40 years ago, Luke Skywalker took a wild ride in Corvette Summer
Summer loving happened so fast. Well, it did for one car-crazy movie released in the summer of 1978 anyway. Forty years ago, while Grease was off-the-charts popular and had its share of unforgettable star cars, Corvette Summer met with a slightly different fate. It bombed.
OK, bombed might be harsh. Corvette Summer cost MGM $9 million to make, and it took in $15.5 million at the box office, so it did make money. But compared to Grease, which cost $6M and brought in a whopping $160M on its first pass through American theaters, Corvette Summer stalled on the side of the road.
While opinions vary on whether the film is worth a look—a reviewer for Time magazine said the movie lacked “a single credible plot development or convincing character”—it did seem to have a lot going for it when it opened. Mark Hamill, fresh off his hero’s role as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, played the lead character, with Annie Potts as his love interest. Well, that isn’t exactly true. Potts was Hamill’s romantic interest; the car was his love interest. And it’s easy to see why. While Hamill’s ride may be over the top, some consider it the greatest movie Corvette of all time (although opinions differ there, too).
Just how over the top is it? Producer Matthew Robbins and Director Hal Barwood handed Dick Korkes of Korky’s Kustom Studios the task of transforming a rear-ended 1973 Corvette with 350-cubic-inch L48 engine and Turbo 350 automatic transmission into an unforgettable machine. Korkes did not disappoint with some extreme custom bodywork (including fender flares and giant air scoops), a wild paint job, and custom side pipes. He also made the car right-hand drive. Why? So the driver could get closer to the girls on the sidewalk.
The plot of the movie—which MGM called “a fiberglass romance”—was simple and far-fetched at the same time: Hamill, a high school student, completes all of this amazing customization in his high school shop class (right), then his car is stolen and he hitchhikes to Las Vegas to get it back from the thief (sure). He is picked up by Potts, a self-described “prostitute in training” (we’re not kidding) who eventually falls for Hamill and gives up her “dream” (yikes) in order to be with him. Although Hamill does have to interrupt the production of an adult film to convince her to come along. That all sounds legit, right Time magazine?
At least there’s a bit of a payoff at the end. When Hamill steals the Corvette back and is chased by a Firebird Trans Am, we finally see the Corvette in full flight. But only if you can hang in that long.
May the farce be with you.