In which we join the conveyor belt of plans, pilfering and auto parts.
We open on a new theme song playing over a montage of stock footage, with Stephen Geyer singing the episode’s title. A few men clock out from an automobile factory, but the foreman Rudy is pushed into the back of a car and driven away.
He’s blindfolded and taken to a warehouse and tied to a chair while three masked men shine lights in his eyes. They try to intimidate Rudy into keeping quiet about their activities at the factory by threatening his wife and daughter.
The next day, Rudy drive past a stop sign and is pulled over by a motorcycle policeman. Winding down the window, we see it’s Hannibal in disguise who tests his honesty by suggesting a bribe to get off the ticket. Rudy refuses and learns he’s just found the A-Team. He explains that some of the workers have been stealing parts from the plant to sell and they recently killed a man in a metal press who tried to stop them. No one is sure who the men are, but Rudy has collected a small fee for the team from those he trusts.
Hannibal plans to go undercover in the plant, which is mostly comprised of stock footage of car manufacturing. Meanwhile, Face scams a pimpmobile for the team’s new garage, which BA and Murdock set up in the city.
While his fellow workers go on break, Hannibal uses the time to fill his car with parts from the factory. He’s soon corned by a group of men, knocked out and bundled into a van. The rest of the team tail the van, but almost knock over a young boy and end up losing Hannibal. He’s unconscious but his watch is recording the sounds of yet more stock footage the bad guys drive past.
At the same warehouse Rudy was taken too, Hannibal is interrogated by the masked men. He spins a story that he’s been stealing for a local mob boss but is told he now works for his captors.
After meeting up with the rest of the team, they listen to the recordings from the watch and BA tracks the route on a map to learn the location of the warehouse. The boys drive the van over and take pictures of the gang with the stolen parts. Next, the A-Team put their own masks on and hold up the warehouse by shooting off their guns. Adding to Hannibal’s story, they hint towards a boss in charge of them who they won’t name.
The next stage of the operation sees Face infiltrate the car plant as a repairman. He’s sent out of the break room when a group of men enter and force everyone else out. They scan for bugs in the room but find none. Revealing their boss’ name, the men agree there must be someone inside the plant ripping them off.
After they leave, Face returns to the vending machine he was fixing and opens it to let Murdock out who has heard everything. It’s hard to see how Rudy has been struggling to identify the men stealing from the plant when it’s clearly the ones bullying the rest of the employees.
Hannibal tells the thieves he knows where the parts have gone – his old boss was angry at him for defecting and has targeted them as revenge. Suspicious of the free information, the team make the Colonel stay at the plant while they go confront the mob boss. This puts a dent in the plan, which was to have Hannibal dress as the mobster (in what would have had to be one of his better disguises to fool people who’ve met him many times).
Instead, Murdock assumes the role last minute with his best Marlon Brando Godfather impression. It works well enough, with the thugs scared away by a combination of the Captain’s performance and BA’s muscle. They report back to their boss, who orders them to attack the store and take care of Rudy and his family.
Before we can get to the final battle though, a police officer stumbles across the team after watching them move around so many auto parts into a warehouse. The team explain that he should ask Rudy about them, as they’re working with him to defeat the real thieves. The office explains he’s been kidnapped and that makes them the main suspects, before something begins to dawn on him…
Realising he’s found the notorious A-Team, the officer advises Murdock to stay away from them. He’s happy to oblige, helping the lawman as far as the warehouse door which Murdock drops on his head to knock the officer out.
Needing to save Rudy and his family, the team Mad Max up a car with metal armour and machine guns to the soothing sounds of Trouble on Wheels. They burst into the bad guys’ warehouse and shoot the place up with bullets and spray oil over the thugs.
The big boss and main henchman make it out and jump into a pickup truck to escape the scene. They don’t get far before a combination of bullets and dynamite flip the car over. The men try and make a run for it but are knocked down by Hannibal and Face.
Rudy and family are alright, which is more than can be said for BA’s van. Having left it parked at the car plant, it’s been stripped down for parts. Murdock drivessubs the remains round the corner with BA running after him screaming.
Let’s wrap up with a few key questions.
Does Hannibal wear a disguise?
Yes, he’s a motorcycle policeman to interview the client. I’m not counting him going undercover as he doesn’t hide his appearance. Murdock steals one opportunity when he’s forced to play the role of a crazy mob boss.
Does BA get on a plane?
No. Worse though, his van is stripped for parts.
Should someone be dead?
Yes, there are a lot of bullets flying around in a small warehouse at the final battle.
Trouble on Wheels is an average episode of the A-Team, with no real highlight to lift it into the top tiers of 1980s action. The team go undercover in a car plant to put a stop to a gang of vicious thieves who’re threatening the life of the plant’s foreman and his family.
While it’s good to see a proper plan at work, with Hannibal setting the thieves up for a fall by pretending to work for a rival mob boss, the episode suffers from a lack of imagination overall. Unlike other adventures, there’s no standout moment or memorable villain to elevate the story this time. Despite that, it’s all worth it for BA’s face when he sees the remnants of his precious van.