Posted by: Jerry Garrett | September 11, 2011

DRIVE: Ten Essential Facts about Ryan Gosling’s 1973 Chevelle

Doesn't this look like the hero's ride in the movie Drive? Actually it's a 1973 Chevrolet press photo, touting the new Chevelle Laguna Colonnade Hardtop Coupe.


It’s hard to pin down anybody connected with the movie “Drive” exactly why a 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle was chosen for Ryan Gosling’s ride. But, looking at it from the perspective of today, it was probably consistent with a hard economic choice that a car-savvy protagonist with a mysterious and troubled past might have to make.

What makes a 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle special, in the automotive world? It’s not one of Chevrolet’s landmark models. It missed the Muscle Car era, and arrived just in time for a fuel crisis, 55 m.p.h. speed limits and an oil embargo. It wasn’t particularly powerful, but neither was it fuel-efficient. General Motors generally considered its cars from 1973-1977 to be an “all right” car that arrived at the wrong time. Looking at what was to come in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, it might have been Chevrolet’s Last Best Car.

Here are some things worth knowing about the ’73 Chevelle in general, and the one Mr. Gosling’s “Driver” wheeled around the mean streets of L.A.:

'73 Chevelle Malibu (GM Photo)

1. The movie car is often identified as a “Malibu”. Malibu was a Chevelle trim line that year, not a model. Besides, the movie car looks (to me) more like the similar Chevelle Laguna Colonnade Hardtop Coupe.

2. The Laguna Colonnade Coupe was a new trim pack for 1973 – and it was top of the line. If it came with options such as a 454-cubic-inch V8, a 4-speed transmission and a Super Sport package, it had an MSRP of a $3,202.

3. The 1973 model was the first year of the much-improved third (and last) generation Chevelle. The Chevelle nameplate would be phased out in 1977 – and replaced by the new Malibu model designation, which continues to this day.

4. The Super Sport, or SS, package first offered in 1961 was last offered in 1973. If the movie Chevelle had the SS package, it would have meant a reinforced chassis, beefier springs and shock absorbers, better brakes and special wheels and tires.

5.  The 1973 Chevelle was the last car John Z. DeLorean had direct involvement in developing. He left G.M. in April 1973.

DeLorean & his "other" car

6. Even without the SS handling improvements, the ’73 Chevelle was one of the best-handling Chevrolet cars of its age. DeLorean had insisted upon significant upgrades before he departed. A Car and Driver magazine review at the time said the Chevelle handled so well, it went down the road “as if guided by an unseen hand.”

7. The 1973 Chevelle did not, however, make impressive amounts of power. Even its top-line 454 produced a rather anemic (by today’s standards) 245 horsepower.

8. The 1973 Chevelle was among the safest cars built to that time. Its roof was improved for greater body rigidity and rollover protection (in anticipation of a new federal standard that never became law), and it had the industry’s first 5 m.p.h. crash-resistant bumpers.

Note the broadside crash & the attributes of the 5 mph bumper.

In the movie, this was a great advantage (never specially mentioned) for Driver’s Chevelle; its bumper-bashing prowess became something of a plot point (although it’s fair to say the movie car’s bumpers got a bit of strengthening from the special effects crew!).

9. Remember how Mr. Gosling’s character had an affinity for racing? A ’73 Chevelle Laguna would have been a nostalgic favorite for a stock car racer. That body style, with its aerodynamic “fastback” roofline, would become one of the winningest cars in NASCAR history.

Cale Yarborough's '73 Chevelle

Indeed, many racing historians contend the Laguna was designed specifically to give Chevrolet a contender in NASCAR. Benny Parsons won the 1973 Winston Cup Championship with it; Bobby Allison and his brother Donnie, Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip ruled stock car racing 1973-1977 driving Chevelles.

10. Today, even in ratty gray primer like the movie car, it might be worth three times as much. If you could find one. Despite the fact hundreds of thousands of them were sold “back in the day”, not all that many have survived. The ones that have, like the one belonging to Mr. Gosling’s Driver, are lovingly preserved and maintained.

Maybe the ’73 Chevelle was a much better choice than it originally seemed.

Jerry Garrett

September 11, 2011


  1. Nice story and info, always likes these Chevelle’s.

    • I thought it was ironic that the first job was a silver chevy malibu that was modified to have 300hp, and the car he had was an old one…perhaps Chevy gave some $ and that influenced the choice of vehicles

      • Chevy SHOULD have given them some $$$…but they didn’t. I guess the wise crack about how anonymous the car was, at the beginning of the movie, may have not gone down well at Chevy HQ. BTW, I thought that opening car chase was a masterpiece of minimalism.

