Graffiti Tribute: 1955 Chevrolet 150

It is with some shame that I admit that I have reached a certain age in life without having sat down to watch “Smokey and the Bandit.” However, I have tried to atone for this appalling shortcoming by watching “American Graffiti” as many times as is humanly possible. I am probably not alone in wishing to park John Milner’s yellow ’32 Coupe in my driveway. A close second would have to be Bob Falfa’s menacing black ’55 Chevy 150 2-door. This car appeared in the movie as the ring-in, with Falfa intent on dethroning Milner as the king of the street-racers. While you might not be able to get your hands on the original ’55, this one could be the next best thing. It is a beautifully built tribute that the owner has decided to sell. It is located in Linthicum Heights, Maryland, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has reached $48,000, but the reserve hasn’t been met.

The producers utilized three ’55s in American Graffiti’s filming, and two of those cars first saw duty in “Two-Lane Blacktop.” When this tribute car was first built, it was to pay homage to that movie. The owner purchased it in that form in 2006 but performed the transformation to its current guise in 2014. It shows many of those original cars’ key attributes, including the sinister black paint, the chromed steel wheels, and the radiused rear fender openings. The person who buys this car will need to do nothing because it remains in excellent condition. The black paint shines beautifully, the panels are laser straight, and the chrome trim sparkles like new. This ’55 features a flip front, but I don’t believe that the movie car was equipped with one. Certainly, the vehicle that was destroyed in the film’s climactic scene on Paradise Road didn’t. Of course, the other two cars might have, and given the amount of research that the owner performed during this build, it is a possibility. The glass appears to be flawless, and given the way that American Graffiti has developed a cult following, you can guarantee that this car would attract its share of attention at a show or a Cars & Coffee.

American Graffiti was set in California in 1962, so it’s a fair bet that Bob Falfa didn’t have access to an engine like this to power his ’55. The owner has pushed the boat out on this one, and what we find is a 454 block that has been de-stroked to 427ci. It features 4-bolt mains, ARP rod bolts, Eagle I-beam rods, and Speed Pro pistons that give it a compression ratio of 10.25:1. The list goes on with a GM steel crank, Comp Cam steel roller rockers, an MSD ignition, and more parts than I can possibly list here. It isn’t clear what sort of power output the owner is getting, but I suspect that it is probably somewhere in the region of “a lot.” Bolted to the back of the big-block is a Richmond Gear 5-speed manual transmission which feeds the power to a 4.10 Posi rear end. All of that work wasn’t for nothing because the owner says that the Chevy runs and drives well.

The interior of the 150 is just as tidy as the exterior, and it presents in much the same way as the original movie car. This includes the pleated black upholstery, the boxed rear seat area, and a rollbar for driver protection. The painted surfaces look perfect, and there’s little to be critical of here. A set of aftermarket gauges monitor the health of the monster under the hood, and a retro-look stereo provides entertainment on the move if the buyer becomes weary of the song being sung by the big block.

The Chevy has been used for show displays, resulting in it receiving one fantastic addition. The dash and sun visors have been plastered with the autographs of some of the key stars from the movie. These include Paul Le Mat, who played John Milner, Cindy Williams, who starred as Laurie Henderson, and Candy Clark, who portrayed Debbie. There are a few key autographs that are missing, but given that the majority of the remaining cast members are still with us, there is a chance that the buyer might be able to get Ron Howard, Charles Martin Smith, and Richard Dreyfuss to apply their mark. Of course, I would also be angling for Harrison Ford because his character drove the ’55 in the movie.

Movie tribute cars are always interesting, and they can offer somebody the opportunity to own something close to the real deal. The producers used three vehicles in the movie production, but only one is confirmed to have survived to the present day. Apparently, that car has been modified beyond recognition, so a tribute vehicle is all that is available. Setting aside the tribute factor and the autographs, this is still a tough custom build which would probably go pretty hard when the right pedal is depressed. The bidding has been fairly spirited to this point, and I believe that the ’55 will find its way to a new home relatively soon. In the meantime, I think that I might wander off and watch the movie that inspired this classic.

