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Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Tale of 3 Scanners...

Did you know that during the course of the series, there were 3 distinct "generations" of the front scanner bar circuitry? We didn't either...until very recently! Now, we aren't talking about the metal bar that houses the eight bulbs in the front nose. We're talking about the technology behind it.

Generation 1:

The original scanner, as you can guess, was designed and built by Michael Scheffe's team when they were building the original car back in 1982. This was a "one off" piece installed in one car only.

Generation 2:

For the duplicate cars that Universal Studios built, the scanner circuitry was designed and built in-house by the studio's special effects department. These were relay based, and featured a small black control box mounted under the dash, with an on/off switch, a knob to adjust the scanner speed and a bargraph display. The circuit featured point to point wire wrapping and was quite crude. This style was in use from early first season through the middle of the third season.

A Gen 2 box can be seen in this behind the scenes photo from "The Ice Bandits"

Generation 3:

In the middle of season 3, the Gen 2 scanners were constantly failing due to their crude design, so a studio employee who was adept at electronics spent 2 weeks during a hiatus from filming to completely redesign the circuitry that ran the scanner lights. This employee custom eteched boards and created a much more reliable circuit that ran problem free for the remainder of the series. 10-12 of the Gen 3 scanners were built for each car the studio had on hand. The control box was similar to the Gen 2, but it was blue and had special writing on the side that could be tied to a specific screen used car.

A Gen 3 box can be seen in this behind the scenes photo from "Knight of the Juggernaut"

As you may recall, the Hoff Nose that we purchased a few year's back had an original Gen 3 scanner inside. We thought we'd never see a Gen 2 control box, assuming that they were all scrapped when the Gen 3's were installed.

We were wrong.

During a recent trip to California, we met up with the former studio employee mentioned above, and to our surprise, he so graciously gave us another Gen 3 control box that he pulled from one of the stunt cars when the series ended. And then it got even better, because when he pulled out the Gen 2 control boxes to replace with his Gen 3 boxes, he SAVED 4 of the Gen 2 models...and he gave them to us! It is absolutely fascinating to see how the special effects team made the scanner work, and while all 5 of the boxes he gave us need repairs, we have vowed to make them ALL functional once again! Stay tuned for more updates on this incredible find!


  1. Wow, what a find :) I didn't know about that. I've think there was only one circuitry for scanners.

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