Quick Stats: James Denton, actor, Hallmark’s “Good Witch”
Daily Driver: 1966 Ford F250 (James’ rating: 9 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: see below
Favorite road trip: Chicago to Los Angeles
Car he learned to drive in: 1976 Super Jeep CJ-5
First car bought: 1986 Subaru XT Turbo
Actor James Denton bought his beloved 1966 Ford F-250 years before his role on “Desperate Housewives,” which became his daily driver for getting him to the set.
“I always preferred a standard shift to an automatic. It’s a four speed, but it’s got that granny gear so I can never use first, really. I drive it all the time, I love it,” Denton tells Motor Trend. “It’s a real workout. My wife doesn’t drive it. I bought it from a mechanic in southern California in 1999, so I’ve had it 16 years.”
Denton is now co-starring in Hallmark Channel’s “Good Witch” with Catherine Bell, currently in its second season. He rates the old F-250 a 9 out of 10 for what it’s supposed to be for him. “It never breaks down, I’ve had it forever. I’ve almost done nothing to it. It’s not great in the snow obviously because the back end is too light, but other than the tough weather, which I don’t drive it in the snow because there’s so much salt and it’s such a pretty truck, it’s a great truck,” he says.
Photos: Crown Media US
Despite its age, he still uses it as a daily driver, even though it doesn’t have power steering. “I didn’t get it detailed perfectly by any means, it’s still a work truck, kind of a beater, but I did get it painted. I got some of the interior fixed up because it was falling apart. Now of course you have to use some muscle,” he says, with a laugh. “It’s hard to steer, but that’s no problem for me.”
He drives it mostly for errands and hauling things when needed, but because of its age, he did ship it when he moved from Los Angeles to Minnesota. “I don’t have to go to work everyday like most people, so I’m lucky that way, so when I was on ‘Housewives,’ I drove it to work but I only lived 10 minutes from set,” he says. “It’s pretty much a daily driver, but luckily I don’t have a commute so I don’t put many miles on it.”
Denton bought the Ford, which has the gear stick on the floor, from a mechanic, who put a different engine in it. “I think it’s got the 298, an old Mustang engine. But he had a giant bumper on the front, he used to push cars around, so I had to get that cut off with a torch,” he says. “I can fill the back with two or three yards of mulch that’s higher than the back of the truck and it doesn’t even sag. It just pulls like there’s nothing in it, it’s unbelievable how strong it is. And it never breaks down. I’ve been really, really lucky with it.”
The only thing Denton did was repaint it when he first bough it. “They had painted it a weird maroon, so I found some original ‘66 colors that had that turquoise and off white now, which is really much cooler,” he says.
Denton might make one more change on the Ford. “It’s got so many years on it. But the guy I bought it from put bucket seats in it, Mustang seats,” he says. “I wish it had the old bench seats, they’re really expensive and they’re hard to find in decent shape. I’m not crazy about the bucket seats. Very weird choice. If I put any more money into it, that’s what I’ll do, is I’ll find that bench seat and replace that.”
But everything else besides the old AM radio still works fine. “Even the dome light still works, the heater works,” he says. “The radio doesn’t work which is a bummer, but I don’t want to take it out because it’s an original, so I’ve left it in there and I just don’t have a radio.”
Instead of the car’s radio, Denton uses a Beats Dr. Dre Pill Bluetooth speaker with his cell phone. “I just throw it up on the dash and use that with the Bluetooth and it’s plenty,” he says. “I didn’t want to take that old radio out of the dash because it looks so cool.”
2013 Lexus GX 460
Denton’s Lexus GX is great when he has to drive the kids around. “We had to have the third seat to carpool for the kids and also we have a Great Dane so for travel, we can put that third seat down. There’s still room for a giant dog. It’s the Lexus GX if I’ve got the kids. If it’s just me, I’ll always drive the pickup. It’s fun to drive.”
He’s owned other hybrids before, like the Honda Civic and the Toyota Highlander, but he didn’t find that they did well enough to be worth it. “I’d love to drive one if the technology was better,” he says.
Denton rates the Lexus a 9. “I love it. Very, very happy with it. It even gets pretty decent mileage. I don’t have any complaints about it. I love the navigation in it, I love the way it drives, the mileage is not bad for an SUV. I guess I’m just hesitant to give it a 10,” he says, with a laugh, “just because nothing’s perfect, but I don’t have any complaints about it, it’s a really great car.”
2013 Audi Allroad
The Audi Allroad is one ride in Denton’s garage that gets a perfect 10, if it weren’t for its navigation system, which he feels is inferior to the Lexus.
“The navigation’s much tougher to use than that Lexus navigation touch screen, which is so much easer,” he says. “The Audi with the old toggle switch, and it’s hard to zoom in and out. Both my wife vastly prefers the Lexus navigation, but that’s my only complaint with the Audi. That’s also a great car. Love, love, love it, but my wife stole it, my wife drives it all the time,” Denton says, laughing.
He bought the Audi in Montana, where they have a house, near where other actors and celebrities live. “We wish it weren’t quite so popular. Most actors come up there and shoot and just fall in love with it, that’s what happened to me. We really love it,” he says. “There’s an Audi dealer in Bozeman, and I’d heard good things about it, did a little bit of research, and man, we love it, I have no complaints, I love the way it drives, but you have to be careful with it because it will fly.”