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Comments

  1. angliagt angliagt Member

    WHAT – no Carroll Shelby autograph?
    I thought that he’d sign anything,for a price.

    Like 11
  2. Howard A Member

    These cars have been in Hollywoods inventory for years. The car in 2 Lane Blacktop (1971) was primer gray color and had 2, 4 barrels on a tunnel ram. Since American Graffiti came out in ’73, but depicting 1962, Lucas knew enough to make his cars period correct, with paint and one 4 barrel. The “stunt car” Falfa rolled, sharp observers will note, it was just a plain 2 door ’55 Chevy. Before it was painted, it also made a brief appearance on Adam-12″ Who won?”(1972) but was never shown driving.
    Btw, I saw’r an episode of Leno’s Garage, where he reunited James Taylor with the car, which was restored to “2 Lane” specs, Taylor told Leno, he hated making the movie, and never even saw the final edition. It was a pretty lame movie.

    Like 10
    • Curt Lemay

      I agree Two Lane BT was pretty bad, but AG was pure magic. I saw it in the theater several times when it ran in those in 1973. Reminded me of my youth before darker days.

      Like 32
      • JoeNYWF64

        I saw AG on a HUGE screen in a single screen theater in ’73 – no multiplex screens. Remember those?
        A few yrs later, i saw ALL 5 Planet of the Apes movies at 1 theater IN ONE SITTING! for a grand total of $1.50! Something like THAT won’t ever happen again – for any price.

        Like 21
      • Curt Lemay

        Joe, Yes large screens of our youth were cool, but look at all the entertainment options we have today in our homes. I myself can watch AG in any room in my house, including laying in the bathtub-in full HD! My screens range from 12 inches to 123 inches. I have all those POTA movies too to watch, and I can actually talk to the screen and bring one up to play in just a few seconds. As far as cars, my huge collection is littered with car themed movies. I just watched Gran Prix the other night, and I love the car scene from Rebel Without a Cause. My wife loves the car shots from Dirty Larry Crazy mary, where I think Bullitt rules. As much as I wish I was 20 years old again and not at the end of my life, I would hate to give up all the cool tech, including the car tech by the way. New cars are a wonder, not that I don’t love my old cars as well, but come on, the new cars make the old ones look pretty lame.

        Like 9
      • Big_Fun Member

        Some quotes from the movie (see above) “I ain’t nobody, dork” a favorite…

        Like 18
      • JoeNYWF64

        For me, there’s still no comparison watching AG at home on a “big” screen tv or in any current usually 120 seat joke of a theater auditorium, compared to watching it in a 2000! seat gigantic screen theater with balcony back in ’73. Even worse was watching “2001 a space odyssey” at AMC a few years back , compared to watching it on the gigantic curved cinerama screeen that used 3!! projectors in 1968. & the sound was too low as well at AMC – no doubt so the people next door would not hear it in their theater watching some cartoon or whatever junk movie was showing.
        Also at current AMC the screen for “2001” was too squarish & i noticed closing credits chopped off on the left & right! & black bars top & bottom! WTH & some mom & pop mutilplex screens are so small, i bet some celebrities have bigger screens in their private home theaters!!
        PS: good luck finding a good CORRENT print of Star Wars 1977 that has not been butchered by you know who. lol

        Like 5
      • Jason

        Darker days Kurt? I hope you’re alright man. Seriously.

        Like 4
    • OIL SLICK

      Don’t forget Dennis Wilson (Beach Boys drummer) who co-starred with JT in that movie.

      Like 4
    • Denis

      I don’t know how anyone would know about the single carb, or tunnel ram since no where in the movie is the motor showing. I always assumed it was left alone from 2 lane..

    • Edward Mead

      Thanks a bunch, I just ran across some old photos of my son and I when he was three and felt old. Now thinking back, I remember seeing Two Lane Blacktop at the Drive inn in my Fintstone mobile.

      Like 3
      • Dickie F.

        Me too.
        I was very young and the start of the movie with complete darkness followed by the roar of a 454 will live with me forever.
        My love of a 55 continues to this day.

        Like 2
  3. Don Eladio

    I see Richard Dreyfuss, MacKenzie Phillips, and Bo Hopkins’ autographs on there too.

