Piece by Piece: “Christine” Lives

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Christine is a car that will never die. And her owner Bill Gibson knows that for sure. But what fans and enthusiasts may not know is that there are at least 23 stories about her, and Gibson’s is only one of them. His search for the famous 1958 Plymouth Fury would be filled with intrigue and disappointment, but ultimately Christine’s search for her sisters would bring her co-stars together decades later, money for charity and plenty of unexpected calamities along the way. Piece by piece, “Christine” would live from the inside out.

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The movie utilized over 20 cars that were crushed, burned, and otherwise tortured. These cars were used for interior shots and special effects show pieces that were never meant to survive. After filming, the cars were sent to Bill and Ed’s Junkyard in Los Angeles. Once the success of the movie had been established, word got out that the junkyard was filled with the wrecked movie “Christines” and collectors descended upon the yard to gather up their remains.

Enter real-life enthusiast Eddie and his 1983 pre-screening of “Christine”. With enough forethought to recognize that the movie would generate collectors to scramble for these cars, he went on a hunt, purchasing one from a man named Harvey. Knowing that his recently purchased car had been nowhere near the movie set, Eddie decided to do the next best thing; visit Bill and Ed’s garage and take every possible part from the wrecked movie Plymouths and swap his car’s organs with theirs.

Eddie collected actual pieces used in the movie; Steering wheel, rearview mirror, bumpers, front wings, wheels, valance under the grill, emblems, lettering, body trim and the iconic “V” on the grill, were all pieces that were replaced and a new “Christine” was born.

The Wheel Deal

The Wheel Deal

After a few decades with the restored car, Eddie sold her to John who eventually sold her to Derek and Jim. Derek, a young man suffering from Huntington’s disease, had medical bills that were skyrocketing and the only way to keep up with the expenses was to sell “Christine”.

This is where Bill Gibson’s journey with “Christine” begins. He bought her thinking that she was a major player in the film, not a collection of pieces that were taken from other metal cast members. He says that there is only one intact car saved from the movie and that went to producer Richard Korbitz, the rest went to Bill and Ed’s garage for scrap.

“Richard’s is the only one that we know at the end went,” he said, “and Bill and Ed…paid, I believe it was $1,500 for the whole lot that was left…people went down and slowly parted them out—what was left. There was one that had all the actuators in it and everything else, we did track a guy, he did pull it out of there; whether that car is still out and about, I don’t know.”

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Red is the New Black

 

Gibson says Christine’s owner during 1983, visited the junk yard and purchased all that he could to restore the Plymouth to Hollywood standards using only parts from cars used in the movie.

“He took the parts from about 5 cars,” Gibson said, “the total interior—the one that was used with Alexander sitting in it, with the roof cut-off. The wheels were off the base car in the beginning scene. Thunder spears were off the burn car, the steering. He gathered most the parts off the front end, and the rear off the one car that was smashed in the side by the bulldozer. He got the steering wheel—it was bent—but he got that and a lot of the front pieces from the dash. Everything he could basically get out of there he grabbed; the trim whatever he could, from about 5 cars, and basically built this car.”

Sometime later, Gibson bought the car and “Christine” was finally his. The next step was to introduce her to the world and her fans. With all of the restoration and hard work from Earl Shifflet at Classic Car Creations, “Christine” was ready to be shown at horror festivals around the country, “Now the car that I have…like I said it was unique…I started contacting the casts through their agents and started doing the shows. I’ve met up with John Carpenter several times, it’s funny, I travel with more of the bad guys all the time. Malcolm Danare’s hilarious. They talk to her just as much as I do right now. In fact, that’s the biggest thing, we celebrated our 9 year anniversary here in November. She’s pretty much been keeping me busy, got me over to the Playboy mansion; she gets me invited to some pretty cool places.”

At the Playboy Mansion

At the Playboy Mansion

“Christine” is unique, right down to the day she rolled off the assembly line. Gibson says that he researched her background and found out that Christine was built in Los Angeles, and has a very significant birthdate, “I wrote Chrysler Historical with the VIN number that I had, but what really got me was the actual build date of the car,-and it’s on the punch card…Oct. 31st, 1957…Halloween! Stephen King eat your heart out!”

This could be the reason Christine sometimes acts out, she is a Scorpio after all, and among some of her upgrades, Gibson gave her the ability to think, “She definitely has her own attitude. She is trained, she does all these little special things extra that are hooked up. When he did the restoration, I don’t know if we made a mistake by doing that, we sort of gave her a brain; we computerized her a little bit.”

