Most of us gearheads are familiar with the car cult favorite American Graffiti. We all had a friend, or knew someone, who was just like each of the characters in the 1960s movie classic. One such person who says his life was changed after watching Ron Howard and his friends live life one Friday night at a time was Ray Evernham.
“For me, American Graffiti was an incredible movie about an exciting time in America,” said Evernham. “It brought back hot rods and rock and roll and launched the careers of dozens of stars. George Lucas did such an exacting job creating the set, building the cars and telling the story that you were truly transported back to a time when horsepower was king, you and your friends ruled the drive-in and the world was a simpler place.”
For Evernham, the 1958 Chevrolet Impala was the star of the show. He said, “When I was a teenager growing up in New Jersey, this car represented everything that was cool about America’s car culture – independence, coming of age, freedom and enjoying your life with your buddies.”
In the movie, Steve Bolander (Ron Howard) loaned the car to his friend Terry “the Toad” Fields (Charles Martin Smith). The movie took place in Modesto, California, in 1962, and the Impala went through its own share of dramatic endeavors: being loaned out, being stolen, being lost, being found, and being returned. It was a car’s worst nightmare– but with a happy ending.
For Evernham, however, the happy ending took place last December, 2015, when the car went up for auction and he purchased from the owner. The owner was Mike Famalette, and at just 17 years old he purchased the car from Lucas Films for a mere $285. The year was 1972, and Famalette held onto the car until it went up for auction, and Evernham acquired it.
Now that this piece of iconic automotive history – and Evernham’s inspiration – has come into his possession, he has a goal in mind. His goal is to bring the classic Impala back to its original, American Graffiti condition and preserve what he says “has been on my dream list forever.”
“To now own this car and lead the preservation of this incredible piece of American history is truly an honor,” said Evernham. “To save this car for future generations, we have to go back 42 years to its original movie condition.
He continued, “It really is a forensic preservation. We have to take it apart piece by piece, catalog every piece and then repair those pieces. Every piece of chrome is being straightened and re-chromed. The emblems are being re-chromed. The nuts and bolts are being re-plated. The interior has been entirely dis-assembled and will be restored back to its movie condition. Everything we took off is going back in it. Even the tires are original and the air in them came directly from the movie set.”
We were told in a press release that the only thing that is being replaced is the engine, which was destroyed years before Evernham acquired the car. Instead of the 348 cubic-inch four-barrel equipped Chevy engine, he found a 1960 327 with a six-barrel Stromberg carburetor set up that will power the completed vehicle.
Teaming up with Axalta Coating Systems, a leading global manufacturer of liquid and powder coatings, Evernham plans to display the finished car in all it’s American Graffiti glory at 2016 SEMA show in the Las Vegas. It will be presented for all to see in the Axalta booth (#22391)