Friday, November 12, 2010

Harper

It seems with me and maybe all of us, there are movies that get stuck in our soul. For me at a young age it could have been the imagination of freedom, being out in the real world, cruisin' in a cool car, and getting a bitchen lookin' chick.

Back in 1966 I was driving my '59 Porsche coupe, life was good...and what better thing to do on a Saturday night, but grab your main squeeze and head to the drive-in movies. The movie was 'Harper' and the one thing that made a lasting impression on me? The 'Speedster' that Paul Newman drove in the movie. Within a few short weeks I was selling my coupe and driving an open Porsche Roadster, imagining myself as Mr. Newman...minus the steel blue eyes. Life was even better now.

It was a typical L.A. P.I./detective movie of it's time with scenes of the beaches, Santa Monica mountains, and lots of tough guy stuff.

This was really the first Porsche I ever remember seeing in a movie...and shortly after, the values of Speedsters started to head north, slowly at first.

No fiberglass "Kit Car" back then...it was the real deal with faded "Meissen Blue" paint with red oxide primer on the door and fender!


The long and short of the movie is, after rescuing Betty Fraley (Julie Harris), Harper drives her to the docks to find a kidnap victim (Bacalls husband). Then comes the chase scene where Betty Fraley steals Harper's Speedster and he gives chase in a Lincoln Continental through the Santa Monica mountains. The idea that a Lincoln Continental could keep up with a Speedster through those curves is amusing. The explanation by Harper to his sidekick is that the car is slow because "I haven't changed the plugs in that crate for thirty thousand miles." The chase scene ends with the Speedster taking a dive off the road.

All four wheels off the ground the Speedster takes flight rocketing down the hill.


As the car comes to a stop the rear decklid flies open!

Harper gets out of the Lincoln and runs down the hill after the Speedster to the road below. Then there is a shot from inside the car looking out through the cracked windshield with Harper looking in. A limp arm is shown implying that Fraley has been killed.


So, what ever happened to the Speedster and was this the turning point where the values of Speedsters started to climb? One thing's for sure, Harper and his Speedster certainly had the "COOL FACTOR." As for values, one can only wonder. For me, life went on and I soon came to the realization, much to my dismay, that I was not Mr. Newman. But, I did get a bitchen chick!

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3 comments:

  1. Hello Harper friends!
    Very possible that the Speedster is still around. In 1987 I saw the car at Rudi Klein's junk yard in LA. It had a pretty heavy front end damage. In 2007 I was there again and the car was gone. By that time Rudi was also gone and the new owner may not know the history. But, for sure he's out there.
    356werkstatt

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    1. Wow, that would be very cool and I wonder if the owner would have any idea...

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  2. The Speedster that rolled down the hill was not the one that Harper tooled around in during the film. The running Speedster was a 356A, 1956 vintage, the "crashed" Speedster was a "Pre-A" 1955 with no engine and Abarth type muffler tips wired on out the back. It was sourced in a scrap yard and painted up to look like the running one. Even back then Speedster were revered, especially in California, and the respect of the cast and crew for them would not allow a perfectly nice care to be destroyed. I knew Paul and he had a love for cars and early Porsches in particular. It was his idea to have the character drive a ratty Speedster.
    I don't know if either car still exists, but I bet they do. Much worse Speedsters than those were saved, I know because I owned a few of them over the years.

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