WHERE WERE YOU IN ’73?
himself had to switch motel rooms at one point because another actor — apparently, it’s still not widely known who — set fire to the room. Mechanical problems also played a part in the movie. As the crew prepared to film the climactic big race at ‘Paradise Road’ towards the end of the film, the ’55 Chev broke an axle. Everyone waited around for some hours for a replacement axle to be found and fitted, only for the car immediately to proceed to break the replacement. In the ensuing frustration and rush once it was repaired again, two cameramen came perilously close to being run over during the filming of the high-speed scene. Another cameraman had been less fortunate earlier in the month, falling off the back of a moving camera truck and being run over during the filming of a street scene. Three ’55 Chevs were used by Harrison Ford in the making of the film — kind of funny that Ford drove a Chev, huh? — the hot rodded one that was originally used in another one set up with cameras and lighting inside for the filming of the in-car scenes, and a third one for the roll-over scene, thankfully saving the hot rodded ’55. Talking about the cars, I was told decades ago that the four main cars — the ’55, the ’32 coupe, the ’58 Chev, and the Merc — were put up for sale as a job lot for US$5K via San Francisco newspaper ads after the completion of filming in 1973, and there were no takers. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that the only car that sold at that time was the ’58 Chev Impala sports coupe, which went for a few hundred dollars. It wasn’t until almost a decade later that the ’32 and the ’55 finally sold and were moved from the studio’s storage area — perhaps the success of the film had generated interest in the cars by then. The purchaser was someone from Kansas, who restored them to the state in which they appeared in the movie. Another interesting little car anecdote is that apparently the owner of the white T-bird — the one that ‘the blonde young lady’ drove — was a complete pain in the arse during filming, constantly hovering about his prized possession and giving Suzanne Somers endless instructions on being careful with it. As a teenager watching the movie, I thought The Pharaohs were pretty cool and wondered — in my naivety — whether they were a real club. I learnt in recent times that, when George Lucas was growing up in Modesto during the ’60s, he was a member of a car club called the ‘Faros’, which led him to name the boys in the chopped candy-red ’49 Merc ‘ The Pharaohs’. Have you ever wondered how many cars were used in the background of the various scenes to create the 1962 theme? Around 300 ‘background cars’ were used. When Lucas advertised for the use of pre-1962 cars, more than 1000 owners who responded to the ads were interviewed. They say the devil is in the detail, and those cars are another reason was so damn good. As far as I’m aware — and unusually for a period movie — there isn’t a single car there that shouldn’t be there because it is too new or it features non-period modifications. Thank you, George Lucas, for the wonderful inspiration you provided me with — or should I be pissed off with you for being a pivotal factor in my lifelong addiction to American cars and cool stuff?