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PALM LATITUDES

THE BIZ : Hollywood's Real Star Vehicles

August 15, 1993|Judy Raphael

We're lost. We always get lost in the Valley. We're at the end of a cul-de-sac, driving through a gate, and suddenly--we're in Car Twilight Zone: three acres of taxis, ambulances, armored cars, newsvans and cop cars, lots of cop cars, including a blue-and-white number marked "Hazzard County." Have we died and gone to "Dukes of Hazzard" hell? It was the parking tickets, right?

Wrong. We're at Ray Claridge's Cinema Vehicle Services in Van Nuys, perhaps the biggest of about a dozen prop-car lots in Southern California, with about 450 vehicles that have been reborn, rebuilt and rented out for TV and film roles.

There's five New Mexico police cars, sitting, crashed, after the shoot-'em-up chase with Alex Baldwin and Kim Basinger in the remake of "The Getaway." And there's Walter Matthau's Ford from "Dennis the Menace" and a little red Corvair from "What's Love Got to Do With It" next to the SWAT vans wrecked in "Terminator 2."

No wonder police copters buzzed this place when it first opened--there are more police cars here than at the Van Nuys police station. Taxi drivers bringing Ray from the airport still freak out, he says.

But hey, not us. We're not paranoid. We know that "Rome Police" car coming toward us is really from "Picket Fences." Sure, it is! But just in case, we'll pay those parking tickets.

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