Peter Fonda and Susan George on the poster for Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974) as their ’69 Charger blazes away in the background. People who have actually seen the film know how misleading this poster is, and that’s all I’ll say.
Peter Fonda as Larry Rayder, wannabe NASCAR driver and small-time robber
San Joaquin County, California, Fall 1973
Film: Dirty Mary Crazy Larry
Release Date: May 17, 1974
Director: John Hough
Wardrobe Mistress: Phyllis Garr
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
While few would place Dirty Mary Crazy Larry‘s script in the same echelon with Casablanca or The Godfather, there’s no doubting that it has its place among the classic European-influenced but all-American car chase flicks that kicked off with Bullitt and tapered off somewhere in the mid-’70s as more over-the-top fare like Smokey and the Bandit took over as the gearheads’ cinematic servings. It was that brief semi-decade where the sub-genre blossomed with ennui and nihilism driving the motoring protagonists of Vanishing Point, Two-Lane Blacktop, and those of its ilk.
Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry was a transition between the earlier nihilist cult films and the more marketable, humor-laced movies. Larry, Mary, and Deke aren’t necessarily driving without a defined purpose, but one could argue they were just as doomed as Kowalski when they slipped into that lime green ’69 Charger. And it is with that ’69 Charger – which BAMF Style loyalists know by now is my favorite car of all time – that I’m concluding this run of Car Week.
Dirty Mary Crazy Larry‘s plot could easily be summed up as Bonnie and Clyde in Vanishing Point. Larry Rayder is a snarky small-timer with ambitions for the NASCAR circuit. He’s certainly good enough to make it (and Peter Fonda’s badass driving skills leave no doubt about that), but he doesn’t have the money he needs to get there. To make the extra scratch, he brings along his relatively levelheaded mechanic, Deke (Adam Roarke), for a bloodless and weaponless grocery store robbery. Unbeknownst to Larry, his one night stand “Dirty Mary” Coombs has tracked him down, catapulting these three young but wildly different folks across northern California, evading road blocks and police helicopters… but not trains.
What’d He Wear?
Crazy Larry’s attire can be summed up easily: lots of denim. His shirt and jeans are the same medium blue denim wash for a California-friendly variant of the “denim sandwich” worn by Luke Duke.
Say all you will about wearing too much denim, but Deke’s look says “I JUST COMMITTED A CRIME” just a little too clearly.
Larry wears a blue chambray cotton shirt with white snaps down the front and Western-stype pointed front yokes. Below each yoke is a patch pocket with a small but deeply-pointed flap; each flap closes with a white snap matching those down the front of the shirt, although Larry tends to leave the snaps open. The shirt’s large collar has long points.
Larry teaches Mary a thing or two about unloading. And kissing off.
The shirt’s long sleeves end with squared cuffs that close with three white snaps.
Larry’s bootcut denim jeans have a standard five-pocket layout with two front pockets, a coin pocket on the right side, and two large patch pockets on the back with a small black manufacturer’s label sewn into the top of the right pocket. It appears to be the black Wrangler logo with “Wrangler” stitched in yellow, although the stitching across the pocket is not W-shaped like Wrangler was known for.
Larry wears a brown tooled leather belt and a distinctive pewter diamond-shaped belt buckle. The buckle is painted with a blue enamel circle and red around the edges. “WELLS FARGO” is embossed on the blue center circle.
I’ve seen many Wells Fargo belt buckles, but almost none are multi-colored and I’ve certainly never seen this buckle’s equal.
Larry’s Racing Gear
Larry’s shoes are best seen in promotional material since the film hardly gives his feet any screen time, odd since most driving movies have at least one shot of the driver’s foot slamming on a pedal or two. He wears simple black leather high-top driving shoes with tan laces through six steel eyelets. Larry also wears black socks.
This promotional image gives us a better look at Larry’s feet than we get in the whole movie.
It’s hard to find any high top racing sneakers these days that aren’t overly sporty with logos or velcro straps, but Cole Haan’s “Vaughn” soft leather high top sneakers (available from Jos. A. Bank) appear to be a nice throwback to the classic racing shoes sported by Fonda in the film. A true racing shoe is meant to be so lightweight and comfortable that a driver under duress doesn’t even realize he (or she) is wearing any; laced firmly to keep feet snug and under control when quickly transitioning from throttle to clutch to brake.
Details like Larry’s racing shoes and gloves show that, while he may not be a bona fide race car driver, he certainly takes driving seriously. His driving gloves are made of soft tan leather with cream cotton crocheted across the top side in a classic basket weave. They fasten on each wrist with velcro-closed leather tabs.
Larry gives Mary a loving squeeze.