Bill Gibson and "Christine" take a break

Bill Gibson and “Christine” take a break

One Interesting story Bill tells, is of the day he was headed to the Celebration Exotic Car Festival. Christine was being transported there on a different vehicle and Bill was about an hour and half behind. Suddenly he got a call from a panicked transporter who was scared, saying that he was trapped inside the car and the fog machine was filling the inside of the cab:

“I froze,” Gibson says, “and I just said it’ll turn off by itself. ‘It’s been minutes, it won’t shut off, I’ll call you back! (click)’, he hangs up the phone. I’m sitting there, I finally pull over ‘cause I don’t know what’s going on, I know he’s at the show, I just don’t know what happened. Anyways, he does call me back and tells me what happens when I get over there. Evidently, he got out of the truck—there were four other cars in this enclosed trailer—got in, shut the door and he hears this ‘ssshhh,’ and fog’s coming in, then he tries to get out of the car, and the door won’t open. And I figured that one out, evidently he put some weight on the door if he would have lifted up a little on the door it would’ve opened. The fog machine basically went off and filled the entire truck; it never shut off. Well finally it cleared up, he backed out the truck, everybody was around the truck and started clapping. They thought it was all part of the show. But, in order for that fog machine to work, there’s a master switch underneath the dash which was off, I have a safety switch in the back trunk which was also off and I had the remote control which is the only way you can operate it. It supposed to shut off after 21 seconds and it emptied the entire canister. We still tore into that entire system, took it out, tried to find out why, and still to this day can’t. We can’t determine that one.”

John Carpenter and "Christine"

John Carpenter and “Christine”

Gibson also tells the story of how Christine was invited, then dis-invited to a special event in Oklahoma because the event could not afford to transport her there. Gibson says he was taking her on her usual short drive when she had a fit, “I patted her on the dash and said, ‘Sorry baby, can’t go but I’ll take plenty of pictures,’ and then when I went to hit the brakes, the brake pedal started going nuts and the car wouldn’t stop. I pulled into the drive way and the pads actually had separated from the shoes.”

But for all of her stubbornness and difficulties, Gibson is happy that she is in his life. She has worked for charities for Huntington’s disease, reunited the cast of the movie and continues to thrill fans around the country, “I reached out to the cast–it’s funny when I talked to them 10 years ago, most of them, when I first bought the car, they had no clue that this was anything. It was a riot. And to try and get them to do these events was like pulling teeth. We finally did a big reunion; John Carpenter came down, Keith Gordon, Alexander Paul, John Stockwell, we all met in Dallas Texas—at Dallas Frightmare.”

At Dallas Frightmare 2010

At Dallas Frightmare 2010

Perhaps Gibson’s most looking forward to reuniting the Belevedere with its long-time owner Eddie, “I was so glad to talk to the actual owner at the time named Eddie. He’s still alive and he’s up there in Missouri and we’re going to hopefully get together, so he can reunite with his car because he had the car for a lot of years.”

As for the future of Christine, Gibson is being tight-lipped, but for now he enjoys getting email from fans and going to “cons”. Although his “Christine” didn’t have a specific role in the movie, most of her did, and thanks to Earl Shifflit at Creative Car Creations all of her pieces are authentic.

“She gets more email than I can answer,” Gibson said, “and I have people requesting used motor oil, parts, and pieces. She gets messages all the time. They want to talk to the car.”

Christine will continue to tour the country and meet her fans from all over the world, “It looks like I’ll be in Vegas for her birthday of course being on Halloween, we’re right now scheduled to be in Vegas on Halloween at Fright Dome with Jason Egan out there, and some possibilities going up to Seattle here in May. I’m still planning out the rest of her trip next year.”

Of the over 20 cars used in the movie, there are only a few that can claim to have had some screen time. Bill Gibson’s car is filled with the memorabilia and parts that brought Christine to life in the Carpenter film. From the interior to the trim, “Christine” is happy with her star status, her home and invites anyone to challenge her about it.

Objects may be closer than they appear

Objects may be closer than they appear

BREAKING NEWS: John Schneider of “The Dukes of Hazzard” fame is directing a horror movie of sorts, called “Smothered” in which Gibson’s “Christine” will make a cameo along with other horror movie legends. You can be the first to check out the trailer here:

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Stay tuned to iHorror for more details.

To purchase John Carpenter’s “Christine” (1983) for under $10 visit Amazon.com.

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Under $10 at Amazon

 

To learn more about Bill Gibson and “Christine” click here.

Join “Christine’s” Facebook page here.

To find out when “Christine” will be visiting your city, click here.

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