One of the most gratifying things a writer can experience is to have a reader go out of their way to contact you and relate how the things you have written have affected them. I am continually moved and humbled by the volume of responses I get to my articles here, and by the overwhelmingly positive sentiments and critiques contained in them. To each and every one of you who has reached out in the past, I reiterate my thanks. It makes what I do incredibly fulfilling.
In addition to the comments and questions I receive, I also get a fair number of very welcomed suggestions as to cars and movies that I might cover. In fact, last month’s edition of Rob’s Car Movie Review that had a look at the Australian cult film Running on Empty was the result of one such reader recommendation.
Never before though had I received an email from someone who actually owned a car that appeared in a major feature film. That is, until about two months ago, when a gentleman named Thomas Gourneau dropped me a note stating that he, in fact, was the proud possessor of the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray that appeared in the 1990 Richard Gere hit, Internal Affairs.
So cool were the pictures Thomas sent me, so gorgeous was the car itself, and so well made was my recollection of the film, that it was a no-brainer for me to present it to you as soon as I could. So strap in and take a ride with me in Thomas’ stunning ‘vette, and recall its role in one of the best cop flicks of the 1990s!
Internal Affairs was a modern cop noir film released by Paramount Pictures. Directed by Mike Figgis, who would go on to stratospheric heights in the industry with his Oscar nominated turn writing and directing Leaving Las Vegas, the movie had an illustrious cast which included Gere, Andy Garcia, Laurie Metcalf, Nancy Travis, Billy Baldwin, Annabella Scioria, and Elijah Wood.
In the film, Gere plays Dennis Peck, a corrupt LAPD officer, who in addition to being the ringleader of a cadre of bad cops doing all sorts of illegal side hustles including murder for hire, is romantically involved with many of the wives of his co-officers. Garcia and Metcalf play two internal affairs officers, Raymond Avilla and Amy Wallace, out to bring him and his coterie of crooked cops down.
Having not seen the film in many years, I gave it a spin in preparation for writing this column, and I can say it is an excellent movie, and recommend that you revisit it too. It’s a prime example of a fine screenplay, well executed by a proficient director who kept the focus on the interpersonal dynamics between the characters instead of allowing it to be dominated by big shootouts and action sequences, which is how it would likely be made in today’s Hollywood.
If that wasn’t enough to make me thoroughly enjoy it, Director Figgis chose to give Dennis Peck an outstanding car, commensurate to all the blood money he earns from his dastardly deeds: a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.
The car is seen in multiple sequences in the movie as Peck uses it at his primary mode of transportation when off-duty. The ‘Vette is pretty much how I would want it – 923A Riverside Red with a tan interior. It is photographed in the film with the top down, allowing Peck to enjoy the Southern California sun that the movie is often bathed in, and with a hardtop on as well. Sadly, the movie does not feature a car chase, much less one involving this piece of C2 gorgeousness.
Two identical Corvettes were used for filming, one with a red interior, known as Car #1, and one with the tan insides, shockingly referred to as Car #2. The latter was used for the scene where Peck backs out of his driveway, and for the sequences that follow where he is tailed around Los Angeles by Garcia’s character, Raymond Avilla. Car #1, with the red interior, was used for everything else where the interior was not visible.
Both cars featured the original 300 horsepower 327 cubic-inch engines coupled to wide ratio four-speed manual transmissions with 3.23 rear differentials. Exhausts were the standard 2.5-inch OEM systems, and the cars’ suspensions were unmodified for filming, since the ‘Vettes were not put through any heavy stunt work. So close were the two cars in specs, that the only difference between the two was that Car #1 had manual windows, while Car #2 had power activated ones!
After filming had wrapped, Car #2 remained in the possession of one of the producers, who fairly soon thereafter sold the car to another film industry denizen. He, in turn, sold it to a fellow in Florida during the early nineties, where the car sadly sat in a garage, neglected for the most part, for twenty years. At some point, though, the interior was dyed black.
Come 2019, Texas resident, Thomas Gourneau, noticed an online listing for a famous movie Corvette that piqued his interest.
“The owner had it listed for a while online and my company’s training center was just four miles from the car in Florida,” Thomas recalls.
“It wasn’t in great shape. Most of the wear was from sitting, and production cars are just pieced together for looks to begin with. He wanted to sell because he said it just sat and he was getting older. But it was for sure Car #2 from the movie.”
Thomas continues, ”We went back and forth via email and phone. He initially wanted $60k, but I negotiated a better price, hardtop and all.”
Having procured his new toy, Thomas set out to learn the car’s history. This is when he learned that the car originally left the factory painted in 932A Saddle, something Thomas decided he would worry about in the future. For starters though, he went about tackling the interior and mechanical issues.
“The interior of the car was stripped out and replaced with its original tan color seats, dash frame, dash pads, panels and soft top,” Thomas remembers. “The hard top was restored with new, correct build date glass and headliner.”
Mechanically, Thomas fitted the car with a replacement, date correct, four-speed, rebuilt the steering column and linkage, fixed and refreshed a bevy of things under the hood, fitted a new set of correct white-wall tires, and polished a lot of chrome inside and out.
As to the future?
“Well my main problem now is to decide whether to repaint the car Saddle as it left the factory or respray the car Riverside Red as it was in the movie.”
That’s a problem I for one would like to have.