Ken Hufford is an organic vegetable farmer on the Big Island of Hawai’i. I was purchasing crisp, Waimea lettuce from him one Saturday at the Hawaiian Homestead Farmer’s Market when I learned about his fascinating encounter with the movie industry. Two of his classic cars were used in the filming of the full-length feature movie, “Pearl Harbor” (2000), starring Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, and Kate Beckinsale.
Photo 1: Ken Hufford standing next to his 1935 Dodge coupe. (Photo by C.E. Chambers. See more photos below.)
“Vintage delights are sometimes found in exotic, out-of-the-way places…and sometimes essential to monumental productions.
On the Big Island of Hawai’i, an organic vegetable farmer stores four of his classic cars in a converted greenhouse. Two of them were shipped to Oahu last year for the filming of Walt Disney’s “Pearl Harbor”: a chiffon-yellow, 1935 Dodge coupe with a rumble seat, and a green, 1941 Pontiac Silver Streak.
Ken Hufford, the owner of these vintage gems, is a 21-year resident of Hawai’i and a University of Michigan graduate who’s been a classic car buff since attending junior college. In 1961, he traded $100 and his Lionel train set for a black, 1936 Plymouth sedan.
“No one wanted to be seen in an old car back then,” he remembers. The 50s era, however, became “cooler and cooler” and helped kick off what has become an increasingly popular hobby, if not lifestyle.
Classic car clubs have spawned well-attended car shows (a recent one held on the Big Island included inter-island and mainland car owners) and are excellent venues for socializing and sharing of information.
The Walt Disney Company was informed about Ken Hufford through a local car club and he became a guest on the “Pearl Harbor” movie set for one week in April 2000. During this period, filming took place on the Fort Shafter Army Base and also on Ford Island.
Publicity photos were taken on Ford Island with lead actress Kate Beckinsale (who plays a Navy nurse in the film) — and Ken’s favorite classic car, the chiffon-yellow Dodge, was used as the backdrop.
“I haven’t seen the movie yet,” the bearded, six-foot two-inch Hufford recently shared. He was packing up his produce stand after the Saturday farmer’s market in pastoral Waimea which is nestled on the slopes of the Kohala Mountains. He admits to some controversy over the 1935 Dodge coupe.
“When I drove the Dodge onto the set the first day, representatives of the Walt Disney Company were pretty excited. Director Michael Bay wanted to include it in a ferry scene with Beckinsale and four other actresses.” Later, however, just before filming began, another executive expressed doubts over the classic car’s “bright” color.
About 20 other cars were on the set that week. All in mint condition — except for a black Buick convertible with ready-made bullet holes provided by a company from the mainland — the verbal tug-of-war escalated over the Dodge’s suitability for cinematography. One studio head preferred a 1936 beige-green Ford that’s owned by an Oahu resident.
“This film is about people, not cars!” Ken remembers one of the executives exclaiming. End of story.
Or is it? Until Ken and his wife, Roen, are able to take time away from their picturesque 10-acre Honopua Farm (they also grow three acres of vegetables on adjacent property) and from their two sons, Joseph and Joshua, moviegoers will have to decide if their vintage automobiles actually appear in the film.
The 1935 Dodge with rumble seat should be easy to spot: Spare tires are mounted on the front fenders (twin side-mounts, as car buffs call them), and there’s a distinctive hood ornament (a $400 authentic reproduction of a ram).
Hint: One of the attack scenes in “Pearl Harbor” takes place on a wide, car-lined street…and to the right is what looks like a 40s-era, chiffon-yellow Dodge facing the camera.”
(This interview and six photos by C.E. Chambers, “a contributing feature writer,” were published in the “Hawaii Navy News” on July 20, 2001. The original title was “Farmer From Hawaii Supplies Classic Cars for ‘Pearl Harbor.’ “)
Photo 2 (above): Hood ornament to the 1935 Dodge coupe. (Photo by C.E. Chambers)
Photo 3 (above): Hufford’s 1935 Dodge coupe is stored in his converted greenhouse. (Photo by C.E. Chambers. This photo was not published with the article.)
Photo 4: Hufford’s green, 1941 Pontiac Silver Streak is also stored in his converted greenhouse. (Photo by C.E. Chambers)
Photo 5 (above): The 1941 Pontiac Silver Streak being admired at a car show in Waimea. (Photo by C.E. Chambers)
Photo 6 (above): Ken Hufford lounging next to his coral and white 1955 Oldsmobile 98 hardtop at a car show. This vintage car was not used in the filming of “Pearl Harbor.” (Photo by C.E. Chambers)
Photo 7 (above): Ken Hufford’s reflection in the side view mirror of his 1941 Pontiac Silver Streak. (Photo by C.E. Chambers)