Friday April 28, 2017
In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum-security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem… if no one else can help… and if you can find them, maybe you can hire... The A-Team.
For countless viewers around the world, the true hero of The A-Team was the 1983 GMC Vandura G15 – or rather several of them. Craig R Baxley, the show’s director and stunt coordinator has stated that at least eight vans were used over the series’ four-year run - two for first unit filming and another six stunt vans. The Universal Studios Prop Department extensively modified the G15s and to ensure some extra drama during the chase senses, the crew would spray bleach on and around the rear tyres so to produce impressive clouds of grey smoke. The main actors did not carry out the driving as Henry Kingi was responsible for the major jumps and chase sequences.
The A-Team first aired on ITV on a Saturday afternoon, some 34 years ago, and it still appears utterly fascinating. Every week, B.A.’s engineering genius seemed to be able to convert a 1961 Chevrolet Corvair into an armoured car (I might be slightly hazy on this standard plot detail) in about five minutes flat and all of the main cast members had the ability to survive the largest of explosions. Over the course of 98 episodes, aficionados grew to appreciate the entertaining continuity errors, such as a sunroof that would disappear between scenes. Whenever the G15, or one of its doubles, was about to land in a reservoir or lake, the engine had to be removed, as per Californian state regulations.
There also remained the fact that if John "Hannibal" Smith, B. A. Baracus, Templeton “Face” Peck and “Howling Mad” Murdock really were a covert gang, it was possibly not a clever idea to use an extremely recognisable van. Alternatively, the Military Police could probably have traced The A-Team by following a trail of wrecked Pontiac Catalinas and Oldsmobile Delta 88s. But the Vandura, became a genuine star of the small screen, whether it was speeding through burning sheds or crashing through roadblocks made of two unfortunate Dodge St Regis. Yaxley noted that ‘anytime you do a major jump, that’s usually the end of the vehicle. We destroyed four on The A-Team…When the show ended, there were three remaining: two on first unit and one on second’.
To the average British viewer, GMC was especially glamorous; the stacked quad headlights, the mighty engine and the fact that it was not officially sold in the UK. The nearest local equivalent to the G15 was the Bedford CF; honest transport but not really associated with thrilling adventures, no matter how cleverly an owner might apply an aftermarket black with a red diagonal stripe paint finish. Anyone who recalls the 1980s will also remember that this colour scheme looked even less unconvincing on a second-hand BLMC J4.
Most readers will have their favourite edition of the programme, and here is mine. February 11th 1986 was the day when a notable episode of The A-Team was aired, one with a premise so bizarre that for decades afterwards many people today thought they had dreamt it. But no, Cowboy George really did guest star Boy George and Culture Club, all helping this week’s plan to come together: