A Lotus 23 sounds better than an X-Wing.
Where were you in '66? George Lucas was at Willow Springs Raceway in Southern California, directing a small group of people on-track and off as part of his senior project to graduate from the University of Southern California. Yes, Lucas was something of a car guy and that's captured in this little-known short film simply titled 1:42.08.
At just over seven minutes long, the clip features Pete Brock and if that name sounds familiar, it should. Brock's career in motoring spans automotive design with General Motors and Shelby American, to racing, photography, and literature as an author. In 1966, he was turning laps for the camera behind the wheel of a yellow Lotus 23, adopting the starring role for Lucas in what is technically known as a tone poem. There's no dialogue, no music. The only sound comes from the Lotus' high-revving engine, blended with various cut scenes of Brock pushing the racer to its limits and beyond. In short, it's the stuff petrolheads dream of.
Of course, Lucas is universally known for the Star Wars saga, but growing up in the Southern California car scene through the 1950s and 1960s was certainly a major influence on him. His 1973 classic American Graffiti is arguably one of the greatest car films of all time, capturing a slice of that California cruising scene set in 1962. To this day, replicas of the infamous yellow 1932 Ford Deuce populate car shows across America, not to mention the black 1955 Chevrolet driven in the film by Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford. Suddenly, the lengthy pod racing scene in Star Wars Episode 1 makes sense.
As for 1:42.08, it's one of the earliest Lucas films you'll see and it's an artful embrace of automotive appreciation from one of the greatest sci-fi storytellers of the modern era.