By on June 1, 2015


During April, the management of the Alamo Drafthouse Theater in Denver allowed me to select and introduce four car movies, and the final one was the 1971 road-trip classic, Two-Lane Blacktop. In the bar before the film rolled (and during my introduction in the theater, and in the parking lot afterward), a debate raged, triggered by a question I’d dropped: What are the 2015 equivalents to the full-race 1955 Chevrolet 150 two-door and brand-new 1970 Pontiac GTO that starred in the film?

In order to answer this question, you need to fast-forward through 44 years’ worth of cultural evolution of the characters portrayed in the film by Warren Oates, James Taylor, and Dennis Wilson (simply finding the lineal descendents of the cars — what, the ’15 Impala and whatever replaced the performance-oriented mid-sized Pontiacs in GM’s lineup after Pontiac’s demise? — just seems inadequate for the depth of this movie). What would the 21st-century counterparts to The Driver, The Mechanic, and GTO drive?

The 1955 Chevrolet 150 two-door sedan was, when new, one of the cheapest “real” Detroit cars you could buy. The list price for the six-cylinder was just $1,685, a mere $190 more than the miserably toy-like 1955 Volkswagen Beetle and its 36-horse engine. Sure, the ’55 Ford Mainline Business Coupe listed at just $1,606 and the ’55 Plymouth Plaza Business Coupe for $1,614, and real-world resale values on such stripped-down, 16-year-old bottom-of-the-line transportation appliances were low, low, low, but the Chevy had the most available (and cheap) aftermarket speed parts and the easiest big-block engine-swap potential in 1971. On top of all that, the ’55 Chevy had built up a fair amount of cool by 1971, especially compared to its same-era counterparts, so that factor needs to be placed on the scale as well.


So, for Wilson and Taylor’s ’55 Chevy (which was also Bob Falfa’s car in American Grafitti), we need an older lightweight car that’s considered somewhat cool, has plentiful aftermarket speed-parts support, is very popular among 21st-century drag racers (particularly the outlaw street-racer variety), can be obtained fairly cheaply, and is extremely quick when set up properly. I think the third-gen GM F-body and any sort of Fox Ford qualify, but my personal choice for this car is the 1992-1995 Honda Civic hatchback. Yes, I’m biased, but so many 19-year-olds have tried to buy (or steal) my EG Civic since I’ve owned it, and I’ve watched so many sketchy-looking EGs with gigantic turbos run 10- or 11-second quarter-mile passes (and nuke their engines in spectacular fashion attempting to do so) that I think this car has become the ’55 Chevy of our time (actual ’55 Chevrolets, even four-door examples, have been priced out of reach of mere mortals for quite some time now). Your opinion probably differs, especially if you suffer from DSM Delusional Disorder.

QOTD-TwoLaneBlacktopCars- GTO Brochure

As for the 1970 GTO (not a Judge, in spite of its 455 engine and yellow paint) driven by Warren Oates’ character (named, simply, “GTO”), we need a brand-new car that’s a fairly expensive sporty model with lots of power, a halfway-decent checklist of luxury options, and – most important of all – the sort of flashiness preferred by a more-money-than-sense California weirdo, trapped in a rapid downward spiral with a trunk full of booze and pills and launched on a pointless cross-country drive. Infiniti Q60? BMW 3 Series? Having reviewed the Chevy SS, I think it almost qualifies as the 2015 counterpart to GTO’s GTO, but it ends up being a little bit too stodgy for a guy who shrieks “COLOR ME GONE, BABY!” at some bemused hitchhiker as he stomps on the gas. I’m going with the Cadillac CTS-V here, partly because it’s an appropriately show-offy GM product with a monster V8 under the hood and partly because you’d have (in Dennis Wilson’s words) a “real street-sweeper here if you put a little work into it.” In stock form, the CTS-V couldn’t hope to out-drag-race a car set up and operated by the 2015 equivalent of The Mechanic and The Driver (though it would have the advantage in a New Mexico-to-Washington DC highway race, just as a new GTO would over a stripped-down big-block ’55 Chevy with drag-race gears in 1971), but the street-sweeper potential is just about limitless.


So, what are your choices for these two cars? I suggest not looking at inflation-adjusted values for new ’70 GTOs and 15-year-old ’55 Chevrolets when making your comparisons, because you’ll just get depressed.

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50 Comments on “QOTD: If Two-Lane Blacktop Were Made Today, What Two Cars Would Star?...”

  • avatar

    GTO = Hellcat Charger
    Chevy = Bug-eye WRX

  • avatar

    …third-generation fox-body and challenger R/T plus…

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    Probably the Fox ‘stang, but with an outside nod to a bug-eye WRX. The GTO equivalent to me seems to be a Camaro, and likely the 1LE on the affordability scale.

