George Lucas may have made his billions on the Star Wars franchise (specifically merchandising, the clever fellow), but the first movie that got him major Hollywood recognition was American Graffiti. This classic coming-of-age tale centered around hot rods, musclecars, and teenagers in the early ’60s, with an all-star cast featuring the likes of Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, and Ron Howard.
Howard’s character, Steve Bolander, drove a decked-and-nosed 1958 Chevy Impala that actually belonged to one of the movie’s producers. The car was chosen because it already featured a tuck-n-roll interior like the script required. This weekend, the iconic Impala will go up for bid at the Profiles In History Auction, where the auction house estimates it will sell for between $800,000 and $1.2 million.
Unbelievably, this large piece of American movie history was sold for a little less than the $325 asking price to Mike Famalette soon after filming finished. Over the years, the Impala was powered by various engines, including a 283 cubic-inch small-block and an LT-1 V8. Both used a Powerglide transmission. Although Toad stated in the movie the car had a 327 with Strombergs, in reality, the car had a 348 cubic-inch V8 and three-on-the-tree manual transmission.
After graduating high school, Famalette put the famous Impala into storage where it remained for almost 30 years, until he recently brought it out to tour local car shows as the American Graffiti car. The car isn’t exactly in perfect condition, as Mike is reportedly a man of humble means, but his patience and foresight are likely to pay off big as both movie and car collectors vie to own this recognizable and important star of the silver screen.
Whether or not the American Graffiti Impala actually brings the big numbers its been valued at remains to be seen. But, the collector car world is filled with people that can surprise us, so we’ll find out this week. Check out the auction listings here.