    Like 3
  4. christopher swift

    Two Lane Blacktop was a classic. Crappy acting, but cultural significance bursting out all over the place.
    I’d consider it one of the great car movies. AG wasn’t about cars.

    Like 14
  5. RMAc

    Car movies how about Hot Rods from Hell ?

    Like 8
  6. Nate

    Did anybody recognize the fact that the license plates are the same ones from the movie…now that’s cool and awesome attention to detail. CA GLD 204. Wow.

    Like 5
    • Steve R

      They are available new on eBay for $17.00 with free shipping.

      Steve R

      Like 6
  7. Nate

    Did anybody else notice that the license plates are the same as the ones on the movie car? CA GLD 204. Cool attention to detail here…

    Like 1
  8. Rosko

    Droooooooool. A few years ago, I went to Petaluma CA where they filmed. It was durring an annual celebration of the movie. If you are a fan, I recommend going. The town is much the same as it was then and Paradise road with the farm field to one side has not changed a bit. If you get there early enough you can almost smell the tire smoke!

    Like 10
    • Steve R

      The first few days of filming actually took place in the city of San Rafael, but they revoked the permits. A friend grew up in the city next door, but hung out there at the time the movie was being filmed. Many of the cars other than the 32 and 55 were bought locally. He said the film crew set up a shop in an industrial area with a lot of automotive related businesses just east of highway 101 to prepare and maintain the cars for the movie. They were often parked for periods of time on the streets around the shop, especially after filming. The production team bought some parts for him and his friends and tried to buy a couple of their cars before the start of production..

      He didn’t hold a grudge against the city. After the movie was finished George Lucas stayed in the area, he set up shop about 2 or 3 miles north of town on a property that was eventually named Skywalker Ranch where he developed a couple of famous movie franchises and set up a special effect studio named Industrial Lights and Magic.

      Steve R

      Like 10
      • Jay E.

        Steve, Your comments were right on the money. I lived there and was there for the filming. I had a 340 Duster, which was too new for the film but a friends car was in it. My business was right next door to the warehouse where all the cars and movie props were stored on W. Francisco Blvd, but the Lucas (ILM) had a building on Kerner Blvd. Until Starwars success you could walk right in and see how it was being made! I had a chance to buy the movie props and begged my Dad for a loan to buy several of the cars. No Dice. But I did buy props and had the Neon OPEN sign from the drive in. It was a cool time to be in San Rafael. Lucas still lives in San Anselmo, a couple of doors from my family. He can be seen in San Anselmo at the coffee shop from time to time. Very approachable man.

        Like 7
      • Curt Lemay

        I always thought it was filmed in Modesto, or was that supposedly where Ron Howards character ended up? Man, got to watch that again, great flick. I also read that where it was filmed, years later some shopping mall at the edge of town decimated the downtown so it was not like in the movie, you guys say different. I would like to believe you guys.

        Like 2
      • Steve R

        Curt, your information was wrong. The story was supposed to be about Modesto, not filmed there.

        Malls in the Bay Area don’t technically destroy downtowns, they change them into fancy shopping districts full of trendy boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops. In general, the majority of storefronts stay the same, structurally.

        Steve R

      • Curt Lemay

        Steve R, thanks for the insight. The wife and I will have to venture over that way this summer and cruise the strip there. Haven’t been to the Sunshine State in quite a while. Have a hunkering to see them big ol’ trees one more time before my impending pine box. This might be the summer to do it. Earlier this year, a pretty girl poked my arm with wonderfulness, so I am ready to see America!

        Like 1
  9. Steveshow

    Awesome ride! A destroked 454 is a 427. Why not hust say it is a 427? I have built both. Production 427s and 454s even used the same block some years. Only difference was the stroke of the crank. Easy way to tell a 427 from a 454 “back in the day” was a 427 was internally balanced and a 454 externally balanced. You could run your hand around the inside if the harmonic balancer and if there was a counterweight, 454. No weight, 396 or 427. Nowadays aftermarket companies offer internally balanced big blocks over 600 cubic inches! I have a “little” 427, a 468, and next build is a 496.