  • avatar

    The spiritual replacement for the Chevy 150 is a Chevy Cobalt, which could be SS’d easily. What you see on the coasts may lead you to think that a civic is the only answer but out in the mid-west “riced” up Cobalts are abundant. You could also go for a 90’s Caprice but the size ratio between the old modified car and the expensive new hi-per car would not match the feel of the original onscreen duo. As for a GTO replacement, just grab any modern 2-door BMW, rip off that blue and white logo and stick on a red arrow head and you’ve got a moder day GTO… twin port grill and all!

  • avatar

    Today the Driver and Mechanic would be driving an outlaw style Fox body Mustang or Box top Fairmont. Cheap, light, ubiquitous and lots of parts support, just like the ’55 Chev back then. For power, it would have today’s modern equivalent of the Big Block swap, a turbocharged GM LSx engine. No question about it, if these guys are serious street racing hustlers, that’s what they’re driving.

    I concur with the CTS-V for GTO guy, or a ZL1, but I think that a Hellcat Challenger would really strike the pop culture chord like the GTO Judge did back then.

    • 0 avatar

      Winner winner chicken dinner! A ragged out primered LX Mustang is a natural in this setting. So is the Hellcat or regular SRT.

      • 0 avatar

        Mustang’s too sporty. I love the Fairmont idea.

        • 0 avatar

          The style, make, model, or year of the car is irrelevant. It’s about what two raggedy, hardcore street racers would use today, and a Fox body is where it’s at. I lean towards an aero front Mustang because they’re so cheap and available in raced out form. Box top Fairmonts/Zephyrs have however surged in popularity and can also be found behind every 3rd country barn. They would work too, but would be my second pick.

  • avatar

    Short answer: a b-series-powered EG Civic vs a Camaro SS. Maybe a poignant role reversal vis-a-vis Chevy in a multinational world. First instinct was to suggest an overpowered German in the GTO role instead, but AMG owners are unlikely to pick up gay cowboy hitchhikers. (Or are they?)

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    I’ll go all Mopar on this: Hellcat (obviously), Neon SRT-4.

  • avatar

    Chevy 150 -> hotted up and rough-looking 1994 Chevy Impala SS
    GTO -> I agree with those who said Challenger Hellcat

  • avatar

    “1971 road trip classic”?

    Who’s fooling who? Hardly anyone saw that film, and a good thing – it was simply awful. A buddy and I went to the midnight show at our base theater and sat through almost two hours of a movie that had no redeeming value at all.

    Those were years where several movie directors tried to come up with the spiritual successor of “Easy Rider” – a simple film that cost very little to make, but clicked with a generation and made millions. Also, movies that had no real ending – you were left to figure that out for yourselves as to how the story might have concluded. Weird times in Hollywood.

    Yeah, the cars might have been cool, but the film wasn’t.

    At least “Vanishing Point” was more coherent.

    I suppose if one had to revisit that story today, an old car for the ’55 would be a 16-year-old panther – it must be a full-sized car, after all, and for the new Poncho? Hmmm… a Challenger.

    That’s the best I can come up with, as both cars must be RWD.

    Those unlikable characters should have been drafted and sent to Vietnam where they belonged!

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. I found this movie unwatchable.

      As for today’s cars, I think you’re all missing the point.

      Old Chevy = Old Camry

      New GTO = JGC SRT or Ford Explorer Sport

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah! All movies must have a clear beginning, middle, and end. And there has to be a good guy and bad guy, period! /sarc

      That being said, I liked this movie for the car pr0n.

      • 0 avatar

        Eschewing narrative convention to approximate art in this case fails in the same way that spoilers, body kits, and stickers applied to a Civic fail to approximate performance.

        It’s cargo cult thinking resulting in a bad movie rather than a great film.

    • 0 avatar

      “Who’s fooling who? Hardly anyone saw that film, and a good thing – it was simply awful.”

      This. Even in the Slovenly Seventies nobody resonated to this film. And that was an era when Abbie Hoffman could have a bestseller with a book that advised shitting on the bank lobby’s floor if they denied use of their bathrooms.

    • 0 avatar

      “Who’s fooling who? Hardly anyone saw that film, and a good thing – it was simply awful.”

      This. Even in the Slovenly Seventies nobody resonated to this film. And that was an era when Abbie Hoffman could have a bestseller with a book that advised sh1tting on the bank lobby’s floor if they denied use of their bathrooms.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    “…the sort of flashiness preferred by a more-money-than-sense California weirdo, trapped in a rapid downward spiral with a trunk full of booze and pills and launched on a pointless cross-country drive.”

    BMW M4

    “…we need an older lightweight car that’s considered somewhat cool, has plentiful aftermarket speed-parts support, is very popular among 21st-century drag racers (particularly the outlaw street-racer variety), can be obtained fairly cheaply, and is extremely quick when set up properly.”

