Cashing in on the 50s revival craze spurred on by the success of American Graffiti, Happy Days became the most successful sit-com of the 70s. Ironically, the pilot actually pre-dates George Lucas’ film! Lucas cast Ron Howard as Bolander AFTER seeing his performance as Richie in the pilot.
The show itself is well documented, unlike the hot rod. Information is hard to come by so here’s what we know for sure:
It’s a 1929 Ford Model A with a ‘32 Ford grill. It’s powered by a flathead V-8. The car still exists and is unrestored. The pinstripe flames are a little faded and there’s some rust trying to make it’s presence known but it looks pretty good otherwise. It just went to auction in 2008 although I couldn’t find any information on what it sold for.
Here’s what we DON’T know: There’s no information on who built it and when. One commentor on a forum said it was built for the show. Another said it was owned by a company that rented cars to film production companies. The latter is more accurate because the car shows up in Disney’s The Love Bug and the “Oliver’s Schoolgirl Crush” episode of the sit-com Green Acres, both of which were made years before Happy Days. One guy claims he heard the legendary pinstriper Von Dutch added the flames. And that’s it. No more stories factual or otherwise.
There have been some toys based off of the car. One was put out by MEGO and was marketed as Fonzie’s Jalopy. Johnny Lightning released a more accurate 1/64 scale “Ralph Malph’s Hot Rod” a few years ago.
Another accurate representation was in a paper doll set from The Toy Factory.
The original was done while set up at the National Street Rod Association’s show in Louisville KY. It’s 11’x14” marker on bristol board. The prints can be purchased through the link at the top.
The car was built by two brothers in East Wenatchee Wa
One of the builders name was Gene Biehl and I was the paper boy in the neighborhood Gene and Larry Biehl built that car he showed me pictures of it in 1976 when I worked for Gene pulling weeds in his yard they used to buy and rebuild and sell cars