‘DATE BAIT’—CLASSIC IRON SHINES IN A CLASSIC DRIVE-IN B-MOVIE

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The drive-in movie was a huge part of the teen culture sixty years ago.

The drive-in movie’s plot didn’t matter—all it needed were simple stories, teenagers, and cool cars.

‘Date Bait’ was released in 1960 and it was typical because it had the basic ‘teens against their parents’ plot, some hoodlums and best of all—cars that stole the show.

Jerry Sutherland

Teenaged was a relative term in movies back then, because several of the actors playing high school kids in this movie were clearly pushing 30—and all of them are in their 20s. I’m not sure if it was a combination of labor laws and adult situations that gave us old high school kids, but world-weary teens who looked 25 or better were standard fare in these films.

The main kid is named Danny and he’s in a Romeo and Juliette relationship with Sue because he comes from the wrong side of town.

Danny’s biggest asset is that he drives an MG TF—that’s unusual because a kid his age in 1960 would be more likely to drive a souped-up piece of Detroit iron than a British sports car. If he did drive an MG TF, he would have crammed a Buick engine under the hood, but this one was stock.

The best scene in Date Bait is the car chase in the movie that answered the question—how would an MG TF do against a 1959 Dodge Custom Royal convertible?

The answer (according to the movie) is not that well. The big Dodge was driven by a local drug-dealing gangster who wanted to teach Danny a lesson. The gangster was mad because Danny beat the stuffing out of his drug-addicted younger brother Brad. 

The cars careen down a highway during the chase with the Custom Royal an inch (or less) off the MG’s bumper. It’s a pretty good chase, even with the speeded-up 50s movie style turns. Thanks to that, the Dodge has no problem hanging in with the MG in every corner.

The only real-world clue in the movie about MG TF versus ’59 Dodge is the wide arc the convertible takes in one turn after the MG cuts it close. It’s a fun chase until the thugs catch up to Danny and thump the arrogance out of him.

On another note, you couldn’t film a teen movie in 1960 without a period correct hot rod.

In this case, it’s an early 30s Ford pickup that oozes cool—right down to its Little Red Express-ish vertical tail pipes behind the cab. The engine under the hood suggest it’s a trusty old flattie V-8–at least I hope it’s a flattie.

The hot rod was owned by Danny’s buddy. He took one for the team when he wouldn’t cough up information about where Danny was–and he took his thumping from the drug dealer with John Wayne toughness. Unfortunately, his girlfriend coughed up the details 30 seconds after the beating.

There were some other cool cars in ‘Date Bait’. Brad—the drug-addicted younger brother drove another MG.

Seeing two MGs in one American movie back in 1960 is almost impossible, but that’s what makes this quirky drive-in movie a little quirkier.

Honorable mention goes to the two other classic finned Dodges in the movie.

There’s a ’59 Dodge wagon and a ’58 Dodge police car to round out the cool iron roster.

Date Bait wasn’t an Oscar winner, but it’s a classic in another sense— because cool cars and thin plots are what classic drive-in movies were all about back in the golden era.

Jerry Sutherland

By: Jerry Sutherland

Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post,  Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.

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