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Car lover's dream leads to surprising historical find

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I spoke with auto clubs – they had never seen a Fairlane with that low of a VIN number'

Daniel Carl
© 2011 WND

Brian Reilly next to his '68 Ford Fairlane

In 1993 Brian Reilly, a self-professed "Ford nut" wanted to purchase a convertible. After an extended search, he found a diamond blue, 1968 Ford Fairlane in Seattle.

Little did he know, he had just stumbled upon a unique piece of television history.

Being an avid fan of Ford Fairlanes, Reilly noticed a few things about the car that seemed "somewhat unusual," including its large, 390 GT engine, which Reilly says that model didn't usually have.

"It had bucket seats and a console shift," Reilly told WND. "I thought this was kind of odd, because most of the Fairlanes from 1968 had bench seats and stick shifts on the column. This was a really different car, so I went ahead and bought it."

But there was one specific detail that made him want to dig deeper into the car's history.

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"I began doing research on the body codes that come with Fords. Fords have really good body codes that give you different information, and I became really curious when I saw that the VIN number was less than 15," Reilly said. "I had never seen a VIN number that low.

"I communicated with various car people and auto clubs, and they had never seen a Fairlane with that low of a VIN number," Reilly added.

"I started speaking with previous owners and found a fellow in Oregon," Reilly related. "He said, 'Have you heard the story about the car?' I said, 'Well, go ahead and tell me; that's why I'm calling'

"The Oregon fellow said the car was used on the old TV show, 'Hawaii Five-0,'" Reilly stated.

Reilly asked the Oregon man for proof that the car he had purchased at an auction lot in Seattle was indeed part of American television history. Sadly, the man had none, but Reilly's interest had been piqued.

He began a quest that would last for 10 years.

"For 10 years I researched the car," Reilly told WND. "I wrote to Jack Lord, who played Steve McGarrett on the show; got no response. I wrote the Screen Actors Guild and never got a response. I wrote to Paramount Studios; never got a response. I wrote to Viacom (CBS's parent company) and never got a response."

Despite the silence, Reilly continued his search the only way he could.

"['Hawaii Five-0'] was on Hallmark at the time, and I would watch the various episodes looking for the car, and I would continue to do that. I finally saw on one of the episodes what looked to be the car. The episodes were in such poor condition and so edited, that it was hard to tell if it was the car or not," Reilly said.

His perseverance, however, would soon pay off.

"Ten years after buying the car, in 2003, I got on the Internet and typed in 'Hawaii Five-0' and found a website called, 'The Cars of Hawaii Five-0,' and somebody with lots of time on their hands had gone through the first 5 or 6 six years of the show and had documented all the cars that had been on the show," Reilly explained.

"Sure enough, I found four episodes that he documented in which there was a Ford Fairlane used that was a convertible," Reilly said. "Down the road, I bought the recently digitized first season on DVD and I saw the car in not four, but six episodes."

After carefully making sure that the details matched, Reilly believed that the car he owned was indeed a part of television history.

But he wasn't content with the discovery. Needing to know more, he contacted an Arizona company that was licensed by Ford to produce vehicle records on their cars produced in the '60s and '70s.

"I sent in my 50 dollars with the VIN number and all the information," Reilly related. "Lo and behold, they sent back information that says, quote, 'In addition this is the only Fairlane 500 convertible produced that was painted diamond blue with blue bucket seats that was sent to Hawaii.'

"They also said that it was shipped to 711 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu, Hawaii, 96813," Reilly said. "And they provided all of the information on what came on the car originally.

"They documented that it was considered or called an introductory show unit and that it was ordered directly by Ford for Ford and it was classified as a special unit," Reilly explained.

Reilly also mentions that as he continued his search, he found two other people who provided needed pieces of information.

One was a woman who had been Jack Lord's personal secretary, who then directed him to Bernard Osaransky, who was the assistant to the production manager on the show for 10 years. It was Osaransky's responsibility to pick up six cars every year that the Ford motor company would send to the show.

When he contacted Osaransky on the phone, Osaransky added the final detail for the search.

As Osaransky described the process and where he went to pick up the cars, Reilly jumped in and said, "Let me tell you were you picked them up, you picked them up at 711 Ala Moana Boulevard."

"You're exactly right" Osaransky replied.

Reilly had found his car.

Local TV crew admiring Reilly's '68 Ford Fairlane, "Danno"

"Osaransky remembers the car being used by his boss," Reilly explained. "The production manager would drive the car to the location shoots; he said he very clearly remembers the car."

The car would go on to be used in six episodes of the show, but Reilly claims Ford never intended that the car be sold. He says that the car was scheduled for demolition after its use in the "Hawaii Five-0" television series.

"Ford would produce about 50 cars that they would use for special promotions and testing," Reilly explained. "The purpose of producing these cars was to make sure that the assembly lines were working properly and efficiently.

"These cars were essentially handmade, and normally, after these cars were loaned out and given to people, the cars were normally given back to Ford and destroyed," Reilly added.

Somehow, the car escaped the junkyard compactor, however, and found its way to the Seattle car dealer where Reilly purchased it in 1993.

Reilly has had the car – which he told WND he calls "Danno," since it made its debut appearance in the first episode in which Jack Lord spoke the now famous phrase, "Book 'em, Danno!" – for over 10 years, and he admits that he's as big of a fan of "Hawaii Five-0" now as he was when he was a teenager. His love for the car and for the program – both the original and the new, remade TV series – leads him to have one wish for his for his vintage Ford Fairlane.

"Ideally, what I'd really like to see happen," Reilly says, "what I'd really, really like to see … is for the car to appear on a current episode of 'Hawaii Five-0.'"

Reilly has yet to receive a response from CBS.