Everyone knows the famous yellow deuce coupe that was used in American Graffiti. There are many automotive icons from the movies and TV shows. A lot has been said about these cars but I like looking at the not-so-famous cars in the B movies and TV shows. Sometimes I wonder where they came from. Well I did some digging and I managed to find out the story on a few of them! This is by no means an exhaustive report but these are some of the cars that I was curious about.
Giant Gila Monster
The main hot rod from Giant Gila Monster, a Ford deuce roadster, was actually a major contender at the drag strip. The movie, which was filmed in Cielo, Texas, used local automotive talent. It turns out that the car was owned by John Mulkey of Waxahachie Texas. For power, it had a 302 Chevy V-8 that could turn a quick 105.50 mph. The car supposedly went through a slow finishing process in the film. It had a bad headlight and bald tires which were replaced by “appropriating” them from a wrecked ’57 Pontiac. Finally, at the end of the movie, the car is completed and sports a shiny paint job and sponsor decals. The car’s hood makes it’s appearance for the first time in the movie also. At the end of the story Chase Winstead, the hero, has to kill the Gila Monster by placing nitro-glycerin on the seat of his finished hot rod and pointing it at the beast. He accelerates and bails out just as we see the car drive out of frame. Fortunately, a model car acts as the “stunt double” and saves the day by blowing up the menacing reptile (all in 1/25th scale).
The cool ’25 T bucket Roadster pick-up in the movie, The Choppers was also a sort of famous car. Actually it had a famous owner. It belonged to the actor, and drag legend, Tommy Ivo. He had built the car to resemble a hot rod he saw built by fellow actor, Norm Grabowski back around 1955. Tommy’s car was made out of rusty parts found in desert junkyards. The bucket body started out as a phaeton and was cut down. Sound familiar? Just what Beverly Moon does in Hot Rod Bunny! The shortened box was from a Model A as was the frame. He bought a complete ’40 Ford just to get the running gear. Tommy Ivo had a long love affair with Buick mills and his bucket pick-up sported a powerful 402. He said the film company let the car idle for hours then would drive it hard for the takes. Apparently, it needed a rebuild after the filming was over. The car also had a major roll in Drag Strip Girl.
The car still exists today and the current owner restored it to look the way Tommy had it originally.
Son Of Flubber
Martin Holmann’s 1915 bucket T was a car that made the rounds in movies and TV. It was used as the hot rod in Disney’s Son Of Flubber 1963. It also appeared in Bikini Beach, 77 Sunset Strip and the Dobie Gillis TV show. The engine was a ’49 Olds 324 with an Edelbrock manifold and four-twos plus some cool Weiand valve covers.
The car was also supposedly the inspiration for Lindberg’s Bobtail “T” 1/8 scale model car kit that was introduced back then. The likeness used without permission or royalty. The kit came with a Chevy V-8 in stead of the Olds and is still available today.
Hot Rods To Hell
Hot Rods To Hell was a dreadful movie made in 1967 but had some first class iron tearing up the black top. The lead car was a red ’58 Corvette in desperate need of a rebuild. As it smoked its way down the two-lane, it was flanked by some pretty nice cars driven by the hoodlum friends of the main antagonists.
I haven’t found out much yet about the very cool red T bucket roadster truck but it is my personal favorite. It was Chevy powered with two-four bbl carbs and some great cast aluminum air cleaner/scoops.
The black ’29 Model A roadster across the highway was built by L A Roadsters member Sam Conrad. The green car in the foreground was featured in the May ’62 issue or Rod & Custom.
It belonged to Gary Heliker and was powered by a Buick nail-head. The car underwent some changes and lost the fenders before it was used in Hot Rods To Hell.
The Love Bug
In Disney’s The Love Bug, Herbie steps up to the challenge and flies past this late 60’s style T Bucket in a very memorable street race scene where Herbie passes the street rod so fast that the driver and his girlfriend’s hair are both actually blown forward!
Hot Rod Girl
Hot Rod Girl was one of many car exploitation movies from the fifties. At the beginning of the film they show a street race that ended in the death of the main protagonists brother. Both cars are ’32 roadsters. The white car has a flathead with two-fours and the black car has an Olds engine also with two-fours. I believe this is the same car used in the Highway Patrol TV series episode aptly named “Hot Rod”.
The car looks the same with minor changes to the exhaust and upholstery. Even the air cleaners are the same.
There are lots of other B movies out there with a variety of hot rods running around. I’ll have to cover them on another installment, in the mean time; buy a copy of Hot Rod Bunny. It was inspired in part by those old movies. It’s humorous, very nostalgic and written for the “old skool” hot rodder to enjoy!