  2. These lost year Chevelles (1973 to 1977) parts are almost impossible to find and alot of them simpley “rusted away” If you have to own one now that the movie “Drive” has come out. My advise is to buy the most complete and rust free Chevelle you can find to start with. Trust me you will have plenty of time invested in finding the “small parts” that your car is missing. These cars drive very well and handle alot better then the earlier Chevelles for sure (and don’t cost a small fortune to own one.) The 350 V-8 is dam near bulletproof along with the 350 trasmission. So happy hunting!!! Who knows your Chevelle maybe used in the sequel to “Drive”

    • cool comment jason, i agree with what you said 100%, i have a 74 el camino myself, so i know parts for these can be hard to find. do you have a GM from the same era? if you do, check out if your not already a member, its a website for the 73-77 a bodies, which helps looking for parts, tech, etc for the 3rd generation GM a body.

  3. […] Gosling said once the choice of a 1973 Chevelle was made for “Drive”, he personally restored it. No word on how much work that […]

  4. Very cool post. Great to read some info written by a fellow gear head. Happy trails.

    • Thanks. It was fun recalling how good these cars actually were!

  5. cool article, however the car in the movie was not a laguna model, as the laguna package came with the completely polyurethane, non-bumper front end used in nascar, it also had the turn signals mounted in the grill, round lights for 73, and square lights for 74′. I have one of the extremely rare 73′ laguna front ends on my 74 el camino.

    • Travis is correct – the car in the movie was known as the “deluxe” version which directly relates to script when Standard refers to when he first met Irene and she asks him where the “deluxe” version is thus further cementing the character of the Driver as the alpha in the film.

      • wow dude…that was a really good analyzation, i didnt even put that together!

  6. […] we have the man’s ride itself, a 1973 Chevelle. This site offers a few neat facts about the car. For me, it was enough to see the maligned “Colonnade” […]

  7. An interesting article by Mr. Garrett, especially to myself, being an owner of a `73 SS 350 4-speed. The `73`s don`t get much respect, compared to the earlier models, but I always liked the styling of the `73 Chevelle and Cutlass. The front bumpers are bulky looking though.

    • Would be fun to find a Bobby Allison Coke Machine replica. Those were the days. Sigh…

  8. […] take won’t add much to the box office totals. But it did remind a lot of people what a forgotten classic the 1972 Chevrolet Chevelle Laguna […]

  9. […] we have the man’s ride itself, a 1973 Chevelle. This site offers a few neat facts about the car. For me, it was enough to see the maligned “Colonnade” […]

  10. […] мы должны ездить человеку себя, 1973 Chevelle. Этот сайт предлагает несколько аккуратных факты об […]

  11. […] inspire a new sculpt for collectors. I know that I’ll be keeping my eyes open for one. Sources: Garrett On The Road, Popular Hot Rodding, BangShift, Swifty’s […]

  12. […] film opens and closes with Gosling driving in his 1973 Chevy Chevelle that he restored himself and there is an obvious lack of dialogue that adds to the longing nature of the relationship between […]

  13. the director told ryan gosling to pick any car he wanted. so ryan picked this one. thats all.

  14. I own a 1973 Laguna Chevelle, running with matching numbers, straight body, anybody want to buy it?

    • Drop me an email Rick and we’ll be in business.

      • What’s your email address?

      • 1973 Chevelle Malibu Colonnade. trying to sell for my mother. She’s the 2nd owner and has had the car for 20 years. The car is listed on craigslist LA. Thank you for your time.

    • please send me a pic or your car

      • Be happy to, what is your email address?

  15. […] Garrett On the Road […]

  16. […] […]

  17. A fast brown

  18. Anyone know anything about his custom spedometer and dash tach? I like the look and would love something that looked like that in my car

  19. im pretty sure that its an rpm gauge right in front behind the wheel and looks like an opgi gauge cluster probably battery/oil/gas in front of his clock. does anyone know if his car was auto or manuel trans?

    • I’m pretty sure it was auto because he’s usually driving with his right hand only which would also be his shifting hand. Also, when he’s driving irene to work they are stopped at a red light and when it becomes green he just puts his right hand on the wheel and drives off, no putting it in first.

