I recently was able to watch the movie “Pit Stop” 1967 on YouTube. I was looking at old movies and television programs that featured the talented Beverly Washburn both as a child actress and a teenager. Beverly is well known to Trekkies and fans of Sci-Fi. She has been in several productions with a science fiction or horror twist. As a child she was also been in some very famous movies playing the daughter roll. In Pit Stop she plays a kind of racetrack groupie in her early twenties. The subject matter of the movie is what caught my eye the most. It dealt with the figure 8 races in the mid-sixties. So naturally most of the cars are from the fifties. The main attraction for me were all the of the Chrysler products.
I cringed, of course, at the loss of so many two-door hardtops being slaughtered in the intersection. Still, it was a reminder of the kind of car racing I saw on TV when I was a kid. The figure 8 races from Ascot Park in Gardena CA were regularly broadcast on KTLA channel 5 in Los Angeles. It was an independent station and hired actor-announcer Dick Lane to give color commentary. It was classic early television.
The race scenes in Pit Stop were obvious compilations of different races and as a result it was difficult to know which cars were in the lead. Then inter-cut were scenes of the two main characters going slowly around the track A few prop cars were behind them but it was apparent that those scenes were shot at a later time. The close up scenes of the drivers in front of the rear projection screen were pretty bad. On occasion the car in the close-up wasn’t the same as the car in the long shot. I guess I wasn’t supposed to notice.
It was interesting to see the kind of cars that the drivers brought to the races at that time. There were repeated scenes of a ’58 Buick in the intersection. There were, in fact several shots of ’55-’57 Buicks mixing it up in the intersection. A couple of guys were driving ’55 Imperial sedans, probably just because they had a hemi engine. Lots of tri-five Chevies too. Most of the MoPars in the production were from the ’57-’59 era. No doubt because of the drive train and they were plentiful since they didn’t hold their resale value very well. I’m guessing it’s because of their tendency to rust and general tinny-ness of the cars.
I took a few screen capture shots of the vintage racing that was so fun form me to watch. Notice the Barris custom Buick Wildcat, “The Mystique” being used as the rich businessman’s daily driver. The man supposedly owned a custom car shop. They used George Barris’ shop as the location and he did a cameo as the designer.
Here’s Beverly Washburn as the track groupie. Beverly has blonde hair but she said they wanted her to dye it brown so she didn’t have the same hair color as her co-star. Unfortunately, the dye made her hair fall out. That explains why she had such short hair when she did Star Trek “The Deadly Years” next. She has two books out about her exploits in Hollywood. Reel Tears and Reel Tears Take Two. They’re on my list of books I plan to read.
The Mystique was being driven by actor Brian Donlevy. That poor car had a rough life. It survived a wreck and some neglect but it has been restored and is currently owned by a friend of mine, Alan Clark. (He’s a builder of some nice customs as well!) One secret he told me is that the car has no side windows and is open all the time. Barris never took the time to make side windows for the chopped roof. Alan also told me that blocks of wood were used to prop up the rear deck after much of the structure was cut out of it. Alan rectified the problem. I took a photo of the Mystique recently at a California car show. Great lines, a real Barris classic in my opinion!
Here are some shots of Forward Look Chrysler products in the movie.
Here’s an example of how NOT to customize your ’58 Dodge. Are those ’65 Mustang taillights on the door? Anson was a sponsor of the movie so there are lots of vintage products around, like those wheels.
Here is one of the saddest photos. If you look closely you’ll notice that the car coming around the fray is a ’56 Fury! That’s the one that started it all for Plymouth and is highly sought after today. It is reported that only 4,485 were made that year. It has gold side trim with the kick-up on the fin. The limited edition Fury was the only ’56 Plymouth to have that feature. (It was carried through on the ’57 Fury.) As it goes by it becomes more obvious that it’s a Fury!
The main protagonist, played by Richard Davalos, works in a junk yard by day and races at night. Here he is taking a stroll on top of the new arrivals. Note that next to the ’55 De Soto he’s walking on is a ’54 Mercury Sun Valley! It appears to have been smacked hard in the front fender.
Pit Stop was both satisfying and heart breaking to watch. It is listed on YouTube as Pit Stop/The Winner 1969. You might want to check it out…but if you’re a “Forward Look” MoPar lover have a box of tissues handy.