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Original ‘Karate Kid’ Car Gets the Wax On, Wax Off Treatment in ‘Cobra Kai’

A piece of cinema history comes back to life, thanks to Ralph Macchio, who owns the iconic yellow Ford.

Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita, "The Karate Kid"

Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita, “The Karate Kid”

Columbia Pictures

The spirit of Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) lives on in the second season of “Cobra Kai” through his love of vintage cars. In the YouTube series, Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) uncovers the yellow 1947 Ford Super Deluxe convertible that his teacher had him wax in order to instill in him the muscle memory that would be translated into defensive karate blocks. Now, Miyagi-Do Karate student Robby (Tanner Buchanan) is the one applying the wax and doing chores to learn martial arts.

This isn’t just any prop car though. It’s the original yellow Ford that was featured in the films and owned by Macchio himself. While he was shooting “Karate Kid III,” he had asked Columbia Pictures if he could buy the car, but never heard back. “On the day that ‘Part III’ came out, the car was outside in front of my house in New York from Columbia Pictures,” said Macchio in an interview with IndieWire.

It was actually Macchio’s idea to include the car in “Cobra Kai” to give the series that extra touch of authenticity. “I said if we’re doing the show, I want the car to be in it. We got to dust it off — it’s been still for about two decades — and then put a new engine in it and get it all cleaned up and looking like new. I love having it in there.”

Macchio never named his car but does call it the “wax on, wax off” car for obvious reasons.

“I do say it’s the one girl that’s always there for LaRusso through thick and thin,” he said. “Of all the girlfriends of the movies this is the one that stuck with him.”

Ralph Macchio and Tanner Buchanan, “Cobra Kai”

YouTube Premium

“We gave it a complete remodeling under the hood,” added series co-creator Hayden Schlossberg. “But other than that, the color faded, and we liked that, because it felt real.”

Mr. Miyagi was a vintage car collector and restorer, and in his yard, he also parked a 1951 black Cadillac sedan, an early 1950s Pontiac “Woodie” station wagon, a blue and white Nash Metropolitan, and Mr. Miyagi’s daily driver, a 1942 Chevrolet pickup truck. “Cobra Kai” was able to match most of the other cars in his yard with replicas except for one.

“The car called the ‘Woodie’ is the one we couldn’t get,” said co-creator Josh Heald. “But everything else we could get, and we were able to have as many cars in the shot by getting a replica of Mr. Miyagi’s truck and putting that in one of the parking spots.”

Mr. Miyagi's cars in "Karate Kid" (left) and in "Cobra Kai" (right)

Mr. Miyagi’s cars in “Karate Kid” (left) and in “Cobra Kai” (right)

Columbia Pictures, YouTube Premium

Although not quite as old, another car also steals the spotlight temporarily. Last season, Daniel’s cousin and his friend retaliate against Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) by setting fire to his ‘80s-era red Pontiac Firebird. Since Daniel is a successful auto dealer in the San Fernando Valley, he offers Johnny a used replacement car.

Although Johnny chooses a red 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T, it doesn’t stay that color for long. In Episode 2, he has the car get a complete makeover, painting it black and gold to match the Cobra Kai colors and even installs a silver cobra head gear shift.

“The way things went and ended at that point, Johnny didn’t want to drive around with this constant reminder that this is the car from LaRusso’s lot,” said co-creator Jon Hurwitz. “It even had the LaRusso temporary tag in the back. So this is Johnny’s idea of what a badass muscle car would be.

"Cobra Kai" Dodge Challenger

“Cobra Kai” Dodge Challenger

YouTube Premium

“We actually did take a Dodge Challenger and put it through the works. [For filming] we filled in one car that we were painting and taking the wheels off of, and taking things in and out of. But behind the scenes, we had the same guys who worked on Ralph’s car building the cars you see onscreen. That car is just a monster of a vehicle.”

”Cobra Kai” Seasons 1 and 2 are available to stream on YouTube Premium.

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