Monday, August 27, 2012

Wired Magazine 2011 July - American Graffiti Hidden Treasure

If you are a loyal reader you will remember a while back I posted these previously unseen photos.....Well I finally found a copy of the magazine that broke the story and sent me to dig in the archives at Magnum. Jeff

Cool Huh? Makes me wonder how many other hidden gems are out there???? JH

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Auto Week 2007 - American Graffiti Coupe

The article says Milner's Coupe "Rejuvenated a lagging interest in hot rodding" For me it started an interest in hot rodding.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Street Machine 2003 - American Graffiti Star Cars


Sounds like the guy talked to somebody who knew some Graffiti facts. Some of the story's seem a bit off. I mean I have seen internal documents from Universal Studios that showed they owned at least 8 cars from the movie not 5-1/2.

The article also states that they used the back half of a VW on a trailer for filming??? They may have but all of the pictures I have seen shows the VW with doors & front hood removed they may have made other alterations to the car but it shore looks like it had front fenders to me??

 Have a look at this picture below and I bet you can figure how this story got started.

 Bonus Photo Not From Article

This article is almost 10 years old and they mention fakes or clone cars being passed off as originals to unsuspecting buyers. I guess with most of the cars accounted for and almost everything a click away on the Internet that this practice would end but somehow it still continues to this day. I think I have seen them all Bolanders 58 is a popular one to copy along with Falfas 55. People seem to have given up on trying to pass a fake coupes as thanks to Rick Figari Milner's Deuce and it's story is pretty well known.

As far as the statement he makes about several of the movie cars going to ground?? Let's see the 32,55,58,the Merc,Curt's Citroen and even Toads Vespa are present and accounted for so this statement also seems a bit off the mark to me. Who knows 10 years ago they might not have known all of this?

 This page is packed with tidbits about the T-Bird that I have never heard before. Something seems a bit off as I have seen interviews with Suzanne Somers and she states that the owner of the car was never more than a few feet away during filming??  I have also never noticed any extra scenes of the white 56.

Finally someone covered the lights on the T-Bird. Thanks you! But now now the clone builders have this information also. Note to all as of 2012 Clay still owns the car so buyers beware.
Oh Boy now on to the Coupe. This is where he starts to derail.
1 Well he misses the red interior dyed black for filming.
2 A stock 327 with a 4 barrel carb?? guess that falls into the "Something Like This" category as he tells the it.
3 Everyone always misses that the Coupe was miss priced at 1500.00 it was supposed to be 2000.00 per internal studio paperwork.
4 Steve Fitch already owned the #1 Black 55 then got the Coupe.
5 Another mention of Steve Fitch's Ranch...... Close... it was a ranch style house
The next part of the article seems to have been written using parts of older articles that were not correct.
Yes the motor was filled with water when Fitch purchased it. Steve Fitch rebuilt the engine and he went to great lengths to retain the original block and heads during the rebuild. Steve had replaced any missing parts on the Coupe and the Coupe was in better mechanical shape when Rick bought than the car than it was in during filming. Oh and there is that story again about finding the piston knob and the plates behind a kick panel in the Coupe! WRONG! The Coupe did not even have the kick panels installed in the car when it was sold. The panels were in a box with about every single other part that Fitch had replaced on the Coupe. The original filming plates were kept by Henry Travers for years and are now back with the Coupe. The Shifter knob,2 carb scoops,oil filler cap,inner door handles and the valve covers and t-'s were all removed from the car while it was in the hands of the publicity department and displayed on the Universal Studio's tour.
I have already covered the 55's and what and where they are in other articles so I will not go into correcting this story again.
I know I have heard that Rick has been possibly misquoted in the 2007 Bilsport Magazine as saying his 55 was the original (could have lost something in translation?) then again over dubbed in a TV special to once again appear to have the original 55 but look at this 10 year old article (older than either misquotes) where Rick tells the story of buying and building his 55. That's right 10 years ago and it is still being misquoted. I hope this finally puts this disinformation to rest. I doubt it! If you read the last paragraph of this article he says " Three of the Graffiti cars tracked down" Geez!

Revisited - I Newsome guy had it. Now He Sold It. - Falfa's 1955

Since the sale of the #1 movie car there has been a lot of renewed interest in it. Problem is I keep getting asked the same old questions quoted from incorrect magazine article or story's from some one "who knew a guy who new some one who".... well you get it. So for all of those who missed this about 7 months ago or this is another chance for those of you who didn't read the whole thing.... Here it is again.
Falfa's Wicked 55 is on the move again. Not to the next county looking for Milner. The 55 is making another Two Lane Blacktop run across the country only this time it's from Maryland to Texas. My sources say the new owner plans on restoring the 55 back to it's American Graffiti configuration.  
Most of my focus in on learning about Milner's ride. My information packet on Falfa's slick black street fighter was a little thin. I do know "you have to sneak up on it with a hose just to get a little air in the tire"  So I have spent the last week learning about the enemy.  After all of this I once again found my self with more questions than answers. It took lots of calls and emails to nail down "Most" of the facts. Now for a my history lesson.(get comfy)

