A screenplay by Rudolph Wurlitzer
and Will Corry
From a story by Will Corry
Where the road is and where
the first movie worth reading.
Interior of the Car on Sunset
Strip at night. The camera picks up the profile of the Mechanic
as he sits in the passenger seat staring at the trip. He is twenty-three
years old. His features are soft, yet ruggedly defined. He occupies
space with great assurance and poise; his gestures are fluid
and coordinated. Whenever he approaches a machine or any problem
requiring digital expertise he is totally focused.
There are two phone booths on
the edge of thee sidewalk. The Driver is in one, his back returned
to the Car as he talks on the phone. The Driver hangs up and
returns to his seat. He, too, is twenty-three years old. His
face is lean and angular. There is a perplexed and detached look
to his eyes. His movements are graceful, yet tense, nervous.
When he is driving he is at one with the Car; when out of the
Car he seems slightly lost, as if away from the center himself.
He fires up and the Car glides slowly to the flow of traffic.
For the first time, the Car is completely visible. It is a '55
Chevy two-door. It is several shades of primer grey. There are
wide M.&H. Racemaster tires. The front end is molded into
one piece of fiber glass that tilts forward. When opened the
engine is totally revealed. The engine is a 454 cubic-inch high-performance
Chevy with aluminum heads. From the outside one can see the roll
bar behind the two fiber-glass bucket seats. Inside, the dashboard
is bare except for Stewart-Warner gauges, Sun Tach, Water Temp,
Oil Press and Amp Meter. There is a 4-speed Transmission, Hurst
Linkage and Covico Steering Wheel. The back-seat area is filled
with a tool kit, spare parts and two small, tightly rolled sleeping
DRIVER (speaking softly but with
an edge of tension to his voice): Broadway Parking Lot Crenshaw.
Credits come on as the Car slowly
glides into the parking lot. There are two thousand cars in the
lot. Most are parked but a small number of the more impressive
Street Racers and fast Detroit cars move in a slow parade. The
occupants of the parked cars mingle with other. There is an air
of secrecy and complicated naneuvering about the whole scene.
There are lots of chicks and there is a certain amount of hustling
and sounding going on, but mostly the talk is about other cars
and side side bets. The crowd is predominantly black. The buildings
around the parking lot are the new sterile shops of a mammoth
shopping center. There are no lights on in the buildings. On
top of the tallest building there are three plain-clothes cops.
One cop talks on a walkie-talkie. A helicopter hovers overhead,
casting an ominous pool of slowly moving light over the crowd.
The Car coasts slowly over to a man with a megaphone who talks
constantly in a low, hushed voice to the passing drivers. The
Car stops. The man is huge and pronouncedly black. He wears a
faded blue denim jacket with gold lettering on the back: L.A.
Street Racers Assoc.
MECHANIC (leaning out the window):
You got anything fast?
MAN (quietly, not using the megaphone):
'68 Dodge Charger. Says he'll race anything. Hold on. . . .
He is distracted by an aide.
MAN (using the megaphone, addressing
himself to three men with L.A. Street Racers Assoc. on their
backs) : Slim, tell Motorhead to be cool. The man is all over
the place tonight.
He turns back to the Mechanic.
MAN: In ten minutes go out the
far end. It's at Forty-second and Third Avenue.
MECHANIC: Where's the Dodge?
MAN (distracted as another aide
comes up): Over by the gate.
The Mechanic gets back in the
Car. They drive slowly toward the Entrance Gate. The Car drives
through the gate and parks alongside a Dodge Charger. The Driver
of the Dodge is black. He is neatly dressed in fancy leather
jacket, white shirt and blue and white ascot. He looks at the
Driver and then slowly at the Car, shaking his head in painful
MECHANIC (out the window to the
Driver of the Dodge): Man says you want action.
DODGE DRIVER: Could be. But I
don't see nothin' around.
MECHANIC: That's true. All I
see is a pile of Detroit shit.
