It seems as though movie cars demonstrate the innate ability to strike an emotional chord with viewers. Sadly enough, those same cars – which wow and entertain us onscreen – don’t necessarily receive any form of special care – if any care at all – once the filming is completed. Such is the case for the much beloved and benighted Citron Yella ’69 Dodge Charger from the action-cult film Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry.
A dark anti-establishment take on two ill-fated lovers, Mary (played by Susan George)is joined by her hard-luck stock car driver boyfriend Larry (Peter Fonda) with hopes of making the professional racing circuit, who, desperate for some excitement in the sleepy hamlet of Dutton Flats (which was mainly filmed around Sonoma, California) decide to rob a grocery store and flee the police for kicks.
The near movie-long car chase takes the pair through miles of rural countryside and small town highways, all the while as local police increase their efforts to halt the duo. Peter Fonda’s best supporting actor in this film took all the lumps and bumps required of an action hero, even with a backup pair of stunt Chargers to spread out the damage (a ’68 and a ’69 non-R/T).
Taking a great deal of damage from the high-intensity chase scenes, what was left of the main automotive star from this film was unceremoniously sold by the prop company as just another used part. We discovered a series of threads over on DodgeCharger.com where forum member “Model Maker,” who also answers by the name Bert, retold his short time with the doomed Charger:
“I bought [the] Charger from the production company’s available car pool. I was working on the TV show “The Streets of San Francisco,” at the time. While waiting for another scene to be set up, I was looking through the trade papers the studios get to get cars and props from other studios inventory and spotted the picture of the Charger and knew what it was,” explained Bert.
“The trades never mentioned what movie or TV shows vehicles were used in, they just listed a vehicle description and vehicle condition. I saw the picture of the Charger with the stripe running along the side and knew what movie it was from. Had a studio bought it [before me], they probably would have totaled it in a wreck or blown it up for a scene and moved on.”
“I found a few things in the trunk including a blue denim shirt with a grease stain on the left shoulder and arm, sound equipment cable ends, a beat up area road map of Stockton, Farmington and HWY 99 areas maked in circles, and a stainless steel six-foot CB antennae sticking out through the backseat.” It turns out that the blue levi shirt Bert found in the trunk wasn’t just some crew member’s discarded shirt.
“I always thought it was a film crew mechanic,” recounts Bert. “I washed it and wore it for about 3 years since it was new and fit me. I just watched my DVD again and noticed Larry’s blue shirt had an identical grease stain!”
“[The Charger] had R/T emblems but was not a 440. It had dents on the roof and the back of the stripe. I had the bodywork done, they stripped it down and repainted it but had to wait before the stripe could be done, the striping guy said to let the paint cure first before he would do it.”
Sadly, the fate of the DMCL Charger would repeat the film somewhat. “[My ex] needed the car, so she dropped me off at work. It didn’t take her long to wreck it actually, her 13-year-old sister did. My ex let her drive on a side street and ended up on the on ramp of the freeway, freaked out and took out the guardrail…at least thats what they say they hit.”
“I took it to a car dealership and just let them have it [and a trade] so I wouldn’t have to mess with the paperwork. I never told the dealer where the car came from, I just didn’t think about it in my state of mind,” Bert regretfully retells.
Showing the lack of forethought typical of the time, the car’s after-movie life became more and more fuzzy. The Charger’s final owner claimed the car was subsequently totaled but seemed disinclined to offer any specific details.
We have to wonder; if Hollywood studios are smart enough to engage the automotive enthusiast with cool movie cars, why aren’t they clever enough to put these action stars back together again to promote the film let alone Hollywood history. Would anyone care to guess what the real Bullitt Mustang would sell for today at Barrett-Jackson’s auction?
As one last bit to add, although Bert gave up a piece of cinematic automotive history, he does have one souvenir, “I kept that 6-foot CB anntenae and after 37 years. I still have a piece of that movie’s history.”