If you’re in the market for a pair of similar (and nicer!) gloves, Pierotucci offers a fine pair made from Italian nappa leather.
Larry’s gold cluster ring pokes out on the third finger of his left hand through the glove’s finger hole. I’m not sure if the ring is a Peter Fonda thing or a character piece, but it appears to possibly be a classic Irish Claddagh ring.
Peter Fonda poses for his senior photo.
Further up his left hand, a slim, simple gold bangle adorns Larry’s wrist. This is likely Peter Fonda’s own bracelet, as he has been photographed wearing it on other occasions.
Larry’s bangle shines out from under his shirt cuff.
There is a continuity issue with Larry’s watches. The best close-up we are given is toward the end, when his wristwatch appears to be gold with a red-lit LED screen like a 1972 Pulsar P1. Earlier, however, his watch is definitely stainless with a white analog dial on expanding bracelet. The stainless watch appears to be his primary one, although the long sleeves of the shirt and the driving gloves make it difficult to determine what watch he is wearing in which scenes.
Perhaps Larry has a different watch for casual getaway driving and high-speed getaway driving?
Finally, we get to Larry’s sunglasses. He barely ever removes his shades, his best and most literal defensive mechanism to keep from showing actual emotion when Deke or Mary calls him out on something.
Larry stays focused while driving.
The frames are tortoise plastic aviators with a double bridge and a silver “O” logo on the temples. (The “O” doesn’t stand for Oakley, as the company wasn’t founded until 1975 – two years later – and the logo itself didn’t become recognizable until O-Goggles in 1980.) Larry’s sunglasses have amber gradient lenses.
Go Big or Go Home
Larry Rayder may be cocky, but he’s smart enough to at least attempt to stay ahead of the cops during his robbery. He loads a Realistic TRC-46 23-channel CB radio into the getaway cars, he has potential escape routes through the Linden orange groves practically committed to memory, and he keeps his mind clear without any drugs, booze, or other substances.
The Realistic radio kept in the car. Realistic is a brand name here, not an adjective.
Of course, it’s Larry’s method of “clearing his mind” before the heist that gets them into trouble. Mary Coombs isn’t content being a one night stand, and she relentlessly tracks down Larry, waiting in his car as he exits the grocery store with the stolen cash and greeting him with: “Hi, asshole.” Despite their contemptuous bickering throughout the movie, Larry grows to appreciate Mary as much as he can, singing her praises to Deke:
How can you not like someone as fulla shit as that?
How to Get the Look
It’s a look that will get attention – whether or not that attention is positive or negative is up to you. As Larry spent most of his time behind the wheel, it’s safe to say he was dressing more for comfort than for looks.
- Blue chambray cotton snap-front shirt with large collar, pointed Western-style yokes, pointed-flap chest patch pockets (w/ snaps), and triple-snapped square cuffs
- Blue bootcut denim jeans
- Brown tooled leather belt
- Pewter diamond-shaped Wells Fargo belt buckle with blue and red painted enamel
- Black leather high-top driving shoes with tan laces
- Black socks
- Tortoise plastic-framed aviator sunglasses with amber gradient lenses
- Tan leather fingerless driving gloves with cream cotton crocheted top side
- Gold cluster ring, worn on left ring finger
- Stainless wristwatch with white dial and expanding bracelet, worn on right wrist
- Gold simple bangle bracelet, worn on left wrist
Right from the get-go, Hollywood knew a special car was on their hands when Chrysler rolled out its second generation “B-body” Dodge Charger in 1968. Sleeker than its predecessor with Richard Sias’s redesigned double-diamond coke bottle styling, the 1968-1970 generation of Dodge Chargers embodied aesthetic American muscle car perfection. 1968-1970 was also the apex of raw power under the hood, with Mopar’s legendary 426 Hemi and 440 cubic inch engines ruling the streets.
From Bullitt in 1968 through The Dukes of Hazzard in the early 1980s to the Fast and the Furious franchise over the last decade, Hollywood has embraced the 1968-1970 Chargers as the car for men who know what they’re doing behind the wheel. It makes sense that a racing fanatic like Larry Rayder would choose a 1969 Dodge Charger R/T 440 as his primary getaway car.
By 1966, Ford and GM had cornered the performance market with sharp, powerful cars like the Ford Mustang and the Pontiac GTO. Chrysler was struggling to compete with only the Plymouth Barracuda as a possible contender. Luckily for Chrysler, it had a new secret weapon – the 426 Hemi engine. The 426 Hemi had been developed for racing two years earlier and was named for its hemispherical head. It was nicknamed the “elephant engine” due to its size and power, and now Chrysler had a street car that could use it when the first Dodge Charger rolled out of Detroit in 1966.