DODGE DRIVER (smiling slightly):
That might have to cost you.
MECHANIC: What do you have in
DODGE DRIVER: A yard would be
worth my time.
MECHANIC: Make it a deuce.
Forty-second Street and Third
Avenue. The quiet residential street has been sealed off. Two
men with flashlights stand at the far end of the street. At the
starting line three men with flashlights direct the lineup of
cars. The Car is directed in line behind two Plymouth Road Runners.
The Dodge Charger pulls up alongside the Car. Two Plymouth Road
Runners squeal off into their race.
Lights go on in two houses. The
Mechanic reaches into his wallet and withdraws four fifty-dollar
bills. The Dodge Driver withdraws two hundred-dollar bills. A
man with a flashlight wearing a blue denim jacket with L.A. Street
Racers Assoc. on the back moves in between the two cars and pockets
the bet. The starter moves to the side and raises his flashlight
to start the race as the credits end. He brings his flashlight
quickly down and the cars burst from the line.
The Car wins by two feet. As
the Car slows, the overhead revolving red light of a squad car
flashes a block away. The Driver executes a 180' spin-out and
roars back down the street where the other cars are scattering.
The Car takes the first left and then the first right and then
the first left.
Series of shots of the Car leaving
L.A. The Car on the Freeway. The Driver keeping to the speed
limit. The Mechanic sleeps in the back area.
The Car circling a ramp and moving
onto another Freeway.
The Car on the Freeway. The Mechanic
still asleep. Fewer lights and cars. The Driver turns on the
radio. We hear the intimate and frenetic voice of an early-morning
The Car leaving the Freeway.
Moving through small, completely silent towns. First light of
dawn. The Mechanic wakes and sits up. Then moves into the passenger
seat. He turns off the radio.
MECHANIC: Loose valve making
noise. We might have lost a rocker arm.
An orange grove, dawn. The sun
is beginning to rise over an immense field of orange trees. The
Mechanic and Driver get out of the Car. The Mechanic takes his
tool kit from the back area and opens the hood. The Driver leans
against a tree and closes his eyes. The road is empty. The only
sounds are birds chirping and the light tapping of the Mechanic's
DRIVER: That Dodge had a Hemi
with a torque flight. He got me good out of the gate. I pulled
on him in second. Pulled right up to the door in third. That
was when he stopped and I finally pulled him in fourth. I believe
we sawed that cat off even if we did lose two hundred.
The Mechanic never talks when
he's working, as the Driver never talks when he's driving. The
Driver closes his eyes. The Mechanic works on.
A gas station, Needles, later
that morning. The Car stops in front of the pump. Inside the
garage the feet of a mechanic are visible as he works underneath
a car. Outside, an old man in coveralls works on a tractor. A
boy, fifteen, comes out of the office. The Mechanic and Driver
get out of the Car. The Mechanic opens the hood and starts to
work. The Driver stretches and looks around. The boy looks for
the filler cap but can't find it. The Mechanic comes over and
opens the trunk. The filler cap is enormous, the tank holding
thirty-eight gallons. The boy starts to pump gas. He looks over
the Car in awe as the gas pump dings.
BOY: Chevy block?
Boy (looking in the window as
be pumps the gas) : See you got a roll cage.
The garage mechanic
comes out from underneath the car and walks toward them, wiping
his hands on his jeans. He is middle-aged and openly curious
about the Car.
GARAGE MECHANIC: Lot of work.
BOY: Is it a 396?
Boy: No shit.
GARAGE MECHANIC: What kind of
GARAGE MECHANIC: You build the
The old man in coveralls walks
over to the Car and looks on.
Boy: How fast does she go?
DRIVER (vaguely): Depends on
OLD MAN (looking at the pump):
Never heard so much bell ringin'. Thirty gallons and she's still
GARAGE MECHANIC: I don't believe
we got a machine to properly shut you boys down. Nossir. Old
Perky Sams might have done it but he done got his leg smashed.