It’s also an awesome ride for snowy weather. “It was great in the snow in Minnesota,” he says. “Lexus wasn’t great in the snow, the anti-lock brakes, it tended to be really hard to stop it in icy conditions, which scared my wife. But the Audi of course was great in the snow.”
He likes it so much, they drive it back and forth between both of their homes, and especially when they are back in Minnesota, it’s become his wife’s daily driver.
2007 Ford F-150
This old Ford, which Denton loves, does get a perfect 10. “It’s funny, I’m not a car guy, I’m really ignorant. I don’t know much about them, but I’ve owned a whole lot of different kinds, because I’m old,” he says, with a big laugh. “I’ve had a lot of different cars, but the F-150 I bought because they’re so popular and there are lot of used F-150s around in Montana, so I bought this 2007 and it’s been great.”
He bought it used and it’s his Montana truck. “It’s been fantastic and we beat the crap out of it. That truck is a great truck, so it’s funny, we represent a lot of difference car makers,” he says, laughing.
Car he learned to drive in
Denton grew up in Nashville, where his mom taught him to drive in her 1976 Super Jeep CJ-5, which had bicentennial decals. “There weren’t many, nobody really had Jeeps back then, but that’s what my mom had,” he says.
Except for the fact that he had to learn on its manual transmission, it was easy to learn around the streets of Nashville. “That was a pretty easy place to learn. But I’m glad I did because people always ask, even as an actor when you get assigned a vehicle, ‘Well, can you drive a stick?’ And I always laugh because I started on the Jeep and now I’ve got the old Ford, but I think I’ll teach my kids on a stick too,” Denton says. “I did a movie and I played a cop and they wanted him to drive a Jeep, so I needed to be able to drive a straight shift, so they called me and said, ‘Hey, can you drive a standard?’ ‘Oh yeah.’ You don’t drive a lot, but you pull into a parking lot, or you’ll drive away from a scene. You drive a pretty good bit.”
Denton said nobody had Jeeps back then, especially the one his mom had. “I don’t know why she bought it, just on a lark she saw it somewhere and bought it in ’76, the Bicentennial, and then I turned 16 in ‘79 and she let me drive it,” he says.
He decided to looked one up online while talking about it, having not seen one since. “Such a cool Jeep, 1976 Super Jeep, there’s a picture with these crazy red, white and blue decals. I’ve never seen another one. It was very square, it looked just the old general issue vehicles, except mine was red, white and blue,” he says. “But it had a really small wheel base, really dangerous, had a V8 in it.”
The Super Jeep was Denton’s high school ride, and definitely among classmates, his was a unicorn of all the cars around. “I remember I could put my left foot on the clutch and shift the stick, put my foot around the stick and go through all three gears, so I could keep my right hand on my girlfriend,” he recounts. “I remember it very well, I could go through all the gears without using my hand.”
Everyone loved his rare car back then and wanted it because of the unusual red, white and blue decals and Denton finally sold it after a couple of years. “I had to go to college and it wasn’t really practical,” he says. “It was kind of at the end of its rope so I sold it and bought some little more practical car to go to college.”
It’s a small world, especially among celebrities. When talk turns to photos of the old Super Jeep and his current ride, getting a photo with his 1966 Ford pickup truck, and singer Eddie Money’s Celeb Drive photo, which was taken at night. “You want to hear something that’s funny? Eddie Money’s wife has been in my Jeep. We grew up in the same town. He met his wife in Nashville and she actually was in my Jeep, how funny is that?” he says. “Anyway that’s a nonsequitor. We’re friends, we have a lot of mutual friends. We were in gosh, ninth, tenth grade, a lifetime ago.”
First car bought
The first car Denton bought right out of college was a 1986 Subaru XT Turbo, which be had money to buy working his first job – selling newspaper ad space for a neighborhood newspaper. He kept it for around six to eight years, until he quit his job and moved to Chicago, which he knew to be a good theater town, to become an actor.
“It got towed off of the street in Chicago and crushed. They would crush your car if they towed it in Chicago if you don’t pick it up in time,” he says. “My dad died and I went home to Nashville. I left that car parked on the street, ended up being home longer than I thought I’d be, with my mom. Was gone about a month or two, came back to Chicago and they had towed it off the street and crushed it, so I never saw it again. Isn’t that funny they can do that? And that’s how I lost that. It got towed off the street and crushed by the city of Chicago,” Denton says, with a laugh.
Favorite road trip
Denton’s favorite road trip was when he moved from Chicago to Los Angeles for his acting career in 1996. “I took old Route 66 as much as I could,” he says. “It was very Americana. It’s pretty broken up and it’s hard to, but I stayed on as much as I could because of the iconic nature of it and all the stories and songs. That was cool. And plus, there’s also the fact that I was moving to L.A. which was kind of exciting. It was a big deal because I was heading out to L.A. and I stayed.”
“Good Witch” on Hallmark Channel Sundays 9 p.m.
The “Good Witch” movies starring Catherine Bell, were so successful, Hallmark turned it into a series last year, adding Denton to its cast. It’s currently in its second season, which started April 17 and ends June 19.
“You know what you’re going to get when you watch Hallmark, it’s a very squeaky clean, but still very compelling I think, and interesting family drama. But you know it’s going to have a happy ending and you know nobody’s going to get killed or raped, and they’re not going to feel bad,” Denton says, with a chuckle. “Catherine Bell is fantastic and they did seven of these movies, so the franchise is already popular.”
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Photos: Crown Media US – Brooke Palmer