Car Movie Cult Classic: Two Lane Blacktop & The Restored ’55 Chevy

Starting from the left: the ’55 on the left was used to film the interior shots, the middle car was used to film the exterior scenes (was also used in American Graffiti) and the GTO raps up the line-up. A third ’55 Chevy was built as a stunt car, but it was destroyed during its use in American Graffiti. Photo: Two-Lane Blacktop Museum

When it comes to automotive cult classics most gear heads will agree that the 70’s film Two-Lane Blacktop and the iconic ’55 Chevy deserve recognition. The basic premise of the film is a cross-country race between the iconic ’55 Chevy and a ’70 GTO that concludes in Washington, D.C. where the winner takes the loser’s car.

Throughout the journey the driver, played by James Taylor and the mechanic, played by Dennis Wilson, earn money to complete the race against the GTO by racing the ’55 against anyone willing to take the challenge. Like most iconic movie cars, multiple vehicles were used to film Two-Lane Blacktop and thanks to diehards at the Two-Lane Blacktop Online Museum it is possible to follow the trail of the cars used in the film.

The main image on their site was shot prior to filming on the Universal Studios back lot; three cars were used to film the scenes. Two ’55 Chevys and of course the ’70 GTO. Two of the three ’55 Chevys survived the filming and have been restored; the ’55 used to film the exterior shots has been restored to its proper appearance and the interior car was revamped as a show car after its service in American Graffiti.

Unfortunately, the third ’55 (the stunt car for this film) has almost certainly been recycled after meeting its demise by a crusher following the crash scene in American Graffiti. For those interested in film history and ’55 Chevy’s, this site offers exclusive information that should make most gear heads salivate.

One of the highlights of the museum was the reunion between the restored car (as the site calls it “TLB” for Two Lane Blacktop) ’55 Chevy and James Taylor at a benefit for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The current owner and mastermind behind the site found out about benefit, and that the film would be shown as part of the fundraiser. He contacted the editor at James Taylor Online to see if there was any interest in displaying the actual car. Taylor was interested in seeing the car again and the rest is history along with a really amazing picture of Taylor and the ’55.

The museum encompasses the history of the car starting from the pre-filming still image all the way through the restoration of the car and its present activities.

The car used to film the exterior shots was fitted with camera rigging and the current owner has managed to track down a wealth of still images of the car and the camera crew hard at work. Eventually the car was sold and the first new owner (not the studio) brought the car to Canada where it was repainted in the ‘70’s.

In the ‘80’s the car underwent further modifications that resulted in a different appearance, thanks to gloss black paint.

In 2001 the current owner completed diligent research and decided to take on the challenge of bringing the ’55 back to Two-Lane Blacktop condition. At the conclusion of 5-years worth of restoration the ’55 was nearly complete with the exception of a couple of parts.

The devil is in the details and the museum provides detailed information surrounding the restoration story. 

 

About the author

Lauren Camille

Lauren is a graduate of California State University Fullerton, and has experience working for several enthusiast publications. She enjoys drag racing, classic Fords, and vintage Lincolns. She currently races a 1965 Ford Mustang Fastback, and has a soft spot for 1960’s Lincolns. Currently, her collection includes: ’04 Cobra Convertible, ’65 Mustang Fastback, ’04 F350 6.0 diesel, ’96 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and a ’87 Jeep Wrangler. She provides insightful content as a freelance writer for Power Automedia.
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