The Mechanic lowers the hood
and walks back to the pump. He looks at the pump and takes out
his wallet. He gives the boy a twentydollar bill. The boy gives
the Mechanic his change in coins. They get in the Car and the
Driver fires up.
Series of shots of the Car crossing
the desert. The Car going flat-out at 140 m.p.h. The Car driving
through small towns at the edge of the desert and beginning to
climb into the mountains.
The Car, dusk. A small, middle-class
Arizona town. The houses are new split-level homes. The Car driving
slowly down a street at the edge of town. The Driver looks in
the mirror as a Patrol Car slowly passes. There are two Troopers
in the Patrol Car. The one on the passenger side looks at the
Car suspiciously. He says something to the driver. Then the Patrol
Car pulls in front of the Car and slows down to 20 m.p.h. The
MECHANIC: You got to pass or
foul the plugs.
DRIVER (under his breath): Son
of a bitch.
The Car sputters around the Patrol
Car. When the Driver pulls back into the right lane, the Patrol
Car's red light goes on. The Driver and Mechanic automatically
buckle their seat belts and roll up the windows. The Driver accelerates.
The Car fishtails briefly and then straightens out as the m.p.h.
goes over a hundred. A puff of blue smoke comes off the rear
wheels bitting fourth gear.
The two cars race through residential
streets, out into the country and then back again as the Car
spins out and doubles back on itself. The distance between the
Patrol Car and the Car grows. Street and house lights go on as
darkness settles swiftly over the town. The Car makes a hard
right and then a hard left, momentarily losing the Patrol Car.
The Driver cuts the engine and the Car glides into a driveway.
It is night. The Driver and Mechanic
climb quietly out of the Car. The house is a comfortable ranch
house, the kind one might see advertised for a young executive
in Home and Gardens. Warm light spills out of the windows onto
the lawn and paved driveway. The Driver and Mechanic look in
a window. The window frames a living room-dining area. The furnishings
are comfortable Grand Rapids. A man sits on a leather chair watching
color television. The news is on. The Driver and Mechanic can
barely hear the words. A pretty woman in a skirt and blouse walks
back and forth from table, occasionally stopping to look at a
baby lying in a crib near the couch or to watch a moment of the
news. The couple are in their late twenties. The atmosphere is
serene and ritualized. The Driver and Mechanic watch without
comment. The man turns the television off and sits down at the
table. The woman places roast beef and vegetables on the table
and sits down. They eat. The Driver and Mechanic walk back to
the Car. The Driver fires up and they glide quietly out of the
driveway and into the night.
A field. The Driver and Mechanic
are rolled up in their sleeping bags next to a dirt road. The
Car is parked a few feet from them.
The Car, driving across Arizona,
day. The Driver sees a Pontiac GTO in the mirror. The GTO drives
parallel to the Car. There are two men in the GTO. They both
look at the Car. The man in the passenger seat is an old farmer.
He looks scared and uneasy. The driver of the GTO is in his early
thirties. His light-blue sweater looks expensive and yet there
is a disheveled almost maniacal look to him. He grimaces, then
smiles, then waves as the GTO blasts past the Car. The Driver
and Mechanic keep their eyes focused on the road.
A luncheonette. The Car pulls
up to a country hamburger stand marked EATS. There are two other
parked cars and a 1948 brown van. The van has a peace sign on
the front door and a water can attached to a fender. Window shades
cover the rear window. The Driver and Mechanic enter, sit at
the counter. There is one other man eating. Through the window
the van is visible. As the Driver and the Mechanic eat their
hamburgers a Girl gets out of the rear door of the van. She slams
the door. She is crying. She is dressed in old Levi's and an
Army fatigue shirt that is much too big for her. The name tag
on the fatigue shirt reads Higgens. She stares at the Car, drying
her eyes on the sleeves of the shirt. She walks over and looks
inside the Car. Then she returns to the van, goes inside and
comes back with a small laundry bag. She walks to the Car and
climbs into the back area. The Driver and Mechanic finish eating
and go outside.
