After my story on the movie American Graffiti, I toyed with the idea of writing a second story—one about the sequel to American Graffiti, More American Graffiti. That movie was good, of course, just not as good as the original. So, where were you in ‘63, ‘64, ‘65, and ‘66? I was in Southern Oregon, not yet old enough to drive.
More American Graffiti was filmed in 1979, the year my son was born. It was not as big of a hit as its predecessor and only grossed 15 million dollars. Other movies that year grossed 10 times that much.
The movie was broken up into several stories. The stories covered drag racing, the Vietnam war and the protests, San Francisco and the hippie movement, and a rock and roll band. Well, let’s get to the story you and I would be most interested in: John Milner, drag racer. Milner’s yellow ‘32 coupe was more of a stage prop throughout the whole movie. The Milner character is a local drag racer with a home built fuel rail dragster. The big New Year’s Eve race is coming up with the “Factory Team” showing up, looking for a new driver. John Milner (Paul LeMat) looks to beat the Factory Team and win the championship and possibly a new driving job. So, here we are at the dragstrip. This was actually a real dragstrip, the Fremont Raceway in Fremont, CA. Now, I can say that I’ve been there. Back in the same time frame of the movie, the mid ‘60s, my Uncle Tom took me to my first drag race. We watched the early flip top body funny cars. It was great. Speaking of the original Fremont Raceway, how about the original starter, Chet Carter, was the starter for Fremont for 30 years. Also, the announcer in the movie was Steve Evans. In real life, he was an announcer and reporter covering the NHRA drag racing for TNN, ABC and NBC.
Now, let’s get down to the cars. Milner’s rail in real life was the Don Long top fuel dragster. The “Factory Team” car was one belonging to Pierre Poncia, who raced until 1971, right there at Fremont. Other cars that were involved were a custom body Corvette, a 1957 Chevy 210, a Willie’s straight front axle dragster, and several period correct slingshot dragsters. There were vintage shots with drivers wearing open face helmets and fire suits with respirators on each side of the face covers.
Almost all the same actors were in this movie except Richard Dreyfuss. Harrison Ford traded his four wheel vehicle, a ‘55 Chevy, for two wheels. He was a motorcycle cop for a quick scene. Oh, yeah, Ron Howard had hair. Speaking of Harrison Ford, that will lead us into trivia and bloopers for both American Graffiti and More American Graffiti. Harrison Ford initially turned down the American Graffiti movie because he was offered $485 a week. This is less than he earned as a carpenter at the time and not enough to support his family. When the offer was upped to $500, he accepted, and the rest is history. More bloopers from American Graffiti: Richard Dreyfuss’ Citroen is a 1972. A red Mustang is parked across from Mel’s Drive-in (in ‘62?). A white Toyota Corolla was at an intersection. A 1973 Olds Cutlass is also seen at an intersection. Toad’s (Charles Martin Smith) crashes his Vespa at Mel’s Drive-in. This was an actual accident that happened and was kept in the film.
More American Graffiti had its share of trivia as well. In the setting during the Vietnam War a protester burned his draft card with a Bic lighter. Bic lighters weren’t made until 1973. An orange Plymouth race car had a Chrysler Direct Connections Logo on the license plate. That logo was not made until 1972. At the track, the radio sign was showing its call letters KYA-FM. Back then it was an AM station. Cars at the track: there was a 1970 yellow Chevy Camaro and a black 1970 Chevy pickup. Also, someone was wearing a tee shirt with a ‘70s Camaro on it.
One thing I thought was interesting was that some of the scenes not at the track were split screen or multiple screens of the same picture, just like the movie Grand Prix.
Overall, the movie was good. I enjoyed the vintage slingshot dragsters and the music from when I was growing up in those years.