Gary Kurtz while gathering information for an movie he was about to work on met Richard Ruth. After a night out watching Ruth street race Gary hired Ruth to build some cars for the Two-Lane Blacktop. Ruth worked on a total of three cars. Universal Pictures delivered 3 G.M. crate motors to Ruth's shop. (Competition Engineering)      
The cars are as follows.                                                         
#1 427, 4-speed, used to film exteriors in Two-Lane Blacktop
#2 454, 4-speed, used to film interior scenes (camera car) in Two-Lane Blacktop.
#3 454, Turbo 400, (stunt car) used for two scenes in Two-Lane Blacktop.
#1 and #2 getting a tunnel ram and two 4bbl's #3 with a single 4bbl.
After Filming wrapped the three 55's were sent back to Universal Studio's Transportation Department. One story I have heard is that one of the 55's was stolen from the lot. I think this one of those he stole it story's. Probably because the car was purchased by a mechanic who worked for Universal. He purchased the #2 car. Some say because it was in the best shape of the three and others say it was because it best fit his application. Turns out he didn't want a "Street Sweeper" he just wanted the 454 motor out of it for a boat that he owned.
He then gave the shell of the car to his son who installed a new motor and paint job and drove it in high school. Since this car (#2) did not continue on to American Graffiti I will stop it's story here.

The #2 car has a great story. I can't tell it as well as the man who owns the car these days.
Walt Bailey's Two Lane Blacktop  Site is "THE BEST" place to learn the history of this car.

OK that leaves the #1 and #3 car sitting at Universal. Enter Henry Travers and add the existing connection of Gary Kurtz to the 55's and they soon became the part of the cast of American Graffiti. It would come out later that the #1 car was Henry's favorite out of all his years of studio work. Richard Ruth never worked on the cars after Two Lane wrapped it was all Travers.

This is where my facts were a little foggy I had heard that there were only 2 cars used during the filming of American Graffiti. Then I heard that there were three??? The three mad sense because of the Two Lane connection, but the #2 car story shoots that down. So that would mean a new cast member?
American Graffiti 55's are as follows.
#1 427, 4-speed, used to film exteriors in American Graffiti (also in Two-Lane Blacktop)
#2  Two-Lane Blacktop only
#3 454, Turbo 400 Used as the camera car for American Graffiti and then rolled over in final scenes.(also used in Two-Lane Blacktop)
#4 The "Burn Car" A non-running 2door hardtop. borrowed and then returned to the junkyard after the fire went out. American Graffiti used only.

And you ask how do I come to that conclusion? Well sit back an you'll appreciate me soon hang on mercy and I I'll get this sucker rollin. I had always heard that Henry fashioned a piece of wood in place to make a 2 door hard top look like a 2 door post car for the crash scene. Jackie Travers remembers the wood story also. Since the two 55's from Two-Lane were both post cars so it all points to three 55's used.
Don Orlandi remembers the wooden post story. Don says their shop only painted two of the 55's for the movie and they were both pretty rough. Don said the #1 car never came to the body shop. I have heard that the #1 car was either painted in house at Universal Studios or by another shop? After hearing and reading so many great story's about Henry he may have even done the paint job it himself. (hey rumors gotta start somewhere)
The #1 car as seen in this publicity still #5144-24 Used at the start of race scene.
The #3 car as seen in this publicity still #5144-28 used for the rollover and burn scene.

Milner coupe!
Henry Travers getting ready to drive the coupe during the race scene and  look he is still wearing his Bob Falfa wardrobe.
The #3 car as seen in this publicity still # 5144-29
Working with such a short sunrise window to film in (Lucas' "Golden Shot") and problems getting the car to roll over the scene took a few days to film. The story is that the #3 car was rolled onto it's roof by the crew and the actual roll over and or the big burn was filmed a few days later. I have not talked to anyone who was there on all of the days of filming.Yet!
It may have taken them a few shots at it but they got the 55 to roll. Some say they dug trenches others say they used ramps.
How ever many attempts and what ever it took they did it. It always looked like a violent roll in the movie. With all of the cuts and camera angles in the crash I always thought it was several takes edited together. Take a look at the damage to the front fender and the open trunk.

Now what you have all been waiting for. From the deepest depts of the Archives here at Graffiti Central a 35mm slide simply marked 5144-279. This may have never been seen by the public before?
Here it is proof that the #4 car exists. Note the bumper guards, undamaged front fender, non radiused rear wheel Wells and the lack of a roll bar. The car is sitting up square on it's roof leading me to believe this is the car they are were always talking about when they say the crew rolled it by hand. Don't forget the #3 car crushed the front of the roof when it rolled to the point that the hood was almost touching the ground in the front.
Since the #4 car was non runner there is a something about it being towed with a cable but I don't know if that is just how they got it there? Due to a lack of trailers during filming. Henry used to drive the coupe and his wife Jackie would drive the one of the 55's. to the shooting site. Jackie remembers the 55 had lots of power and was hard to drive.