    Nissan 300ZX Turbo

  • avatar

    A CTSV is a very expensive luxury vehicle, not comparable to a GTO. The Hellcat would work for a Judge, but the GTO used was not top of the line even for Pontiac, so a Challenger R/T is the best fit.

    The 55 Chevy is more difficult. 15 years old, we are looking at 99/00 model year. Something that could be a family sedan with speed potential. So I’d go with a 1999 (E39) BMW 540i, modified to get more out of that 4.4L V8. Not cheap new, but cheap now.

  • avatar

    Fox Mustang and Challenger are the obvious choices. Alternately, how about 240sx and C7?

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I think the fox body mustang is really the one car that compares to the hot Rodgers 55′ Chevy or yore. You can’t tell, other than the VIN, what is was born with. Very similar to the 55′ as most are not equipped with their original power plants. Their are many a fox body working the drag strips today that started with a four pot…

    A pre-WRX Impreza with a big hood and a turbo would also be a suitable stand in. As for the GTO, I go with the Toybaru BRZ thing. could be a real screamer if you do the work…

  • avatar

    I can totally agree with all your choices to play the Chevy in your remake, but I think you forgot one: Nissan’s 240sx. It pains me to say it, but because the “hellaflush/stancenation” crowd loves these things as much as Civics and Supras.

    While the Caddy’s a good choice for GTO, I’m thinking either the brand-new Corvette, Mustang, or Camaro would all be perfect in the role of an over-top-yet-still-kind-of-working-class-car.

  • avatar

    150 》 P71
    GTO 》 S3

    • 0 avatar

      Back in 1970 a Pontiac was a social climber, status insecure white collar car like a modern Audi. It took three Bandit movies and three decades to make it completely redundant to, if not lower status than, Chevy.

      Despite the civil rights movement and moon landing there was only a 15 year gap between these cars, meaning the “Chevy” would be a model year 2000. The only dirt cheap car with performance potential from 2000 that I am seeing is a P71.

  • avatar

    Two Lane Blacktop was more of a social statement than a car movie per se. If truly reflective of the times, the GTO would be a Nissan Rogue or some other small crossover that people tend to drive like nitwits. The Chevy would be a vehicle representative of a recently bygone era – i.e. any performance car that isn’t a hot hatch or designed to satisfy a midlife crisis. I’m thinking a Pontiac G8 GXP or something along those lines.

  • avatar
    Vojta Dobeš

    The today’s GTO would surely drive a Hellcat. It’s new, it’s cool, it costs lots of money (it’s more expensive, inflation adjusted, than a GTO, but rich got richer) and it’s flashy.

    The Driver and Mechanic’s ride? Big, hulking Chevy that’s kinda cool and makes noise. I say ’96 Impala SS, or equivalent Caprice 9C1, with some stupid big engine and supercharger on that.

  • avatar

    A few more I thought of:

    G-body Monte Carlo and M3

    Evo VIII and S4

    Holden-based GTO and Tesla (although I guess a Tesla wouldn’t really work for a road-trip movie)

    Dodge Dart (the old one, not the new one) and Lexus RC F

  • avatar

    In agreement with most here:

    ’55 Chev > Fox-body Mustang. I thought third-gen Camaro for a while, but no… the Mustang is the first beater street machine that comes to mind. The Camaro was too much of a boulevardier, with those big heavy-ass doors with miles of power window and lock wiring and the crazy wanna-be-a-fighter-jet dash and the huge heavy glass hatch, whereas bare-bones race Mustangs naturally seem to end up just as hollow and rattly and stripped-down and lightweight as the ’55. Same color scheme would work. And the banter in the movie about jetting the carbs and recurving the ignition would play right in, and then there’s the 396/454 scene at the gas station:

    “Five-four Coyote.”
    “Hey, no shit?”

    GTO > Charger or Challenger R/T, or maybe even SRT, but NOT the Hellcat. As pointed out above, the GTO was not the top-of-the-line Judge model, it was just a flashy orange car with a big engine and stripes. The guy was a poseur, and to an extent so was the car, so I’m thinking an R/T model with one of the stripe options like Daytona or SuperBee or what have you. I’m actually seeing in my mind a Charger R/T Daytona, in red or yellow, with those black Daytona stripes on the quarters… I can totally picture Warren Oates spouting off facts he doesn’t understand about that car like it’s something special when it’s really not.

  • avatar

    I don’t know about the cars, but from what I’ve seen of modern hair styles, whoever’d be starring in this would still be wearing those same hideous Shag Helmets.