    Like 7
  10. jerry z

    This is far and away my favorite movie car. A close second is the Cobra from Gumball Ralley.

    Like 4
    • OIL SLICK

      The Cobra in Hollywood Knights was much cooler

      Like 2
      • David Scully

        And, in ‘Hollywood Knights’, the blown yellow ’57 Chev actually broke a motor (captured on-camera). Its worth a pause and review if you have the tape/DVD.

        Like 1
  11. 370zpp

    My favorite car movie in recent years: Death Proof

    Like 2
  12. McQuaid

    Great story to get people to bid it up. Nice car but easy to duplicate for less than the current bid.

    Like 2
  13. Crawdad

    In two lane blacktop, the car DID have a tilt front end, as seen in the shots in the pits at night. remember back then there were was no cable , no computers essentially no racing on TV and very few movies. As an 18 year old, I drove 25 miles to the next town by myself to see the movie to satisfy my car racing fanaticism.

    Like 8
  14. Troy s

    The car that warped my mind, eight year old mind, when I first saw American Graffiti. Milner’s yellow hot rod was cool, the ’58 Chevy Toad drove around in was okay but the jerk with the cowboy hat sure had a killer machine! Up pulls Toad, revs his engine with a grin at that ’55, then you hear it. Sounds like a full on drag car as Falfa pops back at him. Didnt know it at the time that it actually was a drag machine using an engine not yet developed in ’62….
    I probably got this quote from the two movies it starred in….L88 427, Rockcrusher 4 speed and 4.88 gears. Thats what this particular ’55 had, the stunt car with cutting brakes not used in Two Lane had a 454, the inside camera car from TLBT also used a 454.
    Enough of that, I always tried to figure out what Falfa’s black ’55 would have really used in 1962. 409? 331? Or a different engine altogether like an old Chrysler hemi, Olds, or even Pontiac V8. Big cube ones of course.
    Great car up there.

    Like 4
    • Howard A Member

      Since the 409 was all the rage in ’62, I’d bet it would have had a 409 with 2, 4 barrels.

      Like 3
    • Dave

      Good points! By 1962 the gasser wars were going on and the knowledge was there. Chevy wasn’t where it was at. You needed an Olds 394 or Chrysler 392 Hemi to compete. Even the 409 was weak in comparison not to mention hard to find in scrapyards, then the hot rodder’s source for go-fast goodies.
      Milner’s car remains an enigma. The only SBC commonly found in junkyards then was the 283 but obviously the Coupe had ruled the streets for at least a few years prior…what if he accidentally built it to Z-28 302 specs?

      Like 3
      • Troy s

        Yeah, Dave, seems like that small block would have had to been nearly unstreetable to be the “fastest thing in the valley”,, 283 pushed to a 301? Set up perfectly with a 4 speed and spot on gearing, tires gotta hook up. Everything including being light weight,
        To beat a full on gasser ’55 which was probably stripped of all unnecessary weight and creature comforts, armed with serious horsepower, basically a completely rebuilt car. It makes for interesting theories, it’s just a movie and all but still,
        The ’55 wins in my mind. Off to work we go….

        Like 5
  15. Dave K

    Did anyone else notice in the EBay pics of the underside of this 55?

    Milner’s yellow roadster is parked behind this one!

  16. Glenn Hilpert

    Ain’t he neat.

    Like 6
  17. Jasper

    I gotta change out the jets!

    Like 4
  18. ACZ

    Those all were great movies but you’re missing another great one:
    Hollywood Knights

    Like 6
  19. Vince H

    The 58 was supposed to have a 327. In 62 a 327 was a hard find for engine swaps as it was the first year. A bored 283 was quite common.

