My awareness of pop culture is, let’s be honest, pretty hit-or-miss. But, thanks to one happy coincidence, there is a way where I can become aware of what’s happening in the greater cultural landscape: shove some cars in it. In this case, the cultural phenomenon is the new Martin Scorsese-helmed movie called Killers of the Flower Moon, and the trailer for the movie seems to have been released today. I know this because I happened to glimpse some bit of it and noticed that it’s actually quite full of cars. And not just the usual mainstream movie cars – this is a movie set in the 1920s, so there’s a lot of cars of that era, one not especially common in a lot of mainstream movies. So let’s take a quick look at what we’ve got here.
First, I guess you should watch the trailer, too:
From what I’ve read, it’s based on a true story about a series of murders in the 1920s that targeted Osage tribe Native Americans, who became wealthy when oil was discovered under their lands. It seems quite tragic, and I’m sure both the book and upcoming film will explore this well. Your favorite automotive site doesn’t need to do that, we just need to look at the cars, of which there are many.
Early in the trailer, we are treated to a shot of the town by the railroad station, and we see what is the dominant car of the time and place: the Ford Model T:
There’s some Model TT trucks, and possibly a Dodge Brothers car back there, but the T dominates. That’s not surprising; during the Model T’s long lifetime, from 1909 to 1927, the T eventually reached an astounding 40% of new cars sold in America. There was a time when a majority of Americans owned one, even! One basic model, absolutely ubiquitous.
Of course, there were other cars, especially in a place where there was wealth, as this image from the trailer suggests:
This seems to be a dealership, selling Studebakers and Dodge Brothers cars, but, perhaps confusingly, the car behind that happy couple is neither Studebaker or Dodge: it’s a Pierce-Arrow, very much a luxury car, I think a Series 80 from 1925 or so?
The trailer really gets automotively exciting in the middle, with this scene:
It looks like some hooligans are tearing ass down the main drag in their sports cars, possibly causing ruckuses. I’m not sure. I’m also not exactly sure what the silver car is with the divided grille – it’s possible it’s an aftermarket body on a T? The red car looks to be a mid-to-late 1920s Willys-Overland Whippet, with a body stripped down to be a racer.
I think most interesting, though, are these mustard-and-ketchup colored hot rods, because they represent the first real hot rod/modding movement in American automotive culture.
They’re both Ford Model Ts, but their bodies have been either stripped down or replaced with aftermarket “speedster” bodies that were popular in this era, an era when the number of Model Ts on the road was large enough that there were cars available to be modified into sports cars pretty cheaply and easily, and a whole aftermarket grew up around them.
The red Model T looks to be a bit later model T, and has some traits of what was known as a “Gow Job,” which was a trend in Model T customizing that happened after the introduction of the Ford Model A in 1927, making Ts and their parts a bit cheaper. The yellow one seems to have an aftermarket speedster body, sort of like one of these:
There were all kinds of performance and handling-enhancing parts available; in fact, if you look at this video someone shot of the filming location, you can see something interesting:
For one thing, that black car in the title image is a Dodge Brothers car, not a Model T. And, another, when the cameraperson looks closely at one of the Ts, there’s an interesting detail:
See that spring I have circled there? That’s a great example of a period-correct aftermarket performance/comfort part, in this case an auxiliary coil spring to try to improve the Model T’s fairly primitive transverse leaf spring front suspension. I think these are Hasslers Shock Absorbers, fitted to try to improve the quite bouncy and harsh ride of a Model T.
Fascinating stuff, right? I’m sure the rest of the movie will be fine, too. I just hope the actors aren’t always getting in the way of the cars.