When we all thought the off track revelations had died down in the world of Formula 1, Mclaren come to the rescue with their involvement in another spying scandal, but this time they are the victims.
Brought to the forefront of American pop culture in the early 1950s, hot rods were all over the silver screen in a large number of predominately bad movies. Born from the Southern California drag racing culture, over fifty of these films were made per year by the mid-50s, each featuring a hip and/or rebellious anti-hero with a fast-and-loose girl.
There were no stars in these films, and you likely won't remember very many of the titles. Do Running Wild, Hot Rod Girl, or Hot Rod Rumble ring any bells? Made in 1956, Hot Rod Girl is actually a personal favorite from this genre, simply because it must have been the basis for every 1980s ski movie. The plotline on IMDB really sums it up best:
After his kid brother is killed in a street race, a champion drag-racer quits racing. However, a new kid comes to town determined to force him back into racing so he can take his title--and he's already taken his girlfriend.
The cars were always more important than the men who drove them. In an article Matt Stone wrote on the subject for Motor Trend, he quotes Hollywood actor/writer Tim Considine with, "There were the good guy, the bad guy, and the girl--and the girl was probably second [in importance] to the car, just as the girl was second to the horse in the cowboy movies."
Eventually, biker movies gained in popularity, but the hot rod flick never really went away. Tarantino ripped off the genre for Death Proof, and the camp aspect was always there in Death Race 2000. Obviously, Smokey and the Bandit borrowed the same themes: good guy, bad guy, the girl, and the big chase.
Many of the cars built for the hot rod pictures of the early 1950s were put together by Barris Kustoms. Founded by Chicago-born brothers Sam and George Barris, the duo created the Batmobile, K.I.T.T., and the cars for Blade Runner, and Death Race 2000.
But the Chicagoans also assebled a bunch of celebrity theme cars, including Ringo Starr's 1957 Chevy Bel Air, the ultra-tacky Sonny & Cher matching 1965 Mustang convertibles, and the grotesque Elton John Super Star Kart.
Somewhere, amongst five decades of custom car building, Barris Kustoms built Travolta Fever.
Currently up for auction on eBay, this fantastically awful Pontiac Firebird was assebled in 1971, and customized as a show car for John Travolta in 1979. Fresh off his success as Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever and Danny Zuko in Grease, Barris built this piece of work to honor Vinnie Barbarino himself.
After Travolta's success in Urban Cowboy, Barris revamped the interior of the car to reflect America's growing appreciation for cowboys and country music (think Don Cheadle as "Buck Swope" in Boogie Nights). The Firebird was outfitted with gen-u-ine cowhide seats, brown leather everywhere, and a saddle in place of a center console. Travolta Fever (make me laugh every time I type the name) has sculpted fender flares and a large, rear whale tale inspired by the Richard Petty era of NASCAR cars.
It is somewhat amusing to see Recaro listed as one of the original sponsors on the side of the car. None of us here at WCF seems to remember a time when Recaro made overstuffed cowhide seats.
Ventura, California, car collector James Monroe is the most recent owner of the car, which Barris himself auctioned off in 1983. “Travolta Fever is an important piece of entertainment history,” Monroe said in a press release.
Opening bid on the auction is set for $25,000. Since its listing yesterday, there have been no bids. The listing ends at 5pm California time, on Sunday, November 18.
Monroe believes Travolta Fever "is a time capsule that highlights the Hollywood fads of the late 70's and early 80's.”
Some time capsules were meant to stay buried.