The first generation of Dodge Chargers took drivers by surprise. The fastback design looked relatively tame, having even been referred to as “a good-looking [AMC] Marlin”. However, the V8-only options under the hood soon changed people’s minds. The base engine was a 318 cubic inch V8 with a 2-barrel carburetor with the 426 Street Hemi taking the top spot. The next year, the 440 cubic inch “Magnum” V8 debuted as a larger and more efficient alternative to the 426 Hemi.
For 1968, the entire Chrysler B-body lineup was totally redesigned, and the most classic iteration of the Dodge Charger was born. A flat-six engine was added in mid-year as the new standard engine, but serious drivers opted for the any of the mean V8 options – ranging from the 2-barrel 318 and 2-barrel 383 to the 4-barrel 383 and 426 Hemi. The 440 Magnum V8 is seen as the perfect balance between power and practicality, offering 375 rated horsepower (compared to the Hemi’s 425) and a slightly more reasonable gas mileage… depending on the transmission and the driver, of course.
The R/T (Road/Track) trim was the highest performance honor that could be bestowed on a ’68-’70 Charger with the only R/T engine options being 426 and 440. A Charger R/T would easily top 130 mph, theoretically topping out at 143 mph for a Hemi equipped with the TorqueFlite automatic transmission. Lower tier Chargers had standard 3-speed manual transmissions, but the R/T added an extra gear for 4-speed manuals as the alternative to the venerable 3-speed Chrysler TorqueFlite.
In 1970, the last great year of the Charger, a new engine option was added with the 440 “Six Pack”, so named for its three 2-barrel carburetors (you do the math). However, Dodge was starting to cannibalize its own customer base with the introduction of the Dodge Challenger into the pony car series that same year. Plus, insurance rates and gas prices were steadily increasing, the American appetite for powerful automobiles would soon whisper away. The muscle Charger enjoyed four more years of production with a redesigned “fuselage” look like its sister cars over at the Plymouth division, but the next and last four B-body years – 1975 to 1978 – can hardly be compared to the car it once had been.
1969 Dodge Charger R/T 440 Magnum
Body Style: 2-door fastback coupe
Layout: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive (RWD)
Engine: 440 ci (7.2 L) Chrysler “RB”-series V8 with 4-barrel carburetor
Power: 375 hp (279.5 kW; 380 PS) @ 4600 rpm
Torque: 480 lb·ft (651 N·m) @ 3200 rpm
Transmission: 3-speed Chrysler TorqueFlite automatic
Wheelbase: 117 inches (2972 mm)
Length: 208.0 inches (5283 mm)
Width: 76.7 inches (1948 mm)
Height: 53.0 inches (1346 mm)
Three Dodge Chargers were used for production in Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, all painted Limelight Yellow (appearing more florescent green) with non-factory black racing stripes painted on the side by the crew. All were fitted with classic American Racing “Sprint” wheels and California license plates 938 DAN. Of the three cars, two were intentionally damaged in the front after the Charger was to have collided with the red pickup truck.
The main car, used for most of the filming and – I believe – all of the screenshots here is a true 1969 Dodge Charger R/T with a 440 Magnum engine. A second 1969 model was used, but it was a standard Charger coupe with no R/T emblems. Finally, a 1968 Dodge Charger coupe was utilized during the chase when a police car is sideswiped into the river; the 1968 model is evident by looking at the non-split grille.
The camerawork makes it obvious that Peter Fonda did much of his own driving in Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, and Susan George would later tell stories about being terrified riding the Charger as it hit speeds above 100 mph in the days before seatbelts.
Luckily, Fonda wasn’t driving for the Vanishing Point-esque ending. An engine was removed from one of the Chargers, and the car was in turn filled with explosives. The explosive-ridden car was connected to a towing cable, hooked up under the train tracks to a pulley system that connected it to the train; thus, the train pulled the Charger into it and blew it up.
Before the gang switches to their Charger, Larry drives a blue 1966 Chevrolet Impala Sport Sedan. The model year is, in fact, 1966 although it is referred to in the film’s universe as a “’68 Chevy”.
Larry’s Impala is a base model 4-door hardtop pillarless sedan – model #16439 – with a 327 badge on the front fender, indicating the 327 cubic inch “Turbo Fire” V8 engine under the hood. At 275 horsepower, an Impala 327 is no slouch, but it doesn’t even compare to the power offered by a 440 Charger. Larry’s Impala is also fitted with the 2-speed Powerglide automatic transmission rather than the 4-speed manual that was optional on all V8 Impalas that year. The usual license plate is RTG 911, although there is a brief continuity error when it is seen driving up a hill.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the movie.
So help me, if you try another stunt like that again, I’m gonna braid your tits.