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Laying Some Rumors To Rest - An Interview With
Steve Fitch

Everyone pretty much knows the story of why George Lucas made the movie American Graffiti.  One of the biggest stars of the movie was the little yellow deuce coupe.  If you don’t know this by now, you wouldn’t be here reading this.

As you all know, Steve Fitch was the original guy to own the Coupe after the movie was finished.  However, Steve didn’t own the coupe right after the movie, because the studio just didn’t want to sell it.  In fact, it wasn’t until 1981 that Steve was able to buy the coupe, and then it was a fluke.  Funny thing is that the only reason Steve wanted the coupe was because he already owned the ’55; he didn’t really desire the coupe. But he wanted a matching set.  It took him a long to acquire it, and then he had to bid on it.  He put in a first bid that he thought would win the car – and the only reason that he was able to bid was because he owned the ’55, which in 1979 he bought from Sam Crawford. 

Steve acquired the ’32, but actually had put in a second bid because he had gotten wind from someone in the studio that there were others at the studio interested in the coupe. He was told that if he really wanted it, he might want to up his bid.  In the end, he won by the total sum of only $200. 

 When Steve found out that he won the car, he was pretty excited, and he got a buddy to go out to California with him with a car trailer.  When he went to pick up the car, it was in disarray.  The paint was faded, and it was really rough looking – he was, in fact, wondering if he made the right choice in buying the car in the first place.  But, a deal is a deal, so he loaded up the car, and brought it back to his home in Wichita, KS.

 At this point, he decided to tear into the Coupe and get it freshened up a little, as he was already restoring the original ’55.  He learned that when he got the car home, the motor was full of water, and it was in really sad shape.  He was unsure if he would be able to save the motor and heads because of all the neglect the car had taken sitting out in the back lot of Universal.  But, he took it to a machine shop anyway.  He was under the impression that the engine was a 283; the studio told him it was, and so did every other article he had read.  He asked the machine shop if they could rebuild his 283; a few days later he got a call advising that he would be better off replacing the block and heads due to the neglect.  He decided that really wanted to save the block and heads, as it was the original set that came with the car.  The machine shop told him that it could be saved, but it would have to be bored 60 over. He consented, and was informed that the engine was not a 283, but was a 327 out of a 66 impala.

 Just for readers note:  Steve was unsure if the heads on the original car’s motor were 202’s or a 194’s. 

After Steve got the motor back, he started in on a not-so-much restoration, but more of a clean-up job, making sure the car was street worthy and clean after its neglect.  There was some polishing, painting, etc.  He had to replace the electric fuel pump, the clutch, new shifter – the original shifter used during the filming was so loose that you could never find a gear in it.  In fact, if you go back and listen to interviews with Paul, he comments that it was difficult to drive because the gear shifter was so sloppy; you just couldn’t find a gear.  Steve put in the Hurst shifter, which is still in the car today.

Steve also had to replace the valve covers, because they had been stolen off the car, along with the door handles and cranks.  He had to replace the carbs, because the originals were ruined and unusable.  He replaced them with the carbs that are on the Coupe today. 

 Special note:  the carbs that were on the car during the filming were a front inlet ’58 Chevy pickup 2G Rochester.  The carbs that Steve put on at that time - and that are still on the car today are a ’60 Chevy pickup 2G side inlet Rochester carbs.

Special note:  The difference in a 2G and a 2GC is that a 2GC carb has a provision on the right side of the carb to attach an electric choke, hence the “C” in 2GC stands for Choke.  The 2G does not have this provision, and is a manual choke carb.

Steve also changed the spark plug wire looms, both front and rear.  The original front were a set of ’57-’58 Corvette stock wire looms that had been modified by being straightened out.  These were replaced with the Mr. Gasket wire looms that are on the car to this day, and are available in my parts store.

The rear wire looms were a set of original Cal Custom wire looms, and Steve also replaced these with a set of Mr. Gasket wire looms.  These wire looms that are on the car today can be bought at any auto parts store.

Steve also changed the Cal Custom carb scoops.  He replaced these scoops because when he bought the car, it only had two of them on it, and they were in pretty bad shape.  He just put a matching set of carb scoops on, which are still on the car today.

 Please note to all of you Coupe fans:  The reason that Steve changed things on this car was because he could not find the original parts, and the parts that he took off were pretty beat up and neglected over the studio years.  Other things that he had to replace were because items were stolen from the car, also during the studio years.  He did his best to come as close a possible when putting the new items on the car, and as stated before, all of these items are still present on the coupe today.

