Weathered 1963 Dodge D200 shines in film role

Major motion pictures highlight vehicles in a special way. So much so that it isn't uncommon for auto enthusiasts to forget dialogue, plots and even characters' names and instead leave the theater wishing they were cruising home in something cool they just saw on the silver screen.

Well, now some area moviegoer will do just that with a special promotion at the McHenry Outdoor Theatre, one of the few surviving old time drive-ins. The vehicle in question is a weathered 1963 Dodge D200 pickup that will be seen this summer in “Man of Steel,” the newest tale in the Superman saga.

Brian Grams, director of the Volo Auto Museum in Volo, is the man responsible for finding the truck.

“We've worked with Warner Brothers quite a bit, mostly purchasing vehicles from movies to put on display. They contacted us in 2011 to supply vehicles for this summer's ‘Great Gatsby' film and again in 2012 to find vehicles for ‘Man of Steel,' ” Grams said.

While the staff at the museum ended up supplying roughly 50 vehicles for the Superman flick, one in particular had to be a bit more special.

“The studio wanted an old farm truck for the Kent family vehicle. I wanted to find something that looked well worn, broken-in and something that appeared to have been sitting in a field. When I found this vintage Dodge, I knew this was the one.”

Fittingly, just as Clark Kent landed in rural Kansas, this D200 was also found in Kansas and hauled back to the movie production base camp in Yorkville. For main vehicles, major motion pictures don't rely on just one but instead have several backups so as not to impede tight shooting schedules.

“Once we realized we had to find duplicates, the task got a bit trickier. Dodge trucks aren't too plentiful,” Grams said.

Grams and his crew managed to find two more D200s and turned them over to the special effects department. From there, the multicolored trucks in varying conditions were matched to be duplicates of the initial find.

“We got the vehicle back after filming and wanted to do something special with it,” Grams said. He looked to his childhood for inspiration.

“I remember my parents taking me and my brother to the McHenry theater and now I take my kids there. It's an experience that is truly memorable.”

That's why Grams made the decision to donate the truck. The publicity couldn't have come at a better time for the theater, which is making expensive upgrades to be able to stay in business. Most major movie studios are ceasing distribution of 35-millimeter film, necessitating the purchase of a costly digital projector for the iconic drive-in.

“We need as much support as we can get,” said Scott Dehn, owner of the theater. “We're grateful and very excited about this opportunity to give away a piece of movie memorabilia.”

Grams said Warner Brothers still has one of the duplicate trucks, while the other was wrecked during filming and junked after.

The contest begins May 3 and runs through the promotion finale on Aug. 24. During that time, every moviegoer's ticket stub will be entered. The movie releases June 14 but the truck can already be seen online in Trailer No. 2 at the movie's official website,

Volo Auto Museum Director Brian grams is donating the truck as a fundraiser for the McHenry Outdoor Theatre.
1963 Dodge D200 Photos Courtesy of Prestige MotorCar Photography
Though the truck runs, Grams says he wouldnÂ’t recommend driving it cross country.
  Friends share some fun and conversation before watching a movie at the McHenry drive-in. Volo Auto Museum this summer will help the drive-in raise about $130,000 needed to buy a digital projector and upgrade the air conditioning and electrical system in the projection booth. Laura Stoecker/, 2007
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