Kyle Johnson

1973 Chevy Malibu, Ryan Gosling’s ‘Drive’ Co-Star

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Let’s start this article off absolutely where it needs to begin: Ryan Gosling is a startlingly handsome man.

There’s really just no way around that fact.  Now you know…and knowing is half the battle.  Or so I’m told.

What’s more, the guy can act.  In 2011, Gosling starred in the Nicholas Winding Refn film Drive, which had enough cool to make even the most cynical of Gosling’s critics forget his Mouseketeer affiliations.  In the film, Gosling plays a character that is never given a name and barely speaks above a whisper (when he speaks at all), yet he carries it with a practiced depth and magnetism.  His cohorts, including Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, and an out-of-his-mind-good Albert Brooks, do more than their fare share in making this film the success that it has become with audiences.

Naturally enough for a film titled Drive, Gosling spends much of his screen time behind the wheels of various cars.  From a tense opening scene heist/pursuit behind the wheel of a silver Chevy Impala—which, according the Bryan Cranston’s character, is the “most popular car in the state of California”—to time spent flipping cop cars at the Driver’s stuntman day job, Gosling’s character seems more at home smoldering behind the wheel than he does interacting with other human beings.  But hey, haven’t we all been there?

The pièce de résistance, however, is the hero car—a 1973 Chevy Malibu.  Yes, seriously.  A ’73 Malibu.  No, it’s not a Corvette or an Impala.  A Malibu.

Ryan Gosling and the 73 Chevy Malibu

Ryan Gosling and the 73 Chevy Malibu of his dreams.

While the Malibu might not seem like the ideal choice of rides for a wheelman-by-night, it is not without its reasons: when Refn told Gosling that he could pick out his character’s personal car, he hand chose the ’73 Chevelle Malibu from a junkyard.  From there, Gosling tore the Malibu apart and rebuilt everything but the transmission on his own.

You read that right.  Ryan Gosling tore a car apart and rebuilt it from scratch.

That thumping in your chest?  That’s your heart trying to beat its way out from behind your sternum so that it can snag a copy of Drive on Blu-Ray (or DVD if your heart is still a little bit behind the technology curve).

In a film where there seems  to be so much quiet meaning simmering beneath the surface, one might think that perhaps there’s some kind of  dual meaning at play.  Perhaps it’s the Driver’s implied affinity for stock car racing (the Malibu’s body style was commonly used from ’73 to ’83 in NASCAR).  Perhaps it’s the somewhat inconspicuous nature of the Malibu to match the Driver’s inconspicuous personality.

Or perhaps it’s just that the Malibu was the car that Ryan Gosling decided was right for his character for somewhat arbitrary reasons.  Either way, if it was good enough for Ryan Gosling, it’s good enough for all.

The ’73 Malibu was an available trim in Chevy’s Chevelle line.  The Malibu name didn’t become a brand of its own until 1977 when the Chevelle was phased out.  The stock vehicle was never known as a particularly powerful car, but given that it was rebuilt from the ground up for Drive, it’s difficult to gauge how much horsepower was in the Driver’s ride.  We assume that, because Gosling was at the wheel, it was powered by magic.  Sparkly, sparkly magic.

Did we mention that Gosling also had to complete stunt driving courses for the role?  And that he completed a number of the film’s driving stunts himself?

You feel that?  Your heart has a sledgehammer now.  Quick, think of something less awesome.

Okay, 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 Drive in your free time?

Considerably less often, indeed.

Regardless of what you drive on a daily basis, you’ll want to do some cruising after watching Drive.  You won’t look as cool while doing it as Ryan Gosling does, but one can always dream.