Where were you in 62? The cars of ' American Graffiti '


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Where were you in 62?

With that phrase, the movie American Graffiti (1973) reflected the quintessence of American youth in the 60s to the rhythm of rock & roll that DJ DJ Jackman Jack played on the radio and with racing at the wheel of spectacular vehicles.

A festival in Modesto, the city where it was filmed, remembers them every year. The transition from youth to maturity, that unavoidable step that changes the vision of life and restructures the order of priorities has inspired countless films.

Probably one of the most emblematic is American Graffiti, directed by George Lucas in 1973, because it was a pioneer in many aspects, because it had an unsurpassed soundtrack with classics of Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Del Shannon or the Beach Boys, among others and, above all, to those unforgettable car races that allowed us to see on the screen some collection vehicles that make the mouth water to any fan that boasts.

The film, set in 62 in Modesto, the hometown of George Lucas, portrays the adventures of a group of teenagers on the last night of the last summer of their youth before embarking on their journey to adulthood each one on a road different.

The cast included Richard Dreyfuss, Bo Hopkins, Paul LeMat, in the memorable role of John Milner and a very young Harrison Ford.

American Graffiti

Where were you in 62? © Getty Images

The imprint that left that film in the Californian town of Modesto comes to our days thanks to the 'American Graffiti Festival and Car Show', an annual event for car lovers and vintage imagery that this weekend has celebrated its twentieth edition .

Twenty years preserving the essence of the legendary film with this event that takes place at the Modesto Municipal Golf Course and that includes a parade of classic vehicles, live music, as well as a huge market with a wide variety of stalls with gastronomic offer and all kinds of merchandising.

Of course, in this unavoidable event for American Graffiti lovers, the unmistakable classic cars that appeared in the film are never lacking . This is the story of the four main ones:

American Graffiti

John Milner and Bob Falfa prepared to compete on Paradise Road during the filming of the film © Getty Images


It is the unmistakable 'hot rod' of yellow color that belonged to the character of John Milner, the rebellious lad king of racing with tricked cars. George Lucas and producer Gary Kurtz chose him from a group of candidate cars and bought him for $ 1, 300 of the time.

The upper part had been cut about seven centimeters, which increased the image of its driver's bad boy. It was originally gray with red fenders and its previous owner had made some mechanical modifications, although the transmission and the exterior required a lot of work in a workshop in Ignacio, California.

Afterwards, its characteristic Canarian yellow lacquer layer was incorporated and the interior was modified with black dye on the original red and white.

After filming, it was tried to sell to help recover part of the budget of the film, with a price of $ 1, 500 but it was not achieved, so the Universal Studios promotion department used it as a promotional element.

Six years later it was used in the sequel More American Graffiti, but the film was a failure, and the Ford Deuce Coupe was auctioned and acquired by a collector named Steve Fitch, who also acquired the 1955 black Chevy from the film.

Subsequently, the car was sold to Rick Figari, an enthusiastic American Graffiti fan who wanted to restore and preserve the car as it appeared in the film. He currently exhibits it at festivals.

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Paul Le Mat, in the role of John Milner, at the wheel of the 1932 Ford Deuce Coupé © Getty Images


Bob Falfa, the character played by Harrison Ford was his driver and with him he competes in a crazy race that almost ends in tragedy against John Milner's Ford Deuce Coupe.

The story of this car began in 1970 when three matches were manufactured for the 1971 film Two-Lane Blacktop. During the pre-production of American Graffiti the vehicle supervisor recovered two of those black-painted Chevys '55' from the studio's warehouse, one of them to shoot with the camera inside and another to perform stunts, which was used in the scene of the final accident

When the shooting was finished, the decision was to get rid of the one that suffered the most damage, so after removing the front train and the front sheet, their remains were sold to a Californian stock car corridor that parked them for several years in a courtyard until He was forced to send them to scrapping.

The other Chevy was sold to a collector named Sam Crawford, who proudly showed him in the May 1976 issue of Street Rodder magazine. He changed owners a couple more times and is currently preserved in Maryland.

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The Chevy 150 driven by Harrison Ford in the role of Bob Falfa © Getty Images


That white car in which the blonde girl played by Suzanne Somers appeared, which left Kurt's character speechless , to which Richard Dreyfuss gave life.

Originally that convertible was acquired nine years before filming for a marriage, the Dailys, at an auction of used Ford vehicles in San Bernardino. It was red and marked almost 89, 000 kilometers on its odometer.

One day in 1972, they had the car (already painted white) parked in the center of the Californian city of Petaluma and when they started it they found a note on the windshield asking if they wanted their car to appear in a movie.

Although they thought it was a joke, they called and finally the T-Bird appeared in American Graffiti. All night shots were made in the center of Petaluma, so the owners were able to attend the shooting of many of them.

Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the film, in 1988 the Dailys lent their car for an exhibition and a year later they participated in a television surprise to actress Suzanne Somers who returned to meet for the first time with the T-Bird 26 years later.

Today the Daily marriage is still the owner of the car and they still drive it, since they belong to a classic car club and run around ten annual routes.

American Graffiti

George Lucas on the set of American Graffiti (1973) © Getty Images


Steve Bolander, the character played by Ron Howard was the driver of this car whose white color gave him a slightly common appearance, enhanced by the custom red edge and the taillights extended from the rocket tail fins, giving him a unique personality .

Producer Gary Kurtz bought the Impala for the film in the Los Angeles area, attracted by its red and white interior upholstery, because it responded to the description made by the script of Steve's car upholstery. It was originally metallic blue and was powered by an original Super Turbo-Thrust 348 engine and a three-speed transmission.

After filming it was acquired by a young man named Mike Famalette from Vallejo (California) who wanted to buy his first car and saw an ad in the newspaper that read: "Special sale of used cars in film." He bought it for $ 325 of the time.

Years later, Mike joined the Marines and kept his Chevy parked in his parents' garage for 28 years. Since then he has shown it at events and festivals on rare occasions, because the car is not in perfect condition, commenting: "I hope that people will not be disappointed when they see it."

Given that most American Graffiti fans have never had a chance to see the Impala, not only would they not be disappointed but would be pleased to watch it closely, regardless of their small imperfections.

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Mel's Drive-In, one of the most famous American Graffiti stages © Getty Images