Car movies can’t just be about cars. Much as we love them, a movie with nothing more than really good cars wouldn’t hold our attention. The movie has to tap into some common memory or feeling and expand it so we can investigate it. That’s the real magic in movies; the opportunity to examine life without the boundaries of reality. Here are several movies that got their hooks into our souls as well as our cars.
The movie talks about a special time in our lives when we change from living at home with rules and expectations from other people to living on our own, independently, rising or falling according to our own abilities. The plot looks at Curt Henderson, who has a $2,000 scholarship to a prestigious university, but is undecided if he wants to make the jump. It’s decision time. Curt is scheduled to leave the next day. The movie follows that last evening and shows them cruising in a 1958 Chevy Impala, talking with a mysterious blonde in a 1956 Ford Thunderbird who tells Curt she loves him, ripping the rear axle off a police car by linking a chain through it and attaching it to a telephone pole, drag racing and watching one of the cars crash. There’s a great final scene as Curt leaves on the plane and sees the blonde in the Thunderbird driving on a road alongside the runway.
It’s not the iconic chase that makes this movie memorable. The chase was ground-breaking at the time, but the ground has been torn up so much by later chase scenes that it isn’t unusual anymore. You have to be a certain age. The movie came out in 1968. If you were leaving your childhood, headed to adulthood, and needed someone to emulate and a set of morals to guide you, this was the movie. It also helped remove any childhood illusions about politics, any police force, Federal hearings, and the FBI. It strengthened a belief in good over evil, using personal principles as moral guidance and the virtues of hard work. Raymond Chandler, the best mystery writer ever, said that the lead character in proper private detective novels had to be “the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.” Frank Bullitt, played by Steve McQueen, is, easily, the best man in his world. He’s been given charge of a government witness in a mob case. A United States Senator gives him the choice between lying about the fate of the witness or complete professional ruin. Bullitt doesn’t even shrug. He does the right thing without thinking about it. His wife thinks he is losing his humanity because of the many times he’s had to kill someone. Oh yes. I almost forgot. Bullitt and two mob killers chase around San Francisco in a 1968 Mustang and a 1968 Dodge Charger followed by a very talented cameramen and director and a sound-track composed of truly heartening engine noises.
Are you driving a car that winds up your emotions every time you get in it? Do you make excuses to go to the garage just to look at it? Don’t keep driving the car you’ve got if you don’t feel it. Several businesses are offering used and new cars for sale along the Central Coast. Get rid of the boring one and get one you like.