 Steve decided to sell both movie cars in 1985, and as we all know, the Coupe went back to California with its now present owner, Rick Figari.  During this time that the coupe was for sale, yours truly tried buying the coupe (as many of you know).  Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out in my favor.  However, I believe that it was a total blessing that I did not end up with this car.  I know this may sound strange, but if I would have bought the car from Steve (who was only 100 or so miles away from me at the time), I would have driven the car on pretty much a daily basis. This would have most likely resulted in my replacing parts as they wore out. I would have used general auto store parts, and chances are I would not have kept the original parts – not knowing at the time the significance of this car.  Remember, I was still very young and in high school.

Now we will fast forward to October 4, 2008, the day of my 39th birthday.  I had made arrangements with Mr. Steve Fitch a few weeks prior to this date to visit him and sit down and talk to him about our beloved coupe. 

 On this day, my son Jack, my best friend Trapper, and I traveled to Wichita, KS, and spent a total of 4 or 5 hours just talking to Steve.  I would just like to say first off that Steve is one of the nicest guys that anyone would ever want to meet. He was very hospitable to all of us and took the time to answer our questions – ones that he has probably been asked a million times.  He shared photos and stories, and all of us enjoyed our time there on this special occasion.  Steve has also graced us with some photos that we are now sharing with everyone – first-time-seen photos of the Coupe without the engine, and we hope that everyone enjoys these photos.  To top it all off, I was privileged enough to say goodbye with 4 parts of the original coupe.  They were as follows:  the 2 front original wire looms from the ‘50’s Corvette, and two nuts which held the grill shell onto the radiator.  These nuts are still coated with the original paint.

The VIN number on the title was wrong!  When Steve purchased the Coupe, he was given a title with a VIN number that they told him was for the car.  However, this VIN number turned out to be for a 1930 model A.  VIN number: ______.  Steve went ahead and titled it under that, but Rick Figari corrected this and has it currently titled under a ’32 VIN number in CA.

 Some things to note:  There was a package tray in the car.  Steve also indicated that he didn’t know what the gas tank was out of, but it was very small, and held about 7 gallons.  The top of the tank was painted red, and the bottom was painted white.  The box that covered the tank was just in its natural wood color – today it is painted black with the Positraction warning decal stuck on top.  I asked Steve if the car had a rear roll-down window, and he said that it did not – in fact, it didn’t have any mechanism or anything else located back there.  In fact, in the movie, there was just a piece of Plexiglass nailed to the original woodwork. 

He also noted that he did have the firewall insert replaced, because the original, which was made out of stainless, was so scratched up that it could not be polished out.  So he had a new insert made for the car; the difference is that the new one is made out of aluminum, and it has a half-moon cut in the top as opposed to the square notch, and the original firewall had two notches on the side of the insert to allow for a tight fit. The insert today does not have these notches on the side. 

Steve had replaced the front shocks because the originals were wasted and did not absorb anything.  He replaced them with a Monroe shock that had a stud top, stud bottom.  These shocks did not have the dust bell covers like the originals, and they were not chromed – he just painted them silver (look at all of the Rod and  Custom issues featuring the Coupe as a centerfold – the shocks are silver.)  You can tell this car was in pretty bad shape by all of the photos that Steve has shared with us – especially the interior shots!  You can also see in the interior shots the original shifter. This shifter is a vintage Ansen shifter. 

Just for future note to all you Coupe fanatics, Steve has told me everything possible that he can remember on this coupe, so there is really no need to contact him- you can contact me since I asked him everything. Since it’s been so long since he owned this car, and it wasn’t his original baby (his true love was the ’55), he has forgotten a lot of stuff.  It has, after all, been 24 years since he owned it. 

 Steve does not regret selling the cars, as it was time to let them go.  He did enjoy them while he had them.  In fact, he knew that the people they were going to really enjoyed them.  He sleeps very well at night, and still loves cars to this day.  Just prior to our visit, he had just purchased a new Corvette that he was detailing (and which looked very nice).

At the time Steve won the Coupe, he really didn’t have the money to spend on it, so he had to sell a couple of his cars to have the cash to finish the deal.  So, if anyone thought that he was a rich man and had the extra money laying around to do this - he didn’t.  He was just like all of us, and had to sell a couple of old cars to help finance the purchase of the original coupe.  Then, when he got it home, his house only had a one-car garage.  He kept one car at his dad’s house, and one at his house. His dad asked him if he was crazy for buying the coupe, because it really didn’t look that great when he got it home – he wondered just what he had gotten himself into. 