      • My Standard Catalogue of Chevrolet does not list a manual for the 1973 Chevelle.

  20. i have a 1973 chevelle malibu colonade. it has 72,000 original miles. super clean inside and out 350 2 brl. green in color. this car is all original. i am the second owner. runs and drives great. it went from the sellers garage to mine. trying to find out what was the original tires that came on the car. any help appreciated.

    • Since your car is equipped with a V-8, it came with G78/14/B black sidewall bias belted tires. Probably Goodyears.

      • Jerry, How many of the 4 door malibu laguna colonade’s were produced? I know according to the serial number that it was made in San Antonio.

      • They’re not recorded by trim levels, such as the Colonnade – just by Chevelles, of which there were 367,614 V-8 models made. I can tell you that the factory price for an E-29 body style was $3,179.

      • Thanks for the info Jerry.

        Clarke Jones

        MH Grove Logistics, Inc

        111 Grove Rd

        Greenville, SC 29605

        864-232-2546 (local)

        866-661-5100 (toll-free)

        864-232-2584 (fax)

  21. Great article on a rare car. FYI I am helping my mom sell her 1973 Chevelle Malibu Colonnade. 2r. 350 engine and trans. Factory air and rallys. .Surface rust and dings, but no accidents. Mom mom has driven this car for 20 years and bought it off the original owner, who was 85 at the time. The car is nearly all original. My bother has kept it runner for her, but no attention was given to the interior. The engine is strong, however the trans needs work. The car is in Monrovia, CA. I have it listed on Craigslist LA. Someone sent me a test yesterday and I have to apologize for accidently deleating it. I can answer most questions, or can get the info from my brother. Thank you for reading this.

  22. I have a 1973 chevelle ss for sale call me 404 428 8741

    • do you have photos of ss?? how much money??

    • How much for 73? Any photos of It?

  23. The 1973 to 1975 Chevelle rocks for sure………..somethng very cool about driving thoses rides

  24. “and it had the industry’s first 5 m.p.h. crash-resistant bumpers.”

    I like the Chevelle, but this claim sounds odd to me, if you talk about Modelyear 1973. The Saab 99 had (up to 5mph) impact absorbing (rubber) bumpers since modelyear 1972 (fall 1971).

  25. I’ve got a really nice 73 with a 500hp 383ci stroker small block. I’ve had it since 05…lots of people back then said “why should you want a 73 chevelle?” Simple answer? Because unlike the Camaro, Corvette, Mustang guys, When I go to a show… I have the only one there! The 73 is pure masculinity… It’s the open, shirt, hairy chested, gold chain wearin’ dude cousin of the 72 Chevelle.

  26. Have had 2 73 SS cars, both 454. First one would fly.Changed to early oval worked and shaved heads and a mild hyd cam and could cruise at 120 waiting for any challengers. Weren’t many back then. Now have one with gears, stall, 496 solid roller, rocks. Very few understand these cars. There were nearly 5000 ls-6 1970 chevelles built, only 2500 big block Chevelles period. Adding fiberglass, tube chassis, more inches, keep street legal, bring ’em on.

  27. […] how about the fact that since the ’73 Malibu now seems that much cooler to drive, it’s a relatively difficult car to find on the second market, which means you’ll most likely be paying a pretty penny if you want to recreate scenes from […]

  28. […] we have the man’s ride itself, a 1973 Chevelle. This site offers a few neat facts about the car. For me, it was enough to see the maligned […]

  29. […] we have the man’s ride itself, a 1973 Chevelle. This site offers a few neat facts about the car. For me, it was enough to see the maligned […]

  30. […] we have the man’s ride itself, a 1973 Chevelle. This site offers a few neat facts about the car. For me, it was enough to see the maligned […]

  31. […] we have the man’s ride itself, a 1973 Chevelle. This site offers a few neat facts about the car. For me, it was enough to see the maligned […]

  32. […] we have the man’s ride itself, a 1973 Chevelle. This site offers a few neat facts about the car. For me, it was enough to see the maligned […]

  33. […] we have the man’s ride itself, a 1973 Chevelle. This site offers a few neat facts about the car. For me, it was enough to see the maligned […]

  34. […] we have the man’s ride itself, a 1973 Chevelle. This site offers a few neat facts about the car. For me, it was enough to see the maligned […]

  35. […] we have the man’s ride itself, a 1973 Chevelle. This site offers a few neat facts about the car. For me, it was enough to see the maligned […]