The Mechanic gets into the passenger
seat. He glances briefly at the Girl but his expression remains
passive and cool. His eyes are focused straight ahead when the
Driver gets in and fires up.
The Car, traveling. The Girl
speaks from the back area. She has a young whispery voice. It
is slightly hysterical.
GIRL: It's really bumpy back
here. What kind of car is this, anyway? You guys aren't the Zodiac
killers or anything like that, are you?
MECHANIC (in a broad imitation
of a cowboy): Jest passin' through.
GIRL: L.P.'s truck was worse.
He wouldn't even be awake yet when he would want to smoke up
a joint. We were supposed to go to the Grand Canyon but he kept
getting stoned and pulling off the side of the road.
They ride in silence.
GIRL: Say, which way are we going?
GIRL: That's cool. I never been
The Car goes past a gas station
as the GTO pulls out. The GTO pulls up alongside the Car. The
driver of the GTO has another colored sweater. Every time we
see him his sweater is different. There is another passenger
in the GTO. As the GTO pulls ahead of the Car, the driver sticks
his hand out the window and gives the Car the finger.
The Car, traveling, afternoon.
The Girl massages the neck and shoulders of the Mechanic while
looking at the Driver.
MECHANIC: She don't seem to be
breathing just right. It might be the jets-possibly too lean.
You hear that, just a little flat spot there. The centrifugal
advance mechanism in the distributor might be fucked up. Yeah,
well, she needs a little attention.
GIRL: I'm really hungry.
The Car turns down a dirt road
and parks near a river. The Mechanic starts to work on the engine.
The Girl sheds her Levi's and fatigue jacket and runs into the
river. The Driver walks slowly to the riverbank and sits
down, watching her. She splashes and swims around in small awkward
GIRL (excited as she ducks in
and out of the water): It's really beautiful.
The Driver rolls a cigarette.
The Mechanic joins him and sits down. They watch the Girl.
GIRL: Come in. Oh please come
in. It isn't cold at all.
MECHANIC (to the Driver): You
recall that Ford with the 427 that we totaled out by Johnson
City? I sorely miss the feel of that automobile. I polished that
crankshaft so fine the cylinders whispered my name. That was
more r.p.m. without bursting than any machine I ever knew, excepting,
of course, old Top Gas back yonder. I stroked that 427 crank.
It slipped right in and increased the stroke from 3.78 to 3.98.
We used to cut the tree with that Drive King.
GIRL: It isn't cold at all....
It's really groovy.
She floats on her back and then
swims out into the river.
DRIVER (watching her): Yeah,
that was a machine. But I got as many kicks from that VW we put
the 911 engine into. That was a -nice little body made for surprises.
I got more satisfaction out of cracking off 13 second E.T.'s
than most elevens. Webers, Mondello heads, Vertex-that was a
radical little trip.
They watch the Girl. It is evening
and the light is soft and fading.
DRIVER: Yeah ... Space cushions.
The Mechanic stands up.
MECHANIC: Yeah, well, it's not
a bad thing to really bomb off the line.
The Mechanic goes back to the
Car. The Driver continues to watch the Girl as she comes out
of the river.
A campfire, night. They sit around
a fire drinking coffee and eating cheese and apples. The shadow
and presence of the Car looms just behind them. The Girl wraps
her arms around her legs and slowly rocks herself. She hums softly.
The Mechanic climbs into his sleeping bag. His hands folded underneath
his head, he stares at the stars. The Girl puts the cooking utensils
into the Car. Then she takes off her clothes and gets into the
Driver's sleeping bag. The Driver sits for a long moment, staring
into the darkness. Then he slowly takes off his clothes and gets
into the sleeping bag with The Girl. They make love.
The Car, traveling, New Mexico,
day. The Girl is lying in the back area. The Mechanic is nodding
off in the passenger seat. The Driver concentrates on the road.