Steve said that the car had a very distinct smell inside the cab, and if you watch Hot Rods Across America Part 2, you will see Steve at the Dallas World of Wheels talking to Rick Figari, and Steve mentions this smell as he sits in this car again for the first time since he sold it. 

 Steve said he cleaned all of the chrome with Flitz metal polish, and it cleaned the chrome to almost new quality – he said it really looked great.  He did not paint the car, he just cleaned and buffed.  He did put in a new wood floor.  He also said that when he got the coupe from Universal that it had the white horn button on the column (which you can see in the photos), but that it was broke – and there was no horn anywhere on the car.

Needless to say, I was very giddy and my emotions were running very high, as I knew that I was holding a piece of history in my hands.  (A present update on these parts is  that I have given 1 wire loom and 1 nut to my good friend, Doug Bjorn – the Guru – for his Graffiti car.  See?  I’m not so selfish!

To end the day off on a very good note, when I got home my wife was smoking bbq ribs for my birthday, and I found out that my white trash neighbor was moving out that day! (I know!!! I should have headed out to the river boats for some gambling, as I don’t think I could have done wrong!)

(To see the Steve Fitch photos, click on the Wicked Photos tab in the Mafia site)

Chasing Down A Dream

I was married 10 years ago this year and not too long after the wedding I bartered with my wife. You see my wife wanted to start a family and I wanted John Milner's 1932 Ford coupe, so we made a deal. The deal was we would start trying to have a baby and I would start on a mission that would soon take over my life.
 
I guess it all started back when I was just a kid (around 7 yrs old), my mother let me stay up late one night and watch some little movie called American Graffiti. This movie changed my life fore ever! You see back when I was a kid the car everyone was talking about was the sleek black Smokey & the Bandit Trans-Am and not to long after that it would be the Duke Boys blazing orange General Lee. Now don't get me wrong as I really like both of these cars BUT my heart has ALWAYS belonged to the little yellow coupe that I saw late one night grace my families tv screen. Once I saw this little yellow coupe I knew right then and there that I had to have it! So while the other kids were drawing pictures of the Bandit's TA or the General Lee I was drawing pictures of this little yellow hot rod (not so good of pictures I might add). Now back in the day when we all played with our Hot Wheels (and some of us still do) there was no little graffiti coupe to cruise the sidewalks with, so I made my own out of a little orange Ertl 32 hot rod. That's right, I made my own by painting it yellow, hell I was only around the age of 10 or so. Even though the coupe didn't look just like Milner's coupe it was the best I had and in my eyes it was perfect! That little yellow toy coupe followed me thru high school and the United States Marine Corps by sitting on my desk or a self somewhere in my room, but it was always there! To this day that little toy coupe from my childhood still sits among all my American Graffiti memorabilia!
 
Back in high school a buddy of mine and I would argue all the time on which car actually won the big race at the end of the movie! You see, my buddy was a BIG 55 chevy fan so he just knew the 55 was winning the race before the big wreck but down deep inside I really think he knew who was winning.  Well, one night me and that same buddy hooked up with a couple of girls and watched American Graffiti (this is when the VCRs had just came out) much to the girls unlinking. Hey is there really any other way to spend a date than watching American Graffiti? Well YES, but she has to let you cross that line!!!! Anyway, that night was the night that I decided to build my dream car and I told everyone just what I was going to do! My buddy just rolled his eyes and said "why build the damn thing when you can just buy it?" I really thought my friend had lost his mind! I mean God knows this car was probably in California and worth a hell of a lot more money than this old farm boy could think of right? WRONG!!! My good ol' buddy was happy to point out that the coupe was for sell and it was only 2 hours from my house!!!! Of course my buddy had to prove this to me by bringing to school the magazine with coupe for sale in it. Once I saw it with my own eyes I couldn't get the thought of owning the REAL coupe out of my head the whole day at school. As the last bell rang for school to be out I was on a dead sprint to my old truck so I could get home and do my best sells pitch to my dad to buy this car. Now I won't go into my speech BUT it must have been the best speech in my life as my dad said if the coupe wasn't so damn far out of price I could get the car!!!! Needless to say I was on the phone with Steve Fitch before all the words got out of my dad's mouth!!! Well, the phone call didn't last all that long as Mr. Fitch had already sold the coupe to Rick Figari a couple of weeks before my call. I was sad but I figured I would just go with my original plan and build one myself. From that moment on the sickness (you know what I'm talking about!) fell on me like a ton of bricks and the journey began. I collected EVERY magazine that had anything to do with the coupe and I even photo copied pictures of other graffiti coupes for my collection. I still have those photos in my high school senior book! Even my girlfriend at the time had a cake made for me on my graduation with the coupe on it (her sister owned the bakery and the coupe didn't really look like the coupe but it was the thought that counted)!
 
