Saturday 6 January 2018

Eastwood: His Meaty Motors and a Morris Mini Countryman

It’s no secret; Eastwood has always had a love of cars, meaty cars! I thought it would be interesting to put some great pictures to good use and produce a short piece tracing some of Clint’s cars through the decades. The classic car had become a symbol of success, James Dean, Steve McQueen and Paul Newman are just a few names that immediately spring to mind and to a certain extent, will always be linked to fast cars. So it’s perhaps no surprise that Eastwood would eventually join that elite club. Very early pictures of a teenage Eastwood place him behind the wheel, a petrol head that liked to cruise as much as any other kid on the block. The earliest existing photo I have of Clint in a car is believed to be a very old 1927 Ford T bucket (above). However, by the time he reached his twenties, the long running success of Rawhide provided him with a regular salary and with it, some welcome disposable income – a home with Maggie and a few ‘boys’ toys’ suddenly became accessible.  

The Jaguar XK150 was a sports car produced by Jaguar between 1957 and 1961. The XK150 roadster was radically revised from previous models. The open two-seater broke with tradition and was fitted with high wind-up windows in its new taller doors but retained the very simple folding roof of its predecessors. A one-piece windscreen replaced the split screen, and the wing line no longer dropped so deeply at the doors. The widened bonnet opened down to the wings, and on the open two-seater the windscreen frame was moved back 4 inches (102 mm) to make the bonnet longer. The car was available at various times in Red, Pearl Grey, White (which appears to be Clint’s colour of choice), Indigo Blue, Claret, Cotswold Blue, Black, Mist Grey, Sherwood Green, Carmen Red, British Racing Green, Cornish Grey, and Imperial Maroon. A 250 bhp 3.4 litre XK150S fixed-head coupé with limited slip differential was tested by The Motor in 1959. It had a top speed of 132 mph (212 km/h) and could accelerate from 0–60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.8 seconds. Fuel consumption of 22.0 miles per imperial gallon (12.8 L/100 km; 18.3 mpgUS) was recorded. The test car cost £2110 including taxes of £623. It was at the time the fastest closed car the magazine had ever subjected to a full road test. There have been several photos available for a number of years that picture both Clint and Maggie proudly cleaning or working on the car outside or on the drive of their home. 
The Cadillac Eldorado was a personal luxury car that was manufactured and marketed by Cadillac from 1952 to 2002 over ten generations. The Eldorado was at or near the top of the Cadillac line during early model years. The original 1953 Eldorado convertible and the Eldorado Brougham models of 1957–1960 were the most expensive models that Cadillac offered. Whilst this rare picture of Clint and Maggie is dated as 1960, the car appears to be a 1955 Cadillac Eldorado sport convertible. For 1955, the Eldorado's body gained its own rear end styling with high, slender, pointed tailfins. These contrasted with the rather thick, bulbous fins which were common at the time and were an example of the Eldorado once again pointing the way forward. The Eldorado sport convertible featured extras such as wide chrome body belt mouldings and twin round taillights halfway up the fenders. Due to a lack of photos, I can’t confirm if Clint ever owned the Cadillac pictured, it may be possible that the car was a rental that the couple used for a vacation or a trip. 
The Austin-Healey 100 was a sports car built from 1953 until 1956. It was developed by Donald Healey to be produced in-house by his small Healey car company in Warwick and based on Austin A90 Atlantic mechanicals. Healey built a single Healey Hundred for the 1952 London Motor Show, and the design impressed Leonard Lord, managing director of Austin, who was looking for a replacement to the unsuccessful A90. Body styling was by Gerry Coker, the chassis was designed by Barry Bilbie with longitudinal members and cross bracing producing a comparatively stiff structure upon which to mount the body. In order to keep the overall vehicle height low the rear axle was underslung, the chassis frame passing under the rear axle assembly.