  36. […] we have the man’s ride itself, a 1973 Chevelle. This site offers a few neat facts about the car. For me, it was enough to see the maligned […]

  37. […] we have the man’s ride itself, a 1973 Chevelle. This site offers a few neat facts about the car. For me, it was enough to see the maligned […]

  38. […] we have the man’s ride itself, a 1973 Chevelle. This site offers a few neat facts about the car. For me, it was enough to see the maligned […]

  39. […]… […]

  40. I have a 73 454 4 speed SS with 49000 miles. Bought it from my dad in 1975. 90% + original. Still have original wheels and tires. Looking for offers.

  41. This article is awesome! Very well written an informative!! Kudos to you!!

  42. this is one great car..the movie drive is nice.

  43. Interesting. My first car at age 16 in 1988 was a 1972.5 Chevell Malibu. At least I’m pretty sure it was considered a 72.5. It was Maroon with a Tan/White Vinyl top. Round tail lights. The laguna had square tail lights. I believe mine had a 350 w/ a 2bbl carb.

    Not bad for a first car. I think we paid $400 for it. It had a little rust on the rear fenders but it was my first car and I felt awesome when I drove it. 🙂

  44. Just purchased a 1974 Laguna 454 4 speed numbers matching car… watch out ladies and gentlemen this will be interesting to see how the market responds when the restoration is completed.

    Full frame off restoration is planned and 4 speed consoles will now be available, for everyone to enjoy.

    The 73-77 body styles are gaining momentum and will gain popularity, 74 laguna 454 4 speed is a very rare bird and will be a true survivor…

    • I need feedback for the appreciation on the 73-77 body styles, these cars can be restored with nos, good used parts and completed with out ruining it with the aftermarket tunaboat parts made in places where quality is not # 1 and quality is.

      • I recently purchased a 73 base model chevelle as a restoration project it has your typical quarter panel rust doors fenders etc but overall it’s in decent shape and you are right parts are out there if you are willing to put in the time and effort to find them , I love the fact that it’s not your typical 64 thru 72 body style everybody’s got one I’ve always liked the off year cars

  45. […] The 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle is a masterpiece of a car, looking nice outside as well as the inside of the car.* […]

  46. I recently purchased a 1973 base model chevelle malibu as a restoration project and I can tell you from first hand experience that these cars are not easy to find parts for but if you do happen to own a third gen chevelle don’t give up parts are available if you have the time and resources to find them and a little luck doesn’t hurt . there a great car if you want something different and are tired of seeing the same 64 thru 72 chevelles

    • Hi, I have a Chevy Laguna 74 that belong to my father, I restored 5 year ago, but I have to buy two 73 malibus to complete the task, I used one to complete the missing parts, and the other one it was so nice no rust, that I have to restored as well, so Now I have a Red-Gray Chevy Laguna S3 1974 with White and Black Interiors,(350 V8) and a Verdoro Green 1973 Chevy Malibu (292 6 inline), I Love this cars

  47. […] com a “mig màquina, mig humà”. Certament, és una màquina infalible a bord del seu Chevelle Malibu del 73. Aquest model de Chevrolet, l’últim dissenyat per John Z. DeLorean per a la marca, s’adiu a la […]

  48. This is a terrific, detailed post.

    What has been bugging me is “what are the cars the driver and the mechanic pass by in the garage before the opening chase”? To me they all look like Buick Wildcats or Chryslers or something. Can you tell me what they are? Not down to custom or year or whatever, but just make/model? A bit of personal credibility and/or a bet may hinge on this.

    Also, the first time I saw those schoolmom tailights on Gosling’s car, I thought just one thing, since I would have been very, very, very young at the time of the car’s production–AMC Matador. These cars do have some similar looks–did they actually have anything in common on any kind of basic level, beyond what someone like you would really know?

    No need to take any time in response–just wanted to know about
    1) car lineup from left to right as Gosling goes towards the Impala; and
    2) besides looking a bit alike, to me, were there any big similarities between the Matador and Chevelle (AMC trying to make a budget Chev, say?)

    Thanks again for the really broke down post.

    • The easiest way to tell is probably to just go to the website and look up Drive.

  49. One of the things about watching drive the Chevelle in the movie is if you listen to the soundtrack , when he pulls away from a light you would swear that it’s a stick ! And I’ve read that it’s an auto. Does anyone agree with this!

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