So now we have come to the present day where my sickness as gotten worse over the years! This car doesn't even bother my wife anymore as she now understands the importance of it's being to me or at least that's what I like to think! When in all reality she just knows that it wouldn't do her any good to try and cure the sickness now! Don't worry guys, she did all right in our deal 10 yrs ago! She is now the mother of two beautiful children!!!! I actually came out the BEST in the deal as I get to be a father to these two GREAT kids and I get to continue with my dream car!!! Funny thing about being a dad, I make sacrifices all the time building this car so my family can have what they want or what they need and it doesn't bother me one little bit! I am one LUCKY SOB as my kids (I have a son and a daughter) love to help me out in the garage and my son LOVES going to all the car shows with his old man!!!! My wife said I am brain washing them but I just call it good quality family time!!!!
 
I guess Project THX 138 was really started to help me out with my down time when I didn't have the money to play with for the coupe. Hell, I really never even thought about doing a website until my GOOD BUDDY Travis talked me into it! Like I have said a million times, I just didn't think there were others out there with the same sickness I have. Boy was I ever WRONG!!!!! So DON'T EVER THANK ME for this website send all your love and gratitude to Travis as he is really the one to blame for this website!!!! Because of this little website I now have some really KOOL CLOSE FRIENDS whom I would have never met if it wasn't for this site! So just let me say THANK-YOU to Travis Mecum (the BEST DAMN COMPUTER GENIUS ON THE FUCKING PLANET) Doug Bjorn (the TRUE GRAFFITI COUPE GURU), Ed Ostrosky (the Best DAMN CRAFTSMAN EVER), Jack Bell (let me give you some shit because I'm bored), and Monte (the OLD RACER) for putting up with all of my shit over the past few years!!! I LOVE you guys to death and I don't know where I would be with out you!! Yes I do, I would be bugging the hell out of someone else (ha ha ha)!!! To ALL my other Graffiti BROTHERS and one SISTER out there all over the world you guys mean the world to me and my life would not be the same without ALL OF YOU!!!!! So THANK-YOU ALL for letting me do my little thing I call CHASING DOWN A DREAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Un-corking the "Headers"

This site is dedicated to the original American Graffiti Coupe, and all of its followers. This site has been designed to show various photos of the original coupe, coupe products, and  to be as complete a resource as possible for information on how to build your own version. We have special pages dedicated to showing pictures of our site fan's clones of this famous coupe. We don't care what kind of car you have. We just all enjoy a love for this coupe.

There is another site out there that is also a big follower of the coupe, but they believe that unless you have a steel body, your car is second-rate. We do not care what your car is made of, as long as you enjoy it. It really doesn't matter what other people think.

There are also a few hotrod sites (or a particular site), H.A.M.B. (which stands for Hokey Ass Message Board), of which most of the members are dead set against the American Graffiti Coupe - they don't like it, don't believe anyone else should have one, and don't want to see another one. To them, we would like to say "**** OFF". I know that a lot of HAMB members don't feel this way, as we have a lot of fans that are members, and I myself am a member of HAMB. It's just that a lot of the cars they like have white walls, and they don't really know what cars from this era really looked like.

My point is that the original Graffiti Coupe WAS NOT a movie prop. This car was built as a hot rod by somebody (probably on their first attempt), with parts that were either laying around or that they had access to - as most of the cars from that day were. The only thing that the studio did was to paint the car so it would show up better at night, added the Man-A-Fre (which was an actual 1957 item), threw on some chrome reverse, and sectioned the grill shell to give the car more of a raked look.

Every time I hear somebody say "Oh, it is just a movie prop," I laugh to myself and think that these people would not know a real hot rod if it fell from the sky and landed on them. Which brings me to another point. NOBODY, and I mean NOBODY should EVER tell anyone else what to build or how to build it. It's pretty much "keep your opinions to yourself." It's like if someone said "Oh, great! Another model A - I haven't seen enough of those!" These cars that they are so in love with are more "a dime a dozen" than our Graffiti Coupe. I guarantee you that if you go to a car show, you will see more of their cars than you will ever see of the American Graffiti Coupe. Which means that in today's time, no one is going to build a hot rod that someone else has not already built in the past. It's all been done. Unless you are going to do something freaky, like drop a Ferarri engine in it or do something like that - it's all been done a million times over.

So, when somebody says that they are going to build an American Graffiti Coupe, they ought to be saying "man, that's cool - another old hot rod getting back on the street," just as we say its cool when another old hot rod like a Chevy is getting back on the road. It doesn't matter what you're driving, so long as it's getting back on the road.

Many years ago, I grew frustrated when there was just nothing out there on this car, or it was so scattered that it took literally forever to learn anything - and then you would find confusing information from different sites. Once I started putting it all together and started combing over every picture I could get my hands on of the original coupe. My friend, Trapper, suggested we put out a site of our own, which would share all of this hard-gained information. After almost a year of painstaking design, figuring out what we wanted to include and how to show it, Projectthx138.com was born.

We worked with our Project THX 138 brother, Doug "The Guru" Bjorn, and many other people to figure out what parts were on the car. It's not that we did this all ourselves - we worked with others for countless hours for countless years to figure this out. We have also had the pleasure to work with Ed and Chris Ostresky at New Age Motorsports to replicate this car. For some, this car is a hobby - for us, it's almost a way of life. We consider ourselves very passionate about this little coupe, and we are willing to help out anyone with any question or any concern they have about this car - all you have to do is ask. We'll be more than glad to help you out - member or non-member.

We dedicate our site to the love of hot rodding, and especially to the American Graffiti Coupe. We love this car - and it don't matter to us if it’s steel or fiberglass. The whole spirit of hot rodding isn't about making your car look like it came off the show-room floor - it is about the blood, sweat, and tears that go into making it the way you want it.

Traction Bar Setup

As all of you out there know the Original American Graffiti Coupe has certain things on it that just really make it the American Graffiti Coupe. If it did not have these things then people would NEVER suspect our little hot rods to be a replica of the famous coupe. These things that REALLY stand out are the color, open engine bay, 4x2 intake, chrome reverse wheels, bobbed rear fenders, front cycle fenders, headers sticking out, firewall insert, and what I feel is the most important thing is the STANCE. There is just something about this little coupes stance! It just has the BEST rake as I have ever seen on any other hot rod. I mean when you look at this coupe from any angle it always looks like the nose is down and the rear is up like a good hunting dog (yip, I'm from the country). The one real tale of this sign is the traction bars, as they are ALWAYS running down hill to the front doors. Well after GREAT PAINS on building these coupes Myself and the guys over at New Age Motorsports have figured out how this is done the proper way and wait till you hear how this is done............ TO FIND OUT HOW THESE STORY ENDS LOG ON TO THE MILNER'S MAFIA WEBSITE!!!!!!

 

Horn Caps

As many of you out there know, Doug Bjorn a few years ago created a VERY nice Milner horn cap/button for all of us Graffiti Coupe Junkies. This horn cap/button was done by looking at photos of the original graffiti coupes steering wheel photos. The horn cap/button was put into a homemade press a pressed out to look like Milner's. The horn cap/button was (and still is) fully functional. Now here is the thing, this year Doug was lucky enough to actually win an actual Ansen horn cap/button. With this being said, the first thing Doug found out is that his horn cap/button was actually a little bigger than the real Ansen horn cap/button (you could actually take the Ansen cap and place it in the first one Doug made and move it around). The reason for this is the actual Ansen horn cap/button is for a NON-FUNCTIONAL horn! That's right boys and girls this cap is for a car with no horn! Of course Doug and myself already knew this because we have an old Ansen catalog showing the horn cap/button. The thing we didn't know was how small the actual Ansen horn cap/button really was until Doug bought one! Well, with all this being said, Doug set right out to duplicate this Ansen horn cap/button and within a couple of weeks Doug had recreated this original Ansen horn cap/button to a spiting image! So now for all you graffiti coupe freaks out there  (like me) you now can get your hands on a 100% DEAD ON CLONE of the Ansen horn cap/button! For those of you wanting to purchase this copy of the Ansen horn cap/button, contact Doug Bjorn at THX138FAN@yahoo.com . TRUST ME, YOU'LL BE GLAD YOU DID!!!! Below is a picture of the two differnt types of horn caps/buttons that Doug can make for you. They are pictured with the Original Ansen horn cap/button. Can you tell the which one is the fake and which one is the real one?????