  • avatar

    Chevy = 1999 Camaro Z-28
    GTO = BMW M5

  • avatar

    When i was a teen i had a 72 Pontiac Lemans with the 350 Chevy engine that looked similar to the GTO.Tons of power but going nowhere with the right rear tire spinning and burning forever.Fun but very scary when it came to stopping.Front drum brakes were useless.Positrack , disk brakes and stiffer shocks would still make them suicide machines compared to today’s cars. Power exceeded the rest of the muscle cars abilities.

  • avatar

    Having watched the movie several times I don’t think todays personal lux performance car is a Hellcat, or even CTSV. I agree with the direction of the above mentioned Rogue, but that isn’t quite nice enough. As such I think Porche Cayenne would be an ideal replacement for the GTO.

    The ’55 is a little harder for me to pick. Fox bodies come to mind first, or a 1990’s ricer. But when I really am honest, I think the best car today to play the role is a ’55 Chevy 150. Lets be honest, our image of a garage tuned rat rod drag car hasn’t changed much since 1971, therefore, the car itself doesn’t need to change!

  • avatar

    Is it just me or did the drawings in the car ads back in the day make them look longer and sleeker than they really were?

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not you the drawings were particularly exaggerated. The best ones are of the interiors, if you were to believe some of them you could sit 5 or people across w/o people being cramped let alone sitting on each other’s lap.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Yes they did. The people in those car ads would scale out to malnourished 12-year-olds.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Random aside: whoever thought the Pontiac would look good with fender brows should have been reassigned to designing ashtrays for the rest of their career.

  • avatar

    I do love the enlarged rear wheel wells on that ’55. Looks like a Nomad.

  • avatar

    150 >> Fox body Mustang: notchback 5.0 LX
    GTO >> Hellcat Challenger

  • avatar
    gator marco

    Since its an American movie, they should be driving American cars.

    I like a Police Interceptor Crown Vic for the 55 Chevy.
    Four doors, goes fast, parts everywhere, lots of poorer folks driving them.

    For the GTO, I’m thinking a Dodge Charger Hemi. Sure it goes fast, not a top of the line vehicle, and when flashed up with dealer installed poser paint jobs they can turn hideous pretty quickly.

  • avatar

    I shudder to think of the F&F Hollywood remake of this classic. The choice of cars would be done by the highest bidder to have their latest model featured.

  • avatar
    George B

    Fox Mustang and BMW 435. The Fox Mustang is one of the few cheap, light weight, RWD cars available suitable for budget drag racing. The BMW 4 series would be the go to choice for someone attempting to project success in their new 2015 car choice.

  • avatar

    The part about the 15 year old ratty sedan that once was the bottom rung of respectability but had otherwise depreciated into oblivion piqued my interest. I thought perhaps that a 2000 Eldorado ESC might fit the bill despite being front wheel drive, but the reality is that they still cost more than what I thought they might. That and I don’t think they have the go-fast crowd backing them, but I suppose I wanted to find the oddball. The Civic seems like it might work, but I just don’t see stepping to the side with that choice fitting. To me the criteria is American, kind of crappy, NOT a sports/sporty/muscle car, but not terrible, once ubuitious, and potentially fast. The quandry is that in 2000, most of the proletariat drove American-made FWD and most of the go-fast crowd stuck to their Mustangs and Camaros. However, upon resconsideration, I see that the Chevy was the ugly underdog and as such, I have to select the 2000 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS. Cheap, crappy, plenty of them and (though I can’t imagine it) I presume they can probably be made to go fast by somone dedicated and crazy enough.
    As for the GTO, I’m going to have to stick to American cars in the spirit of the film (since the original could have had an E-type or something). For me, it’s a Mustang GT 500. The Hellcat makes sense, but it seems a bit too over-the-top.

  • avatar

    At first I thought an LX 5.0 was a good choice, and I still do. But I think a Terminator would be an even better one.

    The GTO is a bit harder to pin down. I really like the C63 AMG Black Series but its probably slants a bit too much towards the luxe side of the equation. The CTS-V is a good choice but for me it would be a last gen in wagon form. My last choice, which just might be the best, is a Shelby GT500KR.

  • avatar

    Love this movie. I think a late 70s or early 80s Malibu would replace the ’55 Chevy, while something like a BMW M4 would replace the GTO. The bigger questions for me would be, who do you cast, and would you have ta cameo for the sole surviving cast member, James Taylor?

  • avatar

    WRX w/fmic & NOS.
    Scat Pack Chally.

  • avatar

    Neon SRT-4 and a new Camaro ZL-1.

    I could also get on board with the idea that it’s a Cobalt SS or WRX. Some of you have suggested that the GTO equivalent is a BMW 435, but to me, today’s hard-partying young social climber would be way more likely to drive an Audi S4 / S5 instead of a baby BMW.

  • avatar

    Same question but with TRUCKS/SUV, I’m think ’99 Ford Lightning & Newish Raptor, keeping it in the same manufacturer family.

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