The Real Star of “Corvette Summer”

Unless you’re an avid Corvette fan, chances for you to have heard of this particular movie are pretty slim. Even then, it’s likely because of the Corvette Summer car rather than anything. This sort of begs one question: who is the real star of the movie? Could this custom-made Corvette Stingray have stolen the thunder of the oh-so-famous Luke Skywalker? As far as we’re concerned, yes, that is the case. This is why we’re going to give you the profile and the “backstory” of the Corvette Summer car, arguably one of the biggest redeeming points of this popcorn flick.

Corvette Summer: The Movie

Corvette Summer Movie Poster

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Corvette Summer is a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production, released in 1978. The movie starred Mark Hamill and it marked his first on-screen appearance after he’d assumed the role of Luke Skywalker. Star Wars was an overnight and unexpected success and, in turn, Hamill gained a newfound notoriety for his performance in A New Hope. Alongside him stars Annie Potts, a Golden Globe nominee for her very first role.

The Plot

Hamill plays Kenny Dantley, a high school senior living in Southern California with a burning passion for all things car-related. As part of a shop class project, Kenny participates in the construction of a Corvette Stingray with right-hand-drive. Things go astray when the recently-finished vehicle gets subjected to a theft and disappears from the streets of Van Nuys. After some investigation, Kenny discovers that the car was in Las Vegas. As he journeys to the City of Lights, he encounters Vanessa (Annie Potts) who considers herself to be a “prostitute in training.”

Corvette Summer Mark Hamill

As expected from a movie that’s, more or less, a treasure hunt, Kenny runs into a lot of trouble along the way. The car even slips through his fingers (figuratively, of course) a few times. But, hey, would it really be spoiling it if we told you that at the end all is safe and sound? It’s not exactly an atypical scenario for 70’s movies, trust us.

Reception

The movie generated an estimated total gross of $15,000,000 and is currently ranked on Rotten Tomatoes with an average of 57% positive reviews. The critic consensus, however, seems to agree that Corvette Summer is an adequate popcorn flick with little to offer in the sense of mental stimulation or thought-provoking storytelling. Frank Rich, critic at Time magazine, writes, “As long as one doesn’t demand too much of it, Corvette Summer delivers a very pleasant two hours of escape.”

chevrolet_corvette_movie_carengine_view

There are also those who don’t even give the movie this kind of credit, such as Janet Maslin of The New York Times. She wrote in her review, “The movie takes a slender, boyish conceit—of the sort that is suddenly so popular among Hollywood’s current batch of boy wonders—and invests it with silliness rather than whimsy.”

Overall, there are no critics (and very likely no movie goer) who will ever say that Corvette Summer is some sort of cult classic. It’s a movie that happened once and then got thrown in a pile with other forgettable one-time movies.

On To The Real Star: The Corvette Summer Car

Corvette Summer Car

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For the movie, Dick Korkes of Korky’s Kustom Studios built two car models. One of them was the “main” Corvette Summer car, which both starred in the film and was used during promotional parades. The other was a backup.

Before becoming the star we know today, the car had to undergo some makeover procedures. It was first a 1973 Corvette with a L48 350 base and a Turbo 350 automatic transmission. During a casual stroll in traffic, the rear end of a car was pretty much a goner after a pretty hard bump in the back. There really was no salvation for the poor Corvette, so the only thing it was useful for from that point onward was awaiting imminent death in the junkyard.

Fortunately, fate smiled down on the poor damaged Corvette. Producer Matthew Robbins and Director Hal Barwood stumbled upon the wrecked vehicle on their quest for the star of their future movie. The car captured their attention and they determined that it was perfect for the plans they had on their upcoming movie.

The Transformation

Dick Korkes’ job wasn’t an easy one. He had to turn a car that had been previously rear-ended straight into the execution lines of the junkyard into a proper MGM movie star. One of Korkes’ first moves was giving the widely stock engine of the car an Edelbrock dual-quad high-rise. For this, he used a pair of vacuum secondary Holleys.

corvette summer-1

He didn’t meddle much with the transmission and drivetrain, which remained mostly stock. However, he did need to rig the frame to allow the mounting of movie cameras. Also for practical purposes, he performed a front end conversion that turned it to a fliptype. To form the frame of the new front end, Korkes made use of electrical conduit.

Other changes include:

  • Laying out fiberglass across the frame;
  • Setting the Square Caprice-type headlights to a permanent open position;
  • Adding Superior turbine wheels all around, which were very popular options at the time;

Corvette Summer Car Ownership

The ownership of the Corvette Summer car is all over the place. Last we’ve heard of the original, it was at Volo Museum, as part of an auction on eBay. It partook in a movement that sold off tens of “movie star cars.” After the movie ended, the car went into the hands of a private Australian collector. He later on went to sell it off himself. Its trajectory since then is pretty unclear as of now.

Then we also have the original mold for the car, which remains under the mighty ownership of Corvette itself. The mold used to be part of an exhibition at the Corvette Americana Hall of Fame from New York. Now, it’s part of the National Corvette Museum.

Last but not least, the backup car that didn’t really get much use went to Mike Yager of Mid America Motorworks. Yager owned the car for a while, eventually selling it to a private collector in 2009.

1973_chevrolet_corvette_movie_carrear_view

Ending Words

Everyone agrees the movie was average at best, but if there is one silver lining, that’s the Corvette Summer car. After all, any movie apparition means more exposure for the Corvette and that’s always a good thing.

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