This is almost the exact opposite of a post I did a bit back on things that were still there, but forgotten. Today we’re going to look at something that’s gone, but definitely not forgotten.
If you weren’t alive in the late ’70s you really have no idea just how hard Star Wars mania hit. For a movie that was supposed to be a flop, it energized the country and revitalized the sci-fi movie scene. In fact, the story goes, the studio considered it the B-movie release and Star Wars opened on a paltry 40 screens across the country because those were the only theaters that would take it. There was another movie 20th Century Fox figured would be its summer block buster, so the studio didn’t really worry about pushing Star Wars too hard.
Now, of course, no one remembers that other movie. Star Wars was such a phenomenon that it eclipsed everything else that came out that summer. In case you’re wondering, the other movie was the movie adaptation of Sidney Sheldon’s The Other Side of Midnight.
I’m sure Sheldon loves Star Wars to this day.
I remember seeing the first trailer for Star Wars and immediately thinking I had to see this thing. I was five or six at the time, so any movie where people dressed in space armor and swung glowing swords at each other had my vote. When the movie hit in the summer of 1977, I, like every other kid in the country, lined up to see it. I’m not sure how much my grandma liked it, but she said she enjoyed it and we made it a tradition to see the next three together over the summers. She missed out on the last three prequels, which is probably for the best because they was have ruined the series for her just like they almost did for everyone else.
But that’s neither here nor there. Before Jar Jar Binks taught an entire generation how to hate, the original cast was there on the screen and everywhere else. Seriously, you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting Star Wars merchandise. The lead up to The Force Awakens had nothing on the follow through of Star Wars. Today, we refer to it as Episode IV – A New Hope, but back then it was just Star Wars, and it was everywhere on everything all the time. Including this:
The car was real. Someone won it and probably drove it around with a huge freaking smile on their face. It was a 1977 Toyota Celica GT with a custom paint job.
I can’t find the specs on the actual Star Wars Celica, but according to Carfolio, the ’77 Celica GT was a four cylinder, rear-wheel-drive car boasting a whopping 95 bhp at 4800 RPM. For the time, it wasn’t a bad car. In fact, they’re still fairly common on the street racing scene. Couple a car that got decent gas mileage with a five-speed manual and some kick-ass Star Wars art and you the babe magnet of the late seventies. Unless it was some babe that won it, in which case it would be a dude magnet.
Now, like I said earlier, Star Wars was everywhere on everything in the summer of ’77. It was almost at complete sensory overload levels. Most of that merchandise has vanished over the past (almost) 40 years, because most of it wasn’t designed to last. But the Star Wars Celica had two things that set it apart from everything else.
- It was a one-off custom paint job
- It was a freaking car
Unfortunately, like most other merchandise from the era, the Star Wars Celica has vanished – poof – without a trace. You wouldn’t think that would be an easy task for a car to pull off. After all, aren’t cars supposed to be registered? According to Hollywood, any police cyber expert should be able to spend about five seconds typing the VIN into the vast police databases and get not only the owner, but an incredibly high-resolution picture of where the car is right now. In the real world, though, things don’t work quite like that. All that information was tracked on pieces of papers that changed hands when the car changed hands. The original pieces of paper are probably covered in fried-chicken grease and slowly decomposing in a landfill in Indiana.
As for the car? Well, that’s gone. Aside from one classified ad in the early 80s where someone was offering to sell the car, the trail is completely cold. Cold as Hoth or Palpatine’s heart. Poof. Gone. Vanished without a trace. The Celica, too, is likely covered in fried-chicken grease (we loved our fried chicken in the 70s and 80s) and slowly decomposing in a junk yard in Indiana.
Like a lot of the stranger pieces of reality, this would make an excellent plot point for a story. Not necessarily hunting down the Star Wars Celica, but rather some car that has gone missing and has something important squirreled away in the trunk. As another example, The Thing in Dragoon, Arizona, claims to have a 1937 Rolls Royce that was used by none other than Adolf Hitler.
If you take a bit of time to look around the world and ask yourself a few questions, you’ll soon find that there are stories out there begging to be told. Plus, it gives you an excuse to research the odd and wonderful, and maybe even plan a trip to Dragoon.
As for the Star Wars Celica, someone will eventually find it rusting in a barn somewhere with it’s trunk full of old phone books and a half-eaten, desiccated Big Mac on the dash. No one will really know what happened between the time someone won the car and it was found. The car may be gone, but the story is just begging to be told.