So now we have the number of cars used during filming figured out. The next question is where are they now? Why??? Well we have all heard the tales of the a lost 55 Chevy found and restored. Now with all of this information fresh in out heads. Lets see if that's even a possibility.

Well lets see could it be the #4 car? Well If it was to be true it would mean someone restored a Two Door Hardtop that was pulled from a junk yard, rolled over, blown up and burnt and then towed back to the scrapper when it had cooled. I think that about covers the #4 car.

How about the #3 car. Henry had it towed back to his house to assess the damage. Keep in mind this was a stock steel bodied car. This car did not receive the Ruth suspension upgrades like the #1 and #2 cars. Henry cut the front sheet metal off of the car because it was so heavily damaged during the roll over. Henry stripped the motor and trans and sold them.

Jackie remembers Henry taking the best parts of the two cars and installing them on one car. The leftovers were sold off to a racer buddy of Henry's who only bought it because it still had the roll bar in it and he had dreams of turning it into a dirt racer. The guy stored the shell at a buddy salvage yard for years until problems with the city zoning department forced the yard to clean up the place. With no storage and loss of interest in building the race the car was then crushed.

OK now I know someone is going to say well maybe they didn't crush it. That would mean someone would have taken a stock 55 Chevy that had been drove thru ditches and over ramps, rolled over at speed that crushed the roof then the car burnt. Missing the front clip,motor,trans and what ever else Henry robbed for the #1 car. I really doubt it. I would need to see some before pictures. Lots!

That leaves us with the #1 Car. This car was sold to Sam Crawford. Sam left the car untouched with the exception of adding a tape player so the he could listen to the American Graffiti soundtrack while cruising. Sam sold the car to Steve Fitch. Steve Fitch's time with the car is pretty well documented due to every graffiti nut and car magazine chasing him around. This is what derailed my fact finding mission.
In the 1983 Car Craft article "Celluloid Heroes" the article "Mistakenly" states that is was at this time Mr Fitch removed the dual quad setup opting for a single four barrel to make the car more drivable.

So Here I go again! Debunking yet another tale. Before bothering Steve for another Graffiti Information Fact Test or GIFT as I like to call them. I chased this one all the way back to the day the American Graffiti cars were offered up for sale. After reading an ad in the newspaper about movie cars for sale Mike Famalette and his Dad were surprised that they were the only two people to show for the sale. That fact still astounds me. Little did Mike know he would be making a life changing purchase that day and meeting his newest life long friends Henry and Jackie Travers. Mike bought Bolander's 58 that afternoon and he still owns it.

Mike who at this time knew nothing of the movie American Graffiti looked over all of the cars. Seeing them as cars not the movie icons that they are today. Mike is one of a handful of people in the world that can say that. Mike said he looked the 55 over with it tilt front end and said it had a single 4bbl carb on it as seen in this Steve Fitch era photo below.
No biggie just disregard the discrepancy in the 1983 Car Craft.

Oh????? What...No Wait....Till now I never even thought about it. Then had to ask the question Did Falfa's L88 427 have the tunnel ram and dual quads it had in Two Lane Blacktop during the filming of American Graffiti?

After tipple checking facts courtesy of a Sam Crawford era photo.
The hunt was on.
The story I came up with is that it all reels back to James Taylor. Yes "The Driver" in Two Lane Blacktop. Mr Taylor may be a talented human being but on the first day of filming the crew found out one of those talents was not driving stick shift. I guess they had to teach him. What a learning curve! Keep in mind this 55 was no slouch. In Two Lane trim during filming at the track the grey ghost clocked a 10.90/127 in the quarter. My reports have Richard Ruth removing the tunnel ram intake manifold from the "Camera Car" to help tame the beast for James. (#2 car)
This may also explain the "damage story" to the rear bumper on the #2 car.

The facts of when Falfa's 55 lost it's dual quads are unsure at this time. Every report and picture I can find of the 55 in Graffiti trim supports the idea that both cars #1 and #2 were throttled down at some point during the filming of Two Lane or shortly after. Either intake configuration Milner said it.
"He had me man...he was beatin me...he was pullin away..just before he crashed"

Steve sold the car to Wayne Newsome. Wayne changed about everything on the car.

Wayne has sold the car to a man in Texas."Buddy"??? I understand the man has been trying get this doll to come on and ride with him for about ten years. The good thing it that he wants to put the car back in Graffiti trim and has all the proper connections to make that happen. I can't wait.