Starring a 1964 Buick Skylark Convertible that didn't do it!
The story goes that two young New Yorkers are traveling through rural Alabama, and are mistakenly arrested for murder, based solely on the vehicle they drive, a metallic mint-green 1964 Buick Skylark Convertible. One of the defendant’s cousin Vinny Gambini, a brand new attorney, attempts to defend them. But it’s Gambini’s girlfriend Mona Lisa Vito that solves the case by proving that the defendant’s car could not have been that of the murderers’.
The film was applauded by the legal community at large for it’s accurate depiction of legal statutes, court procedures, and trial strategies. For instance, Gambini’s cross examination of Sam Tipton (grits), Ernie Crane (dirty windows), and Constance Riley (glasses) represents technically competent impeachment of the prosecutor’s witnesses.
The one flaw in the movie was the most criticized by motor-heads.
Screenwriter Dale Launer explained that while Mona Lisa Vito says on the stand, that there were two cars in the 1960s made with independent rear suspensions, the Corvette and the Pontiac Temptest, there were actually three.
In the film, Lisa (Marisa Tomei) testifies that the 1964 Buick Skylark Convertible couldn’t have made tire tracks linked to the vehicle of the murders. The Skylark had a solid axel rear suspension, so when the vehicle’s right wheel went up on a curb, the left wheel’s tire mark would have been from the edge of the tire, not a full flat imprint.
Unfortunately, there was a third car that could make those marks, a Chevrolet Corvair. And car enthusiasts brought that to the attention of the filmmakers immediately. Launer’s response was that “All of Lisa’s automotive expertise came straight from my own head. There was no research whatsoever.”
Bill Gambini’s Skylark was a two-door cabriolet with a Wildcat 355 V-8 sporting 300 cu. in., and 250 horsepower. It had a one-barrel carburetor and 11:1 compression. It had a three-speed manual transmission. It was 203 in. long, 74 in. wide, and stood 55 in. tall.
Interestingly, The exchange between the prosecutor and automotive expert about the equipment used to analyze the tires was taken almost verbatim from an actual court transcript. The witness was asked how he analyzed the evidence, and answered “I have a dual-column gas chromatograph, Hewlett-Packard model 5710a with flame analyzing detectors.” The D.A. quipped, “Does that thing come turbo-charged?” and the witness answered, straight-faced, “Only on the floor models.”
Thinking about building a replica with an american-made engine? Fraser has the right engine ready for you!