The Black Beauty was Britt Reid's new car when first mentioned in the radio series. That it was witnessed at the scene of a crime, unfortunately, meant that Britt could not allow himself to be linked to its presence there. Also, it then had a defective horn that sounded like the buzz of a hornet in flight.
Movie serial usage
In the movie serials, the Black Beauty was shown to be capable of outrunning virtually any police vehicle.
The TV series featured a 1966 Imperial Crown hardtop customized by Dean Jeffries at a cost of $50,000 USD, part of which went toward the car's paint job: 30 coats of metal flake, pure black green pearl of essence lacquer hand-rubbed to a high gloss. An article in TV Guide published during the show's network run made reference to disparaging comments made within the industry about ABC being "the two-car network" because of the Black Beauty and the Batmobile.
The Black Beauty was stored underneath Brit Reid's garage. A set of switches on a secret control panel behind a tool wall would sequentially 1) lower the lights; 2) attach clamps to the axles of Reid's personal car; 3) rotate the floor of the garage — hiding Reid's car and bringing up the Black Beauty; and 4) unclamp the Black Beauty's axles. The Black Beauty would then exit the garage through a hidden rear door, and enter the street from behind a billboard advertising the fictitious product Kissin' Candy Mints — with the slogan "How sweet they are" — that was cleverly designed to separate down the middle and rejoin.
The Black Beauty could fire explosive charges from tubes hidden behind retractable panels below the headlights which were said to be rockets with explosive warheads; had a concealed-when-not-in-use, drop-down knock-out gas nozzle in the center of the front grille and the vehicle could launch a small flying video/audio surveillance device (referred to as the scanner) through a small rectangular panel in the middle of the trunk lid. Working "rockets" and "gas nozzles" were incorporated into the trunk lid as well.
The TV series employed an audio device from the radio show. In its era, the engines of cheaper cars made a lot of noise; the expensive Pierce-Arrow was reputed to be extremely quiet. So, when the Green Hornet said, "Rig for silent running," the hornet-like buzz on the radio show was turned off and the listener was left to imagine that the car really was silent. On TV, the car sounded like a modern car, but the noise was removed from the soundtrack after this command.
The Beauty's regular headlight cluster supposedly could be flipped over to reveal what studio publicity described as "infra-green" headlights. However, the car's headlights were not actually rigged to flip, so the green filters were seen deployed constantly. It was revealed in the related The Green Hornet spin-off Gold Key comic book that the green headlights used polarized light which in combination with the appropriately polarized vision filter (translucent green sun visor-like panels that could be pulled down when needed) could provide almost as much illumination as conventional headlights while being extremely dim — almost invisibly dark — to someone without the filter. In some early episodes in two-shots with both Van Williams and Bruce Lee inside the Black Beauty, as seen through the windshield, Lee's face was tinted green since he was supposedly seen through a "polarized" filter in the form of a large pull-down, transparent green-gray visor; Williams on the other hand was seen in normal light. The tint is not present in close-ups of Lee alone. Since specification of what this lighting was supposed to indicate never actually made it into any finished episode, the effect was unexplained to the audience and soon discontinued. However, most night shots were actually filmed during the daytime by the day for night technique, giving the illusion of night-time as the actual car headlights were not polarized but just had green lenses, which would render the headlights useless for real night-driving. As the series progressed, the process was executed less effectively, reaching the point where the viewer would need context to understand that some scenes were supposed to be taking place at night, as can be observed in screening the episodes in either original network airing or syndication (production) order.
In 1992, Green Hornet enthusiast Dan Goodman, purchased the "number one" Black Beauty from the former transportation director of Twentieth Century Fox for the sum of $10,000 USD and commissioned Jeffries to restore it; two cars had been built for the series and Goodman's was the primary car. Although the vehicle was in perfect mechanical condition with the original custom wheels and most body modifications as used in the show and had logged only 17,000 miles (approximately 27,350 km) since new, it was badly weathered. Despite numerous legal bouts between Jeffries and Goodman over cost overruns and rights to the "Black Beauty" name and likeness, Jeffries eventually restored the car to its current condition albeit incorrect regarding the condition during the series. While the rocket launcher panels on the trunk lid had been welded shut, requiring replacement of the body panel in order to make the system functional again, the flip-down green headlights were intact less their drive motor and discovered beneath the hood after Goodman took delivery. The Black Beauty is part of the Petersen Automotive Museum collection; the "number two" Black Beauty resides in a private collection in South Carolina.
NOW Comic Series
There were two versions of the Black Beauty used in the NOW comic series. The first was based on the Pontiac Banshee, and the second was a four-door sedan based on the 91-96 Oldsmobile 98 Touring Sedan.
Among its features:
- Two cartridge-fed, hood-mounted retractable .30 caliber M1919 Browning machine guns
- Front bumper loaded FIM-92 Stinger missiles
- Grill-mounted M2 Flamethrower
- Benelli M2 20-gauge shotguns loaded with non-lethal, kinetic impact munitions rifles – mounted in the light bezels
- Four AIM-92A Stinger missiles – rear bumper loaded
- Trunk-mounted .30 Caliber M1919A6 Browning machine guns on tripod mount
- Two retractable front wheel anti-riot spikes
- Six AR-15 Carbines
- 12-gauge modified door guns – inset 3 per door
- Kevin Smith and WildBrain Join Forces for New Animated Green Hornet Series. WildBrain (July 30, 2020). Retrieved on August 1, 2020.