The ’60s and ’70s are a time associated with fast cars. The technology was improving, general interest in automotive performance was on the rise, and pop culture was starting to really grasp the concept of using cars as the jumping off point for movies. It was right in the heat of the movement in 1971 when the Monte Hellman film, Two Lane Blacktop, was released. Most of us recognize the film more for its iconic car than its actors: the black primer-colored ’55 Chevy that featured wide rear tires and a one-of-a-kind squared off hood scoop.
In the decades since the movie first aired, many have wondered, “what has happened to the car?” The answer to that question is a little more complicated than you might think, due to the fact that there were actually three cars used for the filming of the movie: One for stunts, one for in-car scenes, and one for scenes that showed the outside of the car.
The stunt car and the car used for scenes that shows the car driving were later reused as the car driven by Harrison Ford’s character, Bob Falfa, in the film American Graffiti. The stunt-car was rolled at the end of that film, and met its fate in a car crusher. The other car ended up being restored after filming, and became known as the car from American Graffiti rather than the ’55 from Two Lane Blacktop. With those two cars being accounted for, what happened to the third one?
The missing “camera car”, as it was called, disappeared for quite some time before being rediscovered in 2001. When it was found, it too had been restored to look like the car from American Graffiti. A previous owner thought it was the car from that movie instead. The finder was in for a big project if he planned to bring it back as the car from Two Lane Blacktop. In fact, the task would be bigger than even anyone understood, because the incorrect restoration meant the car was the incorrect shade of black, featured different trim, and brought about changes to both the firewall and running gear.
The car was authenticated by Richard Ruth before it was brought back to the U.S. by “Two-Lane Blacktop” historian Walt Bailey for a combination restoration and preservation project with the help of Ruth. After five years of hard work, and time spent hunting parts like the original fiberglass doors that had since been put on a different car, it was refurbished to its original condition from the film. A lot of time and energy, combined with a little luck, is really what brought this car back together.
More information about the project and history of this car can be found here on the Two Lane Blacktop Online Museum’s webpage. There is also a lot more information about the car in the media and a reunion meeting between the car and the star of the film, James Taylor.
There are a lot of movies that feature cars. What is your favorite car-centric film? What is your dream movie car? We want to hear what you think!