Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Chase

.by Eric Johnson

I was only four years-old at the time, but somehow I remember parts of it all. So much so, that to this day, when I refer back to my memories, my dad knows I have it all right. In 1968, my dad went to go see a film called Bullitt. Directed by Peter Yates, the film was described as an action thriller. The premise of the film involved a California politician named Walter Chalmers who was trying to bring down the Mob. For protection before a heavy-duty court hearing, Chalmers hires a Lieutenant named Frank Bullitt. Bullitt is played by the great Steve McQueen. Okay, now that we have that all out of the way, here’s where my story begins.

Bullitt is best known for featuring the best car chase scene of all-time. In it, Bullitt, behind the wheel of a 1969 Ford Mustang 390 CID Fastback, is chased by two hit men in a Tuxedo Black Dodge Charger R/T 440 Magnum. The chase ate up exactly 9 minutes and 42 seconds of film, but for any man (or four-year old for that matter) in America at the time, the chase would, in their memory, last forever. It would also make more than a few men reach for the wallets. I know my old man did. According to my mom, my dad saw the film on a Friday night, and the next morning, went straight to a Cleveland area Dodge dealer to buy the same Charger that was driven by the actor Bill Hickman in the film.

I don’t remember how it exactly all went down, but I do remember waking up from a nap, being led outside and seeing a shiny black car my dad had just bought. It looked mean. It looked mad. It looked cool. Not long after, my dad took me to see the movie. At that age I didn’t remember much of it, but I remember one part very vividly. I remember the part when Hickman – sitting in the driver’s seat and dressed in a trench coat – pulls up behind McQueen, puts on his seat belt and looks over to his shotgun. Seeing him in his rearview mirror, McQueen mashes the Fastback’s gas pedal to the floor and boils the rear tires. Hickman does the same and the chase begins.

Oh yeah… My dad started racing that car a few months later. He won’t admit it, but my mom later told me he traded his younger brother his entire record collection he had amassed while in the Navy for a new crankshaft.

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