    Like 3
  20. Tooyoung4heyday Member

    “Man there’s that wicked Chevy again”.This is just too cool. By far my favorite movie as a kid and still. Always liked the look of the Graffiti ’55 better than the Two Lane ’55. Good job with this one, lucky to have access to the original builds. I met Paul Lemat at our local World of Wheels show quite a few years ago and they had one of the original coupes there in his booth. Typical movie car, theres a reason it was shot at night. Still love the cars and the movie nonetheless. Flip nose is correct as they were Two Lane cars first. The controversy comes with the engines in these clones. I get that the two lane cars had big blocks but it didnt exist in ’62! The die cast car has 409 in it if i remember correctly. Im in agreement with Troy with the scene with Toad and Falfa “ain’t he neat”. The ’55 sounded menacing and that gorgeous ’58 imo sounded just awful. Id expect a small block with six strombergs on it wouldve sounded better. That car is currently owned by Ray Evernham. I was really disappointed in the rerelease of movie on dvd that was digitally remastered. Many of the sound bites are way wrong. Many of the scenes depicting the coupe had it sounding like a british sports car. How did it escape editing that way. Ive seen it in its former version and the sound was much better especially in the final race. If the question ever comes up of which car would you rather have, the coupe or the ’55? The answer is always both….Can you imagine opening your garage door and both cars are sitting there side by side?!? That’d make my day every day! This car absolutely needs a Harrison Ford signature though. Next owner needs to figure out how to make that happen.

    Like 5
    • Joe Bru

      To “Too Young”, the movie was shot at night to depict/document the nightly cruising scene Lucas lived. Also the Big Blocks did exist in 62, they came out in ’58. Note the 409 is the 2nd Gen Big Block. You know the ’58 in the movie had a big block, a 348 with single 4. Sounded wimpy due to stock exhaust. Put headers & glass-packs on that stock 348 & it would sound a bit meaner than a stock small block with similar exhaust. Exhaust tone has a lot to do with exhaust manifolds & mufflers used (or not used). Carburetion not so much. BTW my gang knew right away the nerd was bs’ing to have the newest 327. Also Falfa told me he got his big block 409 out a wrecked 61 Impala!

      Like 1
      • Tooyoung4heyday Member

        Ok, the mark IV more specifically if you want to go that route. I figured that was to be understood based on the comparison of the cars. Im aware the 348 got it started the balloned up to the 409, then developing into the 427 mystery motor for 63 then being released as mark IV to the streets in 65 as 396. Im also aware why it was actually filmed at night, it was sarcasm in relation to the poor quality or crudeness of the coupe build. Did you however know that the car revving at the beginning of “409” by beach boys is actually a 348 and not a 409?!?

        Like 1
    • dave

      A 409 is a big block chevy. It was designated as the mark I. Chevy redesigned the heads several times, and the 3rd redesign became the mark IV, what commonly is referred to as the BBC. But the 409 short block and 427/454 short blocks are very similar in many parameters.

      Like 1
      • Enfield 750

        A 409 is a completely different engine block . The combustion chamber was in the heads on a 396/427 while a 348/409 had the combustion chamber in the wedge in the block above the pistons. The heads were flat with no combustion chamber .

        Like 1
  21. Steve J

    A friend in 1967 was building a 57 2 door wagon with a 301 (bored 283) fuelie heads , etc. before his trip to Asia. It was common to build 292’s & 301’s then. Not saying they would win the race, just that there were a lot of them.

    Like 3
  22. James larson

    I grew up with AG So about 20 years ago I started building the 32 then the 55 then the 58 then the 51 then the 61 cop car and bought already done was the 56 T bird. I even restored a 62 vespa. I still have them all and take them out a couple of times a year.

    Like 4
  23. Jason

    Darker days Kurt? I hope you’re alright man. Seriously.

    Like 3
  24. David Scully

    For more Harrison Ford and racing Chevies, check out “Heroes” (1977) with “The Fonz” Henry Winkler and Sally Fields – and a much darker theme…

  25. Kevin

    Tech isn’t everything Curt!,I have a modern car,and creature comforts are great,it’s a 14 Charger r/t awd,so yes I can drive year round also,but there’s no substitute for chrome, and real metal,and rude quality, new cars are faster, and techy, but I had a minor accident with the charger (parking garage wall)at ultra low speed and it was 4200!,this metal is throw away these days,so new quarter panel,new bumper cover,tail light assembly and labor, if this was an early charger,it probably could of been fixed for a few hundred dollars,so in the end it’s all a trade off,I say if you can afford it, have both.

    Like 1

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