The Story Behind The 1973 Chevy Malibu From 'Drive'

The exciting thing about the use of cars in movies is that they often seem to become characters themselves. Of course, this is true for many films that heavily feature a particular vehicle throughout the runtime, but it's incredibly relatable to "Drive." The 2011 film was directed by Nicholas Winding and it stars Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, and Oscar Isaac. The movie centers around Gosling's character, a film stuntman who doubles as a getaway car driver by night (via Rotten Tomatoes). Throughout the film, Ryan's character is known as The Driver.

The other star of the film is a 1973 Chevy Malibu Coupe, which happens to be the car owned by The Driver. Most cars used in movies don't have a super unique background — perhaps they were rented by the production crew for filming, and in other cases, film sets use replicas. However, there's a fantastic story behind how this specific Chevy Malibu became part of the Ryan Gosling film.

How production picked this Malibu

Typically during the production of a film that features cars, the actors have no say in which rides their characters will use on-screen. This lack of creative control is because the script often requires a specific vehicle. However, this was not the case here, as Ryan Gosling himself was allowed to pick out his character's car for "Drive." The actor based his decision on vehicles he admired and what he thought would fit The Driver the best. After some thought, he located a down-on-its-luck 1973 Chevy Malibu at a junkyard in Los Angeles, and production purchased it for the film.

Ryan's involvement with the Chevy Malibu doesn't stop there. The actor actually restored the car himself rather than production hiring an auto mechanic team to do it, according to film writer and editor Damon Wise, though he didn't work on the transmission and instead handed it over to the professionals at that point. This film has become a modern classic, and the car is often mistaken for another Chevy — many people believe it to be a Chevy Impala, but it is, in fact, a Malibu that has the distinction of being restored by the film's lead actor.

In explaining whether he had to rebuild the junker on his own, Gosling said during an interview with Empire Magazine in 2011, "My character never has to talk about cars or do anything underneath a car, so it doesn't really matter. But it felt important to me. And with every character you play, you have to find a way in. Sometimes it's hard, sometimes you can't really find the thing you need. But it's important to me."