Some people well tell you that the "Piss Yellow" coupe in the movie American Graffiti single-handedly brought back Hot Rod cars. One thing is for certain; it and the movie helped to feed the fire that grew into the multi-billion dollar Hot Rod industry that thrives today! Lucas launched not only his career with this movie (and the career of his film stars); he also launched Street Rodding's career as well!
Several years ago I was standing in the famous Roy Brizio Street Rods shop talking to parts manager Dave Catellini about that very subject, when he said he knew the guy who now owns "Milner's Coupe"! I said "Dave, you've got to see if he'll let me photograph the car!" Dave set up a date with car owner Rick Figari of San Francisco. Rick was more then happy to pull the car out of the garage for us to shot pictures of it!!
It's only recently that Rick started making improvements to the car. He figured if he was going to drive the car, a fuse box was a must! So Roy Brizio's Street Rods rewired the car but mounted the new fuse box under the cowl vent, out of sight!. But it was decided that the old, custom-made headers wouldn't survive an acid deep at the platers, so they were powder coated in a chrome finish. The coupe's grille was painted flat black (as seen here) for the sequel, but since these pictures were taken, Rick has had it re-plated. Rick is taking great care in restoring the car without changing it.
There are some interesting things about the car. There are "U" shaped brackets on the bottom frame rail on each side of the car. These were used to bolt-on and bolt-off platforms for the movie cameras and directors' chairs. If you watch closely during the movie, you'll notice that the hinged front window flops open every time the car accelerates. This is because there's a rope tied around the window post on the passenger side and the other end of the rope was tied to the director, George Lucas! The passenger's side door lock under the door handle is missing -- we think that was used to feed microphone wires through the door. The "THX 138" plates were custom-made for the movie. One of Lucas' good luck charms is to carry something from his past movie into the next movie. The plate refers to his first movie "THX 1138", a sci-fi movie filmed here in northern California (many of the underground shots are actually the Oakland/Alameda tube that runs under the water between the two cities). If you look very closely in Star Wars, you'll see some fuzzy dice hanging in the Millenium Falcon. The car was originally a full-fendered, red, Street Rod and was purchased by the film crew mainly because it had a chopped top and the script (Lucas!) wanted a chopped top fender-less Hot Rod. Rick's not sure, but he thinks the cars have been repainted since the movie.
One thing Rick told me when he bought the car he was disappointed that the THX plates and "piston" gearshift knob were missing. Two very important pieces.
Special thanks to Rick Figari for sharing his very historic hot rod with us!
Photo gallery of coupes! Click on each one to see a larger image and caption.
George Barris joins Jay and his car at a show in July, 2009.
Pages created by Kathy Schrock. 1996. Last update: 1/15/2012. All rights reserved.