Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hey! Watch The Paint!

A common misconception in the rodding community when discussing the American Graffiti Coupe is that it was 'just a movie prop'. Not so. Purchased by Gary Kurtz in 1972, the Coupe was a fully functioning, chopped, full fendered hot rod from the mean streets of L.A. Once up north they had Henry Travers oversee the bobbin' of the rear fenders, installation of motorcycle fenders on the front, the famous nose job on the grill shell, and a new color and extra chrome to make it stand out in the night scenes. The drivetrain was left as purchased save for the new 4x2 manifold that George Lucas wanted.

So when filming started that little deuce was lookin' fine. It was supposed to be the bitchinest car in the valley and it looked the part. When Milner first pulls into Burger City it takes your breath away. But look at these pictures. That poor car! Porn stars are less molested. People and equipment hanging all over it, ropes through the windshield, wires taped to the paint. It's too hard to look at.

Peer closely and you can see the sound technician crouching in the trunk sticking the boom microphone through the back glass. That explains the plywood covering the gas tank still present in the Coupe today. There are a few remnants of the camera rigging remaining on the car as well. The tow brackets are still on it although they may not be the originals. With everything that car went through, it's amazing it was still rolling by the end of the shoot.

But one fact cannot be denied. It was all worth it. The effort shows up on screen. The cruising scenes flow naturally and there is not a single moment of those phony driving shots done on stage with a movie screen behind the car. The Coupe survived this film and subsequent years of neglect and abuse on the Universal Studios lot. It rose again for More American Graffiti and even made a cameo in a television show or two. It caught a second wind as a driver after Steve Fitch rescued it and eventually made it's way back to California where it leads the life of a faded movie star. But no matter how many lame car shows and autograph signings it's dragged to, The Milner Coupe was, is, and always will be a real, bonified, badass hot rod.