Lord struck a deal with Healey to build it in quantity, bodies made by Jensen Motors were given Austin mechanical components at Austin's Longbridge factory. The car was renamed the Austin-Healey 100. The "100" was named by Healey for the car's ability to reach 100 mph (160 km/h); its successor, the better known Austin-Healey 3000, was named for the 3000 cc displacement of its engine.
Production Austin-Healey 100s were finished at Austin's Longbridge plant alongside the A90 and based on fully trimmed and painted body/chassis units produced by Jensen in West Bromwich - in an arrangement the two companies previously had explored with the Austin A40 Sports. 14,634 Austin-Healey 100s were produced.
The Austin Healey was a bit of an unusual choice for a Hollywood star, in the 50’s and 60’s E-Types were exceedingly popular amongst the celluloid elite, as were Ferraris, Astons and of course, the drop-top Mercedes. Nevertheless, it is obvious from the photos, Clint took a great deal of pride in owning one – and liked keeping it clean. The photos are credited as circa 1958. 
After the success of the first two ‘Dollar’ films, Eastwood was asked to return for a third film, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). At first, he was a little reluctant, however – a higher salary, a percentage of the profits and a sweetener in the shape of a new Ferrari 275 GTB was enough for him to return to Spain. It was in these pictures (from 1967) that Clint was seen with the car. The Ferrari 275 was a series of two-seat front-engine V12-powered automobiles produced in GT, roadster, and spyder form by Ferrari between 1964 and 1968. It was the first Ferrari to be equipped with a transaxle, the 275 is powered by a 3.3 L (3286 cc) Colombo 60° V12 engine that produced 280-300 hp. Motor Trend Classic named the 275 GTB gran turismo/GTS roadster as number three in their list of the ten "Greatest Ferraris of all time". The car was purchased in 1966 by Dino de Laurentiis' Polar Films of Rome with Clint becoming the registered owner later that same year. It is hard to distinguish the original colour of Clint’s Ferrari due to the first two pictures being in b/w. However, the colour picture of Clint leaning against the same car appears to be from the early seventies and appears to be a silvery steel colour; this is the only colour picture I have of the car. On occasions, I believe it was also affectionately referred to as the ‘silver bullet’. However, what we do know is that some 10 years after the purchase the car was repainted.
George Barris (November 20, 1925 – November 5, 2015) was an American designer and builder of many famous Hollywood custom cars, most notably the Munster Koach and 1966 Batmobile. His 1974 book, Cars of the Stars is a highly recommended read if you are lucky enough to still find a copy. Barris was the ‘go to’ man in Hollywood, and was responsible for modernising Clint’s Ferrari 275. 
‘I met Clint over at the studios working on a project. He wanted his Ferrari repainted, so he dropped it off. The Ferrari was about 10 years old and showing a little wear and tear because Clint liked driving it. We stripped and repainted it in a rich, light metallic green. It was kind of a classic colour for the car. It was one of the cool looking V-12 275 GTB coupes. In its day it was the cutting edge, with a Pininfarina- designed body and 300 horsepower to play with! Clint’s had Borrani knock-off chrome wire wheels and as I recall, most other 275s had Ferrari’s new cast-alloy wheels. We also did a Mini Cooper for him in white and blue. We added power windows, something no other Mini had. He was a very gracious guy, and he came to help me out with the voice-over for the soundtrack on a film we were making on the assembly of one of my Barris AMF custom bikes. We hung out and talked cars, and I used to see him around the studios often. He loved to stop in for a chat and to catch up on the car news.’ 

