You may have heard the tale of Roy Locock, the man that got into the driving seat of his 1977 MG Midget, put it into gear, and just drove and didn’t stop driving until he had gone all around the world, just to prove someone wrong. It’s that romantic notion of the road movie, the freedom of the road, that we can all subscribe to on one level or another. It’s also that grit and determination to prove wrong the heated steering wheel and air con brigade, that laugh in our faces when we spend so much hard earned cash on an old classic car.
Let’s face it, who needs a heated steering wheel or air con when you have a soft top called “Bridget the Midget” to travel with? In fact, let’s be honest here, those of us that live in the UK did just fine without air conditioning right up until very recently, so why do we now all turn our collective pampered noses up at buying any vehicle without it? Take a step back, it’s faintly absurd.
For me, when I think of the road movie as a genre, it’s hard not to think instantly of one movie – and no, sorry, it’s not Thelma & Louise.
Two Lane Blacktop was released in 1971, just as the dust was beginning to settle as America came to terms with the disintegration & failure of the Peace & Love movement as it inevitably fell into the darker world of Charles Manson’s agenda & Jim Morrison’s darker visions. Meanwhile, The Rolling Stones’ ill-fated Altamont gig had put the final nail in the coffin for anyone who still believed music could change the world.
Two Lane Blacktop starred musicians James Taylor and Dennis Wilson (of The Beach Boys) as drifters living in their 1955 Chevy One-Fifty, a modified 2-door sedan. The duo travel Route 66 (pre-Interstate Highway, note) making their living by challenging the various petrol-heads that they come across in small towns, to races as they go on their life journey. None of the characters had a name, (Warren Oates is merely referred to as ‘GTO’ for example). A name was a bad idea of course; a name would pin down each character to a history, a previous life and a future.
Oates drove a pretty awesomely beautiful 1970 Pontiac GTO 455 in the film, engulfed in a fetching Orbit Orange paint job, with the optional eyebrow stripes and a rear spoiler fitted, which were standard on the Pontiac Judge.
Two GTOs were used during the filming of Two Lane Blacktop, and there were three Chevrolet ‘55s used. One of the Chevys was an original race car that was just far too loud inside to record any dialogue, while another was quiet enough to record in. The third Chevy was used to perform the film’s stunts.
If you hunger for the throaty roar of an American classic muscle car or long for the freedom of the road, then this film will do one of three things: it will either put you off for life, make you remortgage and buy a Pontiac GTO or make you follow in the admirable footsteps of Roy Locock, a latter day, more sedate version of ‘The Driver’.
Images from www.rowthree.com, www.diecastmax.com, www.brightlightsfilm.com, cinemeccanica.files.wordpress.com