40 years later, we still love the cars of Grease
Grease turned 40 over the weekend, and although John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John may be showing their age these days (aren’t we all?), the cars from the movie are forever young. And iconic. And worth a lot of money.
Case in point: The black 1949 Mercury known as “Hell’s Chariot”—driven by Travolta’s nemesis in the movie—was the last Grease car to cross the block, and it sold for $478,000 in a Julien’s Hollywood Auction three years ago.
Four decades have passed since Sandy and Danny won the dance-off and the musical became a giant box office smash in 1978. Here are the most significant cars in Grease:
1948 Studebaker Commander Regal
Nothing more than a bit part in the movie, the ’48 Studebaker with the pink paint job was the perfect ride for Rizzo and the Pink Ladies. If only we could have seen a bit more of it. It appears at the beginning of the film when the girls arrive at Rydell High on the first day of their senior year, and then we see it later, briefly, at a pep rally.
1949 Dodge Wayfarer
Compared to Danny Zuko’s (Travolta’s) 1949 Dodge Wayfarer, the Pink Ladies’ Studebaker was a total screen hog. While most people remember Greased Lightning as Danny’s car, they would be wrong (it’s his buddy Kenickie’s car). Zuko actually owned the beat-up Wayfarer that he and Sandy (Newton-John) took to the drive-in. We didn’t see much of that car, however, since the date ended prematurely when Zuko got a little fresh and Sandy slammed the door on his, um, plans.
“You think I’m gonna stay here with you in this… sin wagon?” she asks before storming off.
1949 Mercury Custom
Driven by Leo “Craterface” Batmudo, leader of the Scorpions—rivals of Zuko’s T-Birds—the 1949 Mercury Custom was the coolest ride in the movie, even though it ultimately lost at Thunder Road.
Among the car’s sweet features are its paint job (black with yellow flames), flame-shooting tailpipes, and wicked-sharp serrated blades sticking from its hubcaps, which chewed up its rivals—literally.
Eddie Paul created Hell’s Chariot and the more than 40 other cars seen in the film. Actually, he built two versions of Leo’s car, a stunt car that no longer exists, as well as the star car that Julien’s auction house sold in 2015. If you watch the movie carefully, you can tell which is which: the stunt car’s windows are rounded and the star car’s windows are squared.
1948 Ford De Luxe convertible
The car that becomes “Greased Lightning” is a 1948 Ford De Luxe convertible that Kenickie buys with the money he saved while working at Bargain City over the summer. The De Luxe needs a lot of work and is definitely nothing to look at—until the T-Birds take it to shop class and Zuko starts singing about it. That’s where things get a little confusing.
First, Greased Lightning switches back and forth from Kenickie’s white bucket of bolts to a red dream car with fins, back to a white car, and finally back to the red dream car—which flies. And Zuko sings about the car’s “four on the floor” transmission when the T-Birds are working on it, but during the race he uses a column shifter. Even more confusing, he sings about the car being “automatic.” What is he talking about anyway, the wipers?
Whatever. All of the cars in Grease are systematic and hydromatic… and super cool. Happy 40th birthday!