Below: Clint with George Barris, the 275 GTB before the repaint, and after.
Clint would eventually part company with the 275 GTB. In December 1985 it was offered by Motorcar Gallery Inc., Ft. Lauderdale, FL, USA for $65,000. In August, 1999 it was offered by Paul Baber of London where the plate was registered as JKE 92D. In 2004 it appeared at Bonham’s Ferrari Auction in Gstaad and confirmed within the auction report:

A number of things can add value to a particular chassis; one of the most important of these is its previous ownership. Such is the case with the green 275 GTB present, which was driven around Rome in 1966 by movie star Clint Eastwood. It was offered to him as a present by the famous Polar Films Company, for whom Eastwood starred in the legendary Sergio Leone 'Spaghetti Westerns'. 

Not a bad piece of provenance… 

The Ferrari also showed up in 2007 at the Ferrari 60th Anniversary, Concours d'Elegance.  
Whilst Clint parted company with the 275 GTB he certainly upheld his relationship with Ferrari, namely in the shape of the slick Black 365 GT4 BB (Berlinetta Boxer). By 1972, Ferrari was actually a little bit behind the times, and for a company whose reputation was staked on performance and technological prowess, that just wouldn’t do. Although a mid-engine layout had all but become a requirement for Grand Prix and sports-GT prototype racers in the early 1960s, Ferrari still lacked a mid-engine road car. This absence was made more glaring by the success of the Lamborghini Miura and then the Countach, which became an instant icon when it first hit the streets in 1971 in spite of a lack of racing pedigree.
The challenge could not go unanswered, and Ferrari’s return shot was the 365 GT4 BB. Ferrari’s first mid-engine flat twelve-cylinder road car made its debut in 1971 and hit the streets two years later. The car was based on the Pininfarina P6 concept car that appeared in 1968, and replaced the wildly successful front-engine Daytona. The new chassis was combined with a new flat-twelve engine, and this pairing would set the tone for Ferrari’s twelve-cylinder road cars for years to come.
There was a good reason for this: the 365 GT4 BB delivered on all of its promises, with interest. Capable of over 175 mph, it was easily among the world’s fastest road cars. Racing success wasn’t quite as forthcoming, and the racing 365 GT4 BB fielded by Luigi Chinetti’s North American Racing Team (NART) was not particularly competitive. That didn’t stop the 365 GT4 BB from becoming one of Ferrari’s most iconic cars, however.  There are very few pictures of Clint with the Black Ferrari. However, one picture in particular does indicate that he was still driving it in 1977. 
Whist the picture (right) showing Clint sitting in the car (with Heidi Frazetta, daughter of Frank) is only in b/w, the curvature of the side window indicates it is the Black 365 GT4. The photo was taken when Clint and Sondra Locke were collecting the original poster artwork for The Gauntlet painted by legendary artist Frank Frazetta. The Gauntlet was released in the December of 1977.
It took a pretty stunning car to steal the show from a cast line-up of Burt Reynolds, Jackie Gleason, Sally Field and Jerry Reed. But movie makers found one that was up to the task.
Just as “Bullitt” and “Gone in 60 Seconds” will forever be linked with their star cars, so will the 1977 Pontiac Special Edition Trans Am be forever linked with Smokey and the Bandit - so much, in fact, that in hobby parlance they are simply known as the Bandit Trans Am.
Turns out there was a lot to like about the rollicking film, and there was just as much to like about the special T/A, which, for a short time, anyway, showed that there was a true performance car still around during a decade of sagging horsepower and little to get excited about when it came to new cars. Truthfully, even though Reynolds melted the tires from Atlanta to Texarkana and back, the ’77 Trans Am was fairly pedestrian in the grand scheme of things among memorable muscle cars. It made between 180 and 200 horsepower, depending on which engine you wound up with and if you picked the automatic or the manual, but the styling, graphics and overall polish made it a truly memorable car. And of course, the movie didn’t hurt. 
Above: According to the Thursday, August 11th 1977 edition of the Pontiac / GM daily paper PMD Today – it was reported that Clint had taken delivery of the Special Edition Trans Am. Clint had obtained the car from Corey Pontiac in Salinas, California. 
The following year of 1978 saw Clint with yet another Ferrari, this time a Red 308 GTB. The 308's body was designed by Pininfarina's Leonardo Fioravanti, who had been responsible for some of Ferrari's most celebrated shapes to date such as Clint’s 365 GT4. The Pininfarina-styled Ferrari 308 GTB was introduced at the Paris Motor Show in 1975 as a supplement to the Bertone-shaped 2+2 Dino 308 GT4 and a direct replacement for the 2-seater Dino 246.

Its F106 AB V8 engine was equipped with four twin-choke Weber 40DCNF carburettors and single coil ignition. European versions produced 255 PS (188 kW; 252 bhp) at 6600 rpm (7700 rpm redline), but American versions were down to 240 PS (177 kW; 237 bhp) at 6,600 rpm due to emissions control devices. European specification cars used dry sump lubrication. Cars destined to the Australian, Japanese and U.S. market and were fitted with a conventional wet sump engine from the GT4.

A notable aspect of the early 308 GTB was that, although still built by Carrozzeria Scaglietti, its bodywork was entirely made of glass-reinforced plastic (or GRP), allowing a very light weight of 1,050 kg (2,315 lb). This lasted until June 1977, when the 308 was switched to steel bodies, resulting in an overall weight increase of approximately 150 kg (331 lb).

Five-spoke 14-inch alloy wheels were standard, while 16-inch wheels were made available later as an option, together with sports exhaust system, high compression pistons, and high lift camshaft.
The advertising campaigns of the time certainly hinted (perhaps with somewhat sexist overtones) that the Ferrari was a ‘man’s’ car. 

‘There’s a certain mystique which surrounds the Ferrari owner. He’s behind the wheel of a Ferrari simply because he wants to be’. 