GIRL (singing softly to herself):
Put your arms around me/ Like the circle round the sun / I want
a little lovin' / Like my easy rider done . . ..
The Driver sees a yellow Porsche
in the mirror. The Porsche screams past the Car on the inside
and gets on it. The Porsche comes in and out of view in the twisting
road ahead. The Car's r.p.m.'s remain steady. The Girl sits up
in the back area and looks at the Porsche.
GIRL: Don't you want to race
him? Isn't that what you guys do? I mean, didn't a car just come
up and challenge you? Aren't there always Super Cars coming up
and beeping and growling and exposing themselves so you guys
can set your lips in thin lines and blast off?
MECHANIC: It's too heavy to do
in a Porsche just for kicks. We'd take him in a quarter mile
but he'd probably lose us in long time.
GIRL: Well, I don't know. It
gets cramped sitting in an engine with a bunch of car freaks.
She sinks down into the back
area, sticking her legs over the seat.
GIRL (singing in a load, faltering
presexual voice): Oh let me be your sidetrack / till your main
line comes, / I'll do more switchin' than / your main line ever
The Driver accelerates to 130
miles an hour, throwing the Girl's legs back against the rear
window. He suddenly slows down and continues to cruise at 60
Girl: For Christ's sake. I didn't
---mean any kind of action. Just a little race, to break the
The outskirts of Santa Fe, afternoon.
The Girl hangs her bead outside the window on the Mechanic's
side. The mountains around Santa Fe are brilliantly shaded in
purple and red as the sun sets. The Driver drives into the center
of town and parks near the small elegant plaza. A Mexican and]
Indian teen-age rock-and-roll band are playing on a bandstand
in the small park in the middle of the plaza. A crowd watches
the musicians and a Saturday night promenade walks casually around
and through the plaza.
GIRL (excited): Listen, I really
like it here and I want to stay in a motel. I've hardly ever
DRIVER (distracted, watching
the band): Okay.... Let's do it. (To the Mechanic:) How much
bread we got?
MECHANIC (looking through his
wallet): Two hundred racing bread. Twenty to spend.
Girl: I don't need a handout.
I don't dig that. I can pay my own way.
DRIVER: I just thought you didn't
have any bread.
GIRL: I'll get some. Take a walk
or something. Go over and listen to the sounds.
They watch her as she walks down
the street. She stops a middle-aged couple, obviously tourists.
The man is dressed in a blue jacket, black string tie and sombrero.
The woman, just as obviously his wife, is dressed in a gray suit
and brown oxford walking shoes.
Girl: Excuse me, sir, but could
you lend me some change to help me get the bus home? I'm on my
way to San Francisco, but I got sick and had to use up the allowance
my parents gave me.
The woman looks away, embarrassed.
The man reaches into his pocket. Without looking, he puts a handful
of change into her hand.
GIRL: Thank you, sir.
She stops a man getting out of
a pickup truck. He is obviously a rancher, He's middle aged with
a stern, weather-beaten face. He's dressed in cowboy boots, jeans
and a red hunting jacket.
GIRL, (looking at him mournfully):
Excuse me, sir, but could you lend me some change to help me
get the bus home? I'm on my way to San Francisco, but I got sick
and had to use up the allowance my parents gave me.
MAN (frowning with disapproval):
Why don't you young people work for a change? I'm sick and tired
of all this freeloading.
He walks away. The Girl stops
an old couple coming out of a restaurant.
GIRL (looking at them mournfully):
Excuse me, but could you lend me some change to help me get the
bus home? I'm on my way to San Francisco' but I got sick and
had to use up the allowance my parents gave me.
OLD WOMAN: I think you're disgraceful
being out on the street like this. Why don't you work for a living?
GIRL (moving away): I just heard
that rap, lady.
The Mechanic and Driver walk
toward the bandstand while the Girl works the street.
Santa Fe, night. They drive through
GIRL: Twelve dollars and twenty
cents. That's more than you guys got today.
