The real story behind Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry’s Chevy Impala and Dodge Charger

Dirty Mary, crazy Larry, beyond any reasonable hubris, is one of the more underrated car chase movies of the last few decades. With a large amount of gritty, unadulterated, muscle car mayhem continuing throughout the feature film, this film violently pushed the boundaries of car stunt work and leaves audiences in awe with its spectacular chase sequences.

More notable examples of old car movies, like Steve McQueen’s Bullitt, seem to be more noticeable in modern society. Unfortunately, Dirty Mary, crazy Larry doesn’t get much fanfare these days, but it’s certainly worth a lot more.

The plot and overall story aren’t necessarily terrible, at least for a 1970s car chase movie, but the total intensity of the daring and reckless stunts seen throughout the movie make it stand out among its contemporaries . The movie mainly featured two cars out Chevy and Cleverness; a seemingly run-of-the-mill 1966 Chevy Impala and an interesting 1969 Dodge Charger R/T. This is the story of two signature classics from the height of the 1970s car chase craze.

Related: The Real Story Behind the 1955 Chevy Gasser from ‘Two-Lane Blacktop’

The 1966 Chevy Impala Dirty Mary, crazy Larry

20th Century Fox

A blue 1966 Chevy Impala sedan is used by the main characters throughout the first half of the film. The plot essentially involves Larry, a stock car racer, planning a heist with his mechanic, Deke. Their only motivation for this theft is to get the money needed to fund a hopeful entry into NASCAR’s top tiers. However, the pair are unwillingly joined by Larry’s one-night stand, Mary, who tracks him down after blatantly abandoning her on the morning of the robbery. The blue Impala was chosen for its overall regularity and ability to blend in with its surroundings, but as seen in some of the death-defying stunt scenes, this Impala is clearly not the run of the mill family sedan as it is seen.

Two 1966 Chevy Impalas were used when filming began in 1973. At the time, these cars were incredibly common on American roads, making it the perfect getaway car for the trio. The characters’ nemesis, a police chief known only as “Franklin”, even says he can locate 50 in the time it takes to pick his nose.

Unfortunately, details about these cars remain virtually non-existent. There are no specifications available in the public domain, nor is there any kind of confirmed fate for the pair of vintage Impalas. Some of the cars used in this movie were sold out of the studio after filming, which probably happened with the blue Chevies. Although, given the then-mundane nature of the cars in question, it might be safe to suspect that they were simply used as basic means of transportation by a potential buyer. At the same time, it is certainly possible that they both could have been destroyed in the chaotic punishment they endured during filming, which was the fate of several other vehicles from Dirty Mary, crazy Larry.

Related: The real story behind the white Dodge Challenger from Vanishing Point

The infamous 1969 Dodge Charger R/T from The Dirty Mary, crazy Larry

1969 Dodge Charger in Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry
20th Century Fox

On the other hand, there is much more information about the Dodge Chargers used for this production. Three of these cars were used before Dirty Mary, crazy Larry in all, though one was a 1968 model and another was a non-R/T variant. The latter two were mainly used for stunts, while an authentic 1969 Charger R/T was also part of the lineup for close-ups. The Chargers took a severe beating at the hands of Peter Fonda and the stunt drivers. There are countless examples of these cars ramming into police vehicles, driving down unpaved dirt roads, experiencing many collisions, and engaging in an absurdly insane helicopter chase towards the end of the feature.

It was confirmed that one of the three Dodge Chargers was destroyed during filming, specifically in the train collision at the very end of the film. The battered remains of the two existing Chargers were then reportedly sold to the public. According to Street Muscle Magazine, a man had afterwards bought one of the remaining Chargers straight from the studio. According to him, the cars were listed without any description of their previous film roles, but he had still recognized this as one of the cars from the film (and even found one of Peter Fonda’s shirts in the trunk afterwards). Unfortunately, this car was badly damaged in an accident and the owner claimed to have traded it in for a new car.

Unfortunately, he had not informed the dealer of the significance of the car in question. It doesn’t appear that VIN numbers were ever properly registered, or still exist if they were, meaning if the car still exists it would probably be impossible to confirm any authenticity. As for the third charger, it would also have been sold in the same way as the second. According to IMDB, this car is said to be in someone’s backyard in Sun Valley, California. They claim it is not for sale and still in its original paint, but details are very sketchy and not much more is known about the car at this point.

Related: 10 Spookiest Cars We’ve Seen In Movies (Horror On Wheels)

Why Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry stands the test of time

1966 Chevy Impala in Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry
20th Century Fox

Dirty Mary, crazy Larry is remembered for its absolutely absurd vehicular mayhem, plain and simple. Very few films can capture this kind of stunt work well on camera, and even fewer can maintain this theme throughout the feature film without sacrificing quality or boring the audience. Honestly, the movie itself is pretty much one whole chase sequence. Another interesting point is that there is no soundtrack of any kind in the entire movie apart from the credits. The sounds of American V8s are more than enough music to satisfy the film’s target audience. Clearly this is one of the definitive car chase movies of its time, but it remains largely forgotten.

The inherent realism of Dirty Mary, crazy Larry is also an important focus. Aside from an infamous bridge jumping scene, the vast majority of the stunts performed are completely practical and made by real people with real cars. This kind of authenticity is becoming much rarer as the years go by, which is a sad sight to see.

Sources: IMDb, StreetMuscleMag

Leave a Comment