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  • Dean Hempel

Inspired by a movie?

Street racing has deep roots in our interests in cars. However, being illegal and sometimes dangerous never slowed the interest and glamour in fast cars. This is shown in some of the many movies that have inspired the preservation of old cars…. Classics, sportscars, muscle cars, and modern pro touring.

Hollywood picked up on the national interest with an early movie in 1947 called “Devil on Wheels”. If you want to see what racing was in the early 50’s this is a great movie to watch. Most of the cars were Ford flat head roadsters going at it. This movie is a real look at the scene that was common around the country. This pre-dated the weekend drag strips and details what a hot rod was.

Then came Rock and Roll music which helped move the fast cars into mainstream. A lot more movies and TV shows featured hot rods. In 1958 the movie “The Hot Rod Gang” along with dozens of films with similar story lines…. Bad boys with cool cars who enjoy attractive girls and speed while creating havoc with the grown ups.

James Dean became one of the best of the “bad boys” in his movie “Rebel Without a Cause” ( 1955 ) and the ’49 Merc. This was Hollywood’s drama to bring attention to the moral decay of the American youth. For car enthusiasts it has become a classic for the cars of that era.

A later movie that boosted enthusiasm for hot rods was American Graffiti (1973). This was a big-time movie from Coppola and George Lucas that is still a classic for car people today. It’s a small-town setting in 1962 that tells a story around cruising and racing. Some of the young actors went on to become major actors, Ron Howard, Harrison Ford, and Richard Dreyfuss to name a few.

Hollywood has made their impressions with these Baby Boomer era cars which are now classics. In 1980 “Hollywood Knights” came out with Tony Danza and Michelle Pfeiffer as a lower budget version of “American Graffiti”. Newer generations are being drawn to some of the newer movies with similar themes.

Obviously the ‘Fast and Furious” series are favorites among car enthusiasts. The lure of speed always draws a crowd, but sometimes the chrome and polished paint will attract. Now that the boomers are retiring and can afford to buy those cars they always wanted, car shows are becoming more popular than ever. Did Hollywood help this latest movement? Or was it always there and the movies are another reminder of America’s passion?

Either way, we’ll touch on the popularity of car shows In an upcoming posts.


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