Broderick Crawford Rides Again in '50s-style "Highway Patrol" Car
by Bob Pool
LOS ANGELES - Everybody slows down when they see Gary Goltz coming. And not just because the black-and-white car he drives sports a red light and siren. It's because his beefy Buick is the spitting image of the car that Broderick Crawford drove in the classic 1950s TV series "Highway Patrol." And sporting a dark suit, a fedora and his best scowl, Goltz is the spitting image of the late Broderick Crawford, too.
Jaws dropped and thumbs went up on the streets of Inglewood the other day when Goltz took retired CHP Officer Frank Runyon for a spin. Just to make sure nobody missed the sight, a loudspeaker behind the car's front grille blared the old show's theme song that starts with the familiar "da da-da-daaaa."
Runyon served as technical advisor to the show during its 1955-59 run. Now 82, he sized up the car and its driver. "Authentic," pronounced Runyon.
Goltz, who runs a judo school in Claremont and owns a health care sales consulting firm in Upland, is certainly an authentic Highway Patrol fan.
He grew up watching reruns of the show each day after school in Pittsburgh. When he was asked as a first-grader to draw a picture of what he wanted to be when he grew up, he sketched a Broderick Crawford look-alike standing next to a "Highway Patrol" car.
"The good guys always won and the bad guys got what they deserved on the show. There were no lawyers, bail bondsmen or even Miranda rights," said Goltz, 43.
"There was Broderick Crawford. When he moved to California in 1985, Goltz was amazed to find that the CHP used black-and-whites just like Crawford's.
"I said, `Oh my God, they're real.' It was like getting pulled over by the CHP would be an honor," he remembers.
Soon, he was collecting videotapes of the show - eventually tracking down all but seven of its 156 episodes. Then he set out to collect something bigger.
"I wanted a 1955 Buick Special like Broderick Crawford drove," he said. Through an antique car publication, he found one in Sacramento. Then he spent $25,000 to paint it and equip it just like Crawford's.
Goltz met Runyon of Inglewood through another Highway Patrol video collector. Because the show was filmed in black-and-white, Runyon loaned a snapshot that showed the colors of the generic, crest-like Highway Patrol logo on Crawford's car so Goltz could duplicate that too.
The CHP initially gave its backing to the show in hopes it would do for the patrol what Jack Webb's Dragnet had done for the Los Angeles Police Department's image, Goltz said.
"They weren't that pleased when they saw Broderick Crawford playing the lead. They'd wanted Mike Connors, someone clean-cut and lean. In fact, there's a Mike Connors pilot. I have it."
But Crawford, who had won an Academy Award in 1949 for All the King's Men, was picked by ZIV Television Programs to portray gruff-talking, burly Chief Dan Mathews.
Goltz has painted the words "Broderick Crawford Special" on his car's dashboard. Crawford's fictional radio call sign, "Unit 21-50," is painted outside.
He has put about 4,000 miles on the old Buick in the last year. He keeps its red lights covered when he drives it. And there's a sign; "Not in Service Since 1955," on its side windows to keep anyone from thinking it's a real police car.
But he creates a stir when he arrives in it wearing his fedora to pick up clients for business lunches, or when he uses the car for errands.
That's when he is likely to flip on the loudspeaker and play a tape of the Highway Patrol theme or announcer Art Gilmore's memorable introduction to the show: "Whenever the laws of any state are broken, a duly authorized organization swings into action. It may be called the state police, state troopers, militia, the rangers or the highway patrol.
"These are the stories of the men whose training, skill and courage have enforced and preserved our state laws."
"He was obsessed with the show when I met him 22 years ago, but I never thought it would get to this extent," said Goltz's wife, Sharon.
"He's even bought hats like his for our two boys. He'll have the siren on or get on the P.A. and talk to people he knows. Sometimes my daughter and I want to hide on the floor."
Although he was stopped once by a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy who suspected Goltz was impersonating an officer ("He was a young guy who had never seen the show," Goltz explains), his car has received rave reviews from the real CHP.
It's a hit at CHP open houses and similar events. On the freeway, passing CHP officers have offered friendly waves.
"It's amazing. It's an exact replica, with music that plays out the front bumper. It's something a lot of people remember," said Deputy Chief Edward Games, CHP commander for Los Angeles County. "I grew up in that time. I remember that show."
In Sacramento, CHP spokesman Jose Vasquez said car restorers who want to put the authentic CHP star logo on the side of a vehicle must have written approval from the CHP commissioner. And those cars cannot be driven unless the logo and red lights are covered.
"It can't be misunderstood by the public," Vasquez said. "10-4," said Goltz in his best Broderick Crawford voice.