The Driver takes a sharp turn
to the left and follows a '34 coupe street runner. They follow
the coupe as it makes a left turn and then cruises down a main
street. The coupe is a beautiful car with '40 Ford axle assembly
with spindles, a '56 Chevy rear end with Buick brakes, and standard
five windows. They follow the coupe until it turns into an A
& W Root Beer Stand. They circle the stand, looking at the
MECHANIC: Check that '67 'Cuda
. . . . That's nice, a '57 Chevy . . . . Hmm, a 442 Olds. There's
a little muscle around tonight. What we got over there? . . .
A Ford 429. An Anglia panel . . . . Look at that Anglia panel.
Beautiful. An AMX. Okay . . . . Listen, we got to just rope one
out . . . . I believe I got her spotted. Look at that '67 Plymouth
Road Runner and that dude in those sharp threads eatin' a chiliburger.
That's a score. A Hemi, two four-barrel Holley carbs. Chrome
rims. Goodyear slicks. Headers. Probably a torque flight transmission.
Yeah, well let's get it on.
The Car parks next to the Plymouth.
The Driver gets out and walks up to the driver of the Plymouth.
He is in his middle twenties, expensively dressed in leather
jacket, slacks and black cowboy boots. He coolly looks over the
crowd of assembled street runners. The crowd is mostly young
kids, eating hamburgers and drinking root beer; girls coming
on to boys and vice versa. Inside a loud jukebox plays The Rolling
Stones' Honky Tonk Women.
A Cop and GTO
DRIVER (obviously polite and
soft-spoken): That's a clean machine.
The driver of the Plymouth looks
at the Driver. He seems bored
PLYMOUTH DRIVER: It's good work.
DRIVER: Not bad for a factory
The Plymouth driver looks over
the Driver and the Car for the first time.
PLYMOUTH DRIVER: It's not exactly
a factory machine.
DRIVER (putting him on): You
mean you've got some extras in there? Is it fast? Gee, mister,
I'll bet it's pretty fast.
PLYMOUTH DRIVER (testy): You
want to find out?
DRIVER: Well, sure, I'd be grateful
to find out. Only thing is (his tone changes, becoming more defined,
firmer) I'm not exactly in the habit of seeing the Chevy work
against some two-bit piece of junk.
PLYMOUTH DRIVER (angry): Make
DRIVER (completing the deal,
his tone hard and matter-of-fact): Add a yard and a half and
you got a deal.
A crowd has gathered around the
scene. Kids are checking out the Car and making appropriate sounds.
BOY: Two hundred. Hey, Chuck,
this guy just bet Steve two hundred dollars.
SECOND Boy: Look at the headers.
What is it, a 396?
THIRD BOY: Might be bored out
to 406. Probably got Crane rockers on her. Oh man, it's got a
FIRST Boy: It probably runs on
DRIVER (not paying attention
to the crowd around the car): Where to?
PLYMOUTH DRIVER: Las Palmas Road.
You can follow me.
The crowd reacts by pouring into
their cars and blasting off to Las Palmas Road. The Driver gets
slowly into the Car, fires up. They follow the Plymouth out of
the A & W Root Beer Stand.
Las Palmas Road. A poor residential
street on the edge of Santa Fe. Beyond the low, squalid adobe
houses are the desert. The sky is immense, seeming to burst with
stars. There is only one streetlight on Las Palmas Road and only
a few of the houses have lights on. A crowd has gathered at the
selected start line. The Car and the Plymouth pull up. The Girl
gets out. The Mechanic hands $200 to the boy who is acting as
starter. Then the Mechanic crawls underneath the Car and unbolts
the headers from the rest of the exhaust system. The boy walks
over to the Plymouth and the driver gives him his $200. The two
drivers look at each other. The starter feathers his finger,
moving the cars slowly forward. The crowd pulls back. The engines
rev. The boy chops his hand down for the start. They blast off