The ‘mystique’ element certainly captures a degree of Clint’s screen persona – and I suppose the advertisement was a typical product of its time – where the macho qualities of a man’s man were far more defined and accepted - and in general part of the whole 70s cultural scene. 

Again, there are not too many pictures of Clint with the Red 308 GTB. There is this beautiful Japanese cutting which was spread over a double page and showing Clint standing next to the car. However, I do have 3 original 35mm transparencies in my collection showing Clint inside the car and driving it. Also note that there’s also the suggestion of another Ferrari, as one of the transparencies clearly shows a different cream coloured interior…
Leaping forward now to Clint’s acclaimed film Gran Torino (2008). It was on the Blu-ray extras that Clint revealed that he ‘held on to the car’ and purchased it from the owner. The Torino was produced by Ford for the North American market between 1968 and 1976. It was also a competitor in the intermediate market segment. The car was named after the city of Turin (Torino, in Italian), considered "the Italian Detroit". The Torino was initially an upscale variation of the intermediate sized Ford Fairlane, which Ford produced between 1962 and 1970. Whilst the Torino had already enjoyed a certain degree of recognition via the popular TV show Starsky and Hutch, the car featured in Clint’s movie was a 1972 Gran Torino Sport
The Gran Torino Sport was offered in two body styles: A 2-door formal hardtop and a 2-door Sports roof, also a hardtop. All Sport models featured an integrated hood scoop, which was only functional with the optional and rare Ram Air Induction system. Also included with this model was the twin colour-keyed racing mirrors, moulded door panels unique to the Sport model, body-side and wheel lip moldings, and F70-14 tires (E70-14 on hardtop models). A revised full body length laser stripe remained an option. It replaced the chrome side molding, and was available in four colours to match the exterior paint. For the driving enthusiast, the "Rallye Equipment Group" included the Instrumentation Group, Competition Suspension, G70-14 tires with raised white letters, and a Hurst shifter for those equipped with the 4-speed. The Rallye Equipment Group was available the 351CJ-4V or the 429-4V exclusively. The Competition Suspension was highly regarded by Tom McCahill of Mechanix illustrated, as well as Motor Trend and Car and Driver as being less harsh than past Torino performance suspensions, while still offering excellent handling. Motor Trend described the suspension as "Unlike the super heavy-duty springs of years past, the folks at Ford have managed to produce superior ride control without harshness. It takes a ride in one [Torino] to truly appreciate it." Torino's new and improved chassis and suspension design can be attributed to this improvement. 
Finally – While discussing Gran Torino in 2008 with Anthony Breznican of USA TODAY the subject moved on to cars in general, and saw Clint open up about some of his own cars.
Eastwood has a passion for cars; though he jokes he's no Jay Leno: “Jay has a huge collection. I'm not that much of a collector, but I have a couple of old cars.”
“I still have that old Lincoln convertible limousine we used in Honkytonk Man," he says.
In the 1982 film, Eastwood co-starred with his son Kyle Eastwood, who was then about 14. Eastwood played an ailing country musician in the Great Depression, headed to the Grand Ole Opry and in need of the young boy to drive him.
The Lincoln K-Series (also called the Model K, reflecting the earlier Ford Model K) was a line of luxury vehicle produced by Lincoln from 1930 to 1940. While the original K-Series featured a 385 in³ (6.3 L) V8, a V12 became standard in 1933. Customers also had the choice of ordering a fully custom coachwork. By 1940 sales declined rapidly with the modern Zephyr and new flagship Continental being more appealing to buyers. Production was evidently completed during the 1939 model year. The last Lincoln K-Series was delivered in January 1940. The "Sunshine Special" convertible limousine built for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939 was modified in 1942 with current Lincoln front sheet metal.
Sentimentality plays into another of Eastwood's prized cars. "I have a '32 Ford Roadster that I always wanted when I was a kid and never could afford."
He values another quality, too: uniqueness. "I've got a Morris Mini Countryman. That's kind of an interesting little car. It came from England and has all the Mini Cooper S racing gear but in a mini station wagon. It's a cool car, because there aren't many like it."

Well, I've always said - diversity is a wonderful thing!


Philip said...

Clint showed very good taste in the sports cars he owned. I bet it's no coincidence that he drove an XK-150 (albeit a drophead as opposed to his OTS) in his 1971 film Play Misty for Me.
Perhaps Clint shouldn't have parted with the Ferrari 275 GTB. Those things have gone through the stratosphere in value!

Gary McCloud said...

I saw him driving a BMW X5 about 5 years ago at his restaurant in Carmel