Today is the 40th anniversary of the ‘Christine’ debut in the movie theaters on December 9, 1983.
The obvious strategy would be to focus on Christine—the ’58 Plymouth star of the show because the movie turned a 50s fin car into a movie legend.
I’m a Mopar fin car guy. I have been since I was five, so the ’58 Plymouth should be the default topic on this 40th anniversary because the movie ‘Christine’ made fin cars cool during an uncool decade—the 1980s. I wasn’t sold on the carnage inflicted on ’58 Plymouths to make the movie, but I was sold on the thought that movie star status would save far more fin cars would get a new life in the future than were lost during the production. I was right because history taught me that things like replacement floor pans for these fin cars would eventually surface in the next decade because of Christine’s star power.
The ’68 Dodge Charger never needed a turbo boost because it was an instant success when it debuted in the middle of the late 60s muscle car wars. Dodge built a legend that year and the Steve McQueen movie ‘Bullitt’ put an exclamation mark on the ’68 Charger’s cool factor. They looked fast when they were parked—the big block options like the 440 and the legendary 426 Street Hemi turned ‘looks fast when parked’ into ‘very fast when pinned’.
The ’68 Charger in ‘Christine’ made its debut early in the movie when its owner (Dennis Guilder) picked up future Christine owner (Arnie Cunningham) for school. Arnie spotted Christine from the shotgun seat of the Charger, so the two cars were intertwined throughout the film. This was a blue ‘68 Charger with a black vinyl roof—in my opinion, that was one of the finest combinations you could get on a ’68 Charger. The 1968 Charger was perfect subject manner because it made other cars look like your great-aunt Ruby—the black-on-blue color combination was the perfect icing on the cake.
Most Hollywood cars disappear overnight because they’re mere props in a sea of props, so research on the Charger took me down a few uncharted roads. The biggest rumor about the Charger was that it had a 318 under the hood, so the big-block dreams instantly evaporated. The car’s history got even hazier after that but at least one guy surfaced years later with a claim he owned the ’68 Charger from ‘Christine’. His claim didn’t survive scrutiny after he put it on the table in a forum dedicated to the ’68 Charger.
The next—and stronger rumor about the ‘Christine’ Charger was grim. The car—along with a movie ‘Christine’ Plymouth—was alleged to have burned in a shop fire north of Toronto years ago. There were other rumors that the Charger appeared in another movie after ‘Christine’, but like most Hollywood rumors, it’s not 100% fact–so the ’68 Charger in ‘Christine’ faded to black.
That’s why I had to pick a lesser car star for a 40th anniversary salute to ‘Christine’. The red-and-white ’58 Plymouth became a Hollywood legend overnight while the ’68 Charger retained its status as a legend–but within the car hobby. I asked Alexandra Paul who played Leigh Cabot in ‘Christine’ about her memories of the Charger during filming, and she admitted she had none–but she learned a few years ago the Charger was important to car guys in its own way. That’s not a surprise, because she’s not into cars but she definitely remembered her ’58 Plymouth co-star.
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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