- All Magnum, P.I. photos from IMCDb.com, all my photos taken by me...

Robin Masters's cars vs mine

The fictional reclusive millionaire writer and I each have three cars... with some striking similarities

4w ago

My wife and I started re-watching the original Magnum, P.I. television series a while back. It still more or less holds up as a fun campy adventure, full of beautiful scenery, thrilling chases, and, of course, that Ferrari. There isn't a gearhead alive who didn't watch that show and want to hop into that gorgeous red 308 (without opening the door, of course) peel out, and roar off into the Hawaii sunset, hot on the trail of some bad guy.

But the Ferrari wasn't the only car Magnum got to drive. Robin Masters had two other vehicles on the estate as well, and while they got less screen time, both saw some good action. And the three of them together make up a good basic set of vehicles for any car buff to own, or aspire to: the sports car, the daily driver, and the truck. Coincidentally, these are the three vehicles in my modest fleet as well. And there are some interesting similarities...

The sports car: Ferrari 308 GTS and MGB GT

Ok, so Magnum wins this one, hands down. I won't deny it. You can't compete with a Ferrari for cool factor, even a "slow" one from the early '80s like this. The swoopy profile, the gated shifter, the howl of that little V8... no mass-produced British sports car is in the same league.

And yet... my little MGB has its own mellifluous exhaust note. And its gearshift, while not as cool as the Ferrari chrome gate, is still inviting, still makes you want to drive:

No gate, but a bolt-on bezel right onto the tunnel, kinda like a Cobra.

No gate, but a bolt-on bezel right onto the tunnel, kinda like a Cobra.

And its styling? Well, they're kissing cousins. Sort of. Both cars were styled by legendary Italian dseign house Pininfarina. (OK, only the back half of the MG, but still.)

Not to mention that my particular MGB GT was originally sold in Hawaii, and spent the first 44 years of its life on Oahu. It may very well have shared a road with Magnum's Ferrari at some point.

The daily driver: Audi 5000S and Toyota Corolla

OK, this one is more of a stretch, I suppose. Both are four-door sedans, and... front wheel drive... and manual transmissions... and, yeah, that's all I got.

But I do have some personal history with these Audi sedans. My family had three of them at various times: an '83, an '86, and an '87. I drove the '87 to my senior prom. Because, just as Magnum and Higgins knew, if you want to give someone a nice ride somewhere, you don't cram them into a sports car. You take the comfy sedan.

Sometimes, you feel a lot cooler than you actually look.

Sometimes, you feel a lot cooler than you actually look.

The truck: GMC Jimmy and Chevy K1500

In the show, they refer to the 1980 GMC Jimmy, "Robin-3," as "the pickup." But really, I can't imagine Higgins shoveling half a yard of gravel out of the back of it, can you? At most, it's the vehicle for taking Zeus and Apollo to the dog park. The Jimmy wins for cool, but for practicality and usefulness, I'll keep my own old pickup, thank you.

Truck doing truck things.

Truck doing truck things.

So who wins? Well, Robin, obviously. And I'm no Tom Selleck, either. But I did think that some of the similarities were interesting. And those three vehicle archetypes, the sports car (or project car), the daily driver, and the truck, hold true as the ideal "gearhead triumvirate" pretty much no matter where you go...

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Comments (4)

  • I've spent a lot of time in places where the daily driver usually was the project car or the truck, even for people who had money and space for another. Most office parking lots would have a handful of 1-ton dually crew cabs. Some people's project cars were totally generic because they just enjoyed doing the rebuild, and they were in a cycle where the next one was ready around the time the current one was starting to wear out.

    In a random coincidence, I recently started (re)watching the original "Magnum, PI" as well. I came to the same conclusion as you - it holds up because it was a cheesy adventure show to begin with, and it executed that formula pretty well.

      1 month ago
    • Oh, definitely; my truck was my daily driver for a year before the Toyota came along. I just wanted something marginally more comfortable, and a lot more efficient. And my previous project, a '91 Miata, was my summertime daily driver for...

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        1 month ago
  • I'm from Oahu, I can't believe it isn't rusted to the ground. All the Datsuns rusted, mine is from CA.

      1 month ago
    • It has its share of rust, but nothing critical, and it's still a decent ten-footer. I think the reason it isn't worse is that it sat in storage (probably indoors) for a looooong time. There's only 19,000 miles on it.

        1 month ago