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Classic Cars: “American Graffiti” – 1958 Chevy Impala

american graffitiIn our previous posts about classic cars featured in movies, we looked back at the ’68 Mustang GT- 390 from the movie “Bullit” and the 1968 Dodge Charger from the movie “Blade”. Today’s post features the 1958 Chevy Impala from the movie “American Graffiti”.

Before George Lucas created the biggest franchise in history with the release of “Star Wars,” he had made a name for himself for creating an icon of nostalgia, “American Graffiti.”

The film is set in the summer of ’62 as two young men go on one last cruise before they leave for college. Everything in classic car culture from drive-ins to drag races shows up in this movie, and in turn the cars are as memorable as the actor’s performances.

 

 The Movie Car from “American Graffiti”

Steve lets Toad borrow his 1958 Impala Sport Coupe, a car with a tuck-and-roll interior, Cadillac taillights and, Toad claims, a “327 with 6 Strombergs” under the hood. With this new ride in place of his Vespa, he has the confidence to score some booze, get in a fight and go home with the girl.

 

 The Real-life Car – The 1958 Chevy Impala

The Impala was bought in the Los Angeles area by producer Gary Kurtz because it had a tuck-and-roll interior, as mentioned in the movie script. The inside was left untouched, while Close and Orlandi’s Body Shop sprayed the car white with red fade in around the body lines. It’s not clear if the Cadillac tail lights were on the car when purchased, or added for the movie.

High school student Mike Famalette saw an ad in the San Francisco Chronicle for a “Special Sale of Cars Used in Pictures.” He met with Lucas film employee Henry Travers and after looking over the cars decided to buy the Impala. Not long after his purchase, the film hit theaters, and his daily driver became an automotive icon.

Famalette has kept it in his family, documenting the changes he has made to keep the car on the road and storing the original parts so that one day it can be restored to its movie form. Soon after buying it, he swapped the worn out 348 and 3-speed manual with a 283 and a Power glide automatic. When he was in the Marines, he left the car with his parents, and his brother would joke about turning it into a low rider while he was away. Twenty-eight years later, he finally pulled the car out of storage so his daughter could work on it as part of a senior project. Now sporting a 348 Tri-Power and a 3-speed Turbo-Hydramatic, the car is otherwise exactly as he bought it, dents and all.

 

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