Cars for 1974, Dodge: Trade Catalogs: Fleet Vehicles, Police Cars, 1970-2009, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library
Kenton Jaehnig is the